How to Shoot an Arrow

Historically, archery was used in hunting and combat. In recent times, it became a precision sport, with the goal of shooting an arrow at a distant target. Whether you're interested in competitive archery, precision shooting for personal achievement or you'd like to use arrow shooting for general sporting reasons, shooting a bow and arrow can be a very satisfying pastime. See Step 1 to learn the proper technique - you'll be shooting a bull's-eye in no time!


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    Determine your dominant eye. As you can probably guess, your dominant eye is more accurate in aiming and judging distances. With archery, eye dominance is more important than hand-dominance, because you should be able to determine your target of the arrow.
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    Use equipment that matches your dominant eye. Most archery equipment is labeled as "right-handed" or "left-handed" (referring to which hand pulls back the bowstring) probably because for most people, their dominant eye is on the same side as their dominant hand. (Right eye dominance is more common[1] and so is right-handedness.) However if your dominant eye is the opposite of your dominant hand, you should consider obtaining equipment for your weak hand. This ensures that you are able to use your dominant eye to aim because your hand and arms are capable of being left or right handed, or both, it depends on the usage of either or. unlike your eyes..
    • Right eye dominant: Use a right handed bow, hold the bow with your left hand, and pull the bowstring back with your right hand.
    • Left eye dominant: Use a left handed bow, hold the bow with your right hand, and pull the bowstring back with your left hand.
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    Obtain the appropriate gear. Certain pieces of equipment are essential for ensuring both a safe and more enjoyable experience when practicing archery. The following items are recommended:
    • Wear an arm-guard (also known as a "vambrace" or bracer) on your bow arm (the side that holds the bow) to avoid it getting slapped by the bowstring (if you don't use one you will end up skinning your forearm if you do it too much).
    • You may also wish to wear a chest protector, especially if ;you are a woman, to protect your chest from string burn, as well as keep clothing from getting in the way. This is usually made from flexible plastic.
    • Get a finger tab for the string hand. This is a small piece of leather or heavy fabric that protects your drawing fingers when you let go of the bowstring.
    • A bowling can be worn to help your hand stay on the grip, and also to hold your open hand against the grip, which allows the bow to move freely during release.[2]
    • A quiver is worn on the back or around your waist, and is where the arrows are held.
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    Assume the correct shooting stance. Your body should be perpendicular to the target and the shooting line, meaning that if you drew an imaginary line from you to the target, this line would go across the middle of your feet. If you are right eye dominant, hold the bow with your left hand, point your left shoulder to the target, and handle the arrow and string with your right hand. If you are left eye dominant, it's the reverse.
    • Place your feet shoulder-width apart so that your two feet form a straight line pointing towards the target.
    • In terms of posture, stand upright without tension. It should be a comfortable, yet firm stance. In proper form, the archer stands erect, forming a "T". The archer's back muscles are used to pull the arrow to the anchor point.
    • Pinch your buttocks together to bring your pelvis forwards.
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    Nock the arrow. Point the bow towards the ground and place the shaft of the arrow on the arrow rest. Attach the back of the arrow to the bow string with the nock––the small plastic component with a groove for this purpose. If the arrow has three vanes, or fletching feathers, orient the arrow so that a single vane is pointing away from the bow. Place the arrow below the nock bead or in between if there are two nock locators. If you've never done this before, it's a very good idea to have someone who knows how show you what to do.
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    Use three fingers to lightly hold the arrow on the string. Most commonly, the index finger is held above the arrow and the middle and ring fingers below. This is called the Mediterranean draw or "split finger" style and is currently the most popular position.[3] In the Eastern tradition of holding the bowstring, the bow is held with the thumb and this is often done using a ring of metal or bone to protect the thumb.[4] Another type of grip used it to place all three fingers below the arrow, which will draw the arrow closer to the eye. This is the advised position when shooting without a sight.
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    Raise and draw your bow. This is often done in one fluid motion and with repeated practice, will involve perfect control of your movements, allowing you to concentrate fully on the target and not be distracted, not even by tiredness. Whenever holding the bow, it should be held in as relaxed a way as possible, without torque on the riser of the bow.[4]
    • 1. Hold the bow arm outwards toward the target. Your inner elbow should be parallel to the ground and the bow should always stay vertical. You should be able to look straight down the spine of the arrow
    • 2. Draw the string hand towards the face to an "anchor point". The anchor is usually somewhere around the chin, cheek, ear or the corner of the mouth. Since this is your reference point, it must remain consistent from shot to shot. Take care not to relax too much or to keep pulling back once you reach the anchor point, or you risk ill-targeted shots or losing power.
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    Aim. Choose either instinctive shooting or shooting with a sight.
    • Instinctive shooting is the coordination between the eyes and the bow arm, allowing your experience and subconscious to guide your movement. It requires large amounts of concentration and practice. Focus on nothing but the center of the target.
    • Shooting with a sight involves adjusting pins on the side of a compound bow or some target recurves, setting for different distances.[4] This way is much easier to learn, therefore is best for a beginner lacking experience.
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    Release the arrow by relaxing the fingers of your string hand. While this may sound simple, the manner in which you release your fingers from the bowstring can impact the arrow's flight. The aim is to get as clean a release as possible and as a beginner, this will probably take time. Problems that you may encounter when releasing the bow include flinching, wobbling or anticipating the shot inaccurately. Anything that deflects the string from the way you remove your fingers can alter the arrow's course.
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    Once the arrow has left for its target, move your draw hand back and finish the shoulder rotation. Keep the bow hand steady until the arrow hits its target. Watch your arrow as it flies.
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    Shoot the full end of arrows.This is usually composed of six arrows. Repetition is learning––with practice, you'll improve over time. Part of learning to shoot an arrow effectively is learning the sequence outlined above so well that it simply flows and you do not get distracted by having to remember each distinct movement. Expect it to be difficult initially but it will become more fluid and comfortable the more that you go through the steps again and again.
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    Score your arrows if you wish. There are ten evenly-spaced rings on a standard FITA (International Archery Federation) target. The two inner yellow circles are equal to 10. Then the value decreases by one as you move outwards. If the arrow is just touching or on the line it is awarded the higher score.[5] Naturally, the aim is to shoot arrows as closely as possible to the target's center.
    • Different disciplines (field archery, animal archery, Beursault archery, etc.) are recognized by the FITA with respect to distance, number of arrows, target type and equipment; these variations need to be taken into account when scoring.[2] There may also be time limits, as with the Olympics.


  • An archer should pay attention to the recoil or follow through of his or her body, as it may indicate problems with form (technique).
  • Avoid 'slapping' your forearm with the bowstring by rotating your arm inwards. Not only is it a more stable position, but it conveniently rotates your inner forearm away from the string's path.
  • As an archer progresses from beginner to a more advanced level an "open stance" is developed. Each archer will have a particular preference but mostly this term indicates that the leg furthest from the shooting line will be a half to a whole foot-length in front of the other, on the ground.
  • When you want to aim, look focus on the point of the target so that you are exactly concentrating at that point, then release the string by gently slipping the fingers of the bowstring and if you can't keep your hand steady when you shoot, when you hold the bow try holding it perfectly so that your thumb is at the back of the bow, this will help you to keep your arm steady.
  • Quivers are useful and are often used on ranges. They can be a metal stake and loop stuck into the ground or a cylindrical container hanging from your belt.
  • If you are a beginner, you might want to do push ups, pull ups, or other arm strengthening exercises before you begin. This will help you when holding the bow so your arms do not get shaky while aiming.
  • Don't dry fire a bow.
  • Try to draw the string as much as possible to get the maximum power. This increases accuracy and dampers the effect of wind and gravity.
  • When you pull back the string, lift your elbow up. This makes your shoulder muscles work instead of your arm muscles.
  • Keep your eye on the target, don't focus on the bow or arrow.


  • Do not pull back and release the bowstring without an arrow. "Dry firing" causes micro-fractures in the bow from the stress of the force being reabsorbed.
  • Always aim the bow towards the range or the ground. During shooting no animal or human should be in the range (area ahead of shooting line). Be cautious at all times.
  • Wear an armguard whenever you shoot a bow to avoid scrapes or cuts on the bow arm. Most reach from the wrist to the elbow, but depending on the archer's shooting style it may need to extend to the upper arm. Don't worry if it still hurts the first couple of times, that is normal for beginning archers.

Things You'll Need

  • Arrows
  • Bow
  • armguard (optional)
  • Chest guard (optional)
  • Finger tab (optional)
  • Quiver (optional)
  • Target
  • Range

Article Info

Categories: Archery