For Real Life Bow Weaponry, see Bows and Arrows
In the Grimdark future of the 41st Millennium, simple bows and other archetypes are still somehow in use in the far future. Although the majority of bows and other string weapons are obviously ineffectual to the battlefield of the 41st millennium, there are a few that still find use within the Inquisition. By far one of the most 'advanced' bow weapons (Advanced being put in the lightest sense of the word) is the Crossbow. A crossbow when combined with modern materials and techniques, can be comparable to modern weapons in terms of damage infliction. They are not very common in war, but are sometimes seen with rebellious street gangs or irregular troops. Often they are developed with an automatic draw mechanism which allows for much faster reload, but it is impossible to move and reload at the same time, making it a cumbersome weapon.
Types of Bows
The most primitive and common of the Bow family. The simple Bow is found on almost every planet as a hunting tool and rarely a weapon of war.
They are simple enough to be made en-masse and are used for big game hunting as well as a primitive form of deterrence. Bows changed little through their many countless centuries of usage, and can be found across the galaxy in a variety of designs and constructions. Because of their silence and reliability, they are used by assassins and gangers even in more advanced cultures.
Because of the very little military practicality of bows, some have taken this primitive weapon and turned it into an art piece. Master-crafted Bows are quite sought after for both its quality and collectible value. Some bows are turned into a form of sport such as compound bows in archery competitions. Whilst other bows are used for silent hunting of the planet's local wildlife. Of course this doesn't stop some Guardsmen into reenacting a scene from Rambo, more so if that particular Guardsmen is a fucking Catachan Jungle Fighter of all things considered.
Some Imperial regiments, especially those from more primitive worlds, may opt for a Bow rather than the flashlight as a Bow is quieter and less likely to give away your position to the enemy (that, and it's much simpler to use for Feral World natives who have even less understanding of technology than most Imperials do). Of course the challenges of piercing power armor with a simple Bow is almost impossible with normal materials. Thus, it is quite common to see adamantium or diamond-tipped arrows which allow some leverage to make the Bow more compatible in war. Of course, if they have enough adamantium to use in disposable weapons of course they wouldn't use it for armor instead or at least to tip something more powerful like bolt shells. That would be silly.
Yep. You heard that right. The Forces of Chaos for some reason thought it is a pretty good idea to reintroduce bows in the modern battlefield of all things.
Looking at Chaos' track record of using medieval tools such as trebuchets and motherfucking siege towers, the introduction of a bow of all things sure seals the deal on the competency of the Chaos Gods, and seeing how they keep on supporting Failbaddon, it ain't looking too good.
Anyways, the Fatecaster Greatbows are Chaos weapons, used by the Tzaangor Enlightened and are strung with ectoplasmic cords that send ensorcelled arrows on a magical path to hit their victims. Basically, this bow has homing arrows that could follow their intended targets. Would this neat trick make a bow still viable in the 41st millennium? No. Would it be more sensible to use said homing magic on Bolters? Hell to the yes. On the other hand, when has Tzeentch cared about making sense?
On tabletop the Fatecaster Greatbow is a 24" Assault 2 S5 AP-1 D1 weapon. Surprisingly, despite being bows, the Fatecaster is a pretty decent weapon in the Grimdark future. A squadron of Tzaangor Enlightened that is buffed by allied sorcerers and are all carrying these bows could essentially calculate in making 18 attacks, 17.5 should hit, with 10.5 immediately wounding. Not all of these arrows will go through, but a good chunk of them will. It's magic, I ain't gotta explain anything!
Types of Crossbows
A hand bow is a smaller, one-handed version of the crossbow, effectively a pistol. It is a primitive weapon, though sometimes made with modern technology and materials and easily as powerful as a larger version.
While it can be fired with one hand it still requires a long reload time and also not when moving. As well as bows as crossbows, they are mainly used on primitive worlds, but can be found all over the galaxy in more advanced forms. The ease at which they can be broken down and concealed, as well as their silent operation, makes them a favored weapon of assassins. The Ratskin tribes of Necromunda are particularly renowned for making use of handbows and other low-tech weapons.
More advanced Crossbows are also utilized by the Inquisitions Ordo Hereticus, and have become a symbol of their order. Known as the Purgatus Crossbow, it is a fusion of a Boltgun and a standard crossbow and is able to fire with more force than a Shotgun blast. However, it is its ammunition that is the true marvel; heavy wood and silver stakes inscribed with wards and runes designed to disrupt a creature's contact with the Warp, making it an excellent weapon to hunt Psykers.
It is not to be confused with the Condemner Boltgun however, as the Condemner Boltgun is a Combi-weapon whereas the Purgatus Crossbow is a modified Bolter with a Crossbow mechanism attached to it.
A crossbow if you want to role play as Van Helsing.
A Stake Crossbow is a specialized weapon used by the Ordo Hereticus. When the Crossbow fires, it fires a silver stake engraved with sigils that destabilize a psyker's connection to the Warp. The impact of the stake against a psyker will not only cause a major wound, but it will cause his powers to spiral out of control, destroying the psyker in a storm of raw psychic energy.
The difference between this Crossbow and the Purgatus Crossbow is that one utilize Boltgun mechanics whilst the other is a more conventional Crossbow archetype. The Stake Crossbow might be attached to a bolter to form a Combi-weapon known as the Condemnor Boltgun.
Other Bow Weapons
A Harpoon Gun is traditionally a shooting device meant to hunt down large oceanic creatures such as whales. However, this doesn't stop the denizens of the Imperium in weaponizing it. Think of the Harpoon Gun as the heavy weapon of the Bow family, even if it doesn't really use any form of a string mechanism to launch its ammunition and instead use a more spring tensile orientated mechanism.
Harpoon Guns are often used by Scalies and it has enough force and weight to puncture even power armor. However its single shot use before it needs to reload is seen as cumbersome and impractical by normal observers.
Not to be confused with the Dark Eldar weapon, the Impaler.
"GET OVER HERE!" (Now imagine that scaled up to a Dreadnought).
The Impaler is a pseudo-Dreadnought Close Combat/Range Weapon used by the Blood Slaughterer Impaler Daemon Engines of the Forces of Chaos. The Impaler is a massive, daemonically-possessed barbed harpoon and chain weapon designed to spear a large enemy and drag it within reach of the Blood Slaughterer's Blade Claws and bladed legs. Think of it as a mini-Trident or a Chaos Thundercoil Harpoon that is less OP and more RIP AND TEAR.
The Harpoon on tabletop you an extra attack if you combine it with the Blade Claw/Slaughter Blade. The Harpoon upon successfully hitting a Vehicle or Monster, adds +2 to your charge roll. But the fun has just begun! If there is enemy Infantry within 2", you gain +2 attacks and cannot Fall Back. Not like you'd need to with your 3+/5++ and regaining a wound per turn. Infantry? Mulched. Tanks? Flipped. Every melee-focused Khorne player needs a few of these in their army list, even though it lost Deep Strike this edition. Boo!
"There she blows! Man the Harpoons!"
- – The words of Knight Valiant Pilot, Sir Ahab against an Albino Hierophant named Mobius Dickus
Yeah, I know, its a Harpoon Gun upscaled to an Imperial Knight level of fuckawesome. The Thundercoil Harpoon is a new weapon used by the Knight Valiants as a means to create a giant fucking hole and than pulling the poor sucker in to face three barrels of promethium. Oh yes, you heard that right, this motherfucker has its harpoon physically connected with a long ass chain, which also makes it a supersized Grapnel Launcher that could actually function as a weapon. Hence, it would not be surprising if Knight Valiant players shout "GET OVER HERE!" whenever they use this gigantic fishing hook. For good measure, it's connected to a big generator so after the target is stabbed with the harpoon, the chain and harpoon are electrified so it fries the sap from the inside out.
In terms of crunch, the Harpoon is a hilariously awesome weapon. First of all, it has a pretty short range for a weapon its size, with only 12" maximum. Even some Flamers have longer ranges than that. It is also a one shot weapon, but that one shot if successful is sooooo worth it. Because this bastard is a Str 16, -6 AP and 10 damage! Oh yes baby! Its a fucking Deathstrike missile at close range and packs more AP than even a Volcano Cannon. Furthermore, it can re-roll failed hit rolls when targeting vehicles and monsters and, if it successfully lands a hit, than the target unit suffers an additional D3 mortal wounds! That's up to 13 wounds in a single shot!
A weapon that hasn't been seen since the day of Epic 40,000, even though it has been mentioned in the fluff and the Horus Heresy novels a couple of times, it's the same as a Thundercoil Harpoon, except meant for Titans. Yup. Either a Warlord or multiple Warhounds would use it to trip an enemy Titan that could then be captured 'intact'. Which is exactly what happened to the Imperator-class Titan Corinthian when he dismissed the Warhounds of Legio Audax as a threat on Nuceria.
As you can imagine how rare and a pain in the ass to construct these Titans, let alone the Imperator-class variety, the Trident is often seen as a go-to 'non-lethal' weapon for subduing but not significantly damaging the God Machines itself. It is a low-velocity barbed spear attached to a massive chain or cable that is in turn connected to one of the Titan's weapon hardpoints. It is thrown at a rebellious God-Machine's legs. Slow enough to ignore Void Shields, it will hammer deep into the leg, and the Titan who threw it will then move backwards and rotate at speed in the hope of tripping the rebellious machine, taking it out of a fight without damaging it irrevocably. Once prone on the ground, the rebellious Titan can be accessed and deactived with much less risk, for it will not be able to rise or bring its armament to bear.
Due to how cool this weapon sounds, there have been several attempts at converting these into real-life miniatures as seen from the image on the right.
Take a Gloriana-class spacefaring cathedral. Remove the explosives from its torpedoes but have them linked to the ship with fuckhuge chains instead. That's what the Ursus Claws were, extremely oversized harpoons that allowed the Conqueror to keep an enemy ship from retreating while the World Eaters demonstrated why they got that name in a calm and concise way. Only the World Eaters were awesome and/or crazy enough to use this. But when it worked... Hooo boy!
Kroot Bolt Thrower
The Kroots are also another species that is primitive enough to utilize a form of bow weaponry in the 41st Millennium. Basically a giant Ballista.
The Kroot Bolt Thrower is a primitive but effective weapon, used by the Kroot since long before they encountered the Tau Empire. Like Kroot Rifles and guns the Tau have aided their auxiliaries by using Tau technology to improve the Kroot’s weaponry.
Instead of the basic sharpened bolts the Tau provide impact fused explosive tips, making them far more dangerous. These tips are a smaller version of the warheads used in their own missile pods. The bolt thrower is fired by an ingenious hand-crank system (Similar to the Chinese repeating crossbow, the longest weapon service used in human history) which drops bolts from the magazine into position and quickly re-draws the bow string, allowing it to keep up a high rate of fire for little effort on behalf of the crew.
The Kroot Bolt Thrower often attached to the back of the Great Knarloc to enhance its battle abilities.