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Merit Badge - Spirit of the Law: Archery

I am a Merit Badge councilor for Archery, and recently mentored a few scouts on a shooting weeked outing. The requirement for accuracy is stated below:

Shooting at an 80-centimeter (32-inch) five-color target at 15 yards and using the 10 scoring regions, make a minimum score of 160. Accomplish this in the following manner:

  • Shoot 15 arrows in five-arrow ends, at a distance of 10 yards. AND
  • Shoot 15 arrows in five-arrow ends, at a distance of 15 yards.

My question is this:
The targets were fixed at 15 yards, and were not able to be moved closer to the 10 yard distance. Two Scouts qualified shooting all 30 arrows at the 15 yard distance, shooting 5 arrows in each of 6 ends. I’m planning to accept this as meeting the requirement given that what they achieved is more difficult than what the requirement technically states.

Is there any reason NOT to certify the accuracy requirement as beging achieved?

I feel this is a Spirt of the Law vs. the Letter of the Law situation.

Thanks in advance.

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The Guide to Advancement says that Scouts in the Scouts BSA program must do the requirements as written for merit badges, ranks, and Eagle Palms - no more and no less - and they are to do exactly what is stated. Scouting Ranks and Advancement Age Requirements
In Scouts BSA, advancement requirements must be passed as written. If, for example, a requirement uses words like “show,” “demonstrate,” or “discuss,” then that is what Scouts must do. Filling out a worksheet, for example, would not suffice.

and Once It Is Earned, It’s Earned
A Scout who has earned a merit badge from a registered and approved counselor by actually and personally fulfilling the requirements as written will have met the purpose of the merit badge program and the contribution to the aims of Scouting.

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While you can’t alter the requirements I would argue this: 1. You didn’t force them to shoot at a longer distance than was required but the nature of the range required you to accommodate some things. They could have sought out a different range to shoot at (on a later date) with targets that could be moved around.
2. They did shoot at 10 yards (the arrow did have to travel 10 yards to hit the target and did so after it flew 5 yards).

Some times you just have to make due with adverse conditions.

If the requirement says take a 5 mile hike but the place we are camping only has a 6 mile loop should I not take the kids out on the hike? For those who choose to do the hike and complete it should I not sign off the requirement because the hike wasn’t 5 miles? (now some kids may choose to go on a shorter hike at a later time… that is their business and is fine. I can’t force them to do the 6 mile hike instead but for those who finish the hike should that not count?)


I’ve applied similar reasoning as @kevinwindisch described, particularly for Hiking and Backpacking MB. A five mile hike is “approximately” five miles, because the choices are <5 or >5, unless I want scouts to walk laps around a track or something similar, which defeats the real purpose of going hiking, even in an urban setting. I wouldn’t insist a scout walk 6 miles for any of the 5-milers required in Hiking MB, but I wouldn’t turn them away for it, either. It sounds like the available range doesn’t support 10 yard shooter-target distances. That seems to me like the non-existence of a precisely-5-mile hiking path in one’s area.


I’ve never paid much attention to the compound bow requirements. Can anyone give a reason why the different ranges?

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Actually, I’ll add another question to @Qwazse’s:

How do you shoot “at 15 yards” (text of the overall requirement) and “at a distance of 10 yards” (text of the first sub-requirement) at the same time, other than shooting at a distance of 15 yards (which, as @kevinwindisch pointed out covers 10 yards after it covers the first 5)?

ETA: Nevermind. There appears to have been a typo in the original transcription of the requirement. See my post below.

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Michael, which requirement number is this? I’m not seeing this part in the official BSA merit badge requirements for Archery:

“five-color target at 15 yards”

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Requirement 5 Option B (compound bow) f(2)

Wait a sec…It’s missing the first “at 15 yards” in the text. The requirement reads:

I guess that answers my “addendum” question regarding the duplicate distances. It’s not actually duplicate distances. It’s closer to the Hiking MB requirement in context than I had previously thought.


I see it in Scoutbook, so that looks like a typo.

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Yep, it actually sounds like staging distances. Specifically, is the point is to get started at a conditioning distance of 10 yards, then move up to 15 yards? If that’s the case, then I’d be inclined to agree that the boys met the intent of the requirement. The problem with thinking that’s the case is that the requirement does not say “AND THEN”. I mean, the scout could literally shoot five at 10 then five at 15, and repeat two more times. That would meet the letter of the requirement.

The crux of the issue is why? Is there something special about compound bow (or compound bow competition) that demands some scores be earned at 10 yards and some at 15? Is it explained in the MB pamphlet?

Can we get someone who wrote the requirement to comment?

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I would not call it conditioning. Conditioning in archery is based on repetition to build shoulder muscle strength. Although the draw weight on a compound bow is adjustable, I suspect for 10 and 15 yards the draw weight would be the same.

I believe shooting at different distances is more a measure of aiming skill (vertical adjustment of the bow when shooting).

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I suggest asking your council advancement committee chair for a waiver,

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Assuming a scout is 5 feet tall and the bulls eye of the target is 1 foot off of level with the scout a change in 15 feet would require a 0.636 degree adjustment of the bow in order to stay spot on bulls eye. Since you can qualify without ever hitting a bulls eye, I don’t think tha this is about adjusting a bow aim by an infinitesimal amount.

Archery is a skill, so it makes sense to me that beginning archers would shoot at different distances as a way of learning that they need to make some adjustments (mostly their aim point) for targets that are closer vs. further away. I am not sure why the same requirement would not be included under the recurve option, though.

but a 0.636 degree adjustment to stay on the bulls eye isn’t much of an adjustment. I’m not sure that there is much skill building going on here.

I’d like to thank everyone for the insightful responses that have been provided so far, they certainly provided several different perspectives on the issue.

First, a few clarifying points to address questions asked above:

  1. I cut/pasted the text of the requirements from: https://boyscouttrail.com/boy-scouts/meritbadges/archery-merit-badge.asp which might explain the typo of the “15 yards”.

  2. I am a USA Archery Level 1 Instructor and have taught archery with scouts off and on for the last year and a half. There is a significant different in shooting with a recurve bow vs. a compound bow. A true compound bow is considerably more accurate and easier to shoot/manage. This is probably why the accuracy requirements are more stringent for a compound bow (multiple distances, increased distance, higher point totals).

I am in agreement with the hiking analogy. A 6 mile hike satisfies a 5 mile hike requirement.

As an instructor, and as someone who has participated in the sport, there is not much difference between 10 and 15 yards. If scouts are granted a practice end at 15 yards before qualifying, it gives them a chance to “dial in” the aiming. Practice ends are always granted at new distances before qualifying ends. If you can qualify at 15 yards / 15 yards, it stands to reason that you can qualify at 10 yards / 15 yards, and probably with a higher point total and greater qualifying margin. Archery range time is not easy to come by unless you have your own equipment. I don’t want to penalize the scouts for the immovability of the targets.

I plan to approve completion of this requirement.

Thanks for all the input, it was very helpful!!


@MichaelLefebvre1 I would recommend contacting your Council Advancement Chair and asking for clarification. Questions and Suggestions

Field round courses vary in length. For some examples see MB Series Archery, p. 65ff, “Archery Games and Tournaments” chapter, 35856, copyright Boy Scouts of America, 2019 printing.

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