Outdoor Classification & Handicap FAQs

Outdoor Classification & Handicap FAQs

Key Documents

General Questions

Why were these changes made?


The classification system needed to be changed for several reasons

  • Scores were set some time ago and the levels of participation and performance in the UK has increased to the point where boundaries needed updating, even if the rest of the scheme stayed the same.
  • There were a number of categories where the scores required, or the gaps between classifications were inconsistent.
  • The old system did not recognise new age groups brought in in 2022.

The handicap system, whilst it had stood the test of time for many decades, included some core assumptions about the performance of bows that no longer held. The new system builds on the excellent foundation laid by David Lane to bring it in line with modern archery.

This is all very complex, I don’t understand it

Certainly if you’re new to archery, or are unfamiliar with the previous system, this will all seem quite overwhelming. The key thing to remember is that the classification system is just a set of 9 milestones along your archery journey, just like coloured belts in karate, and you need to hit certain scores to pass each milestone. A classification table lists the scores that you need on each round, and whilst there are 64 different tables, only one of them is relevant to you so you can ignore all of the others and just refer to that one.

There are lots of details out there about how the classification tables are generated and which rounds and distances are eligible for different age-groups and bowstyles, but you don’t need to worry about that as it’s all encoded in the tables already - so just find the right classification table for your bowstyle, age-group and gender and whichever boxes have numbers in are the scores that you can get classifications for.

Other archers at your club, and your club’s records officer will be able to explain this to you in more detail and guide you through the process of claiming classifications.

Overall structure of the system

Why aren’t VI or para archers included?

Our volunteers had limited time to complete this project in order to release tables for the newly-introduced age groups ready for the 2023 season. We plan on looking at this in the next phase of the work and we are actively seeking representatives from these communities to help with this.

If you are a VI or para archer or are involved in coaching or supporting VI or para archers, we’d love to hear from you. Please email competitions@archerygb.org

Why isn’t (Insert Bowstyle) included?

As with the answer above, there was not enough time or data available in this first phase of the work to consider other bowstyles too. Archery GB will consider adding new bowstyles when there is a critical mass of archers, and enough data to sensibly set classification thresholds. We are always interested in hearing from volunteers who would be willing to help with this. Please email competitions@archerygb.org


Will there be new badges with new designs? What if we have a large stock of the old badges?


Yes, new badges are currently being designed and Archery GB is working with retailers to make them available soon.

If you have a large stock of the old badges, we suggest that you use them up in the following way

  • For new classifications in the Archer Tier, award an old-style 1st, 2nd or 3rd Class badge
  • For new classifications in the Bowman Tier, use an old Bowman badge paired with a 1st, 2nd or 3rd class badge.

When I get my first classification in the new system, will I get all the badges below it?

Badges up to Bowman 1st Class are administered at club level, so that is entirely up to you and your club to decide if you want to do this, but doing so would clearly come with a cost. For MB tier badges administered by Archery GB, this has never been an option and you receive only the highest badge you qualify for.

Are the indoor badges going to change too? 


The indoor classification scheme will be changed in time for the 2023-24 indoor season, and will more than likely involve new tiers of classifications and badges.

Records Officer questions

Will everyone’s handicaps and classifications be reset?

Yes, both outdoor handicap and classification systems have changed and are no longer compatible or comparable with the previous systems. Indoor classification and handicaps will remain unchanged for the rest of this season, and will be updated ready for the start of the next indoor season.

Why do we have to reset handicaps, can’t we just use the new tables with last year’s scores to calculate new starting handicaps?

We suggested that handicaps should be reset as retrospectively calculating new-style handicaps for all scores from last season could be a significant burden for club records officers, especially those who do this manually rather than with software. The best 3 score handicaps in the old system might not necessarily be the same as the best 3 scores under the new handicap system, so all scores would need to be retrospectively calculated for all club members, and this makes the task too onerous.

If everyone’s handicaps are reset, how will we run handicap shoots during the early part of the season?

Hopefully, archers will be able to quickly attain new handicaps, and in some cases the addition of the single distance metric rounds into the tables might make that even easier. In the interim, clubs can follow the standard approach of using Table 3 (which give scores for 2 or 3 dozen) in order to create an initial handicap for use in calculating the adjusted score at the end of the round.

How many rounds are required to achieve different classifications?


Achieving classifications is no longer based on shooting a certain number of rounds, but on a certain number of arrows. In the archer tier, rounds totalling 12 dozen arrows are required, in any combination. That could be 2 6-dozen rounds, 3 4-dozen rounds, or indeed just a single 12 dozen round. In the Bowman tier it’s 18 dozen, and it’s 36 dozen for the Master Bowman tier. This arrangement gives archers much more flexibility to mix and match the rounds they use to achieve their classification.

Some of the articles about the classifications refer to a number of rounds being shot, rather than a number of arrows?


These inconsistencies have been fixed, and now all refer to total number of arrows rather than number of rounds.

On the classification tables, some numbers are greyed out, do they still count?


Yes, every score shown can be used to achieve a classification. The reason some of them are greyed out is that those rounds involve longer distances than coaches would recommend for that age group and level. Archers are of course free to “shoot up” to those longer distances, but we have used the bold zones in the tables to show where coaches think most people should be shooting.

With everyone’s handicaps being reset, how will we calculate the winner of the handicap improvement medal this year?


We are keen that clubs should continue to award this.

Our suggestion is that clubs award based on their archers’ improvement between 1 July and - 31 December.

However if your club has an alternative approach please use that.

From 2024 the medal will revert to being awarded for improvement between 1 January and 31 December.

Has the way handicaps are rounded changed?

Yes. Previously when calculating or updating a handicap, if the new value was not a whole number it was rounded up to the next nearest whole number. This has now changed so that it is rounded down. This change was made after consideration of the underlying meaning and mathematics of the handicap system, and to prevent the property of the previous system where archers needed to make a 2 clear point improvement before their handicap was reduced.

This looks more complex and time-consuming to administer


The new system is not inherently more complex than the old system - ultimately, there is just a table of scores for each category, just as there always was. Behind the scenes, the rules that define what those scores are and which scores are present on the table are slightly more complex, but in general use you don’t need to understand those in order to use the system. As before, it is just a look-up table of numbers.

Whilst there is some new complexity in keeping track of arrow volume rather than number of rounds, that is offset by other ways in which the system has become much easier to administer. The format that the classification tables are presented in makes it much easier to find the right scores compared to the old printed tables. Also, for the first time, both the handicap and classification systems are fully digital - removing the need for laborious look-ups on copyrighted printed tables. Software and online tools are already emerging that use the new systems and should make the job of administering it easier than ever before.

Two out of the three members of the volunteer team that created the new system are club and county records officers, so the ease of administration of the new system was a high-priority during its development.

Can I choose to use a different classification table for a different age group?


Yes. As has always been the case, you can shoot up to a higher category. For juniors this might mean using the tables for higher age groups to gain classifications at that level. For 50+ archers, that would involve using the adult (21-49) table.

To be clear: 50+ archers absolutely have the option to compete in the main adult category, shooting the rounds for that category and using the classification tables for that category.

Calculations, algorithms and data

Can you share details of the mathematics behind the new handicap system?

Yes. An article is being written and will be published shortly.

Can you provide the raw data for the handicap and classification tables so I can build my own tools that use it? Is it still copyrighted?

Of course. One of Archery GB’s goals was to make the system and data more accessible. There are no copyright restrictions on the data any more.

The data is already embedded in the calculator spreadsheet available to download from Archery GB, or raw data can be downloaded here: https://archerygeekery.co.uk/2023/01/25/raw-data-for-the-new-handicap-system/

Should I put a copy of these tables on my club’s website?

Historically, many clubs have put versions of the classification tables on their website in order to make them more accessible for their club members, as the previous printed tables were not widely available or easy to use. The digital nature of the new tables hopefully fixes that accessibility issue and means all archers will be able to access the tables directly from Archery GB.

Clubs are of course welcome to duplicate the tables on their own website, but please be careful when doing so - the tables are extensive and complex, and there is significant room for error. Also, please note that the classification tables will now have a much more regular review cycle and may change very frequently - if you decide to duplicate the data on your website, you may need to regularly update it.

If you want to put a copy of the tables on your club website, it may be much more efficient to add copies of or links to the official PDF tables rather than manually duplicating the data tables directly.

When can I find handicap adjustment allowances for rounds?

Allowance data is in the official handicap table document, available to download from Archery GB. This data is also included in electronic form in the Excel calculator tool available for download from Archery GB. Full tables in downloadable form are also available at https://archerygeekery.co.uk/hc/hctables.php or  https://archerycalculator.co.uk/tables/handicap

Why are there some physically unachievable scores shown on the handicap tables?

It’s true that there are some scores shown on the handicap tables that are not possible to achieve in practice - for example, 5-zone scoring makes it impossible to achieve a score of 971 on a Windsor round, but 971 is still shown on the handicap tables.

These unreachable scores are merely a side-effect of the way the tables are produced. Mathematically speaking, the scores are not wrong, and their presence on the table helps to convey the patterns and progression in the sequence. To achieve a certain handicap on a round you simply need the corresponding score in the tables or better.

It’s also worth noting that these scores have always been present in the handicap tables, ever since they were published over 40 years ago, and removing these unreachable scores now would probably have been more confusing.

Can I convert between old style handicaps and new style handicaps?


No, not easily. The shape of the handicap functions has fundamentally changed such that there is not a direct mapping between the two.

Excel Calculator Tool

The Excel calculator tool on your website is not compatible with older versions of the software


We are aware of this, and a new version of the tool has now been published that is backward compatible with older versions of the software. In the interim, classifications and handicaps can be:

Looked up manually on the PDF versions of the tables

Calculated using online calculators at https://archerycalculator.co.uk and https://archerygeekery.co.uk

The Excel calculator tool on your website doesn’t work on my phone/iPad/other device?

This tool was designed to provide basic functionality whilst other software and app providers update their tools to incorporate the new system. Online calculators are already available which are more suited to mobile devices such as https://archerygeekery.co.uk and https://archerycalculator.co.uk, and hopefully other standard scoring systems will soon incorporate this data into their mobile apps.

Eligibility and scores for classifications

I think the score for a particular category is too high/low

Many of the scores in the previous system were either anomalous, or badly out of date. It was inevitable that in fixing those issues, some of the score boundaries would shift, some by quite a long way. Our volunteers studied large amounts of data on scores and records, in order to revise the classification boundaries.

If you have opinions on a particular category, especially if you have data to help to improve the classification boundaries in the future, please do get in touch. We are always looking for passionate volunteers to join the process.

There will be an interim review of the new system at the end of 2023, in case any significant errors  are found, after which we will fall into a regular 3-year review cycle for these classification boundaries.

The Bowman Tier requires scores to be shot at “Competitive Events” - what does that mean and doesn’t it exclude people who don’t go to competitions?

The intent of this requirement is to expose archers to slightly more competitive environments as they progress on their archery journey. This does not mean that it has to be a Record Status or open competition or tournament. Any organised club target day (as defined by Rule 313) also meets this criteria. It is hoped clubs will put on and encourage members to participate in such target days.

Ultimately, this Bowman tier is administered at club level, and we expect clubs will find the right balance in recognising which events meet the spirit of this tier.

Why can’t barebows get MB tier classifications on 720 rounds at distances above 50m?

The introduction of top-tier classifications for 720 rounds is a significant change to the classification system, and it was decided that this would be strictly limited to the rounds dictated by World Archery for each bowstyle (such as the WA 50m Barebow round) and their junior equivalents in the same family (such as the Metric 122-40, and 122-30). The same rule also applies to compounds for the same reason.

Why aren’t Double rounds included in the classification tables?

Whilst double rounds may exist for records purposes they are not used for classifications or handicaps. As both rounds, when shot as a double, may be used for single round records claims they should be used as two single rounds for the purposes of handicaps and classifications. This is the same approach as has always been taken for double Yorks and WA1440s, and similarly indoors for the double Portsmouth etc.

The video talks about minimum distance for certain classifications, but then contradicts this by allowing WA 720 rounds to be used.

The so-called “Prestige Rounds”, which are the appropriate 12-dozen York/Hereford/Bristol round, 1440/Metric round, and WA 720 round are always eligible for the highest classifications, regardless of distance.

There is a mismatch between the graphics and the audio in the video when it talks about the distances required for different classifications.


Yes, this is an error and the video has been changed.

Can I record a 50+ score at a tournament that does not actually state that 50+ awards are available?

Yes. If you are eligible to use multiple categories (e.g. a junior who can shoot up to a higher age group, or a 50+ who could also compete as an adult), then you can use that score to contribute towards classifications in any/all of the multiple categories which you are eligible for. Just make sure your club records officer is aware of this. 

Tournament organisers can use whatever age groups, categories and rounds that they like when putting on a tournament, but this does not change your underlying category as an archer. Your eligibility to claim classifications or records exists independently of however a particular tournament might be structured. For the same reason, you could claim a 50+ record on an appropriate round shot at a tournament, even if the tournament was not using a 50+ category for their awards.


Why wasn’t the opportunity taken to remove gender specific terminology such as “Bowman” from the classification system?

While we’ve conducted this review to improve the inclusivity of the classification system, we recognise more work is needed around inclusive language throughout our sport. This forms part of our wider strategic ambitions and would require a greater level of discussion with members.

Which classification tables should a person who identifies as non-binary use?

As classification tables are grounded in data, it’s currently not possible for a non-binary category due to a lack of data which we are willing to collate if archers provide such data. At the archer tier, as it is administered at the club level a person who identifies as non-binary should self-select the category they feel most suited to. As scores for the bowman and master bowman tier are shot in a competitive environment the gender reassignment archer policy is applied.

Additionally, our archery handicap tables are non-gendered and apply to everyone.


This is the first I’ve heard about these changes, why was there not more communication about it?

While there have been multiple communications on this topic over the last two and a half years via email, web news articles, and in Archery UK magazine, we are always interested in feedback and suggestions on how we can improve communications with our members. 

If you believe you have missed a communication from Archery GB, please log in to the members portal and check we have your correct email address and postal address and tick ‘yes’ under Communication Preference on your profile. Please check your email inbox to make sure our communications have not been filtered into your spam folder.  

We also recommend checking the news section of our website, which is updated regularly and following us on Facebook and Twitter if you have an account.

I have views on this, why didn’t Archery GB ask for them?

This has always been a volunteer-led process where Archery GB has sought the views of archers and data-experts. We originally made a call for volunteers for this process in the Spring 2020 Archery UK magazine, and assembled a working group of volunteers after that. Through the development of the system, that core team of volunteers has consulted with and received feedback from hundreds of others from right across the country.

These new tables will be regularly reviewed, so please look out for opportunities to volunteer in the future.

Miscellaneous questions

Why are the rounds named differently in different tables? Why is an Albion called a Long Windsor in the Mens’ tables?

These new tables fix some inconsistencies in how rounds are named. Many rounds have different aliases depending on whether a man or woman is shooting them (Bristol 1 = Hereford) or what bow you are using (WA 50m barebow = Metric 122-50). These tables try to show the correct variant in the correct table. They are still the same round though and are calculated in the same way for the purposes of classification and handicaps.

A detailed analysis of this topic can be read here: https://archerygeekery.co.uk/2023/01/27/what-is-in-a-round-name-why-one-persons-albion-is-anothers-long-windsor/

Why are 50+ archers being patronised with their own classification tables with lower scores? I don’t want to compete as a 50+!


The addition of the 50+ age group in UK archery and the revamp of the classifications are separate issues. These new classifications merely reflect the official UK age groups which were changed back in October 2022, which included a long-overdue alignment with World Archery categories. 

The 50+ age group is defined by World Archery as one of the main age groups in international archery and Archery GB has now aligned with that and introduced an optional 50+ age category across all of UK archery. Reflecting World Archery’s approach, the adoption of a 50+ age group in the UK also introduced new records categories for 50+ archers shooting slightly shorter rounds, and now the full inclusion of the 50+ age group in the new classification tables.

However, it must be stressed that using this 50+ category is entirely optional. Archers aged over 50 do not have to compete in this category, do not have to shoot those shorter rounds, and do not have to seek only those 50+-specific classifications. They can continue to compete in the main adult category for as long as they wish, shooting the adult rounds, claiming adult records and using the adult classification tables. For the avoidance of doubt, the explicit definitions of the eligibility for age groups are as follows:


  • Archers may compete in the Under 12 category to the end of the calendar year containing their 11th birthday
  • Archers may compete in the Under 14 category to the end of the calendar year containing their 13th birthday
  • Archers may compete in the Under 15 category to the end of the calendar year containing their 14th birthday
  • Archers may compete in the Under 16 category to the end of the calendar year containing their 15th birthday
  • Archers may compete in the Under 18 category to the end of the calendar year containing their 17th birthday
  • Archers may compete in the Under 21 category to the end of the calendar year containing their 20th birthday
  • Archers may compete in the Adult category at any age
  • Archers may compete in the 50+ category at any time during the calendar year of their 50th birthday and thereafter


Do Scottish Record Status competitions count towards classification for the Master Bowmen Tier?

These classifications are only available at registered UKRS or WRS events.

“I would like to say a massive ‘thank you’ to all those involved in putting the new classifications together. It will not have been a small task but I for one, most certainly appreciate it. Please pass my thanks onto those volunteers who worked hard getting this produced.”

Thank you - this project has taken many hundreds of hours of work for each of the core team of volunteers over nearly two years.  All of the changes have been discussed and deliberated at length with an even wider group of archers, coaches, and enthusiasts. Whilst there will inevitably be some things in the new system that some people don’t like, please know that our volunteers are passionate about the long-term future of the sport, always had the best of intentions, and did the best they could with limited time and data. If you see any of the team at events around the country, please do say thank you in person, it means a lot.

Do you have questions regarding outdoor classifications and handicaps?

If after reading this webpage and the articles attached you still have any questions, please submit them here.

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