Imagine someone who could do everything Lars Andersen can, but with even more accuracy and power, in addition to being very strong and athletic and being able to do it with a heavier bow and faster arrows.

Is it plausible that in the modern world, this person could, or rather would be utilized in military conflicts? This question - How to explain the use of high-tech bows instead of guns - is similar, but asks how to modify the world to suit the premise.

In this question, I'm not looking to "explain" it by changing the world, but rather asking a - more or less - yes or no question. There are no archers on the battlefield today (as far as I know), but if there was someone so skillful at archery, could he be of use in a modern military scenario?

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    $\begingroup$ John Rambo used a bow. $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch Jun 20 at 15:21
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    $\begingroup$ There was that one guy who fought in WWII with a sword and bow. A couple different times. Lived, both times, and actually killed some enemy, both times. Look him up on "Today I Found Out" on YouTube. $\endgroup$ – Zeiss Ikon Jun 20 at 15:48
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    $\begingroup$ @ZeissIkon Came here specifically to mention Mad Jack. $\endgroup$ – chrylis Jun 21 at 5:50
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    $\begingroup$ @xdtTransform Chewbacca* It's not wise to upset a Wookie $\endgroup$ – Mat Jun 21 at 13:42
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    $\begingroup$ The main problem @Jake is that he himself has said he cannot draw a 120lb bow (meaning his shots against armor? no chance). Add to that: its "trick" shots so like all videos there is the question of how many takes did that take? (combat needs reliability), his mistakes on historical manuals (archers might just stick arrows in the ground so no need for quiver or on horseback - shot, ride, and hold arrows in one hand?), to quote my Shihan who could also catch an arrow shot at him (yes, trick) - "the better bet is just to move out of the way". He's skilled & it is cool but its cool trick shots $\endgroup$ – JGreenwell Jun 21 at 16:18

Current archers in Modern Military


Believe it or not there is still one archery unit in a modern military: Taiwan's (ROC) Mountain Company. This unit uses bows in dense forest, heavy underbrush, mountainous terrain for its stealth (usually with ambush or hit & run tactics).


I don't know of any other unit which just uses a bow (as in long or recursive) but China does use crossbows for a number of operations (usually border & civilian suppression) as in:

SF crossbow China Crossbow used for suppression

Border Patrol Training

Border Patrol training with crossbows (bolts are less likely to set of explosives when you hit someone)


Also, certainly within the modern time frame, the Vietnam war saw the Montagnards (native group working with the US military) using crossbows against the Viet Cong. The Green Berets were rumored to have also found these effective for ambush and hit & runs and to have used them when working with this group. I have never found someone who collaborated this (one GB stated they were given one as a gift but said he never used it). Still, I have heard numerous stories of Montagnard usage at least.

World War II

Now WWII might or might not be modern, and this might not count but have to include it. There was this crazy guy named Jack Churchill who actually fought with a longbow (& broadsword while playing bagpipes). This was not due to any tactical advantage - the bow broke before he could really use it - but was a moral booster.

Other modern usage

Military groups have really removed the crossbow & bow as assassination weapons (rifles are just better due to range) but they are still used in jungle combat, with special forces, and as riot equipment.

Peru Unit with crossbow

Peruvian unit (note jungles behind them) in formation with crossbows

TLDR; Any heavy camo area (jungle, forest, etc) where the silent aspect of the bow/crossbow is vital to the tactics small units use is the current usage in the military.

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    $\begingroup$ +1 for mentioning stealth, which is the only reason to use bows in a modern military. There is no believable strength of human body or bow that can out perform a bullet (especially when you need the next bullet really fast). But when you need to hide that tell-tale bang! hand them a bow. $\endgroup$ – JBH Jun 20 at 17:00
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    $\begingroup$ Please fix up the China reference; "Republic of China" is the official name for Taiwan which has a totally unrelated military. $\endgroup$ – congusbongus Jun 21 at 7:29
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    $\begingroup$ @JBH that depends on the definition of "outperform" if you're talking kinetic energy taht is true. But a human Body can deliver more momentum with a heavy projectile (e.g. an arrow) than a hand held rifle can with a bullet. So a bow will trump a gun when momentum is more prevalent than kinetic energy. - So an arrow from a bow can penentrate water or some kinds of anti-bullet-armor better than bullets $\endgroup$ – Falco Jun 21 at 8:15
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    $\begingroup$ @Falco true (high caliber just shatters on impact with surface of a body of water), mind when we had to protect waterways we were issued shotguns (with regular or flechet rounds) which worked just fine (same for non-ceramic armor - which it and arrows would bounce off of) but certainly could have been given a crossbow. I would just add that as an answer $\endgroup$ – JGreenwell Jun 21 at 12:45
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    $\begingroup$ "bolts are less likely to set of explosives when you hit someone". Are bullets really that likely to set of explosives when you hit someone? $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Jun 21 at 15:52

As far as I know, what Lars Andersen does, has more in common with stage performance then with bow shooting. In order to achieve such speeds, his bow has extremely low draw weight. I can't bring any scientific proof, but I think it's biomechanically impossible even for a fit human to achieve speed, accuracy and projectile velocity with a bow to be on par with contemporary firearms.

There are additional problems with bow and arrow as compared to firearms in the modern battlefield conditions. The whole configuration itself is quite bulky - bows are pretty long (even the short ones), arrows are long too. It's much harder to shoot a bow from cover - you need to take a specific, comparatively exposed position and need space to spread your arms.

Additionally, if we are speaking about battlefield usage, although arrows may have a chance against soft armor, they pose very little threat to trauma plates.

So, the only scenario where bow and arrows can be useful is ambush (or assasination, as AlexP says), where your target isn't armored, doesn't expect an attack and you have at least one chance to loose a heavy broadhead arrow to disable him quickly. If your targed is armed or has bodyguards, the chance of follow-up shots are very low. If you have multiple opponents, you're better to have numerical advantage.

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    $\begingroup$ The major speed impediment with a bow is usually nocking the next arrow. Actually shooting depends mostly on muscle strength and there isn't much gap between "can't draw it quickly" and "can't draw it at all". You won't be able to build a bow that keeps up with a firearm in terms of energy on target though simply because an adult human male in excellent physical condition won't be able to give you much more than 1/5th of a horsepower for any significant length of time, whereas a well designed firearm can access significantly more than that. $\endgroup$ – Perkins Jun 20 at 23:46
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    $\begingroup$ @Perkins if you've seen Andersen videos, you may have noticed that he actually never draws his bow fully - and that is a main reason for his speed. Slapping lightweight arrows from light bow, not even drawing it, across the room is comparatively easy. Doing it with a full draw if a properly weighed bow is quite another issue. Nocking a next arrow is not actually that hard for a skilled bowman, but I will agree with you here - nobody had enough stamina to keep up a decent rate of fire with a bow for a long time. $\endgroup$ – Cumehtar Jun 21 at 0:15


Modern warfare is characterized by asymmetrical warfare, not so much by technology. Combatants in the middle east with little to no technology can evade America's drones, cameras, satellites, bombs, etc, by constructing and using caves and underground tunnels. One of the biggest challenges America faced in their war with Vietnam was not their technological or militaristic strength; it was the Vietnamese terrain, the local's knowledge of the area, and politics (the US could not bomb outside Vietnam, so the Viet Cong used the Ho Chi Minh trail which ran through Laos and Cambodia).

The point is not whether or not he could be of use, but in what situations would he be of use?

Black Ops and Assassinations

Guns are loud. REALLY loud. Silencers don't do what Hollywood makes you think they do. There are small guns (sub-22 calibre) that can be made to be "silent", but they aren't lethal. This makes them rather impractical, because you (a) have to be close to the target and (b) would probably be better using a knife at that point so the target doesn't scream. If assassinating a high-profile enemy target, a really good archer could get "close enough" - being upwards of 50 or 100 yards away - and make a lethal shot with a silent arrow.

Furthermore, because arrows don't rely on explosives, they'd be easier to deconstruct and take through airports, across countries, hide in cars, evade detection by police dogs (who are trained to sniff-out explosives).

Any type of assassination or black-ops situation could make use of such a skilled archer for the simple advantage of sound - he can move quickly, strike targets, and not reveal his location. Even simple issues like navigating through a forest would allow him to kill and eat his own food without risking the gunshot being heard miles away. This makes him a silent predator that can quickly enter (and leave) difficult terrain silently. Or, rather, he can camp out in difficult terrain silently.

Civil Unrest

Suburban warfare is hell for everyone - if a governing party doesn't (or can't) blow up a city, and that city is extremely hostile, every single building because a potential hiding spot, explosive, etc.

Without the "boom" of guns, an archer on a rooftop can hit a target without making it obvious which building he is on. He can even release the arrow and run away before the arrow makes the impact. Not relying on gunpowder makes him especially dangerous, as he can either recover or manufacture his own arrows with relative ease.

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    $\begingroup$ Urban warfare with a bow and arrow?? That’s... brave. $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Jun 20 at 15:19
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    $\begingroup$ @JoeBloggs you'd be surprised. A trained archer can quickly draw and hit a target from impressive distances. If it's not clear who is or isn't a combatant (ie civil unrest) an archer could be surprisingly deadly. Obviously you'd have to be a really good archer $\endgroup$ – cegfault Jun 20 at 15:23
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    $\begingroup$ It’s not distances I’d be concerned about. It’s the lack of distances! Specifically trying to fire inside or in areas with lots of things that can obstruct the bow. Not to mention dealing with doors and corners... $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Jun 20 at 15:32
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    $\begingroup$ I’m not saying it’s undoable. Just that it’s... well... brave. $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Jun 20 at 15:33
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    $\begingroup$ Crossbows are not silent, and pneumatic rifles are not heard from miles away. It is a false dichotomy to imagine the only choices are bows and a loud bang of explosives. There are no realistic conditions under which an arrow would be superior to pneumatics. $\endgroup$ – pluckedkiwi Jun 21 at 15:27

There are a few answers discussing the relative merits of rifles and bows, and we all know that rifles are going to be the better general-purpose tool. That's not really news. That's probably not what you're after, though. The basic principle of armed conflict hasn't changed since the bronze age: stick them with the pointy end. Arrows do that just fine. The question then becomes, why can't I put a cool guy in a story with a compound bow and a thick quiver?



Plastic-based and ceramic-based armor is basically impervious to arrow strikes. A cutting projectile would be better than a low caliber handgun against polymer fabric armors, but a rifle will cut right through those anyway too. This limits your choice of targets to people who aren't geared up for a serious fight: night raids, supply stations, police, some limited ambush situations, etc.

Light vehicles

You can get through windshields and door panels and hit a target on the other side with an arrow at reasonably close range, but not reliably. If your arrow glances off, it's not subtle. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yAcWu6Y68pA for a demonstration. "Reasonably close range" isn't a good plan, though. More on that later.

Armored vehicles

Forget it. Then again, the rifleman can't shoot through these either. That's the point.


Close range

If you're fighting one person with a gun, the element of surprise is pretty much all you need. Drop your target, get into cover. If there are four or more people with guns, you're going to die. They have better maneuverability. An archer needs to make larger movements to get out from behind cover in an extended firefight than someone with a gun.

Long range

This is a little more interesting. Arrows maintain lethal force through a parabolic arc better than a bullet, which makes the effective range of an 80 lb. compound bow very comparable to a general purpose rifle like the M16. Not longer, mind you. Comparable. They both come in at about 500 yards. A heroic figure might be a better marksman at that range than red shirts with firearms, even though in the real world, the arrow is more sensitive to environmental factors like wind. Creative license!


There's almost no such thing as an extended sight line in an urban environment. You could lob arrows at groups from a safe distance, maybe try to force workers indoors, but otherwise, you're limited to the short range constraints above. Also, trying to shoot out of a window will limit your fire lines and, in turn, reduce your maximum range.


This might give you better angles for hitting light vehicles at short range. Other than that, this is just a trap. What interesting targets are going to be on foot, alone, and lightly armored?


I wouldn't pick a fight on the open plains. You'll just get shot.

There are some interesting tactical opportunities for beaches, though. You can fire from a boat into open windows or at off-duty combatants. You can catch sailors boarding, supplies leaving harbor, things like that. Basically, it provides an exception to the short range limitation of the urban environment.


The person you're describing here isn't really a soldier anymore. He can hit civilians, unaware combatants, and their support troops. He can't take and hold territory. All he really can do is cause disorder and break morale. This person is a terrorist.

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    $\begingroup$ All serious armies have units which main task is penetrate enemy territories and cause disorder. Terrorists or a special ops soldier - is purely a matter of linguistics here. So your summary makes no sense. ;) $\endgroup$ – Serg Z. Jun 21 at 20:44
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    $\begingroup$ That archer isn't cut out for any typical spec ops work: he'll get a reputation and stand out in a crowd, so he's useless for intelligence in a modern warfare context. He's a useless assassin because he can't make a stand against a vehicle or conceal his weapon. Assigning him a training and support role is worse than sending nobody, because you're investing resources passing on inefficient skills. He can't do extraction missions. Nothing about being a superhuman archer lends itself to sabotage or demolition. So no, not spec ops. Just a terrorist. $\endgroup$ – Alex H. Jun 22 at 0:52
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    $\begingroup$ Your definition of a terrorist makes no sense. Governments train terrorists as well they are just called commandos or whatever. So regardless of bows your definition is totally funny. Especially this "All he really can do is cause disorder and break morale." - that's a primary goal of saboteur troops. It looks you are brainwashed by propaganda. Typical "our bad guys are soldiers, there bad guys are terrorists" lol. Grow up ffs. :) $\endgroup$ – Serg Z. Jun 23 at 12:32
  • $\begingroup$ What military employs someone to take pot shots at civilians working or shopping? I think you have a very video-game-like idea of what special ops entails. $\endgroup$ – Alex H. Jun 24 at 16:30
  • $\begingroup$ The question says - using archery in a military scenario. Learn to read. And grow up - talk to people who really went through war - Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, Chechnya etc. I personally know quite a lot of such vets. You sound like a kid tbh. Believing in one's state glorious army and evil terrorists. Brainwashed by TV it seems. :) $\endgroup$ – Serg Z. Jun 25 at 1:35

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