The Situation: In this world a race of Neanderthal-like humans have grown and evolved separate from mankind in a harsh environment that forced them to be strong and warlike. Humans of this war have advanced in technology to be about equivalent to Civil War Era America while the Neanderthals are somewhere around the Viking Age.

The Question: Assuming the average size of one of these Neanderthals is comparable to someone like Hafthor Júlíus Björnsson, what would be the most likely effective range of a bow fired by one of them? I'd like potential maximum arch height, maximum distance fired from standing archer with optimal arch, and maximum distance possible with a shot fired 'directly' I.E no arch.

Bonus Questions:

  • What kind of bow would be best for them to use for maximum range and penetration?
  • What would the poundage of their draw weight on average be?
  • What would the force of an impact of a shot fired with no arch?
  • Is there a best material for these people to use to make their bows?
  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to Worldbuilding.SE! We're glad you could join us! When you have a moment, please click here to learn more about our culture and take our tour. The range of the bow isn't just strength of the user, it's the design of the bow, the wood used, the draw strength, and the type of arrow used (for starters). We can get Björnsson's pull strength (I think), but it would be better if you found it and included it in your Q, along with all the other clarifications. Otherwise the question is too broad. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented May 1, 2019 at 22:51
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ What does it matter how far they can shoot an arrow? In this war one side has bows and arrows and the other side has railroads, steam-powered ships, cannon, rifles, revolvers, canned food, industrial mass-production of boots, clothes, weapons and ammunition and so on. The result of the war is predetermined. Whatever happens, we have got the Maxim gun and they have not. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented May 1, 2019 at 23:03
  • $\begingroup$ I never said it was going to be a fair fight just wanted to know what ranges theyd be at to have some good number references. guns beat bows any day but itd still be nice to know by how much $\endgroup$
    – John V.
    Commented May 2, 2019 at 0:20
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP Bows are quiet. The farther the archer can shoot their arrow, the farther they can move from where they fired the arrow before their opponent knows they even exist. And doing this would probably be their only hope of victory with a bow as their only weapon. $\endgroup$
    – Ed Grimm
    Commented May 2, 2019 at 4:05
  • $\begingroup$ @EdGrimm Bows may be quieter than guns, but they're far less discreet. You are shot, and you're going to hear the explosions, but it can be difficult to tell where the bullets are coming from if the enemy is prone or under cover, because of echoes. Arrows point clearly towards to they where launched, and archers must be standing. $\endgroup$
    – Rekesoft
    Commented May 2, 2019 at 11:50

1 Answer 1


The best material is a laminate.

See Mongol Bow

A laminate provides more strength and flexibility than any solid wood can and certainly be available for this level of technological progress.

As for range and power, just use the stats for a modern compound bow. A modern bow should be pretty close to someone with great strength and a large longbow.

That said, the primitives will still get slaughtered most likely unless they have massive numbers / home ground advantage and/or some other advantage. Bows are a skilled weapon and strength isn't that much of an advantage for a bow. Guns are point and fire weapons that a novice can use with a few minutes training. Guns can be fired from behind cover and a prone position. Bows not so much.

The primitives need a lot more than just more strength to win a fight against a technological superior foe.

  • $\begingroup$ Strength is a pretty good advantage for a bow, as it allows you to shoot bigger arrows, fire faster arrows, and fire more of them. They still aren't going to hold up against civil war era weaponry, though. $\endgroup$ Commented May 2, 2019 at 0:12
  • $\begingroup$ Doesn't help if you don't hit. Bow is still a skill weapon that takes a lot of practice $\endgroup$
    – Thorne
    Commented May 2, 2019 at 0:24
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Perhaps nit picking, but laminates are a class of composite materials, not a particular material as such. $\endgroup$ Commented May 2, 2019 at 1:00
  • $\begingroup$ Laminate is a class, not a material but it can be made from a range of materials and we haven't been given a list of available materials. Personally I'd expect horn, bone or wood in a laminate. $\endgroup$
    – Thorne
    Commented May 2, 2019 at 6:07
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ You say that the primitives would be slaughtered because bows are a "skill weapon" but the question states that the primitives have achieved a "Viking Age" level of technology. Bows were used very effectively by many, many cultures with a far lower level of tech than Vikings. $\endgroup$
    – krb
    Commented May 2, 2019 at 8:37

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