Alternative Survival Weapons: The Bow

Hun_bowMany people think in terms of firearms in regards to survival and preparation planning. But there are a number of additional choices both for defense and hunting. The bow was a primary weapon for warfare and survival for thousands of years before firearms became available. So what applications would a bow have for modern-day survivalist if SHTF?

When firearms became a practical option to replace all of the other weapons used in warfare and hunting, it started a world-wide love affair that continues to this day.  But initially, only those users who could afford them jumped on board. It took awhile for them to totally supplant the bow especially.

In February 1776, Benjamin Franklin sent a letter to General Charles Lee, suggesting that the Continental Army, which was desperately short of firearms, take up the traditional bow, for the following reasons:

The bow was often more accurate.
A man could shoot four arrows in the time it takes to fire and reload a musket.
No gunsmoke, thus no problems in field vision.
An incoming flight of arrows is rather disconcerting to the enemy.
An arrow stuck to a man essentially immobilizes him, until extracted.
Bows and arrows are more easily provided than muskets and ammunition

The suggestion wasn’t taken, primarily because by then bows were considered “primitive” and Old World chivalry required “Gentleman’s Rules”. But what about today? Obviously modern firearms have erased the advantages of bows had over muskets that Ben mentioned above, but do bows have a legitimate place in the world of survival? I think they most certainly do. This article cannot cover the entire field of archery but I will discuss what I believe are advantages that bows have over firearms in some circumstances that make then a viable addition to the Prepper’s arsenal.


Even if you are well outfitted with firearms and ammunition, there are times when silence is golden. Using a bow to hunt will allow you to harvest game without letting the whole world within miles know about it. If you have to deal with hostile aggressors, you may find that the silence of a bow can be a tactical advantage.

Conservation of Supplies

Using a bow to hunt will allow you to conserve ammunition for when a firearm is required. You can often recover arrows from either successful hits on game or even misses. In addition, you can learn to make your own arrows using local materials. You cannot do that with ammunition easily.

Size and Weight.

Take Down Bow

Take Down Bow

Many bows are not much longer than standard battle rifles and will fit in a case easily.They are also lighter than rifles. In addition, many manufactures make take down bows.which allow you to make it into a much more convenient package. A take down bow could be easily carried on a rucksack for use when needed.

Tradition Boyers BibleTypes of Bows

Bows come in various styles. I will only briefly mention some of them, and as always, doing your research is necessary to select what is right for you. We have already mentioned take down bows which can be disassembled to a smaller package for carrying.

Recurve bows are an ancient design  with limbs that curve away from the archer when unstrung. A recurve bow stores more energy and delivers energy more efficiently than an equivalent straight-limbed bow, giving a greater amount of energy and speed to the arrow. Compound Bows use a levering system of cables and pulleys which gives the archer a better mechanical advantage when drawing the bow. I will discuss cross bows in a later article.


The “ammunition” for a bow is obviously the arrow. There re a variety of arrow heads for hunting including one style that is blunt which is used to take small game, will not penetrate the target and will not stick in trees. There are arrows designed for fishing also. If you are serious about relying on a bow in a SHTF situation, you need to learn to make replacement arrows that you can use effectively. Learning how to make an original or replacement bow might not be a bad idea either. There are a number of references available that show you how such as Making Indian Bows and ArrowsMaking indian bows and arrows, or even an English Long Bow in Teaching the Bow to Bend: Making a Longbow

Teaching the bow to bend 

               Effectiveness and Range

This will depend on both the bow and archer. Accuracy is a skill that should improve depending on how much you are willing to practice. It seems that experienced bow hunters feel that between 30-50 yards is a good distance to expect solid kills. Much longer shots can and have been made, but gain, it depends on the skill of the archer.


I think that a quality take down bow coupled with the knowledge of how to make replacement arrows, or even a replacement bow, would be a good addition to a prepper’s kit, for reasons mentioned above. Would it replace firearms, especially for self-defense? No way. Engaging hostiles at ranges beyond a bow’s range and engaging multiple hostiles close in are the domain of the modern firearm. But silent hunting, and perhaps silent killing of hostiles in certain circumstances are definitely the domain of the bow.

4 thoughts on “Alternative Survival Weapons: The Bow

  1. Pingback: Learning Archery Prepper Survival skills - Prepper Bits Survival Blog

  2. the traditional bowyers bible as pictured is a great resource, there are four volumes covering; wood selection, tools, string making , glues, arrows and even flint knapping for points.
    don’t just read it, make them!


  3. Pingback: Alternative Survival Weapons: The Survival Slingshot | Azweaponcraftprepper

  4. Pingback: Alternative Survival Weapons: The Bow | Azweaponcraftprepper

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