Which Type of Archery is for You?

Freestyle, Traditional, Bowhunter, Barebow….read on.

Back before compound bows, and yes, there was a time when compound bows did not exist, the options were relatively simple. For organized club archery there were the FITA target archers seen in various public parks on the weekends. This is what we now call Olympic archery, but back then there were only recurves. Less organized but equally popular were the traditional recurve shooters and longbowmen who either shot instinctively or gap shooting. Some hunted while others simply maintained the tools, skills and practices of traditional archery and medieval longbow archers.

Many people were drawn to archery by movies such as Robin Hood, and more recently, Hunger Games
Instinctive archery with a Black Widow recurve

Gone are those simple days. Entering the arena of organized archery today can be quite confusing, but there are options to suit any goal, personality or athletic endeavor. To try an simplify things, USA Archery supports Olympic Archery, the US Olympic Team, both recurve and compound, but also organizes 3D shoots. USA Archery also runs National Indoor and Outdoor target events. National Field Archery Association (NFAA) is best known for 3D and Field Archery, but also organizes indoor and outdoor target shoots. On the international level, World Archery is the governing body.

Vegas Shoot indoor event supports several classes of archery

Again, in an attempt at simplification, ages are divided into Divisions, and the type of bow into Classes. More on that below.  

Types of NFAA Shoots

The NFAA is involved with almost every style of competition including indoor (300 NFAA round and Vegas round), outdoor (field archery), marked and unmarked 3D. Their biggest tournaments are indoor tournaments and are part of their 3 Star Tour. 

BtB Open and NFAA 3D Nationals

NFAA Competition Divisions

NFAA competition divisions include the following:

  • Cub – Under 12 years of age
    • Youth – Ages 12 through 14
    • Young adult – Ages 15 through 17
    •  Adult – 18 years of age and older
    •  Senior – 50 years of age and older
    • Silver senior – 60 years of age and older
    • Master senior – 70 years of age and older
  • Professional – the guys and gals that shoot for the big money:
    • Any age is allowed
    • Must pay for Professional Division membership plus NFAA Pro dues (in addition to regular membership).

NFAA Shooting Styles

NFAA shooting styles include the following:

  • Freestyle
  • Freestyle limited
  • Barebow
  • Competitive bowhunter
  • Bowhunter freestyle
  • Bowhunter freestyle limited
  • Traditional

NFAA Shooting Style Equipment Rules

Here are the equipment rules set forth by the NFAA constitution:

General Rules

  • The bow must have a handle/riser, two limbs, and a string.
  • The bow must be able to be drawn with one hand while holding the bow’s grip with the other hand.
  • The bow has a maximum peak weight of 80 lbs. or less.
  • The bow shoots an arrow at 300 feet per second or less (variance of 3% is allowed)
  • The arrow shaft being used has a diameter of 0.422 inches or less.
  • The arrow point diameter is 0.425 inches or less.
  • The arrow does not have lighted nocks.

Barebow

Other organizations have slightly different rules, but here are the specific rules if you are shooting in the NFAA barebow style:

  • All equipment (bow, arrows, strings, and accessories) must be free of any markings that could be used as a sighting aid.
  • The bowstring has one consistent nocking point.
  • Stabilizers are permitted as long as they do not contact the shooter.
  • One adjustable draw check is permitted.
  • One level on the bow is permitted.
  • Only shooting gloves, tabs, and fingers are allowed to aid in shooting the bow (exceptions are made for handicapped individuals).
  • All arrows must be the same weight, length, diameter, and have the same fletching.

Freestyle

  • This is usually the realm of the fully tricked out compound bows.
  • Any type of sight can be used including adjustable sights.
  • Any hand operated release can be used (exceptions are made for handicapped individuals).
  • The rear stabilizer cannot touch any part of the shooter’s body.

Freestyle Limited

  • Any type of sight can be used
  • Similar to freestyle but no mechanical release
  • Only gloves, tabs, and fingers can be used to release the arrow (exceptions are made for handicapped individuals).
  • The rear stabilizer cannot touch any part of the shooter’s body.

Competitive Bowhunter

  • No device of any kind can be used for sighting.
  • No clickers, draw checks, or levels are allowed.
  • Only one anchor point is permitted.
  • The archer’s index finger shall remain in contact with the arrow nock during the shot cycle.
  • Only gloves, tabs, and fingers can be used to release the arrow (exceptions are made for handicapped individuals).
  • All arrows must be the same weight, length, diameter, and have the same fletching.
  • Draw weight cannot be changed during a round.
  • No other adjustments to equipment may be made during a round.

Freestyle Bowhunter

  • Up to 5 sight pins may be used.
  • Release aids are permitted.
  • Archery sight pin guards and a level are allowed.
  • One anchor point is permitted.
  • All arrows must be the same weight, length, diameter, and have the same fletching.
  • Stabilizers less than 12 inches (from the back of the bow) are permitted.
  • Stabilizers, stabilizer couplings, V-bars, and counter balances may be used.
  • No adjustment to equipment is allowed during a round.

Freestyle Limited Bowhunter

The rules for Freestyle Limited Bowhunter are the same as the Freestyle Bowhunter except for the following:

  • Only gloves, tabs, and fingers can be used to release the arrow (exceptions are made for handicapped individuals).
  • The archer’s index finger shall remain in contact with the arrow nock during the shot cycle. In other words, no string walking.

Traditional

  • Only longbows and recurves are allowed.
  • No sighting device of any kind can be attached to the bow.

For more information on the rules regarding equipment, check out the NFAA constitution

Author: Mark V

Dedicated shooter, seeker, traveler, teacher, trainer, educator

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