What is archery?

Archery is the practice of shooting arrows at a target with a bow. The target you’re aiming at can take various forms.  It can be the center of the archery target (the “bullseye”) used in target archery, the torso of a hunted animal, or a soldier of an opposing army.

The word archery is derived from the Latin word arcu, meaning “bow,” and the Old French word areche, meaning “to shoot an arrow.” Whether you are competing for a gold medal or simply enjoying some time in nature with friends, archery is an exciting sport that requires skill, patience, and practice. Archery is an ancient practice that has been used for hunting and warfare for thousands of years. The oldest artifacts date back to 72,000 years ago. Today, it is primarily seen as a competitive sport. The goal of archery is to hit the target with great accuracy. To master this skill takes years of practice and dedication.

Archery can be broken down into the types of targets as well as the bows used. There are four main types of archery bows: recurve bows, compound bows, longbows, and crossbows. Keep in mind, that these are broad categories. There is a lot of variety within each category, as well as some characteristics that crossover between categories.

Man aiming recurve bow

Recurve bows can be made of one piece of wood or assembled using various materials. The recurve title comes from the curved tips. The main part of the bow (riser and limbs) follow a smooth U shaped curve. The tips of the bow (the limbs) have a shorter, tighter curve that bends back toward the front of the bow, or to where the target might be. In a recurve bow, the string rests on the limbs of the bow at the tips. This recurved section adds more potential energy because of the tension it adds to the string and bow assembly. Traditional one-piece bows like the Mongol or Mongolian bows are examples of this. Modern recurve bows are what we most commonly see in televised competitions, such as the Olympics. These bows are generally made of parts (as seen in above photo) that are assembled and taken apart for transport.

image: Leseleyanne Ryan Archery Practice – Man shooting bamboo longbow

Longbows as a category are generally made from a single piece of wood. However, they can also be made with more than one piece of wood as seen in the traditional bows of Bhutan (above). They’re often straight when the string is removed. Some are made with rounded or D shaped limbs, such as the English longbow. Others have a flat or rectangular shape in the limbs. The main discerning feature of longbows is that they do not have the recurved tips, so the string does not rest on the limbs of the bow like it would on a recurve bow. Recurve and longbows are often confused. The general rule would be the tips of the bow limbs. As mentioned, the bow string does not rest on the limbs of the longbow, while the string does rest on the ends of the recurve bow’s limbs.

Man holding combpund bow

Compound bows are a contemporary innovation, developed in the 1960’s. They use a system of pulleys and cables to help the archer draw the bowstring. These bows are generally shorter than longbows and recurve bows, and have a more complex or mechanical look. The pulley system helps increase the speed, distance, and accuracy of arrows shot from these bows. Compound bows are the bow of choice for many hunters because of their accuracy. Archery competitions involving compound bows usually have smaller targets than seen in recurve bow competitions, due to their accuracy. Unlike recurve bows, compound bows are rarely disassembled. Re-stringing these bows requires the use of a bow press, which is a mechanical press used to bend the limbs of the compound bow. Once the tension is relieved from the strings, they can be worked on. Compound bows are generally more complex pieces of equipment than recurve and longbows.

Woman holding crossbow

Crossbows are another mechanical bow. Although some may not consider the use of a crossbow true archery, the bow component that propels the bolt technically makes it a bow. In some states and territories, different rules and regulations are applied to crossbows. According to certain regional regulations, they fit into a gray area between firearms and bows. They are often categorized as controlled weapons, where bows are generally not categorized as weapons. The crossbow is differs from the other bows in many ways. Rather than arrows, bolts are shot from crossbows. Bolts are much shorter than arrows. The bow of the crossbow is mounted horizontally rather than vertically as seen in traditional archery. The cross in crossbow comes from the way that the bow assembly crosses the tiller or stock of the crossbow. The tiller resembles the shape of a rifle or shotgun. The bolt is also fired with the use of a trigger as seen in firearms. As mentioned, while crossbows are considered a form of a bow, their use not considered archery by many people. Crossbows have also been treated quite differently throughout history. The crossbow is seen in as early as 700 BC in China as well as in Europe. Historically archers were lifelong soldiers and practitioners that spent a lifetime developing the craft of becoming proficient in the use of a bow and arrow. Crossbows, on the other hand, could be handed to anyone as they are much easier to use. The idea of a crossbow hunter or shooter being less committed or using an easier weapon is still prevalent today.

Aside from bow types, there are many different types of archery, including target archery, field archery, battle archery, and the list goes on. Target archery can be carried out either indoors or outdoors. Indoor ranges typically have targets at set distances, while outdoors, archers may have to estimate the distance to their target. The bow and arrow are is one of the oldest projectile weapons in the world and dates back thousands of years. It is a sport that requires skill, patience, and practice.

Archery is a great way to get outside and enjoy the fresh air. It can be a very relaxing and therapeutic activity. Archery is also a great way to meet new people and make new friends

While archery can be enjoyed by people of all ages and abilities, it is important to always practice safety first. Always consult with a qualified instructor before picking up a bow and arrow. Once you have learned the basics of archery and are ready to start practicing, make sure to find a safe place to do so. Never shoot arrows towards people or animals. Archery is a great sport that can be enjoyed by everyone, but safety should always be a top priority.

Do you have what it takes to become a skilled archer? Join one of the many local clubs today and start practicing! With enough dedication and patience, you may even achieve your goal of hitting that bullseye. And who knows – maybe someday you’ll even go on to compete at the highest levels of this exciting sport!  So why not give it a try? You might be surprised at just how much fun this ancient activity can be!

featured image: Woman arms photo created by wirestock – www.freepik.com

man in suit with compound bow Archer photo created by master1305 – www.freepik.com

Woman holding crossbow Girl hair photo created by fxquadro – www.freepik.com

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