Question: Would an unarmoured hand stop an arrow shot from a bow

Story Details:

I was doing my usual scouting route along the Great Divide, when I chanced upon a Sun Empire's camp on the other side. I marked it on the map and began to write down the troop’s numbers and layout. But then a small unit of Paladins of Fury rode into the camp with a hooded figure; my interest increased. The hooded figure walked up to the commander of the camp who then bowed to the figure. The figure then took off the hood revealing he was in fact Prince Leon the Holy Fury. As a Shadowborn I could not pass up the opportunity to assassinate the empire's best heir and defender, so I took out my long bow.

I raised my bow readying to let the arrow loose. "May Lord Kaine guide my arrow to hit true, for the God king!!” The arrow fly's across the Divide with speed. Just before the arrow hit, Leon turned to face me with a raised hand. The arrow stuck his hand stopping it from killing him. Leon pulled the blood soaked arrow from his hand then gives a bold smile, just before he disappeared behind a shield wall.

I run away quickly thinking to myself either that man's a monster or next time I coat my arrows in strong poison.

Details: the bow is a long bow, the arrows are standard war arrows. The hand gets pierced by the arrow rather then catch it. The attacker is 70 meters (229 feet) away

For more info about Kaine see also: Release the Dogs of War: use for my War Hounds in Medieval Warfare

Why Would an Enemy Army Retreat if they Will Die Anyway

War Whales use in Naval Warfare

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    $\begingroup$ I'm not too sure about the actual details, but its believable and perfectly fine for the story. There are also plenty of bones in the hand for the arrow to hit, and the fletching(feathers?) should also catch on his hand, rather than go all the way through. $\endgroup$ – Shadowzee Oct 9 '18 at 5:04
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    $\begingroup$ I once saw a very real and very clear clip of a blindfolded man catching an arrow at less than thirty feet. The twang of the bow cued him to start the capture movement. $\endgroup$ – Justin Thyme Oct 9 '18 at 5:15
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    $\begingroup$ Is the attacker a professional archer or an amateur? $\endgroup$ – Justin Thyme Oct 9 '18 at 5:18
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    $\begingroup$ "Could your hand stop an arrow from hitting you?" Since your hand is you, the title makes no sense. $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Oct 9 '18 at 5:54
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    $\begingroup$ @JustinThyme Mythbusters tested arrow catching. They found their test mechanical hand would have to close at inhuman speed and strength to catch an arrow. $\endgroup$ – a4android Oct 9 '18 at 6:20

Not if it is Just the Hand

I used to do archery hunting with a 60 pound cedar and yew laminated recurve bow. It was sufficient enough to put arrows clean through an elk and part-way out the opposite side. That's a 730-pound animal with a hide that is a lot tougher than a humans, in addition it was splitting through ribs and even shoulder blades (though shoulder blades tended to break my cedar arrows, it was nonetheless still a lethal hit.)

Longbows tend to have a draw weight of 90 to 100 pounds, and the arrows used in a longbow are longer and heavier. If a person used just their hand to stop an arrow from one it would simply pin their hand to their chest and skewer its way clean out their back.

With Armor, Maybe

It could be possible that if the person is wearing an armoured gauntlet and chainmail that the arrow would impale through their hand and lose enough energy in doing so that it fails to penetrate their chainmail shirt. Bear in mind that traditionally longbows were penetrating light armor and killing people at out to 300 meters. Arrows move very fast, and it is unlikley that such a manuever could be intentionally accomplished while wearing armor. If this happened it would probably be one of those freak accidents that you couldnt ever hope to replicate in real combat intentionally.

Still a Serious Wound

Having your hand impaled by an arrow is a very severe wound in its own right. There are very delicate tendons and nerve clusters in the hand and if an arrow pierced your hand through the palm it is unlikley you would ever regain the full use of said hand without modern surgical techniques. Frankly, even in the modern era when somebody has a similar injury it is considered a lucky break if a person suffering such a wound can open and close all their fingers and still retain full sensation in the digits when its all said and done.

Infection could also very easily set in and you still might die from it. So yes, if armor is in play it's theoretically possible to stop an arrow with your hand, but it isn't in the realm of probability that you could do it on purpose. Additionally the wound is still going to remove you from the fight, and carries a high likelihood of rendering you unable to fight for the rest of your life.

I very much doubt your prince would be smiling if this happened to him. History is full of leaders with the suffix "the lame" thanks to archers. Tamborlane the great is actually a bastardized form of "Timur the lame" who lost the use of an entire leg at a young age due to an arrow in the thigh. You dont smile after you get hit by an arrow. You pray to whatever dietey you have that it didn't clip a tendon and cripple you for life, and that gangrene doesn't kill you in the next few weeks.

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  • $\begingroup$ Very good breakdown, a simple plate gauntlet could allow to deflect the arrow... although you still have to explain his ability to move so quickly $\endgroup$ – Blade Wraith Oct 9 '18 at 6:37
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    $\begingroup$ @BladeWraith, call it luck, his hand was already up as the idiot assassin called out before shooting. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Oct 9 '18 at 7:23
  • $\begingroup$ @Separatrix. not a bad shout, maybe he was blocking the glare from the sun with his hand. stranger things have happened $\endgroup$ – Blade Wraith Oct 9 '18 at 7:32
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    $\begingroup$ For the charecter an angry gesture would probably be better. Also, it IS a crippling wound. The archer maybe didn't kill him, but he is sureley going to be well rewarded. Crap like that is how you end up getting knighted and granted some land. $\endgroup$ – TCAT117 Oct 9 '18 at 7:38
  • $\begingroup$ Might be a grimace of pain. The archer isn't close enough or calm enough to accurately judge expressions $\endgroup$ – nzaman Oct 9 '18 at 11:54

Some pertinent details.

The speed of arrows depends on the draw weight of the bow, your draw length, limb material, energy profile of the bow, bowstring material, the weight of the arrow, type of fletching on the arrow and the prevailing wind conditions. Humidity and rain also slows arrow flight. The faster an arrow travels, the flatter the flight trajectory and less deviation from wind.

Recurve bow arrows can travel up to 225 feet per second (fps) or 150mph while compound bow arrows can travel up to 300fps (200mph). Longbow arrows travel slower due to the weight of the arrows. Even at 300fps, it takes around a second to reach a 90 metre target. You hear your release first followed by the thud of the arrow hitting the target a second later (you can’t see it unless you use a telescopic sight). If you didn’t hear the thud, you’ve missed the target!

From How Fast can an Arrow Travel?

So Fury would have less than a second to see the arrow, track it, and respond.

There is an awful lot that seems to be happening in that one second.

But nonetheless, at 300 fps I doubt that a hand would be able to stop an arrow. A good archer can shoot an arrow through plate armor.


If you want to save your story line, then perhaps you can have Fury hold something in his hand before the shot, such as a solid metal, very thick, amulet that he was perhaps presenting to or receiving from the commander. The amulet, of course, would have proven its value.

Upon hearing the twang of the bow, he would instinctively raise his hand. A lucky save.

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  • $\begingroup$ "I doubt that a hand would be able to stop an arrow." No you don't. It's patently obvious that the arrow will drive through his hand. $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Oct 9 '18 at 5:53
  • $\begingroup$ citation for your claim archers can shoot through plate armor please $\endgroup$ – BKlassen Oct 9 '18 at 18:55
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    $\begingroup$ @ BKlassen i.ytimg.com/vi/q2lbB3OMNns/hqdefault.jpg $\endgroup$ – Justin Thyme Oct 9 '18 at 19:42

Like others here, my answer is no, a bare hand won't stop an arrow. For similar reasons as already stated.

All I have to add is that you might have better luck deflecting the arrow; then you don't have to stop all its speed and momentum, you are just redirecting it. That might result in a bad meat cut on the side of the hand, but that would be much preferable to a cut through the center. Indeed, taking that deflection cut on the ulna might be even better (pinky side forearm below the wrist). Of course that requires superhuman timing or amazing luck in striking the arrow. The Mythbusters are right about catching the arrow, the hand cannot be closed that fast, but an impact on the arrow to deflect it might be theoretically possible, over a multi-second flight, which seems to be what you are describing.

Also, light arrows start out faster but lose speed faster than heavy arrows, so over a long distance a light arrow will be traveling slower when it reaches the target. It sounds like your shot is over a great distance. This is amplified on a humid day (or rainy day) due to higher air density.

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In archery as recreational sport you have:

  • blunted arrow heads that do deliberately less damage than a war arrow head
  • Either tightly packed straw mats or thick foamed plastics as targets
  • A whole lot less draw than a warrior would have (at least in my case)

Still the arrow bores several centimeters into the material of the target, sticking out at the backside if there was any weakness in that spot. The human hand is a fragile mesh of tiny bones, senews and muscles that doesn't have the properties to stop an arrow. In your scenario, the arrow would pierce right through the hand and hit the opponent almost without loosing any momentum.

However, it is possible to catch an arrow in mid-flight. Some (mostly asian) martial-arts masters do this trick, but I think you have to see the archer and concentrate on their slightest movement to be able to do that. As Justin Thyme wrote, there is simply no time to react if the arrow is let loose before you see the archer.

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