Guest Post – Archery Vs Firearms – What’s The Best SHTF Weapon?
As a survivalist, you’re always loyal to your weapon. Regardless of your choice of weapon – whether it’s a gun or bow – you always believe that you’ve got the most efficient weapon to handle any SHTF situation that rolls before you.
But which one comes on top? A gun or a bow (best compound bow)?
None is really better than other; each can kill efficiently. However, each of them has its strengths and weaknesses, and this can guide you into picking the right weapon that serves your short-term or long-term survival needs.
In this post, we’ll take a closer look at each weapon and their pros and cons to help you make a wiser decision on the right weapon for you.
Let’s do this:
Archery for SHTF Weapon
Now the survival bows have been there for centuries. The modern day bow, however, has undergone some transformations to make it even more efficient. Just like the guns, you’ll find bows of different sizes and shapes – depending on your needs.
An ideal survival bow can just be anything – from a simple twig and paracord to the high-end takedown bows with 80lbs plus draw in the bug out bag.
Before you can become a pro at using your bow, you’ll need to take some archery lessons. Otherwise, you’ll always fail whenever you try to shoot your target.
Proper training, practice and use of bow add-ons that enhance accuracy – such as the single pin bow sight – you’ll become a pro archer in no time!
– Bows are ideal weapons for long-term survivalists, given that even if you run out of ammo, you’ll still be ok. Even if a deer runs with your last arrow on its leg, you can still make new arrows from the surrounding materials – in either urban or wild environment – and get back to hunting.
– Another great attribute of the arrows is that they operate silently (more so when you use the string silencer correctly). This helps keep your location a secret and make it difficult for your enemy to track you.
– If your enemy is smart, he can easily track your location by using the direction they saw the arrow coming from. Luckily, you can take advantage of the slow speed of the arrow compared to the bullet to change your spot long before the arrow you fired hits the target.
– In case you want to set your target on fire, the bow is the easiest way to do so. By simply firing a flaming arrow, you can set your target on fire right from your spot.
– It’s possible to make a functional bow out of any stuff you find in the urban environment or woods. Though such a bow might not be as accurate as the commercial ones, it will still work in a SHTF scenario.
– For you to start using your bow and arrow appropriately and accurately, you’ll need to take some training which is not easy. All the professional archers you see took years to master archery skills. If you just grabbed your arrow for the first time, it will not work well on you without the basic archery skills.
– Unlike the rifle shots, bow shots ought to be done from a relatively closer range. This means you’ve to be as much careful as possible as you try to get closer without alerting your target of your presence. Most survival bows require you to stand around 30-50 yards from the target.
– Arrows usually occupy a lot of space – a typical quiver accommodates 6-10 arrows – and given that each bolt weighs around 20grams, it might be a bit cumbersome compared to your rifle.
Firearm for SHTF Weapon
A gun is probably the most powerful weapon. It’s capable of hitting a target 600 plus yards away accurately and effortlessly. The ammo can drop your target on the spot, taking away the need to track down the animal.
However, a firearm has one some top con that makes it an excellent choice for short-term survival situations only. And one of these cons is that they run out of ammo (and you can’t reuse the ammo), leaving you defenseless…
– The firearms ability to take down your target on the spot with less effort is incredible! This is something you’ll not be able to experience with your bow as you’ll still have to track down the target after successfully shooting it.
– Unlike the bows, rifles are incredibly easy to pick up and even learn how to stop a target in its tracks. You don’t need to attend anyone’s class to learn how to use your rifle; just a few basics and you’re ready to go.
– With firearms, you’ll enjoy a wider range that with the bow. Of course, this will depend on the type of gun you use, type of metal used to make the bullet, and the weight of the ammo powder grain. Nevertheless, you’ll still be able to enjoy a wider range than a bow – even with the simple .22LR round.
– Ammo shortages are the main drawback when it comes to the use of firearms. You ought to make every shot round count as you can’t reuse the ammo once it’s fired. This will not do well in your survival situation.
– Guns are pretty LOUD! This can present you with many challenges in a SHTF scenario, especially when you want to make your stand a secret.
– Guns require regular maintenance. If you fail to clean your weapon, you won’t be able to shoot with it in the long term. Rounds might get jammed mid-barrel, or they might blow apart your gun assembly. Such cases will damage your survival weapon beyond repair.
Final Verdict – Which Weapon Should You Pick?
For a long time now, the rifle has been regarded as the best SHTF weapon. However, bows are also viable SHTF weapons. The type of weapon you choose to go with really depends on the SHTF situation you’re in. For example, it would be wiser to use your bow for hunting for food as well as home defense.
Even when you’re using your gun, you would also want to have bow by your side to act as a backup weapon, just in case you run out of ammo.
So, start practicing archery skills since you never know the day you’ll desperately need to use a bow in a survival situation.
My simplest and shortest answer to this question would be that gun is better weapon than a bow when SHTF. My reasons are numerous, but most important is simply because gun’s are easily available to me, and a lot of ammunition too, and spare parts, and knowledge about it, more firepower etc etc. So simply it makes sense to me. Remembering I have „been there done that“, I am not discussing this in an academic way, I am reaching into my personal experiences…
But it is not the end of the story of course. A bow as a secondary weapon, or in some specific situations as a weapon of first choice might make sense too (for example matter of silence, matter of making point, psychological impact of finding man with arrow in chest… or similar)
So yes, it makes perfect sense to say „Yes. I want to know everything about bow hunting (not only animals)“ it makes much more sense then to say “ I have a gun, I do not want to know anything about bow making or bow hunting because I have gun“
Guns are much better weapon for SHTF, but it make sense to know and have a bow for sure. Why would we not think here in the in terms of“ two is one, and one is none“?
I have some doubts about making good and usable (urban SHTF settings ) bow, but again lot of people have doubts for example about usability (and value) of crowbar type tool (or weapon) in urban SHTF, because lack of real life experience, so it my be my case too.
Actually why we would not have and know everything about gun, bow, knife and spear too for example. It is not about „what is best“, it is about more options.
I definitely appreciate any good (and real life experience) data and review about any tool and weapon usable for SHTF.
What is most important here is that as a survivalist, and some experience in that survivalism, my loyalty to the weapon goes only to the extent how good it serves me, it needs to be loyal to ME, it needs to get the job done.
I do not have any kind of attachment to that weapon other than to perfectly know how to use it and to make it happen (to finish that „job“ ), if I find better weapon I will start to use that better weapon, if in particular situation some other weapon will do better job( knife? Piece of rock? Sling?) I will use it without thoughts and concerns about loyalty and attachment to previous weapon.
Firearm is best weapon for SHTF, most commonly used, with best results, but yes, if there is situation for usage of other kind of weapon then use it (and know how) without thinking about loyalty and attachments.
We are talking here about tools to get job done, nothing more. Thanks Jennifer for a great article to provoke some thoughts and discussion. I look forward to reading the comments on your article…
Jennifer is the founder of BuckWithBow, a great blog that focuses on helping you learn how to hunt deer with a bow. As an experienced bow hunter, she will guide you through the Do’s and Don’ts of the bowhunting world and transform you into a better hunter. Whether you are an experienced bow hunter or an absolute beginner, you will find BuckWithBow a gem!
I hunt with rifles..own a compound bow for back up. For self defense..the best weapon is one that does not look like a weapon. If you get creative..these can be worn, hidden..camoflaged…eg: spears in the garden..that appear to be tomato stakes. Flight is best..fight is the last resort..losing is not an option.
Guns you can prep with a reloading kit, and you can melt led to make new bullets and I have personally reused brass 6+times before the brass started to crack and cant be used anymore. 1,000,000 primers takes up almost no space, and technically gunpowder can be made at home.
But if you go a bit more old school to a flintlock, now you are far FAR more sustainable. and a .80 caliber ball out of a rifled flintlock is more deadly than any AR15 or AK47.
But there is one weapon not mentioned that is a combination of the gun and bow that destroys both for effectiveness…..
The Crossbow. Trivial to shoot, more deadly than a gun, nearly silent when fired.
Well with muzzleloader you can time and again make your powder and remelt the ball from the other side of the hide.
My primary weapon is a shotgun, as it’s very affordable to shoot, acquire and reload for in brazil where firearms are very very restricted.
I like bows and slingshots too, you can break an opponent head if you have nothing else to defend.
Also machetes and billhooks are deadly and a staple here, you can g to the city with a machete tied to your belt if you use a country hat (still can’t get into banks and law courts). ..
My opinion firearm for defense combat, bows and the likes for hunting. Either can do the other one’s role if needed, but this is my opinion only.
If you are considering DIY archery as a way to hunt / defend post SHTF, consider “The Bowyer’s Bible” [Multiple authors, and this is a GOOD thing here] (there’s 4 volumes last I knew, get at least the first) for SOLID information on wood, and design. If you are Urban, consider books by Nicholas Tomihama for using PVC pipe for bows!
When considering DIY archery, finding good information on making Arrows is also important. with wood, it is more than possible to have that wonderful 60lb bow you created DESTROY a poorly made arrow on release, causing serious injury, and possible bow failure as well.
I would be interested in knowing if anyone has a good resource for DIY Bolts for crossbows, as there are several good plans on the web for making the crossbow, but Bolt information seems limited.
In SHTF situations, there must be purpose behind everything we do. Effort becomes the most precious commodity. Prep is done to diminish effort by providing some convenience. Having the flexibility to choose the tool/method for the purpose at hand is why we prep and learn. Ultimately, having a gun, specifically a repeater with relatively long range and incapacitating reliability and plenty of ammo would be of the highest desire. One shot kills on game and foe = higher probability of survival, all other things being equal. I’ve taught many beginners to reliably put rounds on target at 10 to 300+ yards in a day using a modern high power rifle that cost about as much as a high quality compound bow and a dozen arrows. Even with the best equipment, a beginner is not going to be able to reliably place arrows at 10 to 100 yards in a day. Lots of practice is mandatory with bow and arrow, less so with a decent rifle. Depending on where you find yourself in a SHTF situation, ammo could be an issue. Proper planning can alleviate much of the concern regarding supply/resupply.
My arsenal includes an array of weapons, including rifles well capable of 1,000+ yard lethality, shotguns, pistols, muzzleloaders, compound, recurve and long bows. The ones I practice with the most are the recurve and long bows, my 22 lr rifles (200 yard range max) and my long range competition rifles. Taking a page from history, if I had to go with one firearm (gun or bow) for an extended duration, I would prefer my flintlock 54 cal muzzleloader. It will outrange my bows, can be used effectively for fowling, and can handle just about any North American game I am likely to encounter. Lewis and Clark managed with them for the better part of two years in a mostly primitive and hostile environment. If I am judicious about it I can retrieve my ammo like they did and recast the rounds over an open fire. While it would be a bit of a challenge, it is possible to manufacture blackpowder in primitive setting. It is also quite possible to manufacture a bow and arrows using primitive methods, ergo I could use the flintlock while constructing a suitable archery set, thereby acquiring the best of both worlds. But the key and most important qualification to all of this is first acquiring the skill set before SHTF to make it all work. My modern firearm arsenal and complement of ammo can get me through the initial onslaught of defense and acquisition until civilization normalizes at some more primitive level, assuming things go bad for an extended period and I do my part.
As for game harvesting and home defense, traps would be far more effective than any form of hunting a normal person could undertake. A minefield is a form of trap, too.
I would have no problem using any weapon in my arsenal to dispatch game or opponent. But the ones I would reach for first are those that are the most lethal at the greatest range at the highest rate I can manage. My archery would be considered only for much more specialized needs. However, for all around SHTF situations, I would probably go with my 12 gauge pump with 20″ barrel and a variety of ammo (birdshot, buckshot, slugs, flares, concussion, AP sabot) as the best, most versatile firearm if I had to choose just one.
Add to all the above: slingshot, blowgun, and air gun. Explosives, booby traps to kill or warn. That would include electricity, gas or whatever. These last ones mostly for defense and to even the odds.
Not since the Dukes of Hazzard has anyone seriously considered a bow superior to any firearm in self defense. Jennifer looks pretty good carrying that bow and thats a good thing because she may have to resort to the oldest profession if she plans on surviving when SHTF. I’m really not sure how much experience she has even with bows. To state that you can relocate your position “long before the arrow you fired hits the target”. Really???? Most bows fire at 300 feet per second or more. That gives you less than one second to “change your spot”.
Making your own arrows and arrow heads, flaming arrows and new bows made of “stuff” you find in urban areas? Sounds great!!!
For the next episode of a Saturday morning cartoon.
I hunt with a crossbow, a shotgun, and a this year also a rifle. I prefer the bow, but I’ve been most successful with the shotgun. I see no reason not to train with all of them. Where I live, if the SHTF, I would hunt with the crossbow, just because it is quiet and would not give away my position, or where my deer is…
I like the idea of bows and arrows. Remember, many wars were fought with the long bow and then the cross bow before gunpowder came into use….and it was a long time before guns became accurate at ranges over 100 yards……
The problem with archery…it takes practice …practice…practice……even with a crossbow.
I think its a good idea to have archery sets and practice…NOW…..Guns may be confiscated when SHTF. I used to think that gun owners who were against gun permits were paranoid….until a list of all registered gun owners in one city was made public by anti gunners….allowing thieves to come to your house when you are gone and take your guns.
I don’t see a similar problem with bows and arrows.
You can put guns and ammo in caches …bury them in remote areas and also do the same with bows and arrows.
Its best to have choices when SHTF…….The term Prepper…is appropriate……Prepare now for the collapse which is coming..
Also forget all the movies where you see someone shot with an arrow and they drop dead. Arrows kill by hemorrhaging. Unless you are skilled or lucky enough to sever the spinal cords……a man or animal shot with an arrow dies from bleeding out. Most archery books will tell you that even a deer……shot through the lungs and heart with an arrow…..can run 100 yards on adrenaline alone. Tracking the blood trail to find the prey is part of bow hunting…so it would be shooting people.
The most obvious “Real Life” scenario I can think of is the Native American: They were certainly experts at survival with a bow and arrow, yet they invariably transitioned to firearms at every opportunity. Always learn from History.
Not that the bow has no value of course.
For a Survival back-up, I’d seriously consider a crossbow – easy to master (that’s why the Pope cursed them, a peasant with 5 minutes training could kill a Knight with a lifetime of training), bolts are much easier to make since they are shorter and can be thicker, and can even be modified to shoot “bullets” (molded or cast clay or lead pellets, river stones, etc) for birds/rabbits/squirrels etc., as was fairly common in Medieval Europe.
Think about special operation forces of the Unites States and Russia.
In movies, sometimes – VERY rarely – they use bows (Rambo, part III; one episode of The Unit; etc.).
In real life, at least in 99.999% of fights, they ALL use firearms.
During and after SHTF, you can hunt with a firearm, but you cannot fight with a bow (realistically, I mean).
I do not have the privilege to know Selco personally, and I have never spoke to him, but I am pretty sure that while he was surviving in a city under siege, hunting was never – or almost never – his concern, while self-defense always was.
I am sorry, but this article sounds like an “advice” to buy gold as preparation for SHTF, and people follow that advice, even though they do not have nearly enough beans, bullets and bandaids.
Thanks dg! I agree with movies culture and “learning” from the movies mistake.
I like to hear and read different opinions, sometimes completely opposite to mine. It is same case with this article.I clearly think that gun is for me weapon of first choice for SHTF, it is superior, it make sense for me, but I still think there is value in it (in article).
I never know when bow my become my only weapon, not by choice but by necessity.
We can not be sure in anything.
And this whole discussion that we have here about article is valuable and part of the learning process, because we share opinions.
Knowing how to use, or even make a bow, could be very useful once you run out of ammo, or in specific instances where silence is paramount. It does take a certain amount of fitness with good use of both arms to use a bow, not to mention getting close to your target without making noise.
Proper planning can do a lot to alleviate running out of ammo, and a Samuel Colt made men equal. Being in good shape is wonderful, but many are old, have injuries, or illness that aren’t going away. Having a warrior mindset, is probably more important than choice of weapon, but I do not underestimate having lots, and lots of ammo, and professional training in defensive use of guns.
I spend a lot of time on firearms, rifles, shotguns, pistols. I am at the range a lot. I shoot 22 long rifle to 300 meters at a 4″ steel target with bulk ammo.
A friend of mine just sent me throwing knives and throwing hatches, and I thought what the….? In the past he has sent me Blow darts, and other off the wall stuff for killing flies in the house, but all the stuff he sends will improve 1 skill or another, and all of the things he sends broaden my abilities.
If SHTF will I use those abilities? I have no Idea. But before he sent those knives and hatchets, and before I read this article, I would never would have even thought about a Bow for SHTF weapon.
Now I need to learn throwing knives, throwing hatchets, and the bow.
Should be fun!
For the record I have shot bow in the past, when I was a kid. I won’t go full tilt, but I’ll probably get a really nice 3 to 4 year old hunting bow.
Every weapon has some value or it would have never been duplicated since the inventor would have died first. The AtlAtl was used to great effect too, and is able to propel larger/heavier darts than the bow or crossbow to take larger animals. The Mace was frequently referred to as “The Queen of Weapons” as it was nearly indestructible while destroying almost anything it was employed against (also, it is the oldest known deliberately manufactured weapon – granite balls with holes drilled through and wooden handles driven into them). Sai and three-section staff and South American Bolos are deadly effective too, but what is practical? I throw knife/axe/spear competitively, have practiced archery for decades, trained in various martial arts and their weapons since I was 12, and have trained and fought over 10 years of Medieval combat and tournaments (SCA). Everything has a niche within which it excells so learn and learn about everything you can – but especially the practical limitations of each.
If you’re really worried that TS will HTF for longer than your ammo supplies can last, consider Cap-and-Ball firearms. They work just like their cartridge cousins, can be loaded down to conserve powder, all the components – percussion caps, bulk powder, lead balls (cast your own?) are cheap and easy to acquire without a paper trail. Buy and pre-load spare cylinders to “Speed-load” the revolver. Black powder shotgun can be loaded with rocks, and can even launch harpoons if you know how to load it. Modern C&B rifles can be scoped for long-range accuracy.
Whatever you choose, make sure you understand it if you’re planning to depend on it with your lives
Personally I can’t hit the ground with a bow&arrow. That’s just me I know some guy’s that are really good. As far as “Black Powder” guns? Yeah great I have a replica 1860 colt that I can hit a poker card at 35 yards with. Slow as hell to reload.
I have both an AR and an AK, I like them both. I’ve never shot an SKS, but I’d guess that to be a good weapon as well. In an urban environment I’d go with the AK 762×39. Just remember anything that holds 30+ rounds needs inexpensive ammo.
I’ve made my own black powder before and it’s not hard. Making .50 cal lead balls is easy too.
I have extensively Bowhunter for the past 24 years, mainly for whitetailed deer, but also turkeys. I have killed far more deer with the bow, than the rifle. But that is mainly a function of the longer season to hunt in Wisconsin, which is about 3 months, vs a 9 day gun deer hunt. It is way easier to kill game with the gun than the bow. I love bowhuning for the challenge of it, and hunting in milder weather. In SHTF hunting, one would ignore game laws and hunt at night if one was really hard up for food. As a weapon the bow leaves much to be desired. Slow to reload, limited range, and obstacle limitations come readily to mind.
Selco is entirely correct, firearms are your first and best option for self defense. If one had to use the bow ( or any other improvised weapon ) then out of necessity you would. but if I had a van full of gang bangers cruising up my road to loot and pillage my neighboorhood I would much rather grab my AK or AR than any bow, crossbow, or spear.
I have to throw in with those who prefer firearms for defense–friends that hunt with bows tell me that beyond 40 yds accuracy is a crapshoot. The slimmest foliage can deflect the arrow, and windage–inside the 40 yds–is always a concern. Black powder weapons–especially flintlocks work GREAT in warm, dry, still weather–in snow, rain, wind, not so much. Atmospheric humidity can also kill your powder. Bows are GREAT for silent hunting, but so are traps, and you don’t have to babysit them, nor do you have to stalk anything with them. In warmer weather/climates small game may be better than deer–you can’t eat a whole deer fast enough to keep it from rotting–the smell from the blood and/or gutpile from a large animal may draw other non-human predators while the hunter is busy field dressing the game. The blonde cutie–Jennifer–would do well to carry a firearm regardless of what she hunts with. In a shtf scenario, there won’t be any rangers or game wardens to save a bowhunter who’s attacked by a mountain lion, bear, or wolf while she works over her kill.
Neither. Though I have both, in a pinch if I had to take a minimalist approach, I would choose a knife. Probably a K-bar. It needs no ammo, is easily concealable, can be used to make other weapons, makes no noise when used to kill, has minimum maintenance, and is light weight and relatively inexpensive, It can be used even with poor eyesight and in all kinds of weather. It can take more abuse than a rifle or bow. IF I could take only one weapon, to the exclusion of the others, I would take the knife. It can be used for so many things that I would not want to be without it.
i have been thinking about the ultimate survival gun…some more…..I always wanted a colt 45 1911 pistol…..WHY?…..well besides it being a wonderful design, proven reliable since 1911, the caliber is a man stopper. I don’t trust the 9mm….
The 1911 can be fitted out with a barrel chambered for different calibers. All you need to do is to change the barrel and the recoil spring and the magazine. It would be possible to have one frame and by changing the barrels the recoil spring and the magazine….u could use the 9mm cartridge. I don’t remember if you could also change the barrel and spring and magazine and shoot 22LR…..I think the extractor might need to be changed also….I don’t know.
I was always going to get this rig and get a “6-pack” of magazines and be ready for SHTF.
Today, I don’t have the funds for a cheap 22 handgun, let alone the above…..My other idea is two cheap 12 gauge break open shotguns. With cartridge adapters ( for about 45-50 bucks)…..you could fire rifle and pistol cartridges in the gun. Cut the barrels down to the legal limit and mount cheap sights on them. ITs not accurate…but for SHTF…might do…Two barrels are better than one so two single shot break open guns. Double barrels are more expensive…..but the Rossi coach double barrel can usually be found for around $200.I think a break open in 12 gauge and maybe 45…38 special….9mm..308….22LR..410 gauge..5.56mm….adaptors might get u by…just some more ideas….
Well Chuck Benhoff went there and nice reply dg! I find more value in these replies than the original article itself. From that, Jennifer treats the rifle a bit too “incredibly easy” for my taste. As a longtime firearms instructor, there is so much more with arms, and she somewhat contradicts her prior paragraph by things I call gun and ammo choices along with ballistics, which go even deeper. And, as Selco said, “to perfectly know how to use it”, implies a LOT more work with whatever weapon you choose! So I’m saying whatever you choose, work with it! Anthony Barbuto, please don’t romanticize or believe everything you read! Smartly choose your handgun/firearm by experiencing its use firsthand. Reading is important for ideas, but that’s it, because so many written ideas just don’t work in real life, like shooting an arrow and moving to a safer location before it strikes its target. I like Robert’s knife points-Good stuff! I’m not a bow or crossbow guy, but would go crossbow over bow. Aside from that, I stick with the very few guns I know to keep things as simple as possible. Firearms basics are critical and overlooked due to marketing and sexy stuff that people buy, versus it’s actual practicality. I have made basic firearms YouTube videos to give an idea of what I teach.
It seems to me that in regards to weapons for defense against humans, the most critical factor in the equation would be the types and quantities of weapons [mechanical and human] that are in opposition. I just acquired a new appreciation of the potential of U.S. military equipment for foot soldiers and the possible skill sets of some of the personnel. I don’t believe that there is a personal weapon in existence that could even the playing field between myself and one decently equipped, squared away Marine.
For long, long term survival [oh, boy, hear the optimism or, perhaps the arrogance built into that notion] to my unenlightened brain, crossbows always seemed like a reasonable option for the non-archer.
The vast array of possible scenarios for The Big Collapse and the infinite variety of personal situations make the exercises of discussing the possible best SHTF weapon valuable while the conclusive answer is impossible and meaningless.
or so it seems to…
This is the first time in a LONG time at SHTF School blog that I’d say an article was just garbage and a waste of time. Can we stick to actual experience instead of someone who is spouting hypotheticals after having watched the Hunger Games too many times? Speaking as a bow and rifle hunter, the idiots who think a bow is a viable option compared to using a gun deserve what comes to them. The idea that arrows are not just as precious and consumable as bullets is hilarious–they are more so, as they are more expensive making it harder to lay in a stock of them, they are at risk of breaking with each shot, and making your own that actually fly true is something requiring enormous amounts of practice.
It’s just stupid, when you can get a reliable semiauto rifle for $500-600 and 2000 rounds of ammo for another $600. Ta-da, you’re now likely to die for other reasons before you run out of ammo.
I appreciate your comment, and especially you being direct (frank?). Yes, I still have intention to keep this blog very much about mine actual experiences, just sometimes I like to bring other opinions for the discussion.
Ladies and Gentlemen, please consider the following. In the right hands, with the right ammo, and with the right shot placement, a suppressed .22 rifle is a very practical weapon. Does it have have the range, power, or accuracy of a 5.56 or 7.62? It does not. However, if I remember reading some of Selco’s former posts, he emphasized “Avoiding Trouble.” If I’m faced with an absolutely unavoidable situation (Gunfight), I’d rather have an AR rifle than a bow. If Selco speaks of things he has experienced, I’m very inclined to pay attention.
Frankly the real issue is what YOU can do! A good archer with good equipment can execute rapid accurate fire to a range of up to 50 meters. Most weekend archers with the special equipment used today (red dot sights, quick release triggers, etc.) are trained to make accurate single shots at a slow pace. Most archers today couldn’t make a decent arrow by hand if their lives depended on it and it very well could after TEOTWAWKI. Making a bow is no less complicated and bow-strings are the more difficult process without modern materials. Like a lot of things, it sounds really good in a discussion or on a weekend ‘survival trip’ but reality is a bit more problematic.
I consider black-powder weapons even more dubious as a long term solution for SHTF use. Mixing black-powder is not as simple as people think, unless you are Captain Kirk fighting a Gorn just mixing the ingredients won’t do as they will separate quickly. The best way to make powder is to mix the ingredients, then dampen them with stale urine (several days old at least) until it is the consistency of biscuit dough, form it into bricks and let it dry thoroughly. The blocks can then be ground (CAREFULLY!) into powder with different grain sizes sifted through various screens to obtain main charge powder, priming powder, etc. Did I mention that you are working with an explosive? Black-powder production facilities during the heyday of its use tended to blowup at an alarming rate. Do you really want to mess with this when you have no access to medical facilities? Or when the explosion will kill you and severely damage or destroy the ability of the rest of your family or group to fend for or defend itself? Also, black-powder is a nightmare to store in quantity both because it is explosive and hygroscopic (absorbing water from the air) it also tends to be somewhat unstable in that the grains rub and grind together to make smaller grains over time which increases the power of a given charge weight.
I recommend a multi-layered plan for weapons after TSHTF. Primitive weapons like Bows, crossbows, slings and slingshots can be invaluable in and around the homestead to eliminate pests (which is likely to be the biggest threat to survival in a rural area, especially long term) and to get small game that will be attracted by farming activities. Pneumatic BB guns and air-rifles are the next layer, these weapons are self-contained except for the projectiles and a good air-rifle will fire millions of accurate rounds over its life-span with minimal parts and maintenance. Modern air-rifles are also surprisingly powerful, rivaling a .22lr in many cases, and tens of thousands of rounds can be stored in a relatively small space and costing a fraction of what even the cheapest .22lr ammunition would in similar quantities.
Larger modern firearms are next up. If one can legally obtain them I suggest sound-suppressors for at least some weapons as noise is going to be the biggest giveaway that you are around, and have weapons, and have something to shoot at. Sound-suppressors will not eliminate noise (contrary to Hollywood) but it will reduce the distance the weapon can be heard as well as making it much harder to pin-point the location the shot came from.
Different weapons have different purposes, which is a fact surprisingly lost on too many people. Pistols are great for remaining armed while doing mundane chores as well as taking game which might wonder by. Pistols are NOT primary weapons however, thinking that you are going to win a fight against a group of people with AK’s or AR-15’s with your pistol is more Hollywood B.S. Shotguns are great at under 50 meters, but nearly useless beyond that unless heavily modified and with specialty ammunition which will drastically reduce its usefulness with bird or buckshot. Also shotgun ammo is heavy as sin in any quantity. A shotgun is good to have but one must remember its limitations. I recommend the relevant military weapon and caliber for your area in and around the homestead for defense. AK’s and AR’s are great for fighting from a fixed position as well as for those who cannot handle the size and recoil of a heaver rifle.
When going afield (hunting, trading, etc.) I have a full-power Main Battle Rifle. MBR’s are heavy, awkward and have high recoil. They are also very good at penetrating cover, which is important in fighting humans. The heavy bullets of an MBR are also very good at taking large game which Assault-rifle rounds are not, yes you can kill an Elk or Deer with a 5.56 or 7.62×39 but bullet placement becomes critical and in a survival situation can be a significant problem. Today missing a shot is a disappointment and tracking wounded game is an imposition, after the SHTF it can be a matter of life and death. The idea that you can carry hundreds of rounds of AR rounds for the same weight is also B.S. A survivalist is not a soldier, they will have limited backup and basically zero support in a military sense, if you get into a spot where you need that much ammunition you are dead and your ammo and supplies will go to the people who kill you. In a survival situation you want to shoot as little as possible, you want to make critical hits and you want to GTFO! You will also not be loaded down with a hundred and more pounds of gear if you want to live. You will be forced to consider every ounce of weight and every bit of bulk in your equipment and supplies, carrying a dozen 30 round AR magazines is not going to be a good option when you need to walk several miles with all of the other things you need. I believe that five 20 round MBR magazines with 100 rounds is far better than four 30 round AR magazines with 120 rounds in terms of effectiveness for size and weight.
I will cut this short but one of the biggest items is having the ability to keep what you have running. A weapon, a few hundred rounds of ammo and a couple magazines is not real preparation. You need lots of magazines, they are expendable items and critical to the function of any magazine fed weapon. Myself I want at lease 10 magazines per pistol, 50 per MBR and Assault-type weapon (AR-15’s I want at least 100 as they are far more susceptible to damage). I also want copious spare parts and the knowledge to use them. The finest most expensive high-tech rifle is useless if you break a firing pin and cannot replace it, or springs or anything else. Ammunition should be in as much quantity as possible and, more importantly, stored for the long-term. All of my ammunition is stored in good military ammo-cans with proper seals. Commercial packaging is not going to keep the ammunition for years while I have fired properly stored military ammo that was over 50 years old without a problem. Cleaning supplies and tools are a must as well, rust will kill a good firearm with stunning speed. Also remember that older firearms, especially revolver,s are often hand-fitted and require special skills and tools to repair and while a revolver rarely breaks when it does it is usually unusable until it has been repaired properly. Modern automatic pistols, unless specially made of modified, have mass produced that require no hand-fitting, just drop in the new part and put it back together.
One thing I see missing from this discussion, is the amount of muscular strength needed to draw a bow. At 52 and with an intermittently bad back, this is not a weapon I could use effectively. In the middle ages, the famous English longbow-men trained every day, from a young age. I don’t have the time for that level of training. Not to mention, an arrow would take some time to result in the death of a target, which at bow ranges, might not be a desirable situation.