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In some modern day settings, the normal human members of either side will use guns, and often with less than stellar accuracy, regardless of allegiance. Combined with the idea that guns are easy point and click weapons, how do you set apart your ranged combat hero with no cool looking superpowers?
Why, give them a bow and arrow, of course! Not only will it prove that they're a lot better shot than everyone else, but are cool under pressure as well. Usually, the coolness factor will be ramped up by giving them all sorts of neat arrows that'll come in handy for any situation they might encounter. And of course, their arrows will always be more effective than guns. Crossbows can fit this trope as well, though they're not quite as cool.
Unlimited supply of arrows often included. A common trope in comics.
Up until the American Civil War, the trope had some accuracy. The crossbow replaced the longbow, and the musket, the crossbow, because while the replacement weapon was inferior, it was also much easier to train people to use it. (The rule for training a longbowman is: Start with his grandfather.) However, the breech-loading repeating rifles invented during the American Civil War matched the longbow in range, accuracy, and rate of fire.
Close relative of The Archer, sometimes overlapping it, though one can exist without the other. The Straight and Arrow Path regards situations where someone manages to make a bow and arrows a better choice than other, more modern weapons like guns. Often, a hero (or villain) who follows the Straight and Arrow Path can be pretty dangerous with his fists as well.
- Sailor Mars attempts this, but the show's formula means she seldom actually wins a fight on her own.
- Signum of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha. In a world where others use blasters, guns, rifles, and Wave Motion Guns, she, as an old knight, prefers to use a bow and arrow that packs enough explosive whallop to destroy a Humongous Mecha's Deflector Shields when going long-range.
- Played with in One Piece. In a world where every pirate seems to carry a pistol and the Marines use rifles, the marksman of the Straw Hat Crew is a deadeye with a slingshot. Which, the particular weapon apart, keeps him pretty much within the trope: with the modifications (see below), his slingshot is better than most firearms, and he has the training.
- Though, to be fair, for some time now his weapon has actually been modified with rare technology to actually make it more like a firearm than a traditional slingshot anyway.
- In Puella Magi Madoka Magica, this is Madoka's weapon. Also Homura's after the world is rebooted.
Where to begin? As mentioned above, this is a common trope in comics, though that's really putting it lightly. There's pretty much an entire sub-class of heroes known as archers.
- Marvel's Hawkeye and his DC equivalent, Green Arrow (or is it the other way around?) Including the variant where the archer is also good in close combat, the second Green Arrow, Connor Hawke, is one of the six best martial artists in the DC Universe.
- And the Avengers briefly had another archer in their ranks, Yondu of the Guardians of the Galaxy.
- Also, the original Hawkeye later took up the identity of Ronin, a close-combat fighter.
- See also Celestial Archer of the Great Ten, who was probably intended to fill the traditional superteam role established by Green Arrow and Hawkeye.
- In a subversion of this trope, the Ultimate version of Hawkeye ditched the bow and arrows for guns, and manages to be just as accurate with them.
- And the Avengers briefly had another archer in their ranks, Yondu of the Guardians of the Galaxy.
- Also from Marvel: the female Young Avenger who currently uses the name Hawkeye and a former user of the name Hawkeye who briefly went by the name of Golden Archer before receiving the original Hawkeye's permission to use his codename again.
- DC also has its complement of archer characters, including Speedy (the original now operating under the name Red Arrow), Shado, Arrowette and, in a villain example, Merlyn.
- Another villainous example is the Spider, formerly of Quality Comics, who replaced the Green Arrow in the post-crisis version of the original Seven Soldiers of Victory and only fought crime to eliminate competition. His sons, the second Spider and Spyder, are another villain and an anti-hero, respectively.
- Golden Age hero the Arrow was the first superhero to use archery as his primary gimmick. First appearing in 1938, he was actually one of the first superheroes. Now in the public domain he currently appears in the Project Superpowers series from Dynamite Entertainment.
- Another early example that predates the more famous Green Arrow was Fawcett's Golden Archer. The name being the same as the GA Captain Ersatz from Squadron Supreme is likely a coincidence.
- Even Rob Liefeld had to get in on the act-- his series Youngblood had Shaft, who used a high-tech gravity-catapult longbow because he thought it looked cooler than a gun. In later series, he's not above using guns depending on the situation, but still strongly prefers the bow because he considers it to be irrevocably his "thing".
- In G.I. Joe, Storm Shadow is shown to have carried a bow into Vietnam, which he uses because it happens to be quieter than even a silenced gun. He's considered the best archer in the world in the Marvel G.I. Joe comic. The second-best is Zartan, who uses technological aids to achieve high accuracy.
- The professor in Diary of the Dead was killing zombies at 50 feet and farther with bow and arrow.
- Blade: Trinity has Abby Whistler using a bow and arrow as her weapon of choice against vampires.
- Rambo, definitely. Including high-explosive arrowheads.
- Likewise, Arnie's powder-headed arrows from Predator.
- Melina Havelock, from James Bond For Your Eyes Only uses a crossbow as a way of demonstrating just how Badass she is.
- Inara, in the final fight sequence of Serenity was to have used a bow and arrow, but it didn't look right in the final cut, so was digitally replaced with a sort of bolt gun. Which explains the apparently weird firing mechanism of that gun. They only did the replacement on the close-ups, though, so she's still got the bow in long shots.
- In The Movie The Punisher uses a bow and arrow at one point.
- In Thor, the sniper's identity as a cameo of Hawkeye is revealed when he passes a Wall Of Guns over for a bow.
- Mack of Louis Lamour's Last of the Breed very capably uses his bow to defeat any number of armed Russian soldiers. He was a perfectly capable gun user when he got his hands on one. His use of the bow was a combination of its increased stealth, the fact that it could be made on the fly (Mack being on the run from a Russian gulag and crossing Siberia), and that it brought him closer to his Native American heritage.
- Yeoman from the Wild Cards universe is the setting's premier Badass Normal, capable of taking on superpowered opponents wielding nothing more than a bow. Or less- he's a master martial artist and has killed with just a bowstring.
- The children of Apollo and Artemis' hunters in Percy Jackson and The Olympians will both use bows and arrows with far more efficiency than guns.
- Wahrwoorde from Malevil. An Evil Poacher, he preferred to use a bow to commit his crimes in secret and he was a champion archer to boot.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer has used a crossbow on occasion, though justified in that her vampires are Immune to Bullets.
- The Dukes of Hazzard Justified in that Bo & Luke were on probation and couldn't have guns.
- The second Yellow Four of Choudenshi Bioman. Oh sure, she could use the standard issue blaster that everyone has, but perforating Mecha-Mooks with arrows looks cooler.
- In The Walking Dead, resident redneck Daryl is usually seen preferring his crossbow to firearms. This makes sense as ammunition for guns is becoming scarce and the crossbow has less chance of alerting other walkers.
- Every Turok game ever.
- Following the Archer character type, City of Heroes has the powersets Archery and Trick Arrows, both used by Manticore. It's at least on par with the Assault Rifle powerset.
- When placed in a First-Person Shooter, the bow or crossbow can pretty much be counted on to be as powerful as a sniper rifle, such as the scoped crossbow in the Half Life series, which uses red hot lengths of iron rebar for bolts.
- Vagrant Story's Ashley Riot introduces himself to Sydney Losstarot by way of a crossbow bolt to the chest. Of course, Ashley is trained in a multitude of weapons, and had approached at range in order to arrest Sydney. When the latter wouldn't go peacefully, and rushed Ashley with a sword, thunkk came the bolt and Sydney was sent flying backwards from the impact. It came as quite a shock when Sydney stood up and pulled the projectile out...
- Might and Magic has a class called, well, Archer. They specialize in the Bow and, in MM 6&7, Alchemic magic.
- In the beginning of ~Star Ocean: The Last Hope~, it is demonstrated that, due to force fields, the local monsters are immune to modern energy weapons, so Reimi joins with a bow to match Edge's sword.
- Archer-class servants in Fate/stay night... At least in theory. In practice, neither Archers seen in the Nasuverse have a bow for a Noble Phantasm. Archer from the fifth war has a bow and is skilled in its use, but it's not magical or special and his Weapon of Choice is a pair of shortswords. Gilgamesh probably has a bow, or eleven, stashed around somewhere, but it probably wouldn't do much for him considering his normal combat style.
- The alternate archer in Fate/Extra, meanwhile, has a Yew Bow as his Noble Phantasm. Considering he's Robin Hood, it is appropriate.
- The Sniper of Team Fortress 2 can use a bow and arrow instead of his Sniper Rifle. It fires in an arc and there's a definite delay between the arrow leaving the bow and landing on the target, so using it successfully is seen as a matter of luck rather than skill. The "arrows from nowhere" bit is averted, as he can only carry about half as many arrows as sniper rifle rounds.
- In Chrono Trigger, Marle uses a bow and Lucca a gun. Somewhat justified in that Lucca's an inventor, but then there's the fact that every shop seems to sell guns for Lucca, the party time travel to the future where guns are common, and it's not particularly likely that archery is a part of Marle's princess training. (Of course, it helps that Marle's a Rebellious Princess, and Japanese princesses were often trained in bow archery for both self defense and character building reasons.)
- In Ninja Gaiden, Ryu's main ranged weapons are either shurikens or a bow and yet he can still kill mooks armed with machine guns as well as helicopters, though it's better trying to use your speed to close the distance and attack them in close quarters than it is to try and shoot them with your bow.
- Despite living in the 22nd Century in a city that's the heart of the robotic revolution, the Angry Archer of Transformers Animated still uses a bow and trick arrows (albeit with some sort of robotic gauntlet on one hand). While he's hardly the most competent of supervillains, he does manage to put them to good use.
- Fighting Jack Churchill fought with a bow and a claymore in World War 2.
- Modern crossbows are gaining some currency among police and special forces for a number of reasons: because of the way many ballistic vests work, subsonic weaponry like crossbow bolts or arrows can pierce them; they're not nearly as loud and can make for a silent kill if need be; they have more nonlethal ammo options; and they can be fired at a target with a bomb strapped to them without risk of detonation, a real concern with suicide bombers today.