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What Is Combat Archery? Archery Tag Beginners Guide

We built a range in our backyard and practice archery on a regular basis. But combat archery is something entirely different, it’s more fun with groups of people.

Combat archery, sometimes referred to as battle archery or archery tag, is a sport played with a bow and arrows with foam or rubber tips. Combat archery is mostly played in groups, where the players will split into teams, playing games like capture the flag on a course with obstacles.

Combat archery is similar to a dart war or laser tag, except with bows and arrows. There are many ways this game is unique, and countless hours of fun to be had playing it.

What Is Combat Archery?

Combat archery is a fun group game usually played in the backyard, at a park, an open field, or an indoor arena. Some players will go to an actual combat archery center that will have blow obstacles setup around the field and boundary lines drawn, but you can play this game in your backyard, open field, or wooded area as well.

To play combat archery you will need a bow, arrows, a face shield or eye protection, and players. There are many games you can play, some can be played with just two players, but many of them are better with teams of 4 four players.

You will basically run around a field or course and try to hit your opponents with arrows to get them ‘out’. It’s played similar to dart wars, paintball, or laser tag, with a course, obstacles, and objectives. Think team death match or capture the flag type games with bows and arrows.

Combat Archery Bows

You will want to use a certain type of bow to play combat archery with. The reason is for safety. Some of the hunting bows have a draw weight of over 60 pounds. Even with a foam tipped arrow, that could hurt someone. The standard combat archery bow will have a draw weight under 30 pounds, usually around 25 pounds.

Some companies do make special bows specifically designed for use in combat archery. You will see these bows used in archery battle sport games and LARP battle events. But, you can really use any bow with a draw weight under 30 pounds.

I suggest just getting an inexpensive youth model bow. The youth bows will have a low draw weight and can be found pretty cheap online. This Bear Archery Scout Bow Set (link to Amazon) is a perfect example of cheap youth bow that will work great for combat archery. Last I checked, it was under $25 too.

If you do want to buy a bow specifically made for combat archery, I suggest you check out the WoArchery Combat Archery Takedown Recurve Bow on Amazon. Use that link to check the latest price, last I checked it was around 100 bucks. That bow is so popular for combat archery because it has a 25 lb draw weight and can be used both left or right handed.

Combat Archery Arrows

This is one of the most important aspects to get right in combat archery. The arrows must have a foam padding on the tips of them. Of course you would never fire a normal arrow at a person right. But there are cheaper versions of combat arrows found online that could cause injury. It’s best to get the quality made combat arrows, even if they cost a little bit more.

Here are my favorite Combat Archery Arrows (link to Amazon), they are well made with a soft foam tip and don’t hurt when you get hit by them. They are a little higher priced than some other options, but they will last a long time and won’t injure any other players. I like these ones because I get hit a lot, and they don’t hurt.

Combat Archery Gear

Besides the bow and arrows, the only other gear you will need is a face shield and an arm guard. Some combat archery players will skip on the arm guard since the bows are less than 25 pounds draw weight, but I suggest the kids still wear one.

The face shield is provided for you if you go to a business run combat archery place. But the face shields can be found online for those of you who want to play in your backyards. A face shield that covers your whole face is preferred, but you can probably get away with a nice pair of safety goggles if you needed to.

The reason the face shield is preferred is because it will also protect your nose and mouth. Getting hit with the foam tip arrow doesn’t hurt all that much, but getting hit in the face will hurt sometimes. A hit to the nose could cause your eyes to water up affecting your performance on the field.

Is Combat Archery Safe?

Yes, combat archery is completely safe if you play the right way. The bow and arrows are the biggest concern in combat archery. We already talked about those so I won’t go into a ton of detail, but using the wrong bow or arrows is the leading cause of accidental injuries in combat archery.

Wearing a face shield and arm guard will help protect a player from any injuries. The arrows aren’t moving that fast if you’re using the right bow, so it’s more like getting hit with a giant nerf dart. If you’re still worried, just wear thicker clothing, but many players just wear shorts and a t-shirt.

Personally, I have never seen any serious injuries from anyone playing combat archery, it’s just not a tough game to play. The whole point of combat archery is to have fun. Anyone can safely play, from kids to adults, combat archery is well known as a fun family game.

Combat Archery Games

The most common combat archery game is usually called archery tag or combat archery death match. This is when two team compete against each other to eliminate the other team. Typically there will be obstacles and each player will have a certain amount of arrows and maybe a shield. The field will be sectioned off for the teams with boundary lines the players may not cross.

Here are some popular combat archery games:

  • Team Death Match
  • Capture The Flag
  • Medic
  • Protect The King
  • Free For All

For more info on these game types and more, check out my article 8 Fun Combat Archery Games. In that article I go through all the most popular combat archery games and how to play them, as well as some fun house rules you could implement on your own.

Where To Play Combat Archery

Here’s a cool video of people playing combat archery tag in an indoor arena. You don’t always have to go to an indoor arena though, you can play combat archery games in your backyard.

If you just want to give combat archery a try, an arena might be your best bet. As a one time expense, the arena is a great way to learn the game and decide how much you enjoy playing. But if you plan on playing regularly, getting some bows and arrows for yourself can save you a ton of money.

The fact that you can play in your backyard, makes this a go to game for birthday parties, cookouts, or anytime you have a group willing to play a game. You could also play in a park or an open field. The great thing about this game is that it’s safe enough to play almost anywhere. For example, some parks and rec areas won’t allow paintball or air soft, but playing combat archery there will be perfectly fine.

I suggest finding somewhere with natural obstacles for some of the games like capture the flag. Combat archery is a really good team building exercise, so having some obstacles to take cover behind and move through as a team just adds to the fun. There are some games better suited for an open field though, it just depends what you’re group is most interested in playing.

Who Can Play Combat Archery

Almost anyone can play combat archery. If you can pull a bow with a 25 pound draw weight, you can play combat archery. Some players use youth bows with a draw weight of around 12 pounds, so strength is not really a barrier to entry.

You will do better if you can duck, dodge, and maneuver the field quickly. But even then, it’s better to be accurate with your shots, than be a fast runner. For players who don’t want to move around much, consider being a guard for the home base in capture the flag. There’s a role for everyone to play in combat archery.

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