Are you shooting for accuracy, or precision?

Long-time readers of these posts will know that I’m forever going on about the importance of grouping. I can hear the groans already – ‘Rob, not another grouping article!‘ Grouping however, isn’t quite as simple as you might think.

Consider the following two targets:

High Accuracy and High Precision example targets

I wanted to show you this to highlight the difference between accuracy and precision. With a higher degree of accuracy, we end up with our arrows landing closer to the gold – as per the diagram on the left.

What we really want to be aiming to achieve though is precision. Precision is subtly different from accuracy, and is the degree to which your arrows land in the same place. You can be precise but in-accurate (as in the right hand target), which actually is much harder to achieve. Given enough practice we all can become reasonably accurate as our mental image of the target improves, but being precise requires good, repeatable technique.

The reason this is so much better than simply being accurate, is that it makes our shooting predictable. We can hold all other factors equal as we learn over time to become more precise.

The best archers are the ones that are most precise, that repeat good technique on every shot. They’re relatively hard to come by, and I don’t even pretend to count myself among their numbers. My shooting is generally pretty accurate, but largely scattered and un-precise. Maybe I drink too much, or don’t take it seriously enough! It’s hard to say.

If you want to shoot competitively, you need to focus on precision. Accuracy will come with practice.


Over the next few weeks I’ll be introducing my first guest author Nadeem Ahmad, who specialises in Asian traditional archery – something I find fascinating but know very little about. Keep an eye out for his first article later this week.

I am still on the lookout for new contributors (paid and non-paid)– if you would like to show off your traditional archery expertise and knowledge and earn a few extra quid for doing it, please read the contributor guidelines.

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9 thoughts on “Are you shooting for accuracy, or precision?

  1. Great article! I think so because I had never given much thought if any to the two words precision and accuracy. I try for accuracy. But I am happy when I get really good groupings if they are near the yellow (in the red (not the economic red). Now I can relax when I am not in the yellow since I have been concentrating more on my form and an article like this gives me more confidence that I am on the right track.

    Alan Sault MD-Costa Rica

  2. It cannot be truer-form is the key to any body that wishes to evolve in getting over plateaus. Therefore, groupings are so important. But, I wish mine would group in the yellow. I am happy when they group in the red because of what Rob has taught, that at least I am getting better at my “task” mind form. Strange how we all know so many things that are right forus but need to be reminded so we can say ” ah that is right.”

    Alan Sault MD

  3. It cannot be truer-form is the key to any body that wishes to evolve in getting over plateaus. Therefore, groupings are so important. But, I wish mine would group in the yellow. I am happy when they group in the red because of what Rob has taught, that at least I am getting better at my \"task\" mind form. Strange how we all know so many things that are right forus but need to be reminded so we can say \" ah that is right.\"

    Alan Sault MD

  4. It cannot be truer-form is the key to any body that wishes to evolve in getting over plateaus. Therefore, groupings are so important. But, I wish mine would group in the yellow. I am happy when they group in the red because of what Rob has taught, that at least I am getting better at my \\"task\\" mind form. Strange how we all know so many things that are right forus but need to be reminded so we can say \\" ah that is right.\\"

    Alan Sault MD

  5. It cannot be truer-form is the key to any body that wishes to evolve in getting over plateaus. Therefore, groupings are so important. But, I wish mine would group in the yellow. I am happy when they group in the red because of what Rob has taught, that at least I am getting better at my \\\\"task\\\\" mind form. Strange how we all know so many things that are right forus but need to be reminded so we can say \\\\" ah that is right.\\\\"

    Alan Sault MD

  6. .
    Rob is right again. Like in any sport form is the basic to achieve so one can get over plateaus. Groupings are an indication of good archery form – I only wish they would group in the yellow. I like the word “task mind.” which means that the the procedure is so ingrained in your mind and body that you no longer have to think about it and just have to aim.
    Boy do I hate these security codes-sometimes they are impossible to post because one cannot read them.

    Alan Sault MD

  7. Sorry Alan, I get a large amount of spam comments without the captcha form.

    Thanks for your comments, I agree fully. Harder said than done I feel! Happy shooting.

  8. I totally agree, we need to shoot as if we are a machine, the most important aspect is locking your bow arm and using your back muscles to draw the bow, this way you will always be at full draw (eg) on a 37 pound bow a 1/4\" less of draw will drop the poundage by 2.5 pounds with the result a low shaft on the target, i see this all the time with my friends at the club, if we can master locking our bow arm precision will come and then accuracy

    John Hoskin

  9. Just wanted to let you know that this article has some good spiritual principles, too. I found this through a general archery google search looking for sermon illustrations for a Christian men’s retreat.
    I’m sure that’s not what you had in mind initially, but there are several aspects of what you’re sharing here that translate over quite nicely.

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