The Debates About Archery as a Prepper Skill


When I was 4 or 5 years old my dad gave me a plastic bow and arrow set. It was one of those cheap, $5 toy bows with the plastic arrows and suction cup tips. From the moment I let one of those toy arrows fly I was hooked. From then on archery was a permanent part of my life. Today we’re going to tackle some of the commonly held misconceptions about archery and its use in disaster scenarios and several of the debates going around in the preparedness community about archery and its effectiveness as a disaster skill.


Recurve vs. Compound


One of the most debated subjects about archery (as it pertains to prepping) is between compound bows and recurve or traditional bows. For those unaware of what these terms mean, check out this article from Wikipedia. The main debate here is that many people believe that a compound bow doesn’t have a place in a disaster scenario because it has a lot of complex moving parts and requires routine maintenance, which may not be available after disaster strikes. On the other side of the debate, many preppers feel that a recurve bow simply doesn’t have the power to be used in a defensive situation, doesn’t have the range of a compound bow, and takes significantly more practice to become accurate.


Concerns about compound bows


Compound bows do require significantly more maintenance than a recurve will. The pulley system of a compound bow is a fine tuned machine that withstands constant pressure and force due to the high draw weight of most compound bows. That being said, we are preppers. Our goals are to remove ourselves from systems of support. If you’re relying on an archery technician to maintain your bow, then you’re relying on yet another system of support. This is fine when you’re not dealing with a disaster scenario, but there may come a day when you can’t go down to the local archery shop and have your bow tuned up or restrung. There’s no reason why we can’t learn how to perform these maintenance tasks ourselves and stockpile all the tools and materials we need to keep our bows running perfectly for years.


Concerns about recurve bows


Recurve bows do take significantly longer to learn to be accurate. There’s no sighting system like on a compound, and the shooter has to rely more on instinctual shooting and a lot of habitual practice to really become proficient with them. However, these bows are less inexpensive to shoot, maintain and with a few tools and the right wood you can even make a great recurve bow yourself. Yes, recurve bows do have a lighter draw weight than most compound bows and are a little more of a hassle when hunting from a tree stand, but they are still more than capable of taking down large game animals and hunting with a recurve is a great way to learn game stalking skills and hunting from ground level.


In the end, I personally feel this debate is a moot point. I mean think of it this way, is there ONE firearm that will perform ALL the functions that firearms are supposed to perform? No. There are rifles, handguns, shotguns, carbines… it’s simply picking the right tool for the job. Bows are the same way. If I’m doing small game hunting on foot then I’m going to want a recurve bow that I can shoot instinctively and quickly. If I’m looking to get up in a tree stand and put some meat in the freezer, I’m going to want my compound.


Can bows be used as defensive tools?


One of the more lively debates that I’ve seen recently is that archery isn’t a viable skill to learn because they are ineffective defensive tools. This is ridiculous. Yes, firearms have taken the place of the bow and arrow in modern defensive tools because they are much more efficient.  However, apparently some people forget that the bow and arrow was THE ranged weapon of choice for thousands of years. It does a pretty good job of putting holes in things, just a like a firearm does. Firearms run on ammunition that is finite, have more movable parts than bows do and can easily jam. Don’t get me wrong, I love my guns, but if I’m trying to conserve ammunition, or even worse, I’ve ran out of ammunition; a bow is the next best thing. There are also several places all around the world where you simply can’t have a firearm. If I were in an area like this, a bow would be my ranged weapon of choice.


Bows are better than guns because you can make a bow, a string and arrows


This one gets thrown around a lot in these debates. I’ve even seen many a Walking Dead fans claiming that a crossbow is actually the best weapon because “It’s just like a gun and you can make your own arrows really easy.” OK, let’s try to put this in perspective. Yes, you absolutely can make your own arrows for a bow and even a crossbow if you have the right materials and tools to do so. However, throwing some feathers on a stick and calling it an arrow isn’t going to cut it. Arrows are just as precise as bullets. They both require specific measurements, and have to be made a certain way in order to be used safely. Hundreds of years ago, apprentices would train for years before they could make arrows that were judged worthy enough to fire. Before buying that takedown bow and assuming you’ll be able to fashion arrows for it when the time comes, you may want to do a little research first because it’s not nearly as easy as you might think.


Bows are better than guns / guns are better than bows


Most debates about archery vs. firearms really just boil down to people believing that one is better than the other. The truth is that a gun can do things a bow cant and a bow can do things a gun cant. I mean, is a hammer better than a screwdriver? Is a mouse better than a keyboard? My suggestion would be to not limit yourself to a bow (whether it’s a recurve or a compound) or a gun, get the best of both worlds, so that you’ll have the right tool for the job when you need it the most.



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  1. Cee

    I think the more skills you have with weapons the better- this was very interesting. And I liked the way you described the differances. Food for thought. As I have gotten older I can’t draw like I use to but I could use a compound so that is worth looking into. I think I would like to have back-up. Of course that means learning how to with a compound but that shouldn’t be hard… and since I’m on the short and small side I need a little extra protection.
    I have also had to go to lighter and smaller guns as well so it would be more difficult for me now to protect myself. This getting older thing isn’t getting any easier…lol- thank goodness we can still learn from articles like these! So much valuable info here!

  2. James

    Remember, in a SHTF scenario, you dont want to be making a whole lot of noise to draw people to your position. If you shoot your gun once, your fine, shoot again and you just gave away your position. My house is in the mountains, when people shoot miles away it echos all around. Bows are silent and deadly. Fire as much as you want no one is going to hear it.

  3. Mitch Graves

    I’ll chime in here because it’s a topic I love.
    I started shooting a bow in 1969. I have owned crossbows, long bows, recurves, and compounds. I was for some time an archery dealer. I was also a Hunter Safety Instructor and taught many to shoot bows.
    Guns will ALWAYS be my 1st choice in ant serious situation unless real stealth is needed.
    Even then I'd choose a silenced .22 with subsonic ammo if I had the option.

    Some things you should know about the reality of all things bow related.
    Crossbows are for the disabled..period. A person who picked up their 1st bow today could shoot 5 times before the healthy crossbow guy could get off his 2nd shot. An expert with a bow could double that.
    Crossbows are NOT any more accurate than any other bow if the arrows are correct.
    Arrows need to be the right length, spine strength, arrowhead weight to perform as they should.
    There is a reason indians got within a few feet to kill with a bow…they had to to hit anything. The idea that you can whip up a batch of arrows when you need to is hysterical.

    Even today the average shot on a deer in IL with a bow is 12 yards. Most responsible hunters won’t even try past 30 yds.
    A twig the size of a pencil lead can easily deflect any arrow.
    If you are getting a bow for survival you should make certain it is long enough you do not need to use a release. Mechanical releases violate the KISS principle. They are easy to lose, they freeze, break, make noise, and make getting a 2nd shot MUCH slower and less likely.
    If you want fast 2nd shots also consider shooting 4 fletch arrows as I do. You never have to take your eyes off the target to knock up a 2nd arrow. There is no wrong way with 4 fletch and the arrows a re a bit more stable and compensate for shooting errors a bit more.
    I also use feathers rather than vanes for the same reason.

    A compound is easier to learn to shoot well and you can get well built ones that will last decades with no repairs. Remember KISS, you don’t need bells and whistles. You MUST got a long axle to axle length or you’ll have to use the release. You lose the release you might as well pitch the bow.
    A recurve is a bit harder but still no problem. And YES you can put sights on most of them.
    But if you put in the time you”ll be able to become an instinct shooter and then your are going to be able to hit anything you want and fast. If you want to go this route get a good take down recurve for ease of concealment and carry.
    Long bows are the toughest to master but can be deadly at very long ranges. To get as good as the English longbowmen you need to shoot for hours a day.

    Shot placement is everything with a bow. The animal does not die of shock or go straight down unless it is the rare spine shot from above.
    Shoot for the lungs NOT the heart as the deer acts like it’s been shot out a a cannon with a heart shot.
    The best is a femoral artery shot ***IF*** you are that good wit the bow. Generally the deer will skip a few steps thinking a branch hit him, then start feeding again and fall over dead 20 seconds later. Never ever pursue a deer who was able to run out of your sight for at least 30 minutes. Let them lay down and bleed out or you might track them till dawn. They are almost assuredly going to die, but if you chase them it might be 5 miles away.

    Use a combination plunger, flipper rest. Use a stabilizer.
    Pick any compound for quietness *NOT* speed!
    No bow will ever shoot faster then a deer can “jump the string”.
    Not even close.
    Deer jump when they hear the bow fire. Quiet bow means venison in the freezer. Fast loud bow means it’s less likely and you will never ever get as 2nd shot if you blow the 1st, or it hits a twig. I have gotten numerous deer with a 2nd shot because I go to great lengths to silence my bows. (SEE PIX – http://www.bowhuntillinois.net/pix.htm)

    I don’t think I said enough to dissuade ppl from crossbows.
    Crossbows are like karate @ TKD. Both look cool and fool the ignorant as to their actual usefulness and deadliness…well crossbows are actually deadly.
    Only those who have no idea what real fights are like believe karate/TKD is of value.
    Only those who have never seen someone good with a bow think a crossbow has advantages.
    It has NOT A SINGLE ADVANTAGE..NONE…zip…unless it’s use as a club or a boat anchor.
    Shooting a bottom of the line Alpine bow, I have witnesses to my putting 3 broadheads into a tennis ball at 60yds. If I shot every 2 or 3 days I could get that past 80 yds .
    Have someone with a $600 crossbow try that. Then see how fast they can do it. And notice the massive noise! Those are DISadvantages. Get one if you are infirm or save your money.

    I could share more but it’s late!

    1. John M.

      Thinking of taking your advice for a take-down bow .. and would like to ‘quiet’ it as you suggest… What type of modifications do you make to a re-curve bow to quiet it ?

      Thanks, – John M.

      1. Ready4ItAll

        Other than putting some string whiskers on a recurve there’s not a whole lot you can do as far as I know.

  4. Leftypond

    I am also an archery enthusiast and I think one of the best skills a prepper should master is the skill of archery. It makes you a better gun shooter. Nothing helps a hiding survivor stalk better than having a bow in hand. When in a combat situation most of the aiming is done instinctively, just like archery. There are many more skill-sets that archery improves. Yes a gun has tons of advantages, but the skills required to master a bow are more valuable than the weapon in hand.

    I wrote all about different weapon advantages and disadvantages in my survival book:

  5. Sapper

    The idea that a traditional bow takes more skill and practice than a compound bow is absurd. I have had a compound bow for decades and I learned how to shoot on recurves. I now own both and have fun with both. For SHTF situation the takedown recurve is something that I just bought. I love the idea of a 2lb bow that I can take apart and roll up in my sleep system and strap to my pack. Compound bow is much heavier and frankly the modern compound bows are way heavier than my 1980’s Bear. Compound bow is 65lb pull drops back to 20 and the recurve is 55lb max which of course means that actual kinetic energy is probably 45 or 50 lbs. Lastly, the comment that arrows are difficult to make and it took years of apprentice work to learn is complete crap. I’ve made my own arrows. They don’t have to be perfect to be usable. To make perfect arrows then yes the statement is true. To make one that I can use to kill a deer at 30 yards isn’t difficult at all. Just needs to be made of strong wood and relatively straight.

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