Download: Penetrating Power of Bow & Arrow vs Firearms 1961 US Army Special Forces, from "Silent Warriors"

By Jeff Quitney


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The superiority of the bow and arrow in certain tactical situations is demonstrated by soldiers of the US Army 19th Special Forces Group, based at Draper, Utah. A box is filled with dirt, and shots fired into it from a M1911A1 .45 caliber automatic, a .30 caliber M1 carbine, and a .30 caliber M1 rifle. The rifle bullet goes deepest of the firearms, but none of them penetrates the box completely. The bow silently propels the arrow all the way through the box of dirt and out the other side. A clip from "Silent Warriors" a 1961 episode of the US Army series "The Big Picture."

Entire half hour "Silent Warriors" program:

Public domain film from the US National Archives, slightly cropped to remove uneven edges, with the aspect ratio corrected, and mild video noise reduction applied.
The soundtrack was also processed with volume normalization, noise reduction, clipping reduction, and/or equalization (the resulting sound, though not perfect, is far less noisy than the original).

The bow and arrow is a projectile weapon system (a bow with arrows) that predates recorded history and is common to most cultures. Archery is the art, practice, or skill of applying it.


A bow is a flexible arc which shoots aerodynamic projectiles called arrows. A string joins the two ends of the bow and when the string is drawn back, the ends of the bow are flexed. When the string is released, the potential energy of the flexed stick is transformed into the velocity of the arrow. Archery is the art or sport of shooting arrow from bows.

Today, bows and arrows are used primarily for hunting and for the sport of archery. Though they are still occasionally used as weapons of war, the development of gunpowder and muskets, and the growing size of armies, led to their replacement in warfare several centuries ago in much of the world.

Someone who makes bows is known as a bowyer, and one who makes arrows is a fletcher —or in the case of the manufacture of metal arrow heads, an arrow smith...

The bow and arrow is among the oldest composite projectile weapons invented; only spear throwers and darts predate it, having been in use since 30,000 BCE, the oldest example being from 17,500 BCE. However, despite its ancient provenance, a number of cultures in historical times lacked the bow and arrow, and in others oral history records a time before its acquisition.

The earliest potential arrow heads date from about 64,000 years ago in the South African Sibudu Cave, though their identification as arrowheads (as opposed to spear or dart heads) is uncertain. The first actual bow fragments are the Stellmoor bows from northern Germany. They were dated to about 8,000 BCE but were destroyed in Hamburg during the Second World War, before carbon 14 dating was available; their age is attributed by archaeological association. The oldest bows in one piece are the elm Holmegaard bows from Denmark which were dated to 9,000 BCE. High performance wooden bows are currently made following the Holmegaard design.

The bow and arrow are still used in tribal warfare in Africa to this day. An example was documented in 2009 in Kenya when the Kisii-tribe and Kalenjin-tribe clashed resulting in four deaths...