How to Choose the Best Survival Bow
During World War II, several intact bows were found in the peat bogs of northern Europe that were more than 11,000 years old. Bows have been the go-to tool for survival throughout human history. A good bow can do the same for you as long as you know how to choose the best survival bow for your needs.
Compound bows are great tools for the hunter but they are complicated machines which can be hard to maintain and repair without professional help. They also rely on arrows of modern materials and will destroy wooden arrows in just a few shots. For a survival situation, a better choice is a bow not too unlike those used by our far-flung ancestors.
Though the concept is the same, most bows today rely on fiberglass which has most of the capabilities of wood but is lighter and stronger. All natural offerings do exist but the quality is often dubious and great care must be taken to ensure their longevity. For the purposes of this article, we will assume a traditional style bow in modern materials will make the best survival bow.
How to Determine Draw Length
The first consideration is draw length since the draw weight of a bow will depend greatly on how far you pull it back. Most people have a draw length between 24 and 28 inches. A proper archery shop can measure your draw length but if that is not an option, hold your arms out to your sides like a “T” without stretching and measure from fingertip to fingertip, dividing this by 2.5 should get you pretty close.
Determining Your Ideal Draw Weight
Once you know your draw length, determine what draw weight suits your ability and needs. Traditional bows are not like compound bows. A compound bow has cams or pulleys that make drawing smoother and take a lot of the pressure off holding at full draw. Holding a 60lb draw compound bow at full draw is nothing, holding a 60lb recurve at full draw is a beastly feat! Keep in mind your physical limitations.
Since this bow needs to be usable for hunting, the best guide to picking a bow powerful enough to suit your needs is to check with the local regulations on hunting weight. For anything smaller than a deer, most states are somewhere between 35 and 40-pound draw. Bear, Elk, and other larger game will commonly be 50.
This probably seems pretty weak, especially if you have read of the legendary English war bows pulling upwards of 100 pounds but those bows were never meant for hunting. The average Native American bow pulled somewhere between 30 and 40 pounds and they killed bison with those things!
Be mindful that traditional bows will be sold with measurements like 45lbs @ 28”. That indicates the sweet spot for performance. If you draw less than 28” the bow will not shoot at 45lbs. If you draw farther than 28” you may be putting additional stress on bow that will shorten the lifespan or possibly cause a failure that will be immediate and quite dramatic.
As a personal recommendation, the best survival bows will have a draw weight around 45lbs. This will be plenty strong enough to hunt with and should be easy enough to make shooting for practice a pleasurable experience with no torn rotator cuffs.
Choosing the Material and Accessories for Your Survival Bow
Material considerations for a bow are probably mostly aesthetic and down to personal preference. Almost all modern bows will have limbs made of fiberglass with wood laminations. The handle area may be made of aluminum, plastic, wood, or a combination of these materials. Consider your environment. Lighter colored materials and woods may not be the best choice for a hunting implement, deer have amazing eyesight.
Much like compound bows, many recurves have attachment points for sights and quivers. There is nothing wrong with either of these options if they suit your needs. Most likely the bow you get will have these as options whether you choose to use them or not.
Bow quivers are handy but do add weight to something held at full arm extension. I prefer a belt mounted quiver but recommend staying away from back mounted quivers. They look good in the movies but are impractical in real life. It takes a lot of movement and makes a lot of noise to get your arrow ready.
Sights can be very handy but learning to shoot instinctively should be a goal. In a survival situation take every advantage you can get but avoid crutches. Use sights when you can but develop the skill to shoot without them should you need to. Most people will be surprisingly accurate without sights, almost like it’s ingrained in our genetics.
A great number of bows on the market have some sort of takedown feature. Most of the time this will just be limbs that can be removed, breaking the bows down into thirds. Some have a sleeve that allows them to pull apart at the handle.
A recent innovation that caters specifically to the survival bow market features folding limbs that keep everything in a small, convenient package. These often make sense for a bug out bag but not as an everyday bow.
There are a ton of offerings from big companies like Bear and Martin all the way down to guys making custom bows in their garage. You can get kits to make your own or buy the greatest space age technology. Even the best survival bows are just simple mechanism but with skill can be used to great effect.
Find what suits your needs and abilities and get out and shoot! There are few things that capture the imagination more than sending an arrow down range and hearing the satisfying ‘chunk’ as it sticks in the target. It harkens back to when skill and hardiness kept us alive and the woodlands were wide and full of game. Few things in life are more rewarding!
Some of the Best Survival Bows on the Market
Bear Grizzly Recurve Bow
- Great to shoot.
- The feel and ergonomics match much more expensive bows.
- Cannot attach bow accessories.
- One piece construction makes it somewhat less desirable as a survival bow.
- Requires some level of skill to shoot well.
The Grizzly is compact, lightweight and fast. As a survival bow, this is a solid long-term solution for the bug out location or homestead. Unfortunately, it’s just too big for a bug out bag. If you want to use it in that capacity, you’re going to have to carry it or strap it to your pack. You can read our complete Bear Grizzly Recurve Bow Review here.
SAS Tactical Survival Bow
We were a little hard on the SAS Tactical Survival bow. It’s not a bad bow, especially when you consider that it’s designed for survival from the ground up. I may very well be your perfect survival bow. Take a look at our SAS Tactical Survival Bow Review and see if it meets your expectations.
Samick Sage Takedown Recurve Bow
- One of the best price/performance bows on the market!
- Good for everyday shooting and practice.
- Ability to purchase limbs of varying weights adds versatility.
- Slightly heavier and larger than similar bows.
- Not necessarily a great bow for experienced archers.
For the money, the Samick Sage absolutely performs with a smooth draw, decent arrow speed, and accuracy that will surprise even experienced archers. Check out our full Samick Sage Review for more information.
Toparchery Archery 56" Takedown Hunting Recurve Bow
The Toparchery Takedown Recurve Bow is the cheapest bow that we’ve reviewed. Being cheap doesn’t mean it’s garbage by any means. As a part-time shooter, it definitely has its place. You can read more of our thoughts in our Toparchery Takedown Recurve Bow Review.
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