Archery Safety

Follow these guidelines to promote safety at your archery installation

Some ministries are finding that archery provides a strong opportunity for outreach. If your ministry or camp offers archery activities on your grounds, take special care to ensure the safety of participants and anyone on or near your property during the event. Whether you are setting up a temporary shooting activity or a permanent installation, it is important to provide a safe, rewarding experience for both new and experienced archers.

Facility

  • Define the perimeter of your range. Use a rope, fence, or other barriers to clearly mark your shooting area so people don’t accidentally wander in. Provide adequate supervision to monitor your perimeter.
  • Mark a shooting line. On outdoor target ranges, shooting lanes should be ten feet wide according to the National Field Archery Association. At indoor ranges, lane width can be closer to a yard. Expand lane widths for children and beginners, however, to 10 feet indoors and fifteen feet outdoors.
  • Set up a waiting area. Set up a space directly behind the shooting line for those waiting to shoot.
  • Designate an area for spectators. Mark off an area behind your range’s shooting line and waiting area where spectators may observe.
  • Reserve safety zones. Rope off area on the side and rear edges of your range as a buffer. In outdoor venues, if your range lacks a backstop, the NFAA requires a buffer of 25 yards, or one half of the target distance, whichever is greater. Safety buffer lanes on the sides of your range should be no less than 15 yards.
  • Inspect your range for ricochet hazards. Inspect your shooting range for rock, concrete, or steel surfaces that may cause arrows to ricochet, creating a hazard.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Take stock of the area surrounding your range, particularly the left, right, and back edges. Are there any buildings, walls, or other structures? Have you taken precautions to make certain that people and vehicles never go in these areas while shooting is in progress?
  • Install fencing and backstops (outdoor), or arrow curtains and plywood partitions (indoor) behind your targets. Set up barriers to reduce the risk of an arrow striking an unintended target. If your outdoor range does not include a backstop (fabricated or earthen), clear 25 yards behind your targets, or one half of the target distance, depending which is greater. See the Easton Foundations Archery Facility Planning Guide for setup details.
  • Set up a secure storage area. When they are not in use, keep bows, arrows, and other potentially dangerous equipment in a locked shed, closet, or other secure structure.
  • Use hazard signage (outdoor). If there is a possibility of uninvited public access onto your venue, your ministry should use warning signs and flags when shooting is in progress.
  • Orient your range correctly (outdoor). Ensure that your outdoor range is flat and free of obstructions. The shooting direction at your range should be within 45 degrees of truth north in the Northern Hemisphere, so that shooters are less likely to face the sun.
  • Consider ceiling clearance (indoor). For a standard 20-yard range, the National Field Archery Association U.S.A. requires a minimum vertical clearance of 8 feet, 6 inches.

People

Employ a licensed instructor. Make sure your shooting activities are run by a licensed instructor with experience and training specific to the equipment in use at your range.

Monitor your range’s perimeter. Enlist the help of adult volunteers or chaperones to watch the perimeter of your shooting range and make sure no one wanders into danger. This is particularly important in the case of temporary installations, as passersby may be less likely to recognize the area as dangerous.

Protect the safety of minors. Never allow minors to supervise shooting activities, and only allow them to participate in shooting activities in a carefully monitored setting. Keep target distance and difficulty age appropriate.

Gear

Require minimum safety gear. Shooters should use finger tabs and armguards or archery gloves for protection.

Consider permitting additional standard safety gear. You may also choose to require additional, standard, safety gear, such as a chest guard or eyewear.

On the range

With your range safely set up, you are ready to invite guests to come and enjoy. Proactively manage risks to maximize the safety and enjoyment of everyone who uses your archery range.

Your archery instructor should ensure that participants follow these and other safety guidelines to promote safety and avoid injury on the range during your event.

Archers should wear closed-toe footwear and tight-fitting clothing.

Archers should inspect bows and arrows for cracks and damage.

Prohibit shooters from pointing a drawn arrow upward at an angle above horizontal (called “sky drawing”). Arrows can travel hundreds of yards and hit unintended targets.

Remind participants to inform your range supervisor if they drop something in front of the firing line. The reflex to pick up a dropped item can be deadly, because archers often think a loaded bow held at a downward angle is pointed in a “safe” direction.

A shooter should never snap a bowstring without an arrow nocked (called “dry firing”). This can seriously damage a bow and potentially cause injury.

After firing, participants should approach targets slowly. Injuries can result if someone falls against arrows protruding from a target.

When removing arrows from a target, participants should stand to one side of the target, facing it. After making sure no is standing behind them, they should grasp the arrow shaft, twist, and pull back slowly.

When carrying arrows, archers should use both hands to hold arrows bundled in front of them. Instruct participants to cover their points with one hand and walk back to the firing line.

If you have an outdoor range, your instructor and volunteers should pay attention to weather conditions and respond appropriately to ensure safety. For instance, periodic breaks, shady rest areas, and water should be provided in the case of extreme heat.

Closing down

At the end of your group’s session, store all bows, arrows, and other equipment in a secure, locked area. Perform a final canvas of your range area for misplaced arrows and other equipment. Finally, remove all warning signage and flags.

Follow these guidelines to improve safety at your archery range.