There has been new interest in the crossbow as a survival weapon, possibly from the character Daryl in the hit T.V. show The Walking Dead. The crossbow has been used as a military and hunting weapon since at least the 5th century in both Europe and Asia. It is still used as a specialty weapon in some armed forces today. But does it have practical application to you as a survival weapon?
Crossbows are currently used by many military units for line throwing (crossing rivers, etc.) and even grapple hook line throwing (mine clearing operations). We discussed the possibilities of regular bows and slingshots in previous articles. So would a crossbow be a viable survival weapon to add to your kit? Lets look at the pros and cons.
Advantages of the Crossbow
- Like a regular bow, a crossbow will allow to hunt silently. Hunting with a firearm in the country will let everyone for miles around to know you are there. Sometimes silence is golden.
- In certain situation, you could use the crossbow as a silent defensive weapon.
- Crossbows are easier to learn to shoot accurately than a regular bow. It is fitted with a rifle type stock, something gun owners are used to. In addition, the bow itself holds the arrow or bolt, and the let off is always consistent with the same draw strength each time.
- Ammunition is recoverable. You can reuse arrows or bolts that you kill game with and can often recover misses. In addition, you can learn to make suitable arrows from natural resources in the field.
Disadvantages of Crossbows
- Magazine capacity. Meaning you can only load and shoot one arrow or bolt at a time. This would place the crossbow user at a serious disadvantage if facing multiple attackers at close range.
- Crossbows are also large and bulky. They are hard to conceal. Their size and weight would be an issue if you were surviving on foot.
- Maximum effective range is about 25-50 yards, depending on projectile and skill of archer.
- It is generally slower to reload and fire than a traditional bow and certainly much slower than a firearm.
One of the objections to crossbows for survival is that they are bulky. This has been partially solved by takedown crossbows like the Avalanche Takedown Crossbow.
“Ammunition” for Crossbows
You can shoot a variety of arrows and bolts from a crossbow. In that regards, it is very versatile. Practice and experience will determine what projectiles are right for your situation.
Is a crossbow right for your survival arsenal? That’s a decision only you can make. It has advantages and disadvantages. I recommend you find someone who has one, or an archery range that rents them, and try it out. And as always, do your research.