Once you get into archery, you’re going to hear people throwing out terms such as “Olympic,” “traditional,” “3-D archery,” etc.

They’re talking about the different styles of archery. And if you’re going to get into the game, you’ve got to know your style.

Here at Lancaster Archery Supply, Inc., we promote all types of archery, and we have broken the game down into six basic styles. Our online store, LancasterArchery.com, allows you, the archer, to shop by the style of archery you practice, so you know you’re looking at products compatible with your game. In basic terms, here are the six styles of archery:


As you might have guessed, this style of archery is so named because it’s what you see at the Olympic Games. We’re talking about target recurve bows that have rests, plungers, stabilizers and sights attached.

Olympic recurve

(There’s talk that compound bows might someday be allowed in the Olympics, but currently, they are not.)

Competitors typically shoot from 18-90 meters, which is about the length of a football field. All Olympic recurve bows are going to be takedown bows. That means the limbs can be removed from the riser.


This is a precision-shooting style practiced primarily by compound bow shooters who participate in tournament competitions. They primarily shoot at paper target faces that range in sizes of 20cm to 122cm. The tournaments might be indoors, or they might be outdoors.

compound target

Target compounds tend to be long – 36-40 inches from axle to axle is common – and they usually have brace heights anywhere from 7-9 inches. Both qualities make these bows very forgiving and friendly in an archer’s hands.

Arrows are built solely with stability and accuracy in mind. Indoor arrows tend to have a large diameter and they’re heavy, while outdoor arrows have a smaller diameter and are aerodynamic, for cutting through the wind at long range.

Compound target archers use stabilizers of all lengths, and their sights often feature scopes with magnifying lenses. Tournament classifications dictate what equipment is allowed for some archers.


In 3-D archery, archers shoot at 3-dimensional, foam animal targets. The targets are placed at various distances from the shooting stake, which means archers must shoot at ever-changing yardages over the course of a shoot. Sometimes the distances are marked, but often times, the archers have to judge the yardages for themselves.

3D archery

Archers shoot every kind of bow in 3-D archery, so you’re just as likely to see someone shooting a target compound as you are a traditional longbow on the 3-D range. Arrow speed is an important consideration for 3-D archers, since faster arrows can make up for errors in judging distances.


This is an all-encompassing category that refers to anyone and everyone who participates in archery for the sheer enjoyment of shooting a bow and arrow. Recreational archers shoot all kinds of bows, in all kinds of settings, at all kinds of targets. If you shoot a bow and arrow just because you love it, then you’re a recreational archer.



Bowhunters use compounds, recurves, longbows and crossbows, all with the goal of taking game. Their gear is going to be camouflaged or of neutral color, as compared to the shiny, bright-colored equipment used by target archers.


Bowhunting equipment also tends to be beefier than target gear. Bowhunters have to be concerned about their arrows punching through thick hide and bone, so their bows tend to have heavier draw weights and their arrows generally weigh more than those used in target archery.

In bowhunting, you’ll see bow-mounted arrow quivers, along with various pieces of gear attached to the string and/or limbs aimed at making the bow quieter. Stabilizers and sights tend to be short, compact and sturdy for carrying long distances, often through thick cover.


Traditional archers lean toward the equipment that imitates what was used long before the modern era. They shoot recurve and longbows at all types of targets, including stumps. Many of the recurves are going to be one-piece bows, but takedowns also are acceptable.

Traditional Archer

What separates traditional archery from Olympic recurve is the bows are stripped down. Sights generally aren’t used at all, and stabilizers, if used, are short and simple. Rests and plungers are used by some traditional archers, although many shoot their arrows right off the shelf of the bow.

Traditional archers usually are the only archers who shoot wooden arrows, although they also shoot carbon and aluminum shafts as well.