Classifications and Handicaps

The 252 Improvement Challenge

This is a club-based archery award and improvement scheme, with 252 (which means you must average 7 points per arrow for three dozen arrows) representing the score to be achieved by recurve and compound archers. A lesser score of 202 (averaging 5.6 points per arrow) applies to archers shooting bows with no sights (longbow, flatbow, barebow etc.).
The Rules

  • Three dozen arrows are shot and scored using 5-zone scoring on a 122cm target face
  • A score of 252 or higher is needed to achieve an improvement award
  • 252 rounds are shot under GNAS rules with six sighters
  • The three dozen arrows may be shot alone or as the first three dozen of a longer Imperial round
  • Shorter distance improvement awards cannot be claimed if a longer distance award has already been achieved
  • To make an improvement claim a signed and witnessed score sheet needs to be submitted to the club records officer
  • Coloured pin badges are awarded as follows:


Distance Award Eligibility
10 yards Green Juniors
20 yards White Recent beginners’ course students
30 yards Black Recent beginners’ course students
40 yards Blue All archers
50 yards Red All archers
60 yards Gold All archers
80 yards Purple Well done!

Classifications and Handicaps

There’s a wealth of confusion concerning classifications and handicaps, so here’s my attempt at demystifying the subject. Let’s look at them separately.


The classification scheme is a method of grading your performance against a set of national standards. The grades are:

  • Third Class
  • Second Class
  • First Class
  • Bowman
  • Master Bowman
  • Grand Master Bowman

The grading from Third Class to Bowman is administered at club level, and the grading for Master Bowman and Grand Master Bowman is administered by Archery GB. To achieve a particular classification, you must shoot three rounds to the standard required during the course of a season. You can mix rounds; you don’t have to shoot the same round three times. In the case of the Third Class to Bowman classifications, this can be on a Club Target Day or at a tournament. Just submit your signed and witnesed score sheet in the pouch under the notice board in the club hut and the Records Officer will take care of the rest.

In the case of the Master Bowman and Grand Master Bowman classifications, qualifying scores must be shot at certain types of tournament.

Indoor classifications are slightly different, but still require you to shoot to a required standard three times at either a tournament or a Club Target Day in order to achieve a classification indicated by a letter in the range of A–H.

See Section 7 of the Shooting Adminstrative Procedures (SAPS) for the most up-to-date small print on this subject, and tables of scores required for each classification. Not all classifications are obtainable by shooting any round — as a general rule the higher the classification the longer the distances you’ll need to shoot.


Working Out Your Handicap

The handicap scheme is designed to allow archers of differing standards to compete with each other on a level footing. This is useful for, say, club championship shoots where relative newcomers to the sport will be shooting against considerably more experienced archers.

By submitting your scores as in the Classification section above the Records Officer will, as if by magic, cause your handicap to appear in the table on the club notice board once you have shot three rounds. It’s that easy.

You can, if you’re interested, calculate your Initial Handicap by the following means. First, you need to shoot three rounds and look up the handicap for your score for each one, either by using tables such as those hanging from the notice board in the club hut, or online here. Now work out the average of those three handicaps and, if it is not a whole number, round it up to the next one. This gives you your Initial Handicap.

Example: Calculating an Initial Handicap

Andy wishes to calculate his Initial Handicap, not having done this before. He shoots a recurve bow and obtains the following scores:

Round Score Handicap
National 478 47
York 502 51
Gents Half FITA 430 45

Adding the handicaps together we get:

47 + 51 + 45 = 143

Dividing this total by the number of rounds shot (i.e. 3 in this case), we get the average of Andy’s three handicaps:

143 ÷ 3 = 47.67

Because this is not a whole number we round it up to the next one to obtain Andy’s Initial Handicap of 48.

During the course of a season, your handicap can improve, but not get worse. If you were to shoot a further round particularly well to a handicap of, for example, six better (i.e. six less) than your Initial Handicap, then your handicap would immediately change to the average of your Initial Handicap and the handicap for that further round, rounded up to the next whole number. In this case your handicap would decrease by three.

In order to improve your handicap, you must shoot a round to a handicap at least two better than your existing handicap. It’s how the maths works.

Were you to shoot that further round to a handicap that is worse (i.e. a bigger number) than your Initial Handicap, then your handicap would remain unchanged.

Handicaps are recalculated annually by the club’s Records Officer. To do this, she will take the average of the handicaps of each archer’s best three rounds shot in the previous year. Your handicap may still be improved by the method given above.

Indoor and Outdoor handicaps are calculated separately.

How Your Handicap is Applied

In a handicap shoot, your handicap is used to obtain an allowance of points to be added to your actual score for the round shot. This produces an adjusted total that should be the same if everyone were to shoot exactly to their handicap.

From this, it follows that if you shoot well for you during a handicap shoot, you can beat an archer who has scored more than you, but who has not shot particularly well for them.



  • • You can find out the score you need to achieve a classification in a recognized round, but…
  • …not all classifications are achievable in all rounds
  • Most classifications are achievable at Club Target Days; Master Bowman and Grand Master Bowman are not
  • The higher the classification, the longer the distances you will need to shoot
  • You must achieve or exceed the required score three times to gain a particular classification
  • During the season, your classification can improve, but not get worse
  • Indoor and outdoor classifications are separate


  • You can find out the handicap for your score at any recognized round, regardless of its distances
  • Once you’ve shot and scored three rounds, your own handicap can be calculated
  • During the season, your handicap can improve (i.e. decrease), but not get worse
  • In a handicap shoot, your own handicap is used to obtain an allowance of points to add to your final score; that allowance depends upon the round shot
  • Indoor and outdoor handicaps are separate