Turkish Flight Shooting, target shooting and competitions

Turkish Flight Shooting, Target Shots and Competitions

1. Flight Shooting Competitions

a. Flight shooting (for record)
Places of shooting were detected according to the direction of wind. The point where the shooting was made called was called 'foot stone' and the directions specified by erected stones called 'main stone' were named as 'range'. In this 'flight shootings', the longest distance that an arrow could reach was taken as a new record under specified rules and conditions. A marble column, 'range stone' that bears the name of the archer, his profession, the date of the shot and the distance on the shooting face was erected. Those writings were in poetry and penned by a famous poet of the time, written by a calligrapher and finally engraved by masons. Each of these columns was an art object and those that could survive today are astonishing. Despite being a site nowadays, the area of Istanbul Ok-meydani is still an open-air museum (See picture gallery).

b. Long distance shooting contests
Long distance shooting contests, often confused with flight shooting were completely different types of sports activity. In this type of contest, archers made their shoots to any direction, by any wind and used to try to beat each other. The main difference, the distance wasn't measured in this type of shooting; the winner was the furthest one.

Long distance shooting contests, frequently confused with flight shooting were a completely different type of sportive activity. In this activity, archers made their shots to any direction, by any wind and tried to beat each other. The main difference between long distance shooting and flight shooting was that, the distance wasn't measured in long distance shooting: the winner was the one who shot the furthest. Shots were performed from a fixed point named 'foot place'.

Order of
(Capable to shoot a distance of...)
Number of
arrow to shoot
1 1100 gez (726 meters) 11
2 1000 gez (660 meters) 9
3 900 gez (594 meters) 7
4 Beginners and elderly 5

Table: Long distance shooting contest categories. (1 gez = .66 cm)


'Main stone' indicating the range direction should be made properly and shouldn't deviate from both left and right sides more than 30 gez (20 m). Those margins extended to 40 gez (26.5 m) after the 17th century. The shots were considered as invalid otherwise.


2. Target Competitions

Target shooting began as a training in the skills needed to hit a target, either an animal or an enemy.

Scoring & Rules:
In target competitions, shooting was between either individuals or teams. Number of arrows to shoot defined before competition and it was generally even. And the number of hits determined the score which was calculated by counting the arrows on the target. It was like today's "hit or miss" system. 

After the completion of shots, arrows were pulled from the target and dropped to the front of the Sheikh of Meidan (chairman of the archery club). If the hits were equal, the results will the competitors would tie. All shots have to be performed in right knee and the right foot on the ground.

  • Betting  was forbidden in anyway.
  • If an arrow was broken after a shoot (or shot a bird while its flight) the archer could repeat this shot.

Shooting ranges changes between 250 gez (~165 meters) and 400 gez (~265 meters).

The targets were generally pear-shaped leather bugs stuffed with cotton seeds or sawdust. Also flue-shaped baskets were used in the competitions.


3. Performance Shootings

There where another shots generally are performed and seems like as a show or game other than official target and flight contests. And the "target" has lots of means in Turkish archery:

  • Clay blocks which were softened with water before a shoot.
  • Mirrors or metal plates (please see Mirror Armour in Wiki) and very hard objects to penetrate an arrow, like marble, wood logs and ploughshare.

used as targets by archers on foot... And horseback archer uses;

  • Small pots placed top of tall pole (in Gourd Archery)
  • Human sized dummies,
  • or soil mounds,

as a target. These type of shots has "keep in form" mean before the game or the show.

Hasib Efendy's penetrated wood log dated 1719 (military Museum, Istanbul)


Detail of Sultan Mahmud II's monument.
After the usage of firearms in military and the loss of importance of bows as an efficient weapon, long distance shooting discipline became the most popular branch of Turkish sportive archery.

Bilal Aga's "main stone" reached 630 meters.

Above: Target shots to basket in Ok-Meidan
(Anonymous artist, 17th century  / Republished by F. Taeschner in 1924), Below: Target shot position performed by Kemal Gurses (1937)
(courtesy: Acar S)


Above: Sultad Murad III. (1546-1595) in archery practice (Surname-i Humayun, end of 16th century), Below: Yavuz Sultan Selim (1470-1520) shot to "mirror" plate (Hunername, 16th century)

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