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Archery Sights Rules

By Linda Tarr Kent

Just about every culture worldwide created a type of archery to aid in survival. These days, however, archery is considered a recreational and competitive sport, notes Douglas Engh in “Archery Fundamentals.” The National Archery Association, the governing body for Olympic archery in the United States, set rules for the equipment used. Field archery, a spin-off of Olympic-style shooting, is governed by National Field Archery Association. Allowed equipment can vary widely, depending on the archer’s chosen division and association.


In NAA longbow competitions, wooden bows that do not have sights are used, advises Engh. These bows, in fact, can have few accessories, with a small counterweight attached to the lower limb one of the few allowed. The counterweight improves stability.

Compound Bow

Archers in NAA compound bow divisions can have rear and front sights, advises Engh. Compound bows also can have front sights that feature optic magnifiers and front sights that are adjustable. Equipment in the compound bow division also may include arrow rests and can be made of composite materials.


In general NAA competitions, those who use a recurve bow are allowed to have a rear sight, Engh says. A recurve bow’s string touches sections of the bow’s limbs when it is strung, whereas a straight bow’s string does not touch any bow limbs. The recurve bow’s tips curve away from the archer if the bow not strung. The string used for a recurve is shorter than the bow and is placed between tips of the limbs. A recurve bow stores more energy than a traditional straight bow, such as a long bow, according to DSB Enterprises.

Olympic Competition

In Olympic competition, athletes may have simple sight pins on their bows. No peep sights, magnifying lenses or other mechanical aids, such as release aids, are allowed. The rules are restrictive to ensure the archer’s skill plays the major role in his success and to prevent countries with better technology from dominating the sport, according to “Bow and Arrow,” by Larry Wise. Archers use recurve bows in Olympic competition.


In field archery, archers who choose to shoot in barebow competitions cannot use sights. Such archers are not allowed to use marks or blemishes as sighting aids, either, according to the NFAA rules. Archers can use stabilizers, but cannot use arrow rests because they may aid in sighting. Archers in the traditional division are not allowed sights or sighting aids either. These archers use recurve bows or longbows.


In the freestyle and freestyle limited divisions of field archery, any type of sight is allowed under NFAA rules. All release aids are allowed in freestyle, but in limited freestyle release aids are restricted to gloves, tabs and fingers.


In field archery’s competitive bowhunter division, no sighting aids are allowed, including arrow rests. In freestyle bowhunter divisions, some sighting aids are allowed, including sighting reference points and string peeps with or without lenses on the bow. They cannot be moved during competition, however. Scopes are not allowed in the freestyle bowhunter division.

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