Most survival articles you’ll see concerning weapons will focus on firearms. And that’s all well and good. But if you only stock up on guns, you may be missing out on another lethal segment of weaponry. And that of course is Archery. Archery gear has been used for self defense and food gathering for centuries. Certainly well before the time of gunpowder and lead projectiles! If you’re serious about prepping for any emergency or civil disaster, then your emergency preparedness equipment should include some bows and arrows along with an assortment of accessories. This article isn’t mean to be an in depth manual, but only a beginners guide to archery equipment for survival. Having been a bowhunter myself since I was 15, I’ve naturally acquired many pieces of equipment over the years and I’ve shot nearly every type of bow you can imagine. I take archery serious and here is what I’d tell anyone in my family who was unfamiliar with modern archery but wanted to prepare.
Before we dive into the different types of Archery tackle for survival, let’s get acquainted with a few reasons why we need Archery tackle in the first place. Later on I’m going to be introducing you to the modern compound bow and accessories as well as the recurve bow and the crossbow. All lethal weapons in the right hands of someone who knows what they’re doing.
Advantages of Owning Archery Equipment In A Survival Situation
First just let me say that if you buy a bow and some arrows and stick back in the far corners of your closet, you might as well save that money and buy food with it. A bow and arrow is not something you just take out once or twice a year and are instantly proficient with it. It will take regular practice to become adequate using Archery equipment.
In my opinion, there are many reasons to have Archery tackle around when your prepping. Number one with me is the low noise of the equipment. If you’re in a Survival situation where you DON”T want to be found, then the last thing you want is for someone to locate you by the sound of a gun. Even the loudest crossbow is still quieter than an unsilenced centerfire rifle or handgun.
Number two is the availability of ammo. Even if you’ve stocked up thousands of rounds of ammo, you run the chance of having it discovered, become wet or simply using it up if you’re in a prolonged survival situation. Most of the time you’ll be able to reuse arrows shot from your bows. Sure, you’ll lose a few and destroy some, but I bet you’ll get to use an arrow more times than you will a single cartridge from a gun!
My third reason is the lethality of a bow and arrow. With a broadhead tipped arrow, I can take everything from a Chipmunk to a Grizzly. Sure, I could do that with a 308 but it wouldn’t leave much of the Chipmunk for dinner and it might be too light for Griz. On the other hand, a FMJ bullet from a 5.56 might leave the hindquarters of a head shot Chipmunk and I’m pretty sure it would leave a PO’d Grizzly.
And as has been proven for thousands of years, it’s lethal on two legged varmints as well.
And finally, if nothing else, owning Archery equipment will just give you more options when the chips are down. And that’s a good thing.
Now, let’s take a look at some Archery tackle.
Different Types of Archery Tackle For Survival
The compound bow has been around since the 60′s. It basically uses a series of cables and pulleys to reduce the weight needed to pull the bow back to full draw. For example, if you wanted to shoot a 60lb compound bow, then the reduction of weight can go as high as 80 percent. Which means once you start drawing the compound, the pulleys (and in most cases, “cams”) will reduce the weight needed to reach full draw by 80 percent. Some bows only reduce the weight by 50 or 60 percent. Since each compound is different, you need to make sure which one you’re getting.
Now if you wanted to shoot that same 60lbs in a recurve bow, you’d start out by pulling lighter weight, but to reach full draw you’d have to pull the entire 60lbs with no let off! You see, recurves are basically just curved wood that gets its energy from the limbs as they are bent backward. When released, they’ll spring forward propelling the arrow into flight.
The disadvantage of the modern compound is that it requires quite a bit of adjusting and tuning in order to shoot well. Older compound bows that use simple round wheels will not require as much tuning, on average, as the modern cam bows, but they are not as fast either. With more stuff on a modern compound, there’s more chance for things to go wrong at the moment of truth.
Recurve Bows and Longbows
As I stated above, a recurve is a bow with curved limbs with no wheels to reduce the pull weight. Longbows are the long bows you’ll see in movies set in Medieval times such as in Robin Hood.
The disadvantage of these bows is that you must pull the entire weight to reach full draw. If you’re not familiar with your bow, this can be difficult to do.
The advantage on the other hand is that these bows are probably the quietest bows you’ll ever shoot. I’ve actually missed a Doe at 30 yards once and all she did was jump, look back and walk about 15 more yards quartering toward me and the second arrow found its mark.
I personally enjoy shooting recurves. But the many years of shooting 50 or so times per day have left my shoulders in bad shape. You don’t have to shoot that much to be proficient, but you will need to shoot a few times every day. If you’re like me, you’ll find it fun and you’ll naturally want to shoot more and more.
Crossbows have been used for gathering food and warding of Castle raiders for centuries. There’s a lot of myth and B.S. surrounding modern crossbows, but fear not, I’ll clear a lot of it up for you.
In my opinion, the modern crossbow could well be the perfect survival weapon. I have, and highly recommend, recurve crossbows. The brand I think is the best crossbow for survival are Excalibur crossbows. I have three and all three are scary accurate when properly set up. More importantly, they’re durable and reliable. Simple to set up and shoot.
Last fall I ordered a used crossbow off of ebay and it was shipped from Wisconsin. The gentleman completely disassembled the Excalibur Vortex and shipped it to me. He took the scope and scope mount off, took the barrel off of the stock and the limbs off of the barrel and removed the trigger assembly. When I received it, I reassembled it in about 30 minutes and took it outside to shoot. My first 3 shot group hit 1 and 1/2 inches high at 30 yards! This thing was practically ready to go out of the box!
There’s damn few firearms that you could disassemble to that degree, put back together and expect them to be less than 2 inches from original zero!
As I said earlier, I prefer the recurve crossbow over the compound crossbows for the reason that I prefer recurve bows over compound bows. There’s a lot less to go wrong and they don’t have to be tuned to the degree compound bows do in order to get them to shoot well. For example, if I have a string break on my Excalibur crossbow, I simply replace it in the field. I don’t even need a stringer to do this (but I use one because it’s easier). On the other hand, if I have a string break on a compound crossbow, I’ll have to take it into an archery shop that knows how to restring it and hopefully I haven’t damaged other parts in the process.
Also, crossbows are just easier for beginners to use the same as a compound bow is easier for a beginner to use over a recurve.
Which Bow Should A Beginner Use For Survival?
If you’re going to purchase a bow strictly for survival. Hands down I recommend a recurve crossbow such as the Excalibur. Don’t get caught up in the poundage hype or the speed hype. A 150lb pull crossbow like the Excalibur Vixen II will bring down anything that walks. What’s more, when using a stringer or cable cocker, even the smallest Women and Teenagers can cock and shoot them.
If you’re willing to take the time to become proficient with a bow, then I’d suggest a compound bow. Later if you want, you can try a recurve. But starting out, a compound bow will be easier to learn to shoot.
Now listen up! If you plan on buying and learning how to shoot any Archery equipment, get it from an Archery shop. Don’t try and save a few bucks by ordering it from online or buying them at some big box store. You need an expert to help you get set up properly and to give you some pointers on doing it right.
Since I’m on the subject of being cheap, don’t run out and buy those little pistol crossbows or the $100 crossbows on ebay!! Get a real weapon! A modern crossbow will run you from about $300 and up. I’d plan on spending around $500 or more for a quality set up. A compound bow will run you in the same neighborhood, maybe less depending on the brand.
There’s a lot of hype in Archery. Some compounds will cost you over a grand. I believe that’s way overpriced. You can get a good dependable compound bow kit ready for hunting from Bear or other manufacturers for around $300. These are generally reliable bows and any animal you shoot won’t know the difference between your bow and a $1000 bow!
Also, don’t think you need a heavy poundage bow. It seems that some Archers and many Archery Shop owners relate bow poundage to their manhood. But the reality is that a modern compound bow in the 40 to 60lb range is more than enough for all North American game animals. I wouldn’t want to us it on a Grizzly or Moose, but it will kill them if it’s all you have, as long as you put the arrow where it belongs!
The same is true with Crossbows. A 125lb pull compound crossbow is a deadly weapon. By the way, crossbows have to have the larger pull weights due to the short limbs. Shorter limbs equal less energy transfer so more poundage is needed to get higher energy levels to the shorter arrows.
Like I said above, a 150lb crossbow is bad news for anything you come across as long as you put that arrow where it belongs. Manufacturers you’ll want to look at for quality recurve crossbows are Excalibur, Ten Point, Middleton and Horton to name a few.
Nearly all major bow manufacturers have a line of crossbows, recurves and compounds. Some of the better names I’m familiar with are Bear, BowTech, Darton, Martin, Mathews and Hoyt.
As for arrows, you’ll find this is a whole nother can of worms! Generally speaking, you’ll have two materials to choose from and each have their own advantages and disadvantages.
First let me say that I would only used wood arrows in recurve and longbows. I’d never use them in a crossbow or compound. And if you do use them in a recurve, make sure they’re spined for your bow weight.
Having said all of that, Aluminum has been used to make arrows for decades and it’s still a good choice. However aluminum shafts do bend and it’s not uncommon to bend one after shooting it many times. Fortunately for me, if I bend on of my longer arrows that I shoot out of my compounds or recurves, I cut it off and make a crossbow bolt from it (if the bend is toward the end).
The other material that has become popular is carbon. Carbon arrows don’t bend, but they will splinter and explode if they hit a solid object like a rock or hard clay bank head on. Not only that, but they are usually more expensive than aluminum. However in recent years I’ve seen the prices come closer together due to the price of metals skyrocketing.
Your local bow shop can help get you set up with the proper arrows for your bow.
As for the points, again you have several choices here. You’ll hear people talk about field points or practice points. These are nothing more than target points used for practice. They are not meant for hunting although I have used them in a pinch to take small game.
If you’re serious about small game hunting, and you should be, there are points with spring arms meant to take small game. These spring arms grab the animal and help the arrow deliver more shock, thus killing the animal quicker. They also grab anything else in case you miss or have a pass thru and prevents the arrow from burying up. Zwickey Judo points are great examples of these heads.
Finally there are broaheads. These are razor sharp pieces of metal. In fact some are nothing more than razor blades attached to a metal ferrule. There are others that are thicker and you’ll have to learn how to sharpen these. Most of these types of broadheads are called fixed bladed broadheds. Obviously, the razor type broadheads are more popular because the razors can be changed out quickly with new ones. Some good examples of razor heads are G5′s, Wasp, Muzzy, NAP Thunderheads and Slick Tricks.
Good examples of fixed bladed broadheads that will require you to sharpen them are: Zwickey Black Diamonds, Steel Force and Magnus.
Finally, I know I probably left out a few things, but hopefully this info will give you a starting point. It’s why I called it “A Beginners Guide To Archery Equipment For Survival“! Hell, there’s been whole volumes of books published on the subject of getting into Archery! I don’t expect to cover it all in a blog post! If you have any questions, feel free to drop me a line or visit several of the Archery Forums on the Internet. But probably the best source you can get is your local Archery Shop. Sure, there are a lot of owners who are jerks, but many more are genuinely interested in making sure you become the best Archer you can be. And in a survival situation, trust me, you want to have the utmost confidence in your archery equipment and your skills!