The Barebow bowstyle is really the way all archers shot for millennia, up until the time in Victorian days when some Longbow Archers started to attach a rudimentary paper strip onto their bows, with marks to show where to aim at different distances. Barebow was first recognised as a distinct style in Field Archery, because the people who chose to shoot Instinctively without sights found themselves at a big disadvantage as sights and stabilisers came into general use.
Barebow enthusiasts, unlike Traditional archers, were happy to take advantage in developments in bow manufacture and arrow technology, and simply wanted to aim their bows in a natural way without fiddling with sight settings. They also wanted a simple compact setup, without extended stabilisers to get caught up in the bushes. So the rules for Barebow Archery specify that there should be no sight or attachments or marks or blemishes on the bow that could be used to help aim; and that stabilisation can only consist of weights directly attached to the lower part of the handle section of the bow. Other than those limitations, the rules that apply to Recurve Freestyle are followed.
The style developed in Field Archery because it lends itself to the relatively short distances (rarely more than 60 metres) and the change of shooting distance at each target. In the early years of Barebow, most archers used an ‘Instinctive’ or ‘Gapping’ technique to adapt aiming to the diferent ranges involved, but an alternative method, ‘face-walking’ – varying the contact of the string hand with archer’s face – grew in popularity. Then in 1968 an archer called Frank Gandy invented another technique, ‘string walking’ (varying the hand position on the bowstring relative to the arrow nock, and positioning the arrow point so it appears to be on the target face), with huge success, and that system is the most widely used today.
Barebow Archers using String Walking generally anchor high, often with their hand located below the cheekbone. All three fingers of the draw hand are placed underneath the arrow. The difference in aiming at different distances depends on the distance between the index finger and the arrow nock, the archer ‘walks’ the fingers accurately down the string serving to suit the elevation required for different distances. At the longer distances the index finger will be close to or in contact with the arrow, at shorter distances the arrow will be high above the finger, almost level with with archer’s eye.
Barebow is now also a Target Archery Style, and over the last decade the number of Barebow Archers has increased enormously.