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Using a Bow and Arrow for Survival

I have picked up a new hobby lately. It is kind of funny that I started doing this because it came into my mind while watching one of my favorite television shows, The Walking Dead. You see, currently, in the show, the zombie apocalypse has been going on for many years, and most people don’t have bullets for guns anymore, so the now have kind of reverted to medieval times when people used swords, knives, crossbows and my new fascination, bows and arrows.

I also love the Green Arrow television show and thought it would be so cool to know how to shoot. Based on this premise, I want to talk about bows and arrows and how they can come in handy in the case of a disaster where you cannot get your hands on a gun or at least the bullets to fill your gun. I am going to cover the pros and cons of using bows as a way to defend yourself and your family, and I’ll explain the different types of bows and which one you should consider for protection and hunting.

I began my archery training last year with a 5-week class offered every Saturday for an hour through my local park district. I did it more for fun than for survival, and let me assure you that if the shit hits the fan (SHTF), it is not likely you will need to be a bow master to survive, but some basic skills could come in handy to ensure that you and your family can eat and be safe.

Why Archery is A Good Skill to Learn

Some of you might be saying to yourself, “Now Derek, I have a gun, so why on earth should I learn to shoot a bow and arrow“. Well, let me share five reasons learning archery could be helpful.

1. You Can Hunt and Eat

If things get crazy, it might be hard for you to get your hands on food, so you might have to hunt to eat. A bow is an excellent tool to hunt game and fish for food.

Of course, you can use your gun to hunt, but the bow allows you to be stealthy while hunting. If you are concerned about someone hearing your weapon going off, the bow will be virtually silent and therefore won’t give away your position.

2. Easy to Carry

Hopefully, you won’t have to live in the woods during a disaster or hunt for food, but if you do, you may not be able to carry a lot of equipment with you. If this is the case, a bow might not be a bad idea. Some bows are what we call “takedowns,” meaning you would be able to take the bow apart, making it much easier to stow and travel with.

3. Inexpensive

Rifle and guns can be quite expensive for you to purchase and constantly buying rounds for practice and to store in case SHTF can be quite costly too. A decent bow can be purchased for a couple of hundred dollars. You are not going into Olympic competition or anything, so you don’t have to spend crazy money on the most expensive and technical bows. Just get yourself a good bow, preferably a takedown model, that can accurately and powerfully shoot your arrows and you will be good to go.

Speaking of arrows. Unlike the bullets I buy for practice, arrows can be reused. Arrows are not very expensive, and you should be able to retrieve your arrows and continue using them. And unlike trying to reload bullet cartridges, which need bullets and specialized equipment, you can learn how to make your own arrows pretty easily.

4. No Carry Permit Needed

I have written a few articles on carrying concealed firearms and as you are probably aware if you read those articles, or if you have any common sense at all, there are some strict laws for carrying a firearm and there is a lot of paperwork you have to do even to buy and own one. While I don’t expect you to walk the streets with a bow slung across your back, you don’t really have to worry about concealed carry laws and can purchase your bow and arrows at the local Walmart with no problem at all.

5. Improved Fitness Levels

You know that two of the things we advocate here at Fightfast is to learn self-defense and to be somewhat fit to execute your techniques. If you are in a survival situation, you need to have some degree of fitness. Learning and practicing with a bow can definitely improve your fitness level. It is not like lifting weights, so you are not going to look like a bodybuilder, but it does help strengthen your upper body because of all the pulling you have to do when draw the bowstring, and you burn some calories when retrieving the arrows you shot.

Since this article is about defending yourself with a bow and arrow, whether from attackers or wild animals, I want to discuss some pros and cons of using a bow as a method of self-defense.

Pros and Cons

  • Low Cost
  • Many different types of bows available
  • Easy to Carry
  • Easy to learn to shoot
  • Stealthy. They don’t make much noise
  • Legal to own
  • Easy to make arrows
  • Quicker to take multiple shots
  • Takes time to master (but you only need the basics)
  • If not already strung, the bow takes longer to set up
  • Bows and arrows break easier than guns and bullets

Types of Bows and Which Is the Best for Survival

Now that you know the pros and cons of using the bow for survival let’s examine the four types that are the most common and each one has its pros and cons.

1. Longbow

A longbow is a forgiving bow. It has the traditional half-moon shape with a straight grip that you are used to seeing in movies. It is thin in width, but thicker in depth from a recurve, which I will describe in a minute. Because of this thickness, it is harder to torque the limbs when pulling the string for archers with poor form. This makes the arrows fly straighter.

Also, the length of the longbow means less pinching on the fingers when the string is drawn back, and it also has less friction on the fingers when the string is released. This makes the longbow a great learning bow.

The longbow is made from one long piece of wood with a string attached from one end to the other. They are known for speed and power, but it’s a lot harder to pull back the drawstring. Since it is made of a single long piece of wood, it is harder to carry and store.

2. Recurve

The recurve bow looks very similar to a longbow, except it has the classic ‘three’ shape as the limbs that bend into the half-moon start to bend back out at the tips. The shape gives the bow more power and because of this can shoot an arrow faster. The recurve is wider than the longbow, but thinner in depth, meaning that it is less forgiving to shoot since the reduction in thickness means it is possible to torque the limbs when pulling the string if your form is off.

If you’re planning on using it for survival, you would want one that has a draw weight of 40 pounds or more. You’ll need to hold this weight when aiming at your target, which can be very strenuous. However, the recurve can come in shorter lengths with the same power as the longbow, making it a better bow.

Also, many recurve bows are takedown bows, which means the limbs will either unscrew or just pull off, making it much easier to travel with it.

3. Compound

Compound bows are a little more futuristic in their design; they use a cam and pulley system. At the end of each limb is a cam, and the bowstring goes around these. When you draw the bowstring back, it goes through the cam system. It is this that causes something called Let off. Basically, if you have a 60-pound compound bow when fully drawn, the cams take over, so it’s like you are only holding 15 pounds. This makes it much easier for you to walk around with it fully drawn, or spend a little longer aiming at your target.

The main disadvantage of compound bows is that you cannot take them down, making it hard to travel with them. And due to the pulleys, if any of these parts were to break, you might not have the parts available to fix them easily.

4. Crossbow

A crossbow is a type of elastic ranged weapon similar in principle to a bow, consisting of a bow-like assembly called a prod, mounted horizontally on a main frame called a tiller, which is held like the stock of a long gun. It shoots arrow-like projectiles called bolts or quarrels.

The crossbow has the same launch principle as a bow but differs in that a bow’s draw must be maintained manually by the archer pulling the bowstring with fingers, arm and back muscles. He or she must hold that same form to aim (which demands significant physical strength and stamina), while a crossbow uses a locking mechanism to maintain the draw, limiting the shooter’s exertion to only pulling the string into lock and then release the shot via depressing a lever/trigger. This not only enables a crossbowman to handle stronger draw weight but also hold for longer with significantly less physical strain, thus capable of better precision.

The main benefit of crossbows is that you can easily walk around with them once the bolt is attached, allowing you to aim longer and be prepared. They can also shoot with incredible speed and strength, but perhaps with less accuracy.

One significant problem with crossbows is that there are many different mechanical parts that can break or malfunction one you need it most.

Which Type Bow Would I recommend?

For survival purposes, I would recommend that you buy yourself a recurve bow. The main reason is that you can take them down, making it easier to carry. My second reason is that it is very simple to learn to shoot; you just attach the arrow, aim, and fire.

How to Start Learning Archery

I am not going to try to teach you how to shoot with a bow and arrow in this article. Like I said at the beginning of this article, I went to my local parks and recreation program to take my archery class. The group that provided the course also is a club that offers more advanced training and competition. There are similar clubs probably in every state. There are some great online resources online that teach you the basics and there.


So, while not essential, I think learning how to use a bow is a valuable tool you should have in your bag of survival tricks. I told you why I think you should learn archery, the different types of bows, provided my recommendation and told you how to get started. I highly recommend that you at least learn the basics and get yourself a decent bow to add to your arsenal.

Click here easy-to-implement self defense moves & dirty tricks taught by Derek Smith.

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3 thoughts on “Using a Bow and Arrow for Survival”

  1. Yes….i definitely agree that learning to use a bow would b to ur advantage when s does htf…….also though could be a great hobby and probably fun as well… definitely going to keep this pearl of info into consideration and look further into it…….thanks Bob and staff…..

  2. I am very impressed with your company and have purchased several knifes from you. You always have survival skills and I try to read all I can. Thank you