Emergency preparedness from a Counterintelligence Agent

Archery vs firearms for SHTF weapons

archery vs firearms for shtf weaponsArchery in a SHTF/TEOTWAWKI world

Are you considering using archery as a backup SHTF weapons system? After what I’m about to show you, you may even consider it a viable primary way to protect yourself even before TEOTWAWKI. Even if you’re not planning on the collapse of the economy/EMP/CME or whatever, you may be considering some kind of alternative to using firearms to protect your family.

Humans have used bows and arrows for hunting and combat for many thousands of years. After the invention of gunpowder, battle tactics started to change. Then when firearms were able to be mass-produced, archery fell by the wayside.

Where I grew up in the backwoods of Pennsylvania, archery was super popular. So popular, in fact, that the schools shut down for the beginning of archery season. Since I hunted with a model 94 Winchester .32 (awesome brush gun for deer), I wasn’t really into the whole archery thing -took too much practice. Same reason I never learned guitar, Latin, or figure out women.

Gave me a great excuse and opportunity though to drop a keg into the creek (pronounced ‘crick’ btw) and have some friends over for a few drinks and maybe a tussle with the kids from the neighboring high school if they felt like invading our territory at the CC Camp we partied at. As such, I never really got into archery.

That being said, I know of several people who are planning on using archery as a secondary weapon system if SHTF. After I saw the video I’m about to show you, I’m now considering it as well. Don’t get me wrong, I love my guns and pretty much always have one on me (definitely more the case when I’m downrange). Guns do, however, have their drawbacks if they are your only defensive or offensive capability.

Archery vs guns for SHTF:

Zen in the art of archeryAmmo is hard to make. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not technically difficult to make. My dad reloaded (and still reloads) my whole life. You gotta have all the supplies and equipment though. You gonna bring a reloader and ball ammo in your bugout bag? If you’re not set up with a semi-stationary bugout location, you’re not gonna reload. You’ll have to carry or obtain ammo that’s already been made. Because of this, archery has an advantage in the ammo department.

Laws are getting stricter. If your only weapon is an M4, you’re gonna have a tough time making it around town without getting noticed or using it within a couple of miles of anyone. Granted, a compound bow in you hand is gonna draw some attention too but you don’t nearly look like as much of a threat. Also, if the liberals get their way, both weapons and ammo are gonna get more difficult to get a hold of and cost more.

Guns are LOUD! You’re not gonna sneak around anywhere with a shotgun after you shot it. Even silenced weapons aren’t really ‘silenced.’

One of the problems with arrows is that they don’t have the range that firearms do. When you look at the statistics though, most gunfights happen within arrow range.

Arrows won’t penetrate armor either, but are you actually all that likely to come across dudes all armored-up? Even if you do, they’re not fully armored – just the critical parts.

Don’t get me wrong, in most cases, I’ll take my 1911 over a recurve or even a compound bow any day if I have to choose one or the other and don’t know the situation, but as they taught me in most of the weapons training courses I’ve been to, a gun is just a tool; you are the weapon. Each tool has advantages and disadvantages and you have to use the right tool for the right job. Keep in mind though, a bow probably isn’t gonna make a good home defense weapon.

One of the biggest issues I always saw with archery (other than the fact you’re not gonna conceal it very easily) is that you can’t shoot very fast and you have to be pretty much standing still to hit anything. Then I saw this video. Holy crap. Before I go on, you gotta watch this:

Did you see that? There goes the whole you-can’t-shoot-like-that-dude-on-Lord-of-the-Rings argument. That Lars dude is a painter by the way and just started learning how to shoot this way a few years ago. Imagine if you spent the same amount of time learning this that you spend on memorizing baseball statistics? Amazing. This isn’t the Lars Anderson AZ Diamondback dude either, by the way in case you were considering enshrining his rookie card in platinum.

Wanna see another? This is old dude shooting 3 arrows in a second and a half. Give a pistol to the average person and see how many times they can hit a target in one and a half seconds and see what happens:

I definitely wouldn’t wanna come across this dude in the middle of the woods. By the way, that Saracen Archery book he’s talking about is for sale at Amazon if you really wanted to get into it but it’s a tad on the pricey end – Saracen Archery.

So, now that I’ve shattered your misperceptions about the efficacy of archery in CQB, let’s really look at it. Would it really be smart to use a compound bow and arrow or crossbow/bolt (A crossbow doesn’t shoot arrows, btw. I remember that from my Dungeons and Dragons days).

The advantages of bows and arrows (crossbows and bolts)

Let’s look at archery’s advantages a bit more closely:

A recurve bow shot is pretty close to silent. A crossbow is a bit louder but still not gonna give your location away in a lot of cases.

Just in case you wanna get medieval on someone’s ass and set them on fire from a distance (or signalling if you’re not so machiavellian, you can use flaming arrows. Here’s one way to make them, although I don’t know how likely it’s gonna be that you’ll find trick candles. It’s the magnesium that you need though:

Getting ammo.
Arrows can be made if need be and I’ve seen flechettes (the feather end) made from not only wild birds but even duct tape. Here’s a video of a guy making one out of saplings.

Getting bows.
A bow can be made out of stuff you can find in the woods or even urban environment. It might not be as accurate as this bow but it’ll do if SHTF. It would be pretty difficult to make a gun out of scraps you find; not impossible because I’ve seen it done, but those guns suck. Here’s a pretty awesome video about how to make a 60 pound pull bow out of PVC. There are a lot of other things you could use but this is as good as any:

Reusing arrows or bolts.
A really big advantage that archery has over guns is that in a lot of cases, if you miss (or even sometimes when you hit) your target, you can just pick up your arrow and use it again. You’re not gonna do that with a bullet. That is, of course, if you can manage to find the stupid thing again.

Disadvantages of archery for SHTF

This is by far the biggest disadvantage to using a bow and arrow in a SHTF scenario. In order to hit a pie plate at 20 yards consistently, you gotta practice a LOT for like a year. Those with some natural ability are obviously gonna be able to do that faster but the other half of us are gonna take longer. Unless you’re really gonna start practicing a LOT, then bows and arrows shouldn’t really be a big part of your battle plans. If you’re thinking about getting your kid started in archery, take a look at the Crosman Elkhorn JR compound bow.

A bow doesn’t really weigh a whole lot but if you add it all up, the weight and volume of a bow and quivver of arrows is quite a lot. An arrow weighs somewhere on the order of 20 grams each, which is about the weight of a .45 caliber bullet, whereas a .22 bullet weighs less than 3.5. The weight’s not a really bad issue but arrows take up a LOT of space. A typical quivver probably holds 6-10 arrows, which is less than the average magazine. My 1911 holds 8+1. If you consider the weight of the quiver in the calculation, then it really gets outta hand.

Availability of ammo.
If you look at this from a SHTF or TEOTWAWKI viewpoint, there are positives and negatives to the availability of arrows. On one hand, you can make them out of anything. On the other, there just aren’t that many arrows out there that are already made that you’ll be able to get your hands on unless you happen to be in redneck country. Even then, it’s not like they’re in all the grocery stores. If you do end up making them, you’re not gonna be able to construct 20/day. At least not good ones. For a zombie apocalypse kind of thinking though, a market would evolve that would include arrow makers (called fletchers, strangely enough). At that point, arrows would become more plentiful.

My conclusions

After researching this article, I’ve reconsidered archery as a viable SHTF weapon. Would I want to give up firearms in exchange? Nope. I really like my guns. But – what happens if something happens and I’m stuck without a gun or ammo? I’m all about contingency plans.

I’m now thinking I’m gonna have to look into practicing with a bow and arrow when I get home. Hell, if nothing else, I’ll get one of those pistol crossbows and keep it for a backup for hunting small game.

In short, I think a bow and arrow shouldn’t replace your rifle, shotgun or pistol – especially as a home defense weapon – but you should consider at least getting some kind of archery training in case the day comes where you’d want to grab that bow.

So, you still think archery isn’t worth looking into?

If you liked this article, I think you’ll really like 5 discreet weapons you can carry (almost) anywhere.

About graywolfsurvival.com

I am a former federal agent and military veteran who has deployed to combat theaters in Africa, Iraq and Afghanistan and have almost three decades of military and military contracting experience.

My goal is to help families to understand how to intelligently protect their family and their way of life against real threats, without all the end-of-the-world doomsday crap.


  1. irish7_1sg says

    I bought a few cheap pistol-crossbows 2 years ago at Christmas. I was really surprised how fast and far they shot. The bolts were kind of expensive, but I purchased a bunch of them anyway. We have them put away with other survival stuff. We own a bunch of firearms, so I don’t see breaking out the mini-crossbows until we’re out of ammo.

  2. im sorry but the statement that arrows wont pierce modern body armor is simply untrue. needle point bodkin arrows will go right through level 3 vests without plates. even stab resistant ones. modern arrows however lack the weight and proper point to puncture it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5IM7Bz2vXtY

    • graywolfsurvival says

      I was referring to the plated armor in the comment but thanks for the video; it’ll help someone reading the article – I should have specified. Kevlar doesn’t provide much stab protection with a pointy object but an arrow isn’t gonna penetrate plated armor unless it’s explosive.

    • Doug Morrison says

      Red Fox is correct…I have 3A side panel armor that will stop some rifle rounds, but no grantee for blades…and I bought the expensive armor of the time. Newer armor may help…won’t bet on it.

  3. Daniel Fransiscus says

    Also airguns (aka pellet/bb guns) are quiet, have good range, ammo is cheap (250 for $3 at walmart) and you can get a decent one for about $200, just go for the break barrel, not pump

  4. Hired.Geek says

    In a SHTF or TEOTWAWKI scenario I like the archery option for hunting. I firmly believe that stealth will be paramount, as there will be allot of hungry people who are armed looking for food also. And when they hear a gun shot they will come running to take by force what you have just killed.

    The one thing about crossbows and compound bows that worries me is that if they need to be restrung I have never seen a good way to do that yourself. Does anyone have any additional info on this?

  5. This is a great report by the way. You could use a take-down bow as a way to keep it hidden in a backpack while you and your family get out of town. Arrow fletching will be invaluable to any survival situation. I would also recommend learning the art of bow crafting. Whether that be tillering a wooden bow, or making a bow out of heated PVC pipe. Also, you should learn how to make bowstring from natural materials. Learning to make strings and rope goes without saying to be a useful survival skill.

    In a long-term disaster situation, don’t expect to come across ammunition. We saw what happened earlier this year with the assault weapon ban scare. You still can’t find some calibers! If and when shit does hit the fan, ammunition will be gone within a couple days, I could even see it being used as a main currency. People will be doing anything to get their hands on food, clean water, ammo, fuels and insulin.

  6. Doug Morrison says

    Thanks for this…I prefer ak47,m15/16,then crossbow,compound bow,crossbow pistol,knife. remember crossbow’s were used in ‘nan…very effective.

  7. Doug Morrison says

    NEVER use wd40 on anything plastic, it will “melt” it been there. Also not good if you have allergies. Use oil or Vaseline to lube the plastics..even to it may deteriorate the plastics, but takes a lot longer…

  8. For the long term, a bow is a good option, although the fancier compound bows, while more accurate,have more moving parts that could break. A simple carbon recurve, with lots of extra bowstrings, would perhaps’ be best. Other ranged options when bullets run out, might be slingshot with lead pellets, slings, and Cold Steel makes a blowgun with rounds that can penetrate plywood.

  9. Ernest Burnham says

    Your article reminded me of an arrow shooting slingshot with special sites etc. I didn’t purchase at the time because of finances. I am now able to get one but lost all the info. Am unable to use a bow but believe the slingshot will work for me. Hope you can help me find it again. Have more than enough noise making devices now need a silent one.

  10. good article! i use to be pretty good with a bow when i was younger but now? i have no idea but am interested in getting back into using one. also i have bought a pistol crossbow and have been practicing with that. my son has a crossbow and we’ve both been working with it.
    just an idea to cover the bases!

  11. kiljoy616 says

    Suppressed rifle any day of the week.

    • graywolfsurvival says

      Absolutely, if you have an unlimited ammo cheat code. In almost all cases, having a firearm is better than using archery, but ammo is expensive and you can’t make it yourself. You can reload it, as long as you buy and stock the supplies, but they’ll eventually run out at some point.

  12. TXKeydet08 says

    I couldn’t agree with you more! Much like you, I was a “gun guy” all my young hunting life. I continue to be all about firearms as my go-to tools, but about 18 months ago, I thought to myself, what possible reason could I have not to expand my weapon selection and training into the realm of archery?

    The only thing I could come up with as a downside was cost, but I also realized that I could get a lot of mileage out of a handful of arrows, and practice in my own suburban backyard. So, I decided to add a compound bow to my toolbox, and have been immensely pleased with it.

    With a compound bow, sighted in with the help of a reputable archery shop, I was able to consistently get minute-of-paper-plate at 20 yds in a few minutes. With a little daily practice, I was able to get 6 arrows in a 6″ circle at 10 yds in 30 seconds without really rushing. I don’t say this to brag, because I don’t consider myself a naturally gifted marksman, but with a moderate amount of practice and a strong background in shooting fundamentals, you can operate a compound bow quite effectively. Body position, sight picture, breathing and trigger squeeze (using a mechanical release) still apply, as does consistency.

    I haven’t branched into trad equipment yet, but it’s on my to-to list. Much like with firearms, where a fancy rig with a scope, anti-cant device, bipod, rear bag and sling will increase your accuracy, a compound bow will give you similar benefits. However, the drawback is that more parts equates to more ways to fail. So, I’m hoping to take the things I’ve learned and begin to expand my skill set to include the more instinctive style of recurve shooting.

    An added benefit to archery, especially if you’re a hunter, is that it forces you to improve your movement techniques in the woods. Creeping up on a wild animal close enough to throw a rock is far more challenging than strolling in to 100 yds and taking a shot. Hunting is also a good way to practice applying your marksmanship to an actual field situation, and is markedly more challenging than lobbing arrows from the comfort of a range or backyard.

    Essentially, I am of the opinion that every individual interested in prepping, survival, self-reliance, bushcraft, hunting, marksmanship, weapon collecting, zombie-slaying, ninjas-emulating, et. al. should save their pennies, skip a regularly scheduled firearms purchase and add a bow (which requires no Form 4473 BTW) to their arsenal. Then get you some “trigger time” on the cheap!

  13. dragon5126 says

    one point you missed and nobody picked up on id making arrows. With any type of compound bow, conventional or crossbow, you CAN NOT simply make arrows out of anything you find, you can not use wood, CHEAP fiberglass or CHEAP Carbon. they will split or shatter and take our your arm or face when the cams hit and the string speeds up. As of late there has been a rash of pics all over the web of failed carbon arrows and bolts that have gone through the archers hands and forearms when the “snap”, (sudden speed up of the bow) hits and the shaft cant take the stress. You need to use properly laid carbon and fiberglass shafts and the proper strength aluminum to make arrows and bolts for compound bows and crossbows or you are just looking to be injured. So if you are looking for a defensive weapon, stay away from compound unit, if you are looking for a meat procurement tool by all means, use the compound, Difference? recovery of the arrow/bolt while hunting is highly probable, but when using it for defense forget about recovering anything. it wi probably be carried off with the injured/deceased.

  14. Mesquite_Thorn says

    If you have access to a basic welder, you can make a crossbow that’ll punch through CMU block walls and car doors pretty easily. The humble automotive leaf spring, some 3/8″ steel cable with clamps, a piece of pipe or channel to mount to, a come along, a hammer pin trigger, and some 1/2″ steel bar stock or rebar for “bolts”… fletching can be as simple as a little paracord tied to one end of the bolt to create some drag. A rig like this is really more of a “fun to have” toy than anything, but if you had it set up on a road, it could definently stop a vehicle if you shot it into the engine bay. It does an immense amount of damage, and could poke a hole in an engine cylinder wall if it hits the right spot, rip a radiator open, mangle hoses, destroy electronics, and jam belts and chains. I have put a foot long piece of rebar through 2 3″ thick solid CMU type paving stones and had it stuck a few inches deep in the stump behind them with a junkyard crossbow constructed from stuff listed above. Not really practical, but interesting and potentially useful.

  15. Cade Peake says

    Gun shots can be heard from miles away. I have no doubt in a SHTF situation anyone in the area would hear the gun shots and follow you to see where your camp was so they could either avoid your area or ambush you in the night. I personally would try to hunt with a bow and save my ammo for self defense.

  16. Another good alternative, at least for hunting small game, is a slingshot.
    Heck, I’ve a couple slingshots that, with a whisker biscuit attachment, are the equivalent of a 50# bow and can shoot arrows.
    Compact. Light. And ammo….most any rock/ball bearing/etc will do…including arrows!

  17. Jann Hebrank says

    So you are saying that crossbow bolts wont penetrate armor?? They have armored their faces? Their legs their arms their necks their feet?? gosh that is good armor.

  18. Plus there are quivers that hold 21 arrows so just as much as some pistols and more than some pistols

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