Indoor competition requires hours of practice on the archery range and training in the gym, but learning each event’s rules is just as important as shooting 10s.
Competitions that follow the World Archery format have rules ranging from what to wear to what color your equipment can be, all of which play big roles in your preparation. Many beginning archers, for example, are surprised to learn that that camouflage-patterned equipment isn’t allowed at some events.
In fact, you might also be surprised to learn how many tournaments follow World Archery rules. For example, Indoor Nationals events in many countries follow World Archery rules because world-record scores can only be shot at competitions registered with World Archery, the sport’s international governing body.
So, what rules must you know? First, which age category are you in? The most common category is the “senior” division for both genders. It’s also known as “adult” or simply “men/women.” Any archer of any age can compete in the senior category, which makes it the toughest category to compete in because of its potentially large pool of archers.
Younger archers can compete in the “cadet” division if the tournament occurs before or on the year of their 17thbirthday. If the competition occurs before or on the year of their 20thbirthday, they can compete in the “junior” division. If you compete in the year of your 50thbirthday or later, you’re eligible for the “master’s” division.
You probably already know which equipment division you prefer. Many divisions use straightforward descriptions, such as “recurve,” “compound,” or “barebow,” but some organizations offer several options that might seem confusing. The National Field Archery Association, for example, has its “Freestyle,” “Freestyle Limited,” and “Freestyle Bowhunter” divisions. Before registering for a competition, visit the host organization’s website to learn which division best fits you.
Some divisions have restrictions you must follow to pass the equipment inspection, which is required at World Archery tournaments. A universal rule for all divisions is that your arrows must match and be initialed with a marking unique to each archer. Most archers write their name or initials, and their country on the shaft. You cannot write this information only on the fletching.
Another universal rule is that the arrow shaft’s diameter cannot exceed 9.4 mm – about 23/64ths of an inch. Arrows with that measurement are said to have “23 thickness.”
Recurve (Olympic) archers are restricted to recurve bows with a simple sight, which means the sight pin cannot include leveling, magnifying or illuminating features. The sight pin also cannot exceed 2 cm in length from front to back (target side to archer side). No peeps are allowed in the bowstring, either.
Only the archer’s fingers, with help from a finger tab, are allowed for drawing and releasing the bowstring. No mechanical release aids are permitted. A single draw-check device – usually a clicker – is allowed on the bow. It can be audible, tactile or visual, but it cannot be electronic. Stabilizer setups are left to each archer’s preference, but cannot touch the archer while they’re at full draw and aiming.
Archers in the compound division can shoot any compound bow with a shoot-through or normal riser design. They can use a peep in their bowstring, a D-loop for their release aid, and pretty much any bowstring attachment. The compound division also has no restrictions on the aiming device, which means it can be magnified, illuminated by fiber optics (powered by a chemical glowstick, but not electronic), and fitted with a leveling aid.
Stabilizers are also unrestricted, but cannot touch the archer while at full draw and aiming. The arrow’s contact point on the rest must be no farther than 6 cm (or slightly less than 2-3/8 inches) from the grip’s throat. Finally, the compound bow’s maximum draw weight is 60 pounds. That’s why some professional archers shoot within the 55- to 57-pound range to account for variances in scales used to check draw weights during equipment inspections.
Two major U.S. indoor competitions follow most of these rules except for arrow size. The Lancaster Classic and the Vegas Shoot let competitors shoot whatever arrow size they want because these events are not completely governed by World Archery rules. Both events draw participants from across the globe, and they’re a great way for amateurs to shoot alongside their favorite professionals.
When competing indoors, you should be prepared for cramped shooting lines and possible bumps from other archers. Archer get as little as 80 cm (about 31.5 inches) of space on the shooting line, depending on the venue. Therefore, be mindful as you move about on or near the shooting line. That includes ensuring your stabilizers don’t interfere with other archers during your preshot routines.
And finally, learn the event’s scoring format before shooting your first scored arrows. Indoor rounds vary in total arrows shot, as well as distances, target face sizes or colors, and values of each ring.
Of course, no one expects you to know everything before your first competition, or even your second or third. But as you compete in more tournaments, you’ll learn more rules as you and other archers face different challenges.
Learn as much as you can about each event and competitive shooting by studying the comprehensive rules guide. In addition, the main website for each tournament you’ll shoot also posts its rules. Knowing those rules makes each competition much easier. Like G.I. Joe once said, “Knowing is half the battle!”