Archery Scoring Guide: How Much is a Bull’s Eye Worth?


Whether you’re a beginner or a pro in the sport of archery, everyone wants that “bull’s eye” when they’re practicing their target shooting or competitively archery. But if you’re a complete beginner to archery, you may know that the bull’s eye is a good thing, but why does everyone want to make a bull’s eye?

The bull’s eye is worth the most point out of all of the rings located on the target. It’s worth a total of ten points, which can make all the difference if you’re competing.

Because the middle is the smallest part of the target, it displays your accuracy and your ability to hit small targets from a distance away.

If you’re a complete beginner in target archery or want to try out shooting competitively, you may still be lost at why the bull’s eye is so important, or how the scoring system works in the competition. That’s okay!

Honestly, I had no idea that there was as much diversity and varying styles in target archery as I found that there was! There are so many different types of competing and shooting styles.

If you are interested in starting competitive archery, there are so many different styles to choose from! There is something for every type of archer!

Here are some details on competitive archery and the rules of the game. I will spend the majority of this article on why the bull’s eye is so important, how the scoring system works, and some advice from the pros on how to do well in a competition!

Let’s get started!

Guide to the Target and Point Systems

First, why is a bull’s eye called a bull’s eye? I myself have wondered about this particular term, and the origins of it’s meaning.

No one actually knows why we use the term bull’s eye for the very center of the target, some say that it simply resembled the shape of a bull’s eye, but there are several other theories that are fairly interesting.

The bull’s eye style of archery target finds its roots in England, so many of the theories come from England.

One is that English longbowmen used to target practice using bull’s skulls, and many would aim for the eye of the skull to practice accuracy.

Another is that the center of the target was similar to a flat coin used long ago in England, and the flat coin was called a “bull’s eye.” The reason this could’ve possibly been called so was that often this coin was used to bet in bull-baiting competitions, therefore receiving its name of “bull’s eye.”

As I said, no one necessarily knows where the term bull’s eye got its origin, but it’s evolved to our current day meaning and association with skill and accuracy of the archer.

Now that we’ve discussed the bull’s eye for a little bit, let’s talk a little more about the anatomy and different varieties of targets!

There are several different types of targets. Depending on the type of competition you’re are participating in, whether you’re shooting indoors or outdoors, or what kind of bow you’re using, you may encounter different types of targets.

First of all, what do all the colors on the target mean?

A traditional metric target used in international competitions generally starts with white on the very outside of the target, followed by black, then blue, red, and then gold in the very center. There are generally two rings for each color.

The type of target that is based on the imperial measurement system, used by Archery GB (Great Britain), has five zones instead of ten, with a slightly different point system, but for simplicity’s sake, we’ll just focus on the traditional metric target.

The points associated with each ring is not very complicated and actually quite easy to remember. They start from one point and go to ten points. The very outer white ring is one point, followed with the next ring that is two points, three points, etc.

The very middle golden ring, otherwise known as the “bull’s eye” or the 10-ring, is (no wonder) a total of ten points, which is why it’s the ring so coveted after in the target. The 10-ring is also frequently called the “X-ring” because it usually marked with an “x” in the middle.

Here’s something that might help you remember the importance of the 10-ring. Think about it like the Golden Snitch of Archery.

In the fictional game of Quidditch in the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter’s job on his team as the Seeker, was to look for the Snitch and attain it as fast as possible!

Well, the Golden Snitch was 150 points, and apparently only the size of walnut, so it’s still a little different, but if you were to hit the bull’s eye as much as possible, it will definitely help your score in the competition!

So that’s what the colors on the targets mean, however, depending on what type of archery range you go to shoot in and what kind of bow you are using, the target that you end up using can change.

If you are participating in outdoor target archery, archers who hold a recurve bow shoot the target from 70 meters away. Archers who use a compound bow shoot the target from 50 meters away.

The targets for recurve archers and compound archers are also different. The target for recurve archers is generally 122 cm in diameter, and the very center ring is 12.2 cm in diameter. The target for compound archers is only 80 cm in diameter, and the center ring has a diameter of 8cm.

Interestingly, the target for compound archers consists of only blue, red, and gold rings.

As for indoor archery shooting, all archers will shoot targets 18 meters away, and all targets used will consist of the white, black, blue, red, and gold rings.

However, the 10-ring (the middle gold ring, or the bull’s eye) for recurve archers is 4 cm, and the 10-ring for compound archers is only 2 cm.

So why is the 10-ring different for compound and recurve archers?

The answer is that because the compound bow is built to be incredibly accurate, almost like a gun, there is less room to miss a target, so in almost every case, the 10-ring for compound archers is much smaller than the 10-ring made for recurve archers.

How to Use the Scoring Guide

So how do you keep track of the number of points you earn based on your shots? Well, that’s where our handy-dandy scoring guide comes in.

If you’ve ever been bowling or have done competitive golf before, then the archery scoring guide is not much different at all.

You will generally need to fill out your name if you are shooting part of a club, then the club name and your member number, the number of the target you’re shooting at, your bow type, round number, the date, etc. Personal information that is required may vary based on where and what organization you’re shooting targets or competing at.

Please don’t forget to write your name. Your first-grade teacher has been telling you to write your name since day 1. If you forget to write your name, all the points that you earned until that point will not be rendered to your name, and probably just tossed out. Let’s not forget to write our names…

Typically it has several boxes to write the scores per each phase of shooting, sometimes called an “end.” Depending on the type of competition and the organization that you are competing with, this can vary as well.

For each shot you make, you will write down the number of points that are associated with the ring that you ended up hitting with your arrow. Generally, you shoot six times a section, and after entering in all your points from each individual shot, then you can add them up together to get your score for that particular set.

As you go through each section, sometimes there is a section called a “progressive score,” where you can continually add up your final score as you go.

If you are competing, generally there will also be a scorer assigned to you, and in order to properly turn in your scorecard, you need to get their signature as well.

Sometimes your arrow ends up hovering between two areas of the target, and it can be difficult to tell which one the arrow ended up hitting. Normally, a higher number of points is rewarded in these sorts of cases. If you’re having a hard time deciding, it is also appropriate to call a judge to assist in making the decision.

The Scoring Guide in Competitions

NASP (the national archery in schools program) changes there score card frequently but you can find their latest version at naspschool.org. The following video shares their scoring protocol.

Now you can clearly understand that based on the various competitions and organizations, competition formats vary in types of scoring, types of targets, how you are expected to shoot, etc.

In this section, I wanted to take some time to mention some specific differences and things to expect in different competitions, whether they be international, the Olympic Games, local games, etc.

Something that comes up frequently in international competitions or the Olympics, is that the target changes! Often the white and black rings will be taken away to make more room for more targets, and they will be lined up in groups of three.

For example, in the Olympics, archers will generally shoot 72 times in 12 separate phases. Based on their shots, they will be given certain rankings that will then be used to be placed against their shooting partner, where they will compete with a partner, looking to get the highest number of points, until they are eliminated and there are only the top two archers left to compete with each other.

In addition to this style of competing, in the Olympics, archers only use recurve bows to compete.

This is a form of the individual competing style. Yes, not only is there individual competition style, but team, mixed team, and compound competition styles as well!

These three types of competition are also often included in international archery competitions as well. Teams are generally three separate members of the same gender and the same bow-type/style. Mixed teams consist of two persons, with one member each being from the opposite gender, and the same type of bow. Compound teams are three members as well, and, as you guessed it, all three with compound bows!

Frequently in a competition, you will not write down the values but rather call them out to the scorer to have them write them down. It is important to check afterward with the scorer to make sure that no values were misheard or written incorrectly on your scorecard.

It might be a good idea to write down your score on a notepad of your own, so if there are any misunderstandings or mistakes, then you can more readily help clear them up.

Remember that as you are scoring your shots, that only you are allowed to touch them/remove them. It’s important to be very cautious of other archer’s arrows, and be cautious not remove or accidentally cause them to fall out of their proper place.

Also please do not forget to leave your arrow in its shot position until the scorer has taken your score down. Once you’ve checked that the scorer has understood and written your score, then you can remove your arrow from the target.

How to Hit the Bull’s Eye

So now you’ve familiarized yourself with the point systems, the anatomy of different types of targets, and the different types of competitions and teams! All of that is awesome, but now how do you get the bull’s eye that will lead you to victory?

Here are a couple of tips that will help improve your accuracy when you’re participating in a tournament or competition.

  1. Prepare your equipment beforehand! It’s obvious that your bow and your arrows are the ones that will be leading you to victory. It’s important that you prepare your equipment well before the tournament or competition. Make sure that everything is working properly and normally before you get out into the range!
  2. Familiarize yourself with the range. Something that can trip up a lot of archers at the competition is not being used to or prepared to shoot at the certain range they’re competing at. Try to get some practice in at the site of the competition and practice the routine that you’ll be doing at the competition.
  3. Have a confident attitude! I think that some people might disagree with me on this, but I think that if you spend too much time observing other archers and the competition around you, then that can have a reverse negative effect on your performance. Focus on you and your performance and go at it with the right attitude!
  4. Be relaxed. This is similar to Tip #3, but it’s important to stay relaxed and keep your emotions balanced, so as to not have a negative effect on your performance. It’s important to keep both your body and your mind in check for optimal performance during a competition.

There you go! The mystery is solved. Now you understand what the value and importance of the bull’s eye are, how competitive archery’s point systems generally work, the different types of competition, and how to get that gold bull’s eye!

Happy shooting!

Geoff Southworth

I am a California native and I enjoy all the outdoors has to offer. My latest adventures have been taking the family camping, hiking and surfing.

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