In the Avengers, (my specifics below are from the film) Hawkeye is a mortal man who is extremely proficient with a bow and arrow. He frequently in the film

hits targets without looking, makes perfect shots after correctly calculating for wind, and is able to reload his arrows with extreme speed.

How far off is this from actual professional archers? Can expert archers do anything relative to what Hawkeye is capable of? Or is even the normal human in the Avengers himself superhuman at something?

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    I read yesterday that the actor who played Hawkeye took archery lessons, but sadly, he was unable to use anything he learned while onscreen. Commented May 7, 2012 at 20:33
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    Are we comparing this to the plausibility of him fighting alongside a Norse god? ;) Commented May 8, 2012 at 1:04
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    Hawkeye reminds me of en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arjuna
    – pramodc84
    Commented May 22, 2012 at 3:46
  • Hmm. this question has been notimated for closure, but we have a similar question here... scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/108633/…
    – Skooba
    Commented Nov 2, 2016 at 20:50

7 Answers 7


Hawkeye would be considered an exceptional archer even in the eyes of the world's best where a hit at a range of 150+ meters would be considered excellent shooting.

Most bow hunters shoot at targets averaging 35 to 75 meters away. Target archers can shoot at ranges of 100 -200 meters. (But targets don't move.) Was Clint Barton superhuman in his ability? Most of his shots made against targets within the interiors of buildings or onboard the helicarrier, were not extraordinary or outside of the realm of possibility.

The farthest accurate shot in archery under FITA conditions was 200 m (656 ft 2 in) by Peter Terry (Australia) at the Kalamunda Governor Stirling Archery Club, Perth, Western Australia, Australia on 15 December 2005. He hit 2 ouf of 6 on a FITA 122cm target. He used a 'compound bow'. --Guinness Book of Records

Where Hawkeye was at his most awesome was during his shots above the city. Were these shots impossible? No. But after a 150-200 meters, shooting targets moving in excess of fifty miles per hour, he starts becoming superhuman in his ability.

But if we consider the Marvel comics' history of the character Hawkeye, he has been training since he was six years old at a circus. He would learn to shoot from the most difficult angles and from the most difficult conditions, including shooting from the back of a bicycle, riding on a horse, shooting at tiny targets, shooting at moving targets. He was trained by both Trickshot, who was arguably one of the only archers better than Hawkeye and the Swordsman, another martial artist whose skills were legendary on Marvel Earth #616.

If we consider Hawkeye is about 20-30 in the Avenger's movie, he has been shooting daily for fifteen to twenty years. He practices everyday with weighted arrows (to familiarize himself with his arrow payloads) uses the finest bow technology money can buy, arrows balanced and made with the highest quality precision crafting.

Then consider he is a super-assassin who was likely given even MORE training, more discipline, military tactics, strategy and we can assume a highly trained individual who has used his weapon of choice on a battlefield against men with GUNS. His sense of the battlefield was excellent and was able to assist Iron Man by sharing the information about the limitations of the Chitauri vehicles.

In addition to all of his other skills he is a trained observer, so it would not be unreasonable to assume a certain level of what would appear to be superhuman proficiency. Although when he was making shots and not looking, I would just call that showing off.

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    No issues with the actor per se. But if you read the article "Is Hawkeye from the Avengers the worlds worst archer" from IO9, you will be able to see what I meant about his form and technique. He played his role adequately and if you aren't an archer, you wouldn't notice anything wrong. Commented May 8, 2012 at 0:35
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    @Thaddeus, there's one item in that article where they comment on Hawkeye shooting from the hip (and how it wouldn't be able to hit it's target), fortunately his target was the building he had just jumped off of, which totally negated the necessity to actually aim.
    – zzzzBov
    Commented May 8, 2012 at 4:42
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    @zzzzBov I've missed bigger targets...
    – AncientSwordRage
    Commented May 10, 2012 at 18:36
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    @Pureferret, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that unlike our theoretical Hawkeye, you probably haven't been practicing daily for 15-20 years.
    – zzzzBov
    Commented May 10, 2012 at 18:40
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    Thaddeus, @zzzzBov, welcome, let me introduce you to some of our other members: over here are the fencers and kendoka who know what's wrong with light-saber duels, the historians who actually know something about life in the middle ages and ancient Rome, the sharpshooters, the martial artists, the detectives, and of course every physicist who's ever watched any science fiction movie other than "2001" and "Primer". As Roger Ebert put it, "we laugh, that we may not cry".
    – Beta
    Commented Sep 30, 2012 at 16:11

About the only shot that really strains credulity is

when he shoots an arrow onto a computer console and two connectors pop out of the arrow and plug themselves into the console.

That one was a stretch.

If we accept Iron Man's armor and all of SHIELD's gadgets, Hawkeye's self-stringing bow and magical dial-an-arrow quiver are easy to buy. my beef wasn't with the fantastic elements, but the ordinary ones.

Shooting back without looking is a cool trick, and could be done with enough practice. But it's really just a party trick like flipping a spoon into a glass; the only reason to do it is self-satisfaction, and it makes Hawkeye look like a badass.

I think a world class field archer could do about 90-95% of Hawkeye's shots, in terms of target size and distance; the trick is doing them while jumping off buildings or sliding on your butt. They generally kept his shots pretty much within the realm of possibility, or would have if the guy had more believable form.

  • His form wasn't actually that bad in the scenes where he was alone (allowing for butt-skidding and disregarding a certain building jump). It's only in the scenes where he has to be shot next to three other people in 'hero poses' where it sucks. Most likely, the actor was tired, he'd been shooting all day, it was the 8th take, his form slipped (holding a bow drawn is exhausting, and he didn't really work at it long enough to build up the musculature). Joss looked at the shots and picked the one with the best overall look, and damn the broken line at his wrist.
    – Jeff
    Commented Sep 30, 2012 at 3:01

I'm no archer, but someone who is has deeply analyzed Hawkeye's skills in the movies.

Take a look at this link Is Hawkeye from The Avengers the world’s worst archer?... it is FAR to long and in-depth to repeat it here.

  • Oh yeah, I skimmed that article when it came out. I know that no one using Jeremy Renner's technique could do what Hawkeye does, but could someone using PERFECT archery techniques do what Hawkeye does? Commented May 7, 2012 at 21:24
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    Actually, he's not such a bad archer after all.
    – Jeff
    Commented May 7, 2012 at 21:47
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    I wanna go learn how to be an archer now that I read that article lol. Commented May 7, 2012 at 21:49
  • damn, I came here specifically to post that article link :)
    – Mark Mayo
    Commented May 7, 2012 at 22:00
  • Hadn't seen that followup article. Interesting. :)
    – eidylon
    Commented May 8, 2012 at 3:08

According to the Ultimate Hawkeye mini series Clint Barton had several genetic enhancements to give him borderline superhuman abilities. The rods and cones in his eyes where manipulated to give him superhuman visual accuity as well as the muscles around his eyes alowing for above average orb distortion (literal hawekeye vision) The producers of the Avengers film drew heavily from this version for Jeremy Rener's portrayal of him.

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    While this is true, there's nothing in the Marvel Filmverse to indicate Barton has been so enhanced. They haven't turned Fury into a super soldier from WWII yet, and they can't touch the X-Men franchise, so a lot of the Ultimate 'verse has to be thrown out.
    – Jeff
    Commented Sep 30, 2012 at 3:03
  • You mean outside of all the aforementioned trick shots, as well as Nick Fury jump/tuck/roll/firing from a crashing helicopter or disabling but not destroying a jet with an rpg?
    – Monty129
    Commented Sep 30, 2012 at 13:25

According to wikipedia, current estimates of the upper range of the English Longbow are 180 - 250 meters. Since he's trained his whole life as a marksman, none of his shots go an absurd distance, because he'd very likely have a strong enough pull to send an arrow that far. He doesn't display any of the hilariously-deformed musculature that archers had, but I'm sure Hollywood wouldn't take such a person even if they could find one! Additionally, most of his shots, besides party tricks like shooting backwards, are all very plausible shots for someone who's almost certainly hit the 10,000 hours expertise mark.


I think Avenging Spider-man #4 addresses this really well - it's dramatic and a little tragic.

Enjoy these scans (© Marvel 2012):


The form thing isn't so important. Form is almost entirely about minimizing the effect of involuntary movements. Maybe that's his big gift: complete bodily control.

Aim is probably the easiest part of Archery, it doesn't take long to figure out where the arrow needs to appear in your field of vision relative to where you want it to land.

The RL shots referenced above were done with sights. Hawkeye didn't use one. So you might argue about his vision - but then - ever see that episode of Superhumans with the archer who could split an aspirin in free fall or shoot through a moving finger-ring. Apparently he had 50/20 vision and he was old.

The hardest part to buy is the 250lb draw-weight of his bow. While it is a lot of weight (about 5x normal for the type of bow he's using) it's still not outside the realm of possibility for someone at "peak human physical condition" to be able to pull that much. The biggest challenge with huge draw weight is keeping your arm steady - but that's another problem that has to do with involuntary movement. Aside from that the huge draw weight does make his shots a lot more plausible. A faster arrow is less likely to be thrown of course by winds etc. It also would make shooting moving targets easier - especially at a distance: The target would be much closer to where it was initially by the time the arrow were to arrive.

So if you were to take involuntary movement out of the picture, I don't see any reason he couldn't make the shots that he does.

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