Beginners Guide to Archery, by Roger Napleton

Written by Roger Napleton – HWAC member – 8th January 2017 – updated 21st November 2019

Archery has not changed over the last 4,500 years, except the equipment during the past few decades, the way we use it, the rules and our approach towards this ancient art of Toxophily, as it was named by the Greeks. That’s why Archers are sometimes referred to as Toxophilytes, if you want to use such an obscure term !


Use a ‘BRACER’ (a leather Arm Guard or hard plastic or Kevlar which is fitted to your Bow Arm) on your Left arm if you are right handed, or on your Right arm if you are left handed. This will protect your arm if the string of the bow strikes you, as you loose (let go of) the arrow.

On your Right hand (for the right handed archer) or the Left hand (for the left handed) you will be wearing a ‘TAB’. This is a leather patch shaped to your fingers which will protect them when you loose the bow string. Some Archers prefer to wear a three-fingered glove.

Your upper body clothing should be close fitting, giving as much clearance to the bow string as possible. If the string catches, for example, on your woolly jumper, then the arrow may not go where you intended !

Before you fitted your Bracer and Tab, you were tested for ‘Eye Dominance’ to find out which eye should be used mainly for aiming. During this test you would have been asked to keep both eyes open, put your hands together forming a small hole and look through the gap at a fixed point. Draw your hands back close to your face, whilst still looking at the fixed point. Your hands will lead you to your dominant eye.

The Bow you have been given to learn with will have been selected according to your physical size and the length of arrows you will be using.

The Arrows you will have been given to learn with will be measured from your nose to the “V” of your outstretched palm. This gives us a starting point for your Draw Length. The arrows would be dangerous if they were shorter than your Draw Length ! Usually, the arrow should be two inches past the “V” of your outstretched hand.


1: Never point a Bow (with or without an Arrow) at another person.

2. Do not draw up an Arrow unless you are on the shooting line facing the Target.

3. Do not stand on the shooting line until the Field Captain blows his/her whistle.

4. When not shooting, wait behind the Equipment line in a quiet and orderly manner.

5: Do not go to retrieve your Arrows until the Field Captain has blown the whistle.

6: Do not run up to the targets. There may be Arrows in the ground which were short of the target.

7: Do not stand behind someone who is pulling Arrows from the target. They may well pull back into your eye !

8: If during shooting, you hear the word ‘FAST’, Stop shooting. If you have an Arrow drawn in the Bow, lower the Bow so that the Arrow is pointing at the ground in front of you and slowly move the Arrow/String forward so it is safe. Remove the Arrow from the bow. ONLY resume shooting when the Field Captain gives the all clear.

9: Do not shoot on public land.

10: Do not shoot at all on your own.

REMEMBER the basic safety rules and that a Bow and Arrow is a lethal weapon to shoot with!


The first thing to do (after the Field Captain has blown the whistle for the start of shooting) is approach the Shooting Line. Once there, stand astride the line with your feet apart (shoulders width is just right to start with).

You should now be facing down the shooting line with your Bow Arm shoulder pointing at the target. Now, ‘Stand Tall’ with your shoulders back, chest out and stomach in (Don’t Slouch)…..


The Grip you adopt should be just enough to support and direct the Bow without being vice-like. Too tight a grip will only be uncomfortable and lead to bad results. It’s not really a grip at all, because most of your hand is open.

The pressure of the Bow should be felt through the muscle at the base of the thumb. The index finger should retain the Bow by lightly gripping it, while the little finger exerts no pressure at all. The second and third finger will only have light contact with the bow handle.

After some practice with this grip you will forget all about it and it will become second nature to you. Your Bow hand will now remain in this ‘Grip’ for the duration of the shot.


This is the term we use to describe the act of placing the arrow on the Bowstring.

With your Arrow hand (the one that is not holding the Bow), remove an Arrow from the quiver belted to your side. Rest the shaft of the Arrow on the ‘Arrow Rest’ (this is the plastic hooked shelf on the side of the Bow) , and insert the Nock of the Arrow (this is the ‘V’ shaped piece of plastic behind the Fletchings) on to the Bowstring. This should be done with the ‘Cock’ Fletching (the feather or plastic vane of a different colour to the other two (the Hens) facing towards you i.e. away from the Bow. There should be marks on the bowstring or raised sections, which are the Nocking Points, showing where to locate the Arrow Nock.


The way we place our fingers on to the string is a most important step in shooting as this will control the action of the string relative to the Arrow.

The first finger goes above the Arrow with the second and third fingers below. Your little finger curls into the palm of your hand out of the way. The string should be on the top section of your fingers, just above the top bend. This is known as the ‘MEDITERRANEAN’ Loose. Later on, you may wish to change to “three-fingers below” (see later).

The Tab on your fingers may feel a little strange at first, but without this the friction of the string would make your fingers quite sore, very quickly !


With Bow in ‘Bow hand’, ‘Arrow nocked’ and Mediterranean finger position in place on the string, you are now ready to Draw up your first Arrow. Turn your head towards the Target and then fully extend your Bow arm towards the Target.

Now, draw the Arrow back smoothly towards your face. Your string hand should Anchor i.e. locate in position underneath your chin (upper side of your first finger touching it or maybe touching corner of your mouth).

The string should touch the side of both your chin and nose at full draw to form Reference Points (points you can always return to which will give consistency to the loose).


This is a term used to describe the action of letting go of the Arrow.

The Loose should be a smooth and relaxed action. It is achieved by relaxing the hold you have (via the Mediterranean finger position) on the string, whilst still pulling back with your arm and shoulder.


This is an important part of the procedure which is often overlooked ! After loosing the Arrow, the string hand should continue backwards until it comes to rest by your ear. The Bow arm remains raised and in line with the shot, until the Arrow hits the Target.

Once the Arrow hits its mark, the Bow arm may be dropped, whereupon the next shot can beprepared in the Bow.


On your first Bow you may have a Pin which is situated approximately 2   4 inches above the grip section. This is your Sight Pin. They get more complicated on the more advanced Bows but the principle of adjusting them remains the same.

Once you have Nocked an Arrow and are at Full Draw you can Aim ! This is done by aligning the Sight Pin with the Gold on the Target Face. Then you loose the Arrow and all being well, it will go where you aimed it !

If this does not happen, as is often the case during “Sighters” (the first 6 Arrows shot on a given round being shot, to enable you to set your Sights) you will need to make adjustments to the position of the Sight Pin.


To move a group of Arrows around the Target, using your Sight Pin adjustment ( ie. ‘UP’ ‘DOWN’ ‘LEFT’ ‘RIGHT’ ), is really quite simple. Just remember to follow the Arrow direction by moving your Sight Pin in the same direction.

Arrows Low, Lower the Pin
Arrows High, Move Pin Up

Arrows Left, Move Pin Left
Arrows Right, Move Pin Right

A TIP – If you lift your Bow to arm’s length (as if you are going to shoot) and place the Pin on Gold, you can see how far away from your Pin (say, to the left your Arrows are (maybe a 1/4 of an inch). Now, move your Pin towards the Arrows (1/4 of an inch to the left) and then re shoot.

This may be done between Arrows, so that at the end of the first 6 Arrows (Sighters) you will be on Gold !


Once the Field Captain blows the All Clear Whistle (usually three blasts), you may proceed towards the Target to retrieve your Arrows.

This should be done in an orderly manner, watching out on the ground as you go so that you do not tread on any Arrows which may have fallen short. If you find any of these, they should be carefully pulled out in the direction they were shot from, NOT lifted up, as this will bend the Arrow.

Once at the Target, study where your Arrows actually landed and note the grouping. After this, the Arrows may be removed from the Target, making sure that no-one is standing behind you. Only one or two (one either side) Archers should do this, with all others standing well back from the Target face.

Never stand behind someone who is pulling Arrows from the Boss, because their arm may come back with a jerk and the end of the Arrow could go into your eye !

The non pulling hand should be placed on the Target with fingers outstretched and either side of the Arrow being pulled. The pulling hand should take a grip of the Arrow close to the Target face and then pulled straight back. NOT UP, DOWN or SIDEWAYS.

Arrows should then be sorted out and returned to their owners. After this you can walk back to the equipment line and await the Field Captain’s whistle (usually one blast)   to commence shooting again.


Once your Arrows are Grouping together you will want to start scoring   just for the fun of it to start with. This will also give you a record of your Arrows shot during one session.

There are generally two types of Scoring used for Target Archery – ‘Imperial’ and ‘Metric’.

IMPERIAL : The Target Face is divided into 5 areas of colour. Gold = 9 points, Red = 7, Blue 5, Black = 3 and White = 1 point. This method of scoring is still used on traditional Archery, based around GNAS (Grand National Archery Society), but most scoring is now based around World Archery (WA) rules, which are closer to Metric.

METRIC : The Target Face is divided into 10 rings ( 2 per colour area ) : Inner Gold = 10 points, Outer Gold = 9, Inner Red = 8, Outer Red = 7, Inner Blue = 6, Outer Blue = 5, Inner Black = 4, Outer Black = 3, Inner White = 2 and Outer White = 1 point. Metric originally came from FITA (Federation Internationale de Tir a l’Arc), which as above, is now built into World Archery (WA) Rules.

Different ‘Rounds’ (the name given to a set number of Arrows shot over set distances) use different types of scoring, some ‘Imperial’ and some ‘Metric’ – now all within WA Rules.

Arrows which land on the dividing line between one number and another (even if it is just touching) count as the higher number   this is known as a ‘Line Cutter’.

his is an example of a standard SCORE CARD.

High Weald Archery Club

Archer Roger Napleton

Date 12TH JANUARY 2017

            1/2 Doz             1/2 Doz Hits Golds x’S Score R/Total
 9 9 7 7 7 5  44 10 9 8 8 7 5 47        91  91
9 9 9 5 5 5 42 7 7 7 5 3 3 32        79  170
10 9 9 8 8 7 51 9 9 7 7 5 5 42        93  263
9 9 9 8 7 7 49 9 9 8 8 8 7 49        98  361
8 8 8 8 7 7 46 10 9 9 8 7 7 50        96  457

Archers Signature R W Napleton Scorers Signature P F Archer          


When arriving at the club please follow these few simple rules: 

Arrive earlier than the actual start time shown for Sighters, otherwise you will hold up everyone else !

Once there, help the others in setting out the field or range with the equipment. Work together to get it done faster.

Set up your own equipment and check your sight setting for the first distance to be shot.

When the Field Captain gives the all clear whistle to start shooting Sighters, proceed to the shooting line and continue.

NB. Should you unavoidably arrive late, when others have started shooting, please be as quiet as possible (don’t shout out greetings to your friends, for example). Set up your equipment and join in the next convenient ‘END’ (often 6 Arrows, if you’re practising), but in most rounds, each END is usually is only 3 arrows).

When you have finished shooting for the session, ALL the equipment should be put away again – including unpinning Target Faces and putting them back on the racks – and with everyone’s help, this makes the task quick and easy.

Dress warmly and comfortably for shooting, with solid footwear if it is wet (for outdoor shooting). Colour is optional during Club Rounds but when shooting Tournaments, the colours are restricted to ‘Dark Green’ (Sherwood Green) and ‘White’ or the latest Club Livery, but camouflage/military clothing is not allowed.


This is NOT a task to undertake on your own, without the help and guidance of an experienced member of the Club (or a specialist Archery shop) to guide you through the pitfalls surrounding this complicated subject.

A wrong choice at this early stage could either give you bad habits, due to a mis match of equipment to Archer, or a lot of disappointments which may lead to you giving up Archery. In either case, you may have wasted a lot of time and money.

Your first Bow and Arrows should be suitable for your needs at the present time, not the future. To say you will grow into a Bow is wrong. You need to be measured for the correct draw-length and set up with an appropriate draw weight for a beginner.

Your first Bow and Arrows will serve you well for the first six to twelve months, whilst your body muscles and technique settle into your new found sport. After this time you may find a change is in order, which you will be able to plan for, enabling you to take full advantage of all the experience you will have gained.

Your First Bow will probably be one of the Basic types generally available. They are usually very well made and reliable to use whilst giving good value for money.

The Arrows you buy will probably be made of a basic alloy material, which will be matched both to you and your bow.

Second-hand equipment is a good choice for the beginner and improver alike as you can save a lot of money. Bows do not wear out if they are looked after properly. Arrows may not wear so well, so get some advice. In any case, they may not be the correct length for you or suit your set up, because they need to more than match your draw-length, so check that at the very beginning. Remember, get some advice before you buy !

The rest of your equipment can either be bought new or second-hand as you wish. As these items will serve you well for many years to come, your initial expense may turn out to be an investment.

The equipment covered by this category is as follows – Bracer, Tab, Bow Stringer, Quiver, Equipment Case & Bow Sight (this could be a cheaper model to start with which can be sold with the bow at a future date).


When buying your Bow and Arrows, it is worth spending extra on spare items which may need replacement later.

These items include :  Fletchings (both ‘Cock’ & ‘Hens, different colours), Nocks (for your Arrows), Glue (for both Fletchings & Nocks), Glue (for the Piles of the Arrows – a heat type is used on these), Beeswax (for the string) & Nock Sets (for the string Nocking Point). “Nock Set” Pliers can be bought if you wish, but you can usually borrow some to start with, if you want to save some money, or just use ordinary pliers.

Alternatively, you can ask the Archery Shop to assemble the arrows for you to the correct length.

If you decide to shoot without a Sight and without weights or stabilisers, this is called Barebow and requires very different techniques for aiming and shooting, which will be the subject of another paper.


DON’T buy any Stabilisers to start with. These may look impressive, but they will NOT help beginners at all.

In fact, they would probably hinder the learning process and give you bad habits. When the time comes (usually after a period of 6   9 months), discuss this subject with the club coach who will advise you on this and other matters.