Setting up a target archery range

Setting up a Target Archery Range
Master Gwynfor Lwyd

There is lots of material available on how to run a safe archery firing line, but not so much on how to set up a safe archery range. Setting up a safe range solves most of your problems immediately, makes running a safe line much easier, and vastly reduces the stresses of running a shoot. It takes a bit of effort, but, especially for a camping or multi-day event, it makes the lives of all your hard-working Target Archery Marshals much simpler and enjoyable. Note, archery in the SCA still operates in Imperial Measurement, as this is the sytem of measurement used throughout all the Kingdoms in the IKAC Inter Kingdom Archery Competition).

Safety is paramount in setting up a target archery range. Visibilty is the key to safety, which means the area needs to be sufficiently large to allow a  clear view not only of the range and the targets, but of all the peripheral edges from which dangers could emerge. You also need sufficient space on the firing line to permit archers a safe amount of space in which to use their bow. Generally this means about 5′ of space per archer.

Usually we shoot with one target archey butt, with three firing lines marked at 20yds,  30yds and 40yds. For a King’s Round the firing line can go out as far as 60 or 70yds, or even more so you need to take this into account when setting up your range if you intend running this competition. You will also need a minimum of 50yds clear space behind the target. More is obviously better. If you have the luxury of several targets you could set up one firing line and have tagets at 20, 30 & 40yds distance. If this is the case, be aware that you will need a lot more width for the range, as each target should be about 10ft perpendicularly away from each other target. Frankly, I have always found it easier to move the line than stagger the targets.

To account for sideways spray, which can easily occur  if the shaft falls off the shelf during firing, you need to mark out a line at least 35 degrees to the left and right and at least 40yds long, at which point the line can run parallel with the line of the range to the end point beyond the targets.

Naturally, any thing or person or possible danger breaking these range boundaries will necessitate an immediate cry of “HOLD” which will be maintained until the issue is fixed.

Again, note that these dimensions are only guidelines, and are minimums. More space is certainly preferable.

The first role of the Target Archery Marshal during a shoot is the safety of the archers, spectators and anyone who may wander on to the range. In particular, and especially where children are involved, you must ensure that all archers remain behind the line at all times. Often an arrow will be dropped off the rest, and even if it falls just barely over the line it must not be retrieved. You have every right to be forceful in enforcing the rules. If anyone complains, or offers excuses, you have every right to remove them from the activity.

Secondly, at some events you may find people can wander into the range in the backfield. You have to be aware or all the perimeter’s security. I have seen idiots try to take a shortcut between the firing line and the targets to get where ever, and had them be quite belligerent when pulled up. Nonetheless, your first concern must always be safety, so you call “HOLD” if you are in any doubt whatsoever about the security of the range.

All the firing lines should be clearly marked with stakes and/or rope. Consider that it may be wise to rope off the backfield, particularly if there is a risk that the range may be used as a thoroughfare when not in use. At a longer event, having a flag that can be raised when the range is open and a Target Archery Marshal is in attendance may be useful.

Finally, it is a good idea to have the Rules of the Range (a copy of the Target Archery Manual suffices nicely, but we have laminated versions with the relevant rules in point form). It is also good practice to verbally go through the rules at the start of every session, especially if children are shooting.

Following  these directions should make it easy to allow people to enjoy archery in safety, and that’s what we want to see.

Appendix 1 – Imperial to Metric conversions for the archery range
10yds = 9.14m
20yds = 18.29m
30yds = 27.56m
40yds = 36.58m
50yds = 45.72m

5ft = 1.52m
10ft = 3.05m


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