Harry Lloyd (Gran’pa) Bailey (1874-1961), from Elizabeth, New Jersey, is remembered as the father of the target crossbow shooting sport in the United States. He cajoled the National Archery Association to include crossbow competition in the 1947 Outdoor National Archery Championships, continuing to this day.
Originally, The National Crossbowmen (TNC), and its predecessor, The National Company of Crossbowmen, received CLUB status within the National Archery Association (NAA). But today, TNC was on a par with the Flight Division, College Division, and the Compound Bow Division of the NAA.
Crossbow competition was included for the first time in a national championship tournament in 1947, when it was held in Amherst, Massachusetts. The crossbow competition consisted of two American Rounds - 30 arrows shot from 60, 50, and 40 yards using a multi-colored 5-ring 24” target face. The gold was scored as 9, red 7, blue 5, black 3, and white 1. The highest possible score for a single American Round with 90 hits was 810. Besides the main American Round, our founders also instilled TNC specific rounds, the Kings Round, Queens Round, the Apple Round. TNC also awards the Karl Traudt Award to the crossbowman with the highest 900 Round during the annual TNC Outdoor National Championships.
In 1947, the winning score for the two rounds combined was 180 hits for 1300 out of a possible 180 hits and 1610. That was very good shooting for that day when crossbows lost cast as the day grew warmer and arrows were made from wood with natural barred turkey feather fletching. In fact, an American Round shot without a miss was in itself quite an accomplishment for any archer, as anyone shooting in those days can attest.
The individual round scores for the 1947 National Crossbow Championships are lost in antiquity, but the average for the two winning rounds was 650. For comparison, in 1974, which was the last year that the “810 American” was used in a national crossbow championship, Thomas Hock from Cincinnati, Ohio, averaged 752 for four rounds and Carol Pelosi from Greenbelt, Maryland, averaged 758.
The formation of TNC followed the withdrawal of the National Company of Crossbowmen from the National Archery Association when its First Captain (today he would be called President) and officials of the NAA failed to agree on target fees. The First Captain was adamant that only two crossbowmen, instead of four, be assigned to a target backstop because of the high degree of accuracy being attained with the crossbow. The NAA agreed to that arrangement provided crossbowmen paid a slightly higher shooting fee.
When the First Captain severed relations with the NAA, a group of shooters saw logic in the NAA’s position and organized a new club - The National Crossbowmen in 1960. This allowed the new club to remain a part of the National Archery Association.
Fred Isles, from New Jersey, and close friend and confidant of Gran’pa Harry Bailey, was elected the first president of the newly formed National Crossbowmen, followed several years later by Richard Neill, also from New Jersey, then Thomas Hock from Ohio, Rolfe Smith from Pennsylvania, Charles Sacco from New Jersey, and at the present time, William Pimm from Florida.
The official title for the target crossbow sport, or “Crossbow Archery” as Gran’pa Bailey thought of it, was FIELD CROSSBOW, not to be confused with FIELD ARCHERY. Rather, it refers to shooting outdoors, in a field, to distinguish it from MATCH crossbow shooting which is usually shot indoors on a rifle range.
Field (Target) crossbow shooting has been practiced in England and the US since the second world war. During the late 1970’s – early 1980’s the Swedes, Finns, Estonians, New Zealanders and Australians emerged as well. The IAU first published rules in 1983. The sport has its origins more related to target archery and is shot in an open field and hence the term “Field” crossbow. Shooting is restricted to the standing position with bow draw weights up to 95 lbs. being allowed. No mechanical assistance is allowed to span the bow. Bolts are really just short arrows in the sense that they are very similar to regular archery equipment. Field crossbow shooting may take place side-by-side with regular archery, and the two disciplines are essentially compatible.
Sport (Open) crossbow competition shooting has emerged under the IAU in the early 1980’s. Sport crossbow shooting is competed over field / 3D type courses as well as at target style tournaments, target faces may be circular, animal or three-dimensional. Sport crossbows are the mass produced hunting type crossbows with heavier draw weights, up to 300 lbs., mechanical cocking aids are allowed to span the bow. Beginning in 2000, the (IBO) has included a crossbow class for their 3D competitions. The WCSA also includes an Open crossbow class for their international competitions.