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Constructing your own archery range – which you can custom build to suit your preferences, available assets and needs -- is one of the best ways to reap the benefits that frequent practice provides. The most important considerations for archery range design relate to safety, but once you establish a safe layout, you can consider those factors that affect the experience of the archers using the range.
Indoor vs. Outdoor
You must first decide whether you want to locate the range indoors or outdoors. Both locations have benefits and drawbacks, so choose carefully. Indoor ranges offer windless shooting and climate-controlled comfort, as well as the chance for archers to practice at any hour. While this may be preferable for target shooting enthusiasts or competitive archers, those seeking bowhunting practice may derive more benefit from shooting outdoors, while exposed to the elements. Normally, outdoor ranges are larger than indoor ranges, allowing archers to practice shots of 60 yards or more, whereas indoor ranges rarely offer such opportunities.
If you are setting up an indoor range, it is often most beneficial to orient the range along the longest axis of the room. This provides archers with an opportunity to shoot at more distant targets than if the range is oriented in the opposite direction. When designing outdoor ranges, take care to prevent the sun from shining in the archers’ eyes. Accomplish this by situating the firing line along the southern side of the range, and placing the targets along the northern side – ranges in the Southern Hemisphere must reverse this orientation. Whenever possible, try to place the targets in front of a uniform visual field – such as provided by an empty sky or green field – to make it easier to track errant shots.
Target Alignment and Placement
When establishing your range, include only one firing line, from which archers may launch arrows -- if you intend to provide targets at varying distances, place them at measured distances from the single firing line. Arrange several parallel shooting lanes, so that each archer fires at his own target. Each shooting lane should be approximately 15 feet wide, to provide plenty of space in which each archer can shoot. Additionally, incorporate buffer zones to ensure that errant arrows do not strike people or unintended objects. Place one buffer zone behind the targets, extending at least 50 yards farther than the most distant targets, and another 20-yard-wide buffer to the right and left side of the range.
Some locations lack ample space to include sufficient buffer zones. To overcome this challenge, you can erect safety barriers or incorporate natural barriers, such as hills. Safety barriers can be purchased or custom-built, but it is imperative that arrows cannot pass through these barriers, and therefore compromise perceived safe zones. Safety barriers should be at least 12 feet high.
You must employ some system that informs archers when they can shoot arrows, and when it is safe to retrieve those already fired at targets. Many ranges do so with electronic systems that employ lights or sounds to signal archers, whereas other ranges rely on trained volunteers or employees to keep archers operating in unison. It is important that any newcomers understand and comply with whatever signaling system is in use.