Indoors versus Outdoors

Now that we reach the time of year that many archers are starting to look to shooting outdoors it is always frustrating to this writer how maligned indoor shooting is.

I appreciate that it has been, for many, a long indoor season and, like anybody else, archers enjoy a change.I really do believe that a lack of focus during the indoor season leads archers to not being as prepared as they should be when it comes to shooting outdoors. Outdoor archery, be it field or target, is by definition more stimulating intellectually than indoor shooting due to its longer rounds, different distances, and setting. However, I impress upon all of my clients the value of the indoor season where without these distractions an archer has had an opportunity to hone their technical skill.

Also the fundamental difference between indoor and outdoor target archery has always been analogous to that of a sprint vs a marathon. Indoors the competition was, classically, shorter both in number of arrows shot and time taken as well as the distances shot. This leads to a greater pressure and fear of failure for the archer (there perceived to be less time indoors to make up for an error within a score) and is why many do not like the indoor disciplines. Over the last two decades, within target archery the “outdoor” rounds have reduced the number of arrows shot and the number of distance changes to remove much of the difference between it and indoors. Similarly the emphasis on head to head competitions means that the lessons that can be learned about performance in the indoor season are directly transferable and invaluable to outdoor shooting.

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Let me make this plain the advent of the olympic rounds, be they 70 or 50m, has removed many of the aspects that made indoor and outdoor shooting different. The only real difference between the two disciplines, nowadays at an international level, is the physical equipment that the archers are using also there are some slight differences between process due to added factors outdoors such as the elements.

I am going to stick my neck out and say that any archer who is not performing well indoors is not going to perform well outdoors and even though I have cited the “short” qualifying and head to head style rounds as the my examples I believe that the club archer, who may well be more interested in shooting multiple distance target rounds, still needs to look at exactly why indoors and outdoors is different.

The major reason for this difference is, as I have said, the perception of reduced pressure, there is more time to make up for errors. Another slightly bizzare reason for many archers preferring outdoors is a perceived mysticism about it as opposed to the “clinical” indoor disciplines. This mystical aspect to outdoor shooting can be seen in an increased emphasis on, and awareness of, equipment and tuning often to the detriment of actually shooting arrows and practicing technique. It is much easier for archers, of all levels, to “blame” their equipment outdoors than indoors. It is actually the case that there is little requirement for intense critical equipment setup for outdoors, and failure to perform can often be easily identified as a technique issue or performance issue rather than a equipment problem.

Indoor archery highlights the importance of the balance between technique and performance and archers of any level would do well to remember this when they go outdoors. Outdoor archery is not an arena where “technical sloppiness” is acceptable or less important and it is important to archers to recognise this and prepare their training regimes and performance routines accordingly.


I am not going to go over, in detail the ways that practice must mirror competition and that there must be effective measurable goals in place both quantitative and qualitative, these are in previous articles that I have written here. What I will say is that the emphasis during the outdoor season, especially in the early part, must be quantitative over qualitative. For many this mysticism about outdoor shooting means that the emphasis is on feel over result and although this sort of qualitative method the archer must decide with respect to their skill levels on a wide range of quantitative measures in order to perform well outdoors. These include scoring dozens in practice as well as getting a handle on their personal group sizes and my personal favourite the much underused ability to accurately set a sight.

vlado butcAt its most simplistic this means reading sight scales accurately and paying attention to, within the parameters of different weather conditions, the archers ability to have consistent sight marks. Within 6 weeks of starting to shoot outdoors the archer is looking for consistent sight marks from practice session to practice session. This is often overlooked due to an increased, and often erroneous, belief in how weather conditions alter sight marks. Similarly the ability to set a sight quickly and effectively during any given session or tournament so that the archer is shooting arrows in the middle is an overlooked skill and one that can be learnt well indoors. Recently I attended an indoor competition where a talented recurve archer shot a three spot FITA 18 target without noticing that they had never really set their sight for the middle, and focussing on this in the second and third rounds was the difference between shooting low a low 570 and two 580’s. Setting your sight correctly means that you shoot the same number of arrows left, right up and down of the ten ring. To do this effectively one must have an understanding of ones group size for that distance and also trust that their technical ability to shoot shots is consistent.


So when I hear archers berating indoors over outdoors I often believe that they have failed to make use of the skills which can be honed during the winter months and are fundamental to performing the very best they can wherever they are standing shooting arrows.

20 thoughts on “Indoors versus Outdoors”

  1. These are all very good and valid points. It is difficult to hone your outdoor skill set without the benefit of indoor competition. However, as an avid field shooter, I personally prefer shooting outdoors–not because of the venue, but more because of the difference in how the games are played. Indoors is a game of “you can’t miss” (mentally negative), while outdoors is a game of “get as many as you can” (mentally positive).

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