Viva Las Vegas shoot!

The biggest ever edition of the largest indoor tournament in the world didn’t disappoint

The only way into the finale is to shoot a perfect score of 300, every single day

The 2018 edition of the Vegas Shoot smashed all previous records; as a total of 3550 participants from all around the world entered the unique competition. Running since 1962, it is widely regarded as the most prestigious indoor tournament in the world – at least among compound archers, who make up the majority of the field.

Hosted by the USA’s National Field Archery Association, in recent years the Vegas Shoot has also incorporated the grand finale of the indoor World Cup circuit, which comes under World Archery rules. The indoor World Cup might be invitation only, but anyone can enter the Vegas shoot, and anyone and everyone does, choosing to shoot in either the championship or amateur ‘flights’ divisions. By far the biggest growth has been in the amateur divisions – the shoot has doubled in size in the last six years.

Lisa Unruh (GER) continued her winning form

The most iconic symbol of Vegas is the unique three-spot target face, although these are only compulsory in the championship divisions (the reverse of every three-spot face is a single ten-zone scoring face used by almost all recurve archers and a handful of compounds).

The real differences between Vegas and most other archery tournaments are cultural. As well as the focus on perfect scores, it’s very much a do-it-yourself operation and there isn’t an army of volunteers: you grab a target from a pile and pin it on the face yourself, even if you’re Brady Ellison. It’s uniquely American; hosted in one of the country’s best known cities, and shot mostly in the rodeo arenas of the vast South Point hotel.
The Vegas Shoot never really sleeps; like the casino, the practice ranges are open 24 hours.

More than that, it’s a tribal gathering in a city that offers every kind of entertainment. The majority of participants treat it as an archery-punctuated holiday; as a target-mate says to me: “This is my weekend. I only shoot one tournament a year. I come out, I pamper myself, have fun with my archery buddies, and do this. This is what I like doing. This is what I do.” 

How it works

Vegas Shoot is a tribal gathering in a city that offers every kind of entertainment.

The format is simple: shoot thirty arrows on the Friday, thirty on the Saturday, and thirty on the Sunday – then add them up. The winner takes the prize in each division, there are no head-to-head shoots (apart from the World Cup competition). For the compound competitors, who are expected to be able to drill that large ten ring all day long, the competition is primarily a test of sheer concentration. You hear people say “I shot a 98 today, 96 yesterday” for scores of 298 and 296. The hundreds are a given.

The main focus of attention in Vegas is the freestyle open championship shoot, a competition that is transformed into pure theatre at its business end on Sunday night.  The only way into the finale is to shoot a perfect score of 300, every single day, with a single place reserved for the ‘lucky dog’, the winner of a shoot-off amongst the dozens of archers who scored an agonising 899.

85 archers – 82 men and three women – shot 300 out of 300 points on day one, but by the end of day three, just eight men were on the magic total of 900, joined by the lucky dog Christopher Perkins of Canada. In an arena packed with a couple of thousand archers, the  nine survivors stand on the same line and shoot three arrows – anything less than thirty points, and you’re out the door.

USA Paralympian matt Stutzman shot 897 total

The pressure ratchets up as there is a change in the scoring from the big ‘recurve’ ten to the small ‘compound’ inner ten. After a single end of that, just two men are left: the lucky dog Perkins and Bob Eyler, both of the USA and both previous veterans of the final shootdown. There’s a further shootoff for the lower places before Bob Eyler, a man who had taken a seven year hiatus from elite archery to raise a family, held his nerve to produce a 30 against Perkins’ 29 and take the $52,000 grand prize. Even more remarkably, he had only finally decided to enter the competition three days before the start date, and was shooting a brand-new bow which he had owned for a grand total of six days.

While the main freestyle event is open to women, most top female archers choose to enter the women’s championship division, this year won by Alexis Ruiz of the USA in the warm-up shootdown on Sunday night. The recurve champions are decided on total points alone, and don’t get their day in the arena; this year, Steve Wijler of the Netherlands and then-reigning indoor world champion Lisa Unruh took the honours – and the cheques.

World Cup Final

Jesse Broadwater: 3-time world cup champion

Unlike all other World Archery events, the indoor World Cup final, shot on the Saturday night, is more like a prelude to the main event rather than the main event itself. Shot on standard vertical three-spot faces, the first two days of Vegas scoring and the season’s placings are converted into points which set up a top sixteen head-to-head bracket, with the gold medal matches shot in the arena.

In the men’s recurve, Brady Ellison used all his considerable experience to get past man-of-the-moment Steve Wijler in a spectacular semifinal, but on the big stage couldn’t quite beat the Korean cadet Han Jaeyeop at his debut indoor Vegas tournament. Han had 2016 Olympic champion Ku Bonchan in the coach’s box as he took victory in five sets. 

Lisa Unruh (GER) capped a consistently high quality indoor season and some ruthless matchplay with the recurve women’s gold medal over Sayana Tsyrempilova of Russia.  In the compound women’s competition, 2017 Vegas champion Tanja Jensen (DEN) could not top a quality performance from  the young Russian archer Alexandra Savenkova. 

Christopher Perkins, the “lucky dog”, almost went all the way

The biggest result of all was Jesse Broadwater taking his third compound men’s indoor World Cup Final title in a row, beating countryman Kris Schaff. Both men had been drilling tens relentlessly over the weekend, but the final saw plenty of nines on the board. Broadwater admitted his priority was the main championship every time. “Every year I kind of put it on the back burner, I really don’t think about it too much before I come here, because my main focus is on The Vegas Shoot. Then Saturday night rolls around, and we’ve gotta get the [smaller diameter] 2315s out. It’s a great warm up for tomorrow.”

The situation is complicated for the elite, as World Archery rules allow a maximum 9.3mm arrow, whereas Vegas has no restrictions on diameter, so many archers have to switch setups on the day.

As the tournament packed up and the world’s elite headed for South Dakota, it was possible to see a recent Olympic gold medallist losing money at roulette at three in the morning. Vegas really does have a unique magic all its own. 

85 archers – 82 men and three women – shot 300 out of 300 points on day one

What is the Vegas Shoot?

The largest indoor tournament in the world; the unique Vegas Shoot has been running since 1962. It awards the largest purse of any open tournament, with the championship winner taking home $52,000. Currently held at the South Point casino at the south end of the Las Vegas strip, it also incorporates the final stage of the archery World Cup.

Can I join in?

Yes, you can. The Vegas Shoot is open to all archers, including juniors, with several different compound classes, recurve, barebow and crossbow divisions. Registration in the amateur ‘flights’ division starts at $175 for adults. Next year’s tournament is February 8-10, 2019. Vegas also has one of the world’s biggest retail trade shows, with every major worldwide manufacturer setting up a stall.

Tell me a fact…

In Vegas, the ‘bottom line’ of target faces on the boss always shoots first in each detail. Why? It dates back to when the shoot was at the Riviera casino, and the poor general lighting meant that the bosses had spotlights above them. If the ‘top line’ shot first it would cast a shadow of the arrows onto the bottom face, so there evolved the tradition of swapping target faces from bottom to top in the middle of the day’s round and archers switching similarly.

As well as the focus on perfect scores, Vegas Shoot is a do-it-yourself operation and there isn’t an army of volunteers: you grab a target from a pile and pin it on the face yourself

It’s not the equipment… it’s the archer

This year, Bob Eyler, at his ninth Vegas shoot and his third shootdown, won the grand prize despite receiving his new Martin compound bow just six days before the tournament. With just a few hundred practice arrows, the briefest of tuning sessions, and a single warm-up shoot, he won the most coveted indoor prize of all.

At the Vegas Shoot in 2017, compound archer Steve Anderson of the USA drew a place in the World Cup Final, the only problem being he was using the big ‘Vegas-legal’ line cutter arrows and hadn’t brought a set of World Archery-standard arrows. Luckily, he was able to borrow a set on the day from Mike Schloesser of the Netherlands, which were not specifically tuned for his setup. Despite this handicap, he managed to place second, losing by just a single point to Jesse Broadwater in what is generally regarded as a classic World Cup indoor final.

Similarly, Brady Ellison set the world indoor ranking round record of 598 in 2016 in Marrakesh using a new Hoyt bow that he had only owned for a week, and, in his words, “just thrown together”, tuning-wise.

While we always recommend carefully selecting, matching and tuning your equipment here at Bow International, it’s good to be reminded that modern equipment will usually outshoot you, and it’s the archer that makes the difference!

Sunday’s competition saw three olympic gold medallists in action in the same room: Simon Fairweather (AUS), Juan Carlos Holgado (ESP) and Jay Barrs (USA)

2018 selected medallists

> Championship Open

Bob Eyler (USA)

Christopher Perkins (USA)

Kristofer Schaff (USA)

> Women’s Compound Open

Alexis Ruiz (USA)

Linda Ochoa-Anderson (MEX)

Nora Valdez (COL)

Full results at

This article originally appeared in the issue 123 of Bow International magazine. For more great content like this, subscribe today at our secure online store:

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