What Is Barebow Archery? A Complete Guide

What Is Barebow Archery? A Complete Guide

There’s something special about archers using the absolute minimal equipment, and shooting a bullseye for no effort. It’s impressive to watch. In this post, we’re going to discuss barebow archery, which features just that.

Barebow archery is a modern style of archery, where the archer uses a bow with no accessories or any other devices. It requires a high level of precision. Though barebow archers can use any type of stripped-down bow, they typically shoot recurve bows.

Many archers start shooting barebow to connect to their roots, while others do it for fun. In any case, it requires a high skill level to be accurate shooting a barebow: you’d be surprised how hard it is to aim with one.

What equipment barebow archers use?

While barebow archers don’t use accessories like sights, stabilizers, clickers, and other devices, there are some equipment pieces they are allowed to use [source].

Archers may use any type of bow, that doesn’t have any accessory on it (except an arrow rest). The bow can’t have markings on it or anything that might help with aiming.

They can also use vibration dampeners and a limited amount of weights under the riser, provided they’re not stabilizers. So basically, just the weights, without any rods or extensions.

Barebow archers can also use finger tabs and gloves to protect their fingers. They may also use other protective gear like chest and arm guards.

As you may see, the equipment barebow archers are permitted to use is really limited, and some essential accessories many archers use for aiming can’t be used by barebow archers. So let’s discuss what techniques they’re actually using for aiming.

How do barebow archers aim?

So barebow archers don’t use accessories on their bow, which means they aren’t using sights to aim their shots. This requires different methods of aiming.

There are 3 different methods barebow archers use to aim I’m going to detail here: string walking, instinctive archery, and gap shooting.

String walking

The first and most common barebow shooting style is string walking. In this technique, the archer uses the positioning of their drawing hand on the bowstring to shoot at different distances.

The tip of the arrow is used for aiming, and for every distance, to the target, the archer will hold the bowstring in a different position. The different hand positionings create an incomplete draw, which affects how high the arrow will go.

While closer to the target, the archer may want to hit lower, so they’ll hold the string farther from the nock. At longer distances, the arrow will need to go higher, so they’ll hold the bowstring closer to the nock.

You can see a short example of string walking in this youtube video:

Most archers using string walking first learn where they need to hold to bowstring for every distance (typically marked with stitches on the finger tab). These change for every archer, so you’ll need to figure out how many stitches you’ll count for different distances.

Overall this is a great method for barebow archery which most archers actually use.

Instinctive archery

Though sometimes considered a separate division, instinctive archery is another way of shooting a bow without a sight. It’s a bit different from other styles of shooting because instinctive archers aren’t practically aiming.

The best similar activity to instinctive archery is throwing a ball. You’re not really aiming or thinking about throwing the ball while you’re doing it. You just think where you want it to go, and throw it.

The reason you’re able to do that is that you’re already used to the motion. You’ve trained, so you already know how hard to throw the ball so it’ll land where you want.

That’s basically what you want to do if you want to learn instinctive archery. You’ll practice and learn shooting the bow so the arrow will land in the center, without thinking about the different things that go into shooting the bow. To do that, you’ll need a really good archery form, of course.

I have a whole post dedicated to instinctive archery and shooting a bow without a sight. If you want to learn more, give it a look.

Instinctive archery is an advanced way of shooting a bow without accessories. It’s based on muscle memory and takes a long time to master.

Gap shooting

The last method of barebow archery aiming I’ll cover here is gap shooting. Archers who gap shoot basically aim their bow higher or lower based on their distance to the target, using the tip of the arrow.

To do that, they need to know their “perfect distance”: the distance where they can aim at the center of the target, and the arrow will hit it.

If you’re shooting at a larger distance than their perfect distance, the arrow will land under the bullseye, so in that case, they aim higher. If they’re closer to the target, they’ll usually need to aim lower (unless they’re extremely close, because of the ballistic trajectory).

The idea behind gap shooting is a bit similar to string walking, but the actual aiming is really different. While string walkers change their range using the hand position on the string, gap shooters actually aim the bow higher or lower based on the distance to the target.

All things equal, all of these aiming methods can be used for barebow archery. Most barebow archers use a string walking method, though. It’s easier to be consistent with.

Is barebow archery in the Olympics?

Barebow archery is not in the Olympics, meaning there’s no specific Olympic game dedicated to barebow archery. Archers technically can use a barebow in the games, but other archers who do use accessories would have an advantage over the barebow shooters.

If you want to learn more about archery as a sport, and specifically archery in the Olympics read my post about archery as a sport.

Though barebow archery isn’t featured in the Olympics, there are other famous archery competitions that do include it. In World Archery Championships there include a few barebow archery divisions, in these events:

  • World Archery Field Championships
  • World Archery 3D Championships
  • Target, Indoor and Field Archery for Masters

You may read more about the events in the official World Archery rulebook.

Tips for barebow archery

  • Counter-intuitively, don’t try to hit the center right away. Instead, when starting out, try to learn how to form good grouping. Aim at the same place every time, and focus on consistency. When your grouping improves, and you’re able to consistently shoot, you’ll start moving the group to the center of the target.
  • Once you have the basic understanding of barebow archery, focus on improving one thing at a time. It might be tempting to try 10 different tweaks on your form to improve your accuracy, but it can be so hard to pay attention to everything and to know what made an impact.
    Once you’re confident with your form, you can make adjustments, one thing at a time, and see if you’re able to improve it.
  • Keep learning. Watch videos, read books, and focus on improving your technique, not your score. In the long run, that’s what’ll have the most significant impact on your archery skills.

Additionally, here’s a youtube film I recommend any barebow archery watch. It has a lot of great information.

With that in mind, I’m sure you’ll have a great experience with barebow archery.


In this post, we’ve discussed barebow archery as a style of shooting with limited equipment and accessories. It’s a style of archery that’s considered traditional, though some may argue that there are other styles that are more traditional.

All in all, barebow archery requires incredible skills to pull off but is generally a lot of fun. I hope this post helped you with everything you needed to know.