Is a Bow an Acceptable SHTF Weapon?

There’s a lot of discussion on this blog about the ideal firearm for all sorts of scenarios – home defense, concealed carry, you name it. Obviously the classic SHTF (Shit Hits The Fan) situation has been covered in some detail, but today I’m going to do something slightly different and recommend a SHTF weapon that isn’t a firearm at all. Some of you are going to laugh, but I promise by the time I’m done you’ll be giving it some serious thought.

One of my weirder hobbies is archery. There’s a field at the top of a slope just out back, and I keep a straw target boss and stand stashed under an old poncho just inside the treeline. In summer, I like to head up there with a couple of bows, my arrow bag and maybe a six-pack of cold beer, retrieve the target from the trees and spend a few hours whinging arrows into it. I do it for fun, but I’ve become seriously impressed with the capabilities of the bow as a practical hunting and defensive weapon.

The Differences Between Bows and Firearms

A bow is quieter than any silenced firearm ever made, with the exception of the weird British de Lisle carbine and Welrod pistol, or those extremely peculiar KGB assassination pistols that have a piston inside the shell case to trap the gases and fire an AK47 bullet to confuse investigators. Using a bow isn’t silent, but it is very, very quiet, and while your target will hear the arrow coming, they won’t hear it in time to do them any good. Arrows also have immense penetrating power – more than any pistol bullet. Your ammunition can also be retrieved after shooting, checked for cracks and reused. If necessary, a few basic tools and some practice will let you make your own arrows; just stock up on heads, and learn the traditional techniques for making shafts, fletches and nocks. Don’t listen to target archers; a modern bow will shoot traditional wooden arrows perfectly well.


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Which Bow is Best?

Mostly, I shoot English longbow, and while that was a formidable weapon in the Middle Ages – and still isn’t something you want launching arrows at you now – it has a few drawbacks. For a start it’s long. If you’re used to the size of American longbows, add on about a foot. The chances of you being able to use it effectively indoors or in dense woods are about zero. Even an American longbow or a traditional recurve is a bit on the long side really. Longbows, especially English ones, also need a lot of skill to shoot accurately. On the plus side, they’re easy to maintain – an occasional rub with wax for the bowstave, and regular wax on the string, and that’s the lot. They also pack a real punch; I’ve shot broadhead arrows straight through Kevlar body armor and it barely slowed them down.

For SHTF use, though, the two leading choices are compounds and Asian-style horse bows. Horse bows are simpler to maintain – even easier than a longbow in fact, because these days the limbs are usually fiberglass and the only thing you have to maintain is the string. They also need a lot of practice to shoot accurately though. The number one choice has to be a compound; they do need occasional maintenance but they’re extremely accurate, very compact and hit really, really hard. A 60 pound compound bow with a good hunting sight will let you hit a man-sized target at well over a hundred yards after some practice, and at that range it has the power to bring down a caribou.

How to Get Started?

So what do you need if you’re planning on using a bow as one of your SHTF weapons? Firstly, you need a bow that you can comfortably draw. Secondly, you need arrows. Get as many arrows as you can, plus a way to carry them. Most compounds can be fitted with a bow-mounted quiver that holds five or six arrows, and I highly recommend that, but it’s not enough. Standard quivers, though, don’t hold enough either – usually about six – and if you do anything more athletic than a normal walking pace, all your arrows will soon fall out. Get, or make, a medieval-style arrow bag with a punched leather spacer disk and a string closure; that will carry two dozen arrows securely.

Next, lay in a good supply of spare arrowheads. I’d recommend two-blade broadheads; they’re strong, simple and brutally effective. They’ll bring down most game animals in seconds from blood loss, or slice through soft body armor like it wasn’t even there. They’re almost impossible to make unless you’re a skilled blacksmith though, so stock up now. Every other part of an arrow you can make yourself. Then get a couple of spools of string material – I recommend dacron or Dyneema – and a few sticks of string wax, and download some instructions on string making from the internet. Finally, if you opted for a compound, get a bow press. Now you have everything you need to keep your bow shooting for years.


With so many firearms available, choosing a bow might seem like an odd decision, but if it takes a while to scrub the brown off those fan blades, the ammunition is going to run out sooner or later. Once that happens, all those guns are just badly balanced clubs but your bow will be as efficient and deadly as ever. In the meantime, a compound outranges any pistol and within a couple of hundred yards has the lethality of a rifle. It’s quiet, reliable and doesn’t consume its ammo. When you need a weapon you can always trust to bring in dinner, a good bow is hard to beat.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.


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