The process of handicapping enables archers to compete against others of different abilities or using different bow types. It is based on how well they perform compared to their best performances and allows different rounds to be compared. It also allows each archer to gauge how they are performing over the course of the year. Each score an archer achieves in any round will have a handicap value assigned to it, ranging between 0 and 100. The better the score, the lower the handicap.

The handicap system has three stages:

Initial assessment РFor an initial handicap to be obtained, an archer must first shoot three complete rounds. An average is taken of the handicap rating of each score, rounded up to the next larger whole number.

Ongoing assessment – The process of handicap calculation is continuous and it can be reduced every time an archer shoots a round that is better than their current handicap. An average of the current handicap and the handicap of the round shot is taken and rounded up as before. If this handicap rating is lower, then this will be the new handicap, otherwise it will remain the same. For a handicap to improve, an archer must shoot a round with a handicap rating at least 2 better than their current handicap.

Annual reassessment of handicaps – At the beginning of each season (1st Jan for outdoors; 1st July for indoors) all handicaps are reassessed. The best three handicaps achieved over the previous season are added and the average taken. This is the handicap rating that will be carried over into the new season.

Handicaps for different bow disciplines (recurve, longbow, compound, barebow) are calculated in the same way, but if you shoot more than one discipline you can obtain a handicap for each.

Handicap shoots – Many competitions have a handicap adjusted element. This is where novice and experienced archers are put on an equal level. Each score will have an allowance added to it according to the archer’s handicap to give a handicap adjusted score. Novices often win the handicap adjusted medals as they will most likely beat their handicap scores by a larger margin.


The classification scheme is a progressive grading scale that requires archers to achieve different levels of score, depending on gender, age-group, and bow-style. The higher the class, the further distance you have to shoot to achieve that class. Classes are as follows:

* Unclassified
* Third Class
* Second Class
* First Class
* Bowman (Junior Bowman)
* Master Bowman (JMB)
* Grand Master Bowman (JGMB)

As with handicaps, three qualifying rounds are required to achieve each class. These are also reassessed at the end of each year.

To achieve Master Bowman and Grand Master Bowman, 3 scores must be obtained from Record Status Shoots and submitted to GNAS.

Classifications can also be obtained for indoor shooting and these are graded from H up to A.

Your handicap and classification can be improved at any time on the club field, not just at competitions, as long as you shoot a complete round and submit your scores to the club’s Records Officer.

How To Obtain Classifications and Handicaps

In target archery formal shooting takes the form of rounds, where a round comprises a number of arrows shot over stated distances. There are many different types of round, for example a Western round involves shooting 4 dozen arrows at 60 yards followed by 4 dozen arrows at 50 yards.

When a member shoots one of these rounds, either at the club or in competition elsewhere, they should submit their score to the Records Officer who will then calculate the handicap value and classification for that score and round.

A handicap is given after three scores have been submitted and an average of the three handicap values has been calculated. You can improve your handicap over the course of the year as detailed above.

The Records Officer, using the scores, will also calculate your personal classifications, 3rd Class, 2nd Class, 1st Class, Bowman, Master Bowman, Grand Master Bowman.

You can get 3rd, 2nd, 1st or BM (Bowman) classification at any club shoot or competition or any time you’re on the field. You need to have 3 scores in a particular classification category in order to obtain that classification. You can only qualify for MB (Master Bowmen) and GMB (Grand Master Bowman) by submitting 3 scores to GNAS, from Record Status Shoots.

Should you require any further details on handicaps or classifications please just ask the Records Officer who will be glad to help.

Send your scores sheets (with all details including location and date) and queries on handicaps to our club Records Officer