An Archer’s Quandary: Reading Targets and Arrow Scores (Part 2)

(Be sure to read Part 1 first. Steve)

I will now answer the question about how to teach your students to address the scores of their arrows as they shoot them. It requires you to understand some more about typical patterns. The critical issue is to distinguish normal shot outcomes (which need no correction) from abnormal shot outcomes (which do).

For rank beginners, there is no problem as their arrows are all over the place. The first goal is to shoot a round in which all arrows score. Then the task is getting them to shoot “round groups” centered on the target center. (This needs to be checked and addressed. I have students divided target faces in quarters and count how many holes in each quarter. They should be roughly equal (this assumes a left-right and up-down balance equals “round”). You can also have them count how many arrows are in each ring.)

Once these have been achieved, then your students will start to “see” patterns in their arrow scores. Some will require action, others not. If your archer mistakes one kind of arrow score as indicating a problem and it is not or vice-versa, his/her score will suffer, largely because their mental state was not adjusted to correspond to reality.

Now Consider the following table:

Table of Scores vs. “Holding Ring”
(Normal Distribution)

360 Round
10 717 359 299
9 692 345 288
8 664 332 277
7 637 318 265
6 610 305 254
5 583 291 243
4 556 278 232
3 529 265 220
2 502 251 209
1 475 238 198

This is an attempt on my part to define what “holding the Y-ring” stands for. To say an archer is “holding the 8-ring” is to imply that all of his/her arrows are 8s, 9s, or 10s, but this definition doesn’t correspond to reality. So, I defined the term to mean that three standard deviations of the arrow positions are scores corresponding to the rings implied. If you don’t know what that means, it means that 95-96% of all arrows shot will have scores of that ring or higher. So, out of every 100 arrows 4-5 will be out of that zone. For a 300 Round (10 point scoring, 30 arrows, like a Vegas Round—see column at the right in the table) it means that 1-2 arrows will be outside of that zone.40cm_3_spot_vertical

So, as an example, let’s take someone who is “holding the 8-ring.” In a 30 arrow round, 1-2 would be outside of that zone (8-, 9-, and 10-rings), presumably they would be 7s. I assume that this collection of shots includes no “fliers,” that is obvious “oops shots.”

Here is how you use this information. If your archer is shooting round groups, centered on the target (required for max scores), then you can use their average round score to tell what their “holding ring” is. If they shoot scores are in the mid-270’s, they are “holding the 8-ring.” If they shoot scores in the mid-240’s, they are “holding the 5-ring.” Just look for their score in the right-hand column and slide over to the left hand column of that row.

Holding the 8-ring means that one or two 7s will be “normal” for them. A round in which there are no 7s is possible and a round in which there are 3-4 or more 7s is possible. But an arrow outside of the 7-ring is a strong indicator of a mistake having been made and some adjustment needs to be made, and they should run their routine used to analyze bad shots when such shots occur. But, if they try to adjust something because they shot eight ends without shooting a 7, then they shot two in one end, they would be making a mistake. Two 7s in one round is “normal.” The fact that they occurred one after the other is a small, very small data set (two arrows) and no conclusions can be drawn from them nor should there be.

Now if this archer shoots a five, there is definitely a problem (especially on the Vegas target which has no five ring unless you are shooting a one-spot version of their target face).

If your archer improves so that they are shooting scores in the high 280s commonly, then they are “holding the 9-ring” and 1-2 8s in a 300 Round are “normal” and 7s, 6s, 5s, etc. become arrows that need to be labeled as shots needing some sort of correction. I repeat, you can’t know for certain, as these are based upon probabilities, but each archer really needs to know what “normal” scoring is for them.

A Caveat
Now, having said all of that, you must reinforce that we are not robots. Consistency is not something easily achieved or demonstrated and should not be expected, at least at a high level, from any but the very, very, very best archers. All of us have good days and bad days and once an archer achieves some ability, their scores are much closer to perfect than to awful, which means there is a lot farther one can drop from one’s average than one can exceed one’s average score. If your archer has a 280 average on this round, he/she can only exceed his/her average by 20 points, but can fall below that average by many times that 20 points.

Even Brady Ellison, who has shot indoor 600 Round world records of 598/600 and 599/600 recently is going to shoot an 8, one day soon. And, in practice, he may have a really horrid day and shoot a 294/300. The difference between elite archers and the rest of us is their high and low scores are much closer together while also being, of course, much closer to perfect.


Filed under For All Coaches

8 responses to “An Archer’s Quandary: Reading Targets and Arrow Scores (Part 2)

  1. kmartin

    In making your calculations, for example the 300 round score of 277 for holding the 8 ring, what are you assuming about the distributions of 9s and 10s. Also, what is the logic for your assumption?


    • Normal distribution (Gaussian). There are other distributions I have seen used and they would give slightly different results. I also didn’t correct for the outside-in scoring rule.

      The point here is it doesn’t necessarily have to be perfectly accurate because this is being used to define the loose definition of “Holding the Y-ring.”

      If you are interested I could show you the entire work.

      On Tue, Jan 31, 2017 at 3:47 PM, A Blog for Archery Coaches wrote:



  2. Sorry for the link back to my own site, but I have a page that will plot the expected arrow distribution for various size faces and distances for different scores, and tables of round scores where I have annotated single standard deviations. These are tabulated by the Archery Australia ratings scheme, which assumes normal distributions.
    I find these indicators useful for making sense of the variation in my own scores, and not necessarily getting too disheartened when I think I’ve undershot…


    • This is fascinating. (All things are possible in the Land of Oz!) What I did you did in reverse (and, of course, better).

      This sort of system universalizes all scoring rounds in that it makes them comparable. Are you the author of this system? Would you like to write an article for Archery Focus magazine about coming up with it? (The audience is fairly general, so it can’t bee too technical.)

      You can contact me directly at


      • Hi, no I didn’t devise the scheme myself. I believe that was done by James Park for Archery Australia. (A.A. gave me permission to use the rating tables on my site). There used to be a complete description of the underlying model in the AA rule book, but I think it’s now been removed. However, the model is mostly the same as the Archery GB handicap model, which was devised by David Lane. There is a link to a copy of his explanation of the model on this page:
        Both schemes assume that the arrow position is normally distributed, they just differ slightly in the function used to account for the rate of increase of group size with distance.


      • Cool! Thanks!

        On Thu, Feb 2, 2017 at 2:35 PM, A Blog for Archery Coaches wrote:



  3. Coach Krish Rama.

    Dear Mr. Ruis.
    I am not replying to this blog, rather, I need some help.
    I have students that aim with their eyes but the sight adjustment is based on their individual hand morphology as placed on or under their anchor point.
    Some have genetically inherited traits and others are able to adapt and change.
    Please could you give me some advice.


    • Coach Krish, you can email me for advice at *directly any time you want* and we can converse out of the public eye.

      Please expand on your question. I am not sure what you are asking? All archers sight settings are dependent upon their anchor, the eye to anchor distance, the quality of their release, etc. So, what is the problem?

      Also, I wish you a happy and successful new year!

      On Fri, Feb 3, 2017 at 9:09 AM, A Blog for Archery Coaches wrote:



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