A Glossary of Archery Terms

3m Line

A line in competition that marks the difference between a dropped arrow versus an arrow that is officially judged to have been shot. An arrow dropped near to the archer can be ignored as far as scoring is concerned, but an arrow that falls past the 3m line counts as a 'Miss'.

Allan Key

A steel tool with a hexagonal cross-section, usually in the shape of a capital letter L. They are used in various sizes for all sorts of adjustments, from limbs to sights.


The place where the string hand is placed immediately before releasing / "loosing" the arrow. This needs to be consistantly repeatable for a good shot.

AMO Method - Arrow Length

Specification for how the length of an arrow should be measured. Specifically, it is the distance from the groove of the nock (so that the length of the nock doesn't matter) to the end of the cut shaft, so not including the point.

AMO Method - Draw Length

Specification for how draw-length should be measured. Specifically, it is the distance (when at full-draw) from the groove of the nock to the pressure button, or to the point of contact of the rest, plus 1 ¾ inches in either case. This should be approximately the same as the distance to the 'back' of the bow, (i.e. the face furthest away from the archer, the face that the archer cannot see) but will vary slightly depending on the specific riser.
This specification is intended to directly give a figure for optimum arrow length, but is far from being universally accepted. It can also cause confusion, since many people will measure draw-length to the button, but others will automatically add the extra, or measure to the 'back' of the bow, potentially giving three different figures!

Archer's Paradox

A term used to describe a situation, (particularly noted with Longbows), whereby the arrow starts off pointing to the left before release, but then 'bends' round behind the bow to impact straight ahead or even to the right of the bow. It is caused by the Archers fingers imparting a sideways force on the string as it slips off them, which initially bends the arrow to the left (for a right-handed archer), altering its flight.


What you shoot from the bow - most are made from aluminium tube but can be made from carbon fibre or a combination of both. It has four parts: the shaft, the fletches, the nock, the point/pile.

Arrow Rest

An attachment on the bow, which the arrow shaft sits on/slides along.


A particular style of arrow-point characterised by a long, very thin tip. Designed to pierce armour, they are generally not allowed for target archery.


What the target faces are pinned to - usually made out of tightly coiled straw but can also be made of thick or layered foam.


An arrow that hit the target face during a competition, but didn't 'stick'. If an arrow hits a non-scoring part of the face, boss or framework, then it is not technically 'A Bouncer'. Depending on the round being shot, the archer will either shoot a spare arrow under direction of the Judges, or if faces are being marked, the Judges will attempt to identify what the arrow would have scored if it had remained in the face.


What you use to shoot your arrows with - generally comes in three parts: a handle/riser and two detachable limbs, though 'traditional' bow-styles are usually made in a single piece.

Bow Arm

The arm to which the bracer is attached, and lifts the bow - the same side as the bow hand.

Bow Hand

The hand you hold the bow with - the left hand for most people.

Bow Press

A device used by Compound archers to pull their limbs together for maintenance. Similar in theory to the stringer used by Recurve archers.

Bracer / Arm Guard

Fits on the arm that you hold the bow with, just above the wrist to protect it from the string.


A particular style of arrow-point characterised by a wide, barbed tip. Designed for hunting, they are generally not allowed for target archery.


The general area where targets are placed - "the butts" or individually, the place where a target stand sits.


The pulley at each end of a Compound Bow has what is technically known as an eccentric shape, which means that the distance from the centre to the edge varies according to angle, and is therefore often described as a cam.

Centre Shot

A slightly mis-leading term used to describe part of the set-up of a Recurve Bow. For various reasons, the pressure button should be set so that the arrow is NOT pointing perfectly straight, this is done by "adjusting the centre shot" of the bow, which actually means altering how far through the riser the pressure button goes.

Chest Guard

A special outer layer of protective clothing (worn by both men and women) that both protects the archer and prevents the string snagging. Some are made from nylon mesh, while others are made from leather.


A small device that is fitted to recurve bows, and adjusted so that an audible click is made when the arrow is drawn back to full draw.

Compound Bow

A type of bow which uses pulleys or cams at either end.

"Come Down"

A command given by an instructor, when they want you to bring the bow back to its undrawn point, by letting your hand ease the string forward - do NOT release the string in the normal way.

Contact Point

Also known as the anchor point or reference point - this is where the fingers holding the string contact the chin/jaw.


Some archers who shoot Traditional bows or Barebow style move their fingers up and down the string to adjust elevation/distance. The amount the fingers are moved is known as a crawl.


A rubber device fitted to a long-rod to absorb vibration. A trademark, but commonly used to describe any such item, regardless of manufacturer.


The act of pulling the bow string.

Draw Length

The distance the string is pulled back until the anchor point is reached. Your arrows need to be slightly longer than this measurement, but see also AMO measurement.


Letting go of the bow string without shooting an arrow, either because the archer forgot to load, or because an arrow-nock broke. This may damage the bow, and commonly results in the string striking the archer's arm, which can be very painful.


The number of arrows shot - usually three or six, (but sometimes four or five).Target Archery Competition rounds are made up of a set number of ends.

Eye Dominance

Most people (even those who are left-handed) will find that their right eye controls what they see when vision is partially obscured, rather than the left. For some though, neither eye is dominant all of the time (known as cross-dominance), which can cause issues with aiming. Being left-eye dominant does NOT mean that you have to shoot left-handed, (or vice-versa) as it is easy to shut or cover the dominant eye.


Shouted so that EVERYONE can hear, a signal that shooting MUST stop immediately - something has happened or been seen which makes it unsafe to continue shooting. All archers should repeat the call, partly to indicate that they are aware, and partly to ensure that the call can be heard by everyone.


'Target Archery' is usually shot in a hall or an open field. 'Field Archery' (often abreviated to just 'Field') on the other hand is normally shot on a woodland course.


Now known as World Archery (WA), FITA stands for Federation Internationale de Tir a L′Arc, and is the highest governing body for Target Archery.


Also known as flights or vanes, three or four are attached to each arrow shaft to help control flight - usually made from plastic or (real) feathers. When made from feathers, there is a slight difference between 'right wing' and 'left wing' so don't mix the two.


The point where you hold the bow in your bow hand - also known as the throat. With some risers, the actual grip is replaceable.


After a bunch of arrows have been shot, the result as seen on the target face is known as a 'Group'. Analysis of the size and especially the shape of a group is useful in understanding form and assisting with bow tuning.

'Hunter' Rest

A particular type of stick-on arrow rest, usually made of plastic, which makes them cheap, robust but non-adjustable.


International Limb Fitting - the style of recurve limb that clips into place, as opposed to 'bolt-on limbs' which are more typically found on a beginners bow. This generally means that risers that take ILF limbs can have the draw-weight adjusted slightly (usually two to four pounds) which can be useful for tuning as well as to accomodate the strenghtening of a novice's muscles.

Insert - front

Usually made of steel, an insert has a thread matching that of 'screw-in points' that make it very quick to alter the weight of point fitted to the arrow, which alters the apparent spine of the arrow. As with permanent points, the insert itself is glued into the arrow, usually with hot-melt glue.

Insert - tail

A metal collar fitted to the nock end of the arrow, that acts as an adaptor between the actual nock (usually plastic) and the arrow shaft. Having a narrow, angled nock (rather than a larger one) reduces the chances of arrow damage from a 'Robin Hood' event (where a subsequent arrow hits the tail of an arrow that is already in the boss.)


The kind of arrow rest used on a Compound Bow.


Flexible arms fitted to the handle of the bow, to which the string is attached, and which provide the energy to propel the arrow. For recurve bows, the majority are either bolt-on or ILF (clip-in) though there are also proprietary types that only fit one make of riser.

Limb Gauges

Simple devices that temporarily clip onto the inside of the limbs of a recurve bow. Markings on these guides make it easy to see when the limbs are in line with the limbs, and adjust the limbs when necessary.


The process/act of releasing the string, i.e. actually shooting the bow.

Lord / Lady Paramount

Officially, the person in charge of a competition, though in reality usually just a ceremonial position - the person who hands out the prizes, rather than the official organiser, and not part of the judging team either.

Nock (1)

The piece of the arrow which clips on to the string and which prevents the arrow falling off the bow.

Nock (2)

The pair of grooves for the string loops at the extreme ends of the limbs, which keeps the string in place on the bow.

Nocking Point - Singular

The position on the string where the arrow attaches, identified by a pair of brass or fibre markers.

Nocking Points - Plural

The pair of markers, either side of the 'Nocking Point'. Sometimes made of brass, but more commonly made of cotton thread or dental-floss.

Nock Height

The height of the nocking point(s) above a point perpendicular to the arrow rest or the button. It doesn't matter whether this is measured from the rest, from the centre of the button, or from the top of the button, so long as the same method is used consistantly. There are a number of tests that can be carried out to find the perfect height for a particular setup, most noticeably 'The Paper Tear Test'. This value will be different for every setup, hence the choice of reference point doesn't matter.

Paper Tear

One of a suite of tests that help to tune your setup. A piece of thin paper is hung from a frame a small distance in front of the archer, with a suitable boss beyond it. A set of arrows are then shot, with slightly different aiming points, so that each one leaves a distinct mark. The front and back end of the arrow leave different marks, showing at what angle the arrow went through.


The front tip of the arrow - which can be an insert or an over-fit, and is much sturdier than the shaft.


An issue that happens when the fingers are pushed together during drawing so that they accidentally grip the arrow which may make it come off the arrow rest.


Vertical, up and down motion of an arrow in flight, reminiscent of a dolphin/porpoise dipping in and out of the sea.

Pressure Button / Plunger

A small spring in an adjustable holder that acts as a shock-absorber for the arrow, fitted as close as possible to the Arrow rest.


Usually made of rubber, this makes it easier to grip an arrow, when pulling it from the Boss.


The handle section of the bow which the limbs fit on to.


This is the definition of a particular competition, such as the number of ends shot, at what distance and what Target Face. In the UK they normally have names such asPortsmouth, Balmoral,Vegas,Rosyth,York etc.


A tube-like device, worn either on the back or on the hip, and used to temporarily hold arrows while shooting. A Ground Quiver does a similar job outdoors, but is 'planted' in the grass instead of being worn.

Recurve Bow

This is the type of bow that beginners learn to shoot with, and the most popular type of bow generally. So named because the tips of the limbs curve forwards.


Thread which is wound round the string to make the end loops and the centre section where the arrow fits. Serving helps to turn the multiple strands of a string (typically from ten to twenty individual strands) into a single cord.

Serving Jig

Typically a spool of thread in a small frame that tensions and guides the serving material as it is wound onto the main part of the string, when making a string from scratch, or repairing an existing one.


The main part of the arrow - usually a tube of aluminium, carbon-fibre, (or a mixture,) or of wood.

Shooting Line

This is the position from where Archers shoot. It must only be crossed when the range is clear and safe to do so - after the whistle or voice command has been given.

Short-rod (V-Bar)

Usually found in pairs (though Compounders often only fit one rod). It is known as a short-rod because it does the same basic job as a long-rod but is much shorter (6 to 10 inches), and is fitted to point outwards and rearwards, instead of directly forwards. As with a long-rod, a V-Bar is usually fitted with a relatively heavy end-weight, partly to counter-balance the long-rod, and partly to provide lateral stability.

Sight-mark (Recurve / Compound)

A note of the numbers that indicate where a sight should be aligned - all sights come with a simple numerical scale for this purpose. This changes for different distances/conditions, so needs to be recorded on paper.

Sight-mark (Barebow / Longbow)

A note of the relevant alignment details, such as 'crawl distance'; aiming point; offset etc. that indicate how an archer aims for different distances/conditions. This generally needs to be recorded on paper.


The definition of how flexible an arrow is for a specific length - the larger the number, the softer and 'whippier' the arrow will be; conversely a small number means a stiff arrow. Generally speaking, the longer your arrows are, the stiffer they need to be, and the more powerful your bow is, the stiffer they need to be.


When a bow is drawn a small amount, the weight 'on the fingers' will increase fairly linearly, however at more extreme draw lengths, the weight will start to increase faster, making them more sensitive to getting the same draw every time. This phenomena is known as stacking, probably from the way that a leaf-spring (a 'stack' of springs that is slightly reminiscent of a bow) is designed to get stiffer with increasing pressure.


A face is attached to some sort of straw or foam boss, which in turn sits on a stand. H-frame stands look (from the front) like a squared-off capital letter A, with a square shape behind the boss, and four legs. In contrast, an A-frame stand looks like a classical capital letter A, from all angles. It only has three legs, loosely joined at the top, which tends to make it less stable than an H-frame, and puts the two front legs close to the centre of the boss, which can cause issues when an arrow passes through the boss. (Arrows shot with more than about 30# draw-weight WILL pass through any boss, at least slightly.)


This is usually made of multiple strands, attaches to the limbs and propels the arrowfrom the bow. Materials vary, from linen for some traditional bows, to various types of plastic for modern bows.

String Jig

A wooden or metal device, with a pair of pegs at each end. The length is adjustable, and the pegs at each end rotate between transverse and inline positions, so that archers can make their own strings.


Usually made from a length of nylon webbing, this simple device applies tension to a recurve or traditional bow to allow the actual string to be fitted/removed.


A device (usually primarily made of synthetic leather) that takes the pressure off an archers fingers, preventing blisters and callouses.

Target Face

Normally these are coloured, concentric circles that Archers aim at - there are different sizes for different events, usually made from specially reinforced paper. The exact details vary according to the rules of the specific shoot.


The portion of a recurve or compound bow that is narrowed to accomodate the hand grip.


(Sometimes actually L-shaped) this is basically a ruler with a pair of clips on a perpendicular strut that allows it to be clipped to the string, to measure the Nocking Height


A measure of the difference in setting of the top versus the bottom limb. Specifically, the distance between each limb (where it meets the riser) and the string. If both measurements are the same, the bow is said to have 'neutral tiller'.


Latin word meaning 'the study/practice of Archery'.


The process of adjusting one or all of the parts of your bow (including the arrows) so that they all match with each other, and with you. This is normally an evolutionary process, not least because eveything depends on everything else.

Tuning Frame

A wooden (usually) framework that suspends a large piece of paper a metre or two in front of a normal target boss. Shooting arrows through the paper shows whether the arrows are flying straight or not, as the two ends of the arrow leave different marks.


Most bow-strings are twisted while they are being made, which makes the individual strands act more like a single cable. 'Adding' more twists will shorten the string slightly, which in turn increases the bracing height of the bow, altering its performance.
Be careful when de-stringing your bow, to avoid the string un-twisting itself, and thereby altering your setup unpredictably.


Alternative name for a fletch, though particularly for the small plastic variety - not normally used to describe feathers.

V-Bar (Short-rod)

Usually found in pairs (though Compound often only fit one bar). Also known as a short-rod, since it does the same basic job as a long-rod but is much shorter (6 to 10 inches), and is fitted to point outwards and rearwards, instead of directly forwards. As with a long-rod, a V-Bar is usually fitted with a relatively heavy end-weight, partly to counter-balance the long-rod, and partly to provide lateral stability.


A small block, usually steel, that is attached to the bow between the riser and the long-rod, which also provides attachment points for a pair of V-Bars (short-rods). Most models have a fixed angle, but others allow for adjustment of the angle, though most Archers find this to be unnecessary.

Waiting Line

A line that marks the edge of the 'safe-zone' - Archers waiting to shoot or collect their arrow must stay behind this line - it is usually 5m behind the shooting line and should be kept as clear as possible.


One of a suite of tests that help to tune your setup. A boss, (or preferably two, one above the other) is set up, with an aiming point marked on it. The archer then shoots one arrow from ten metres away, then another at fifteen metres; twenty metres ... This should create a nice vertical straight line, but the actual pattern helps to indicate issues with centre-shot and/or pressure button setup.


Used to waterproof and lubricate strings. Wax intended for archery is softer than a candle, but otherwise fairly firm, usually provided in a form similar to a lipstick. Modern strings are made of man-made materials similar to nylon, which generally absorb much less water than natural materials. Excess wax will slow strings down, so don't over-use it.

Wrap-Round Rest

A style of arrow rest used on recurve bows, that mounts on the same side as the button, with a longer wire than stick-on rests, giving maximum arrow clearance.