Class and Handicaps

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So … Handicaps and Class … What are they all about?

Archery is an extremely inclusive sport. We can expect to share the competitive shooting line with internationalists and beginners, juniors and very seniors. We all shoot together and compete together … BUT … in straight competition, there’s going to be a lot of one sidedness. The same people are always going to win all the shoots and the rest of us will go home disappointed. Class and Handicaps are attempts to balance things out so we all might get a chance to happy dance in the car park


Of the two systems, class is used more often and to greater effect. Simply put, class is a way to group archers of broadly similar skills into a category so that they can compete amongst themselves. There are separate classifications for indoors and outdoors although it is during the indoor season that class is of most use. During the indoor season it is possible to win class medals where only those of that standard compete in their own mini tournament.

gmbTo get a class you need to shoot 3 qualifying scores in a particular class’s band in either competition or formal club target days. You cant lose this class (unless you don’t shoot for an entire season i.e. missing the winter entirely) but to improve is fairly simple … you just need to shoot 3 scores in a higher class in the above conditions during a single season.

Indoor classifications are letters - A B C D E F G and H. Roughly a C class archer would be a very good club archer, an A class archer would be an internationalist and an E F G or H class archer is likely a novice or junior with little experience.
Outdoor classifications are different with Grand Master Bowman (GMB) being roughly the top 1% of competing archers, Master Bowmen (MB) the top 5% down through Bowman, 1st, 2nd and 3rd Class.

The class tables can be found at the back of GNAS’ Shooting Administrative Procedures which can be found here


This system is used in a very different way to balance archers with differing skills. Every score you achieve in any formal round has a handicap value assigned to it. The better you score, the lower the handicap – H/C’s start at 100 and end at 0. These handicaps are rigged in such a way that the difficulty of achieving a handicap of say 40 is the same no matter what round you are shooting. The score needed to achieve a H/C of 40 in a Portsmouth is 530 but in the harder FITA18, you only need score 484 to achieve a H/C40. It also allows different round scores to be compared or for a score in one round to be converted into a score comparable with another. This is how the Scottish Ranking system works with all applicable winter scores being converted into equivalent FITA18 scores and all summer scores being converted into FITA's.

To achieve a handicap you need to shoot 3 scores in either competitions or formal club target days. The handicap values of these first 3 scores are added together then divided by 3. The resultant value (rounded up) is your starting handicap value. Each time you shoot a score, a handicap value is generated. If it is a lower value than your current handicap, you can add the 2 numbers together, divide by 2, rounding fractions up … and if the number is lower than your current handicap, congratulations … that’s your new handicap

In a challenge to you to get better, every year your handicap is reset to the average of your best three scores from the previous year. This may slide your handicap down quite a way so making you have to work a little harder to improve your handicap

Handicap numbers once achieved in theory allow archers of differing skills to compete head to head as each handicap value for each round has a balancing figure intended to round up your score to 1440  – the lower your handicap, the smaller the balancing figure in each round. Handicaps mostly don’t get larger in that you don’t get worse but be bad for an entire year and your handicap will get worse when it is reset

So using handicapping, if you decide to call out Brady Ellison (top 10 in the world recurver), you can go head to head on a comparable footing. Obviously without handicapping you are toast! Simply shoot the round, add your respective handicap generated adjustments to your scores and the person who shot their best on the day will have the number nearest (or above) 1440 and so be the winner. (Afterwards could you get me Brady’s autograph? – he’s a top bloke)

The Handicap tables can only be acquired (I think) by buying the full bound version of the GNAS’ Rule book(s) - £8 in a nice (officially ‘GNAS Green’) green folder. Alternatively see Geo as apparently he has all the tables memorized!