Having a survival weapon is an absolute necessity for camping, hiking, bushcraft, or if you’re just lost in the wilderness. Not only do you need a weapon to protect yourself from any animals or people who threaten you, you also need it to be able to hunt as well.
There are obviously a huge variety of survival weapons that you can choose from, some of which you can buy and some that you can even build on your own. Examples include guns, knives, machetes, tomahawks/hatchets, swords, spears, slingshots, and clubs.
Being able to protect yourself is of paramount importance in a survival situation. In fact, security must be one of your biggest priorities, in addition to things such as food, water, fire, shelter and first aid.
Let’s also keep in mind that guns may be taken away from you, either as a result of a nation-wide gun grab, or temporarily in case of a large-scale emergency.
And, if you happen to live in places like the U.K. or Ontario where the legislation is even tougher, that’s all the more reason to take a good look at the following list.
So what did people use as BEFORE firearms? What are some of the weapons that can inflict real damage to one or multiple opponents?
In this article, we’ll cover some of the most common survival weapons and the pros and cons of each so you can decide which will be best for your particular situation.
Table of Contents
The advantage to pepper spray is that you can hit an opponent at moderate to close ranges while utilizing minimal effort from yourself. People who have arthritis and have difficulty in using firearms, for example, would (most of the time) easily be able to use a can of pepper spray.
Wasp and bee spray may be considered illegal. In fact, I just read a news article last night about a girl in the Netherlands who almost got raped had she not had pepper spray.
The police spokesman told the press she’s the one who might get in trouble because pepper spray is illegal. These are some interesting times we live in…
Pepper spray should not be used as a primary weapon, but as a backup self-defense weapon instead. By the way, there are mini-pepper spray cans you can attach on our key ring such as this one.
Bows and Crossbows
It doesn’t hurt to have one of these because you might be lucky and government raiders might not notice it or could even allow you to keep it.
If you’ve been making your own bows and arrows when you were a kid (like I used to), then you know this is one of the most inexpensive weapons you can have, costs to maintain are next to nothing.
Shooting a bow or a crossbow arguably requires more skill than shooting a firearm or an air gun, but if you are able to master the art of shooting a bow or a crossbow, then it will easily be one of the most effective weapons you have.
As with a firearm, bows can be used for either hunting or self-defense. They can target game at long distances and stop an opponent dead in their tracks before they reach you. Bows also accomplish this without the incredibly loud noise that a firearm produces.
Another advantage to the bow is that you can build one on your own with completely natural materials. With a four to five-foot-long bendable pole, some vine, and a few sharpened foot long sticks with duct tape or leaves for the feathers, you have yourself a bow and a set of arrows.
Be aware of how much space a large recurve bow will require. This isn’t a video game, you can’t just magically place a four or five-foot-long bow inside of your backpack, and pull it out when you need it.
If you’re going to be traveling through thick brush for long distances, I would leave your bow behind at your bug out location, or camp site. Your weapon of choice will greatly depend on which environment you’ll be faced with as you bug out.
Yeah, there’s a chance they will confiscate such a modern, complex bow…
However, if they don’t, you’ve got yourself a powerful weapon that doesn’t make the loud noise that firearms do which can attract a lot of unwanted attention.
Slingshots can hit a target up to 100 yards and, just like the bow and arrow, they’re easy to manufacture. The best part is that they have an unlimited supply of “ammo” in the form of rocks and other similar objects.
If you want, you can make your own. You will need:
- a Y-shaped branch
- a leather strip (that’s where the ammo placed)
- and some latex surgical tubing
The beauty of slingshots is that you have a practically unlimited supply of ammo because you can use literally use any kind of rock or pebble that you scavenge, as long as it fits in the slingshot.
While you can obviously buy slingshots in a sporting goods store, you can also make your own with little more than a forked stick, some string or duct tape, and a rubber band.
As with guns and bows, slingshots are great for both hunting and self-defense. In fact, a powerful slingshot can be one of the most effective small game hunting weapons you could ask for in a survival situation. Make sure you practice with one using techniques such as the ones you see here:
If you want a sling that’s oldschool, something like what David used against Goliath, you can make your own sling from paracord.
I just had to mention airsoft guns because right now (at least), they’re not regulated by the U.S. Government.
They’re are also legal in some countries in Europe, though threatening an attacker may be considered an offense and can earn you a criminal record (even if it was self-defense).
Many people dismiss air guns, which shoot BBs and or pellets, as being ineffective survival weapons. But this could not be any further from the truth.
A pellet gun will still drop almost any kind of small game you come across and without discharging the loud sound of a firearm, which could give away your position.
The ammunition for them is also very cheap, small, and lightweight, so you can carry literally thousands of rounds on you as you travel without weighing you down.
Keep one in your INCH bag, just in case you get lost and need to signal for help. I wouldn’t worry about them if all you have is an bug out bag (INCH bag’s little sister), because you probably won’t be in the wilderness for too long.
These are easy to make from PVC pipes, bamboo, or even duct tape, while the darts can be made from needles (even cactus needles).
If you’re dealing with only one attacker, a stun gun is a great weapon to use that doesn’t require a high level of skill. They come in all shapes and sizes, and can easily electrocute your target. The obvious downside is that they might not work following an EMP disaster.
The first thing that comes to mind is fishing, but what if an attacker breaks into your home? A spear may come in handy and cause permanent damage (as long as it’s handy and you know how to use it). Also, you may consider a spear thrower (a.k.a. an atl-atl) to increase the velocity of the spear.
There are a variety of spears that you can make in a survival situation, with the three most common being a simple pole that’s sharpened at the end, a pole with a knife lashed onto the end, or a pole with the end separated into sharpened prongs for fishing purposes.
You can easily make your own knife pike by taking a survival knife and attaching it to a pole, such as that of a rake. Ideally, you’ll want to remove the knife handles and attach the tang directly.
Clubs / Expandable Batons
A club is one of the simplest alternative self-defense weapons you can have, but don’t let simplicity fool you: there is a certain level of skill required for you to use it successfully in self-defense.
The club is perhaps the oldest weapon used by mankind. This is likely because it’s incredibly easy to make and delivers devastating stopping power to an opponent.
As with a spear, there are a variety of different kinds of clubs that you can make. You can simply find a stick with a knot of wood on the end, tie a stone to the end of a stick with vine or cordage, or drive nails through the end of the stick to make a spiked weapon.
What’s important to note is that when using a club for self-defense, you need to learn how to effectively use your upper body strength to deliver a crippling blow to an attacker.
You also need to be up close to your attacker, so a club won’t work well if you’re the kind of person who will run away when faced with someone who threatens you.
The biggest advantage to a spear is that it gives you more reach than a knife, tomahawk, or even a machete does and can inflict considerable damage on an opponent. If you learn how to throw a spear accurately and at far distances as well, it’s possible to hunt with one as well.
Easily the most traditional survival weapon out there, the knife absolutely belongs in your survival kit, whether you’ll be using it as your primary weapon or not.
Knives are extremely versatile because they function well not only as weapons but as tools to help you around camp. Your life in the wild will be made infinitely easier with a good knife on you.
When searching for a knife, you have two options: a fixed blade or a folding blade. Fixed blades are obviously stronger, but folding blades are easier to carry, can be concealed on you, and are better suited for more precise work.
Most preppers recommend that you include one of each in your survival kit. Regardless of which type knife you choose, it needs to have a sharp and durable blade and an ergonomic grip that fits into your hand naturally like a glove.
No government in its right mind will ever leave you without the ability to slice bread but the real question is: can you carry a knife or at least a folding knife with you in your EDC? The other issue is, of course, learning to use it for self-defense
If you’re thinking about having more, how about a wasp knife for close-combat? Or a dagger?
Or how about a throwing knife? Yes, this is a long range weapon but still worth mentioning. The alternative would be to learn to throw your survival knife – practice makes perfect.
Credit Card Knifes
A seemingly innocent credit card is actually a survival knife that’s only 2 mm thin. The benefit is you can safely conceal it inside your wallet.
No one will ever know you have it, unlike a folding knife which might raise some eyebrows. The thing to worry about is to get to it in time.
Axes and splitting mauls are great because in an off grid situation, you’ll need something to chop wood. If you’re a homesteader, no one will ever question why you have one. Or several.
Pitchforks / Garden Forks
Pitchforks as well as other tools you may have lying around your backyard are very effective self-defense weapons. For example, chains, hoes, shovels, wood garden stakes, and even chain saws!
Though war hammers are not as big and scary as they used to be in medieval times, you can find modern versions of it on Amazon and Home Depot.
Machetes aren’t just fantastic weapons but they can help you with a bunch of other tasks as well. They are lightweight and have a formidable force.
While machetes are great for hacking through thick brush, they’re also extremely useful for cutting firewood and for self-defense, because the long blade gives you plenty of reach from anything that has claws and teeth.
Tomahawks were used by the Native Americans for a variety of purposes, including self-defense. Though preppers prefer hatchets nowadays, a tomahawk will work better when you throw it.
With enough practice, it’s possible to learn how to throw a tomahawk effectively, which means you can either target small game at moderate distances or stop an opponent dead in their tracks.
Hatchets are a good choice for anyone making a rural bug out bag. If you plan on camping or bugging out tot he woods, they are a must. hanging outside your survival bag, they’e easy to take off and use in case someone attacks you.
Tomahawks and hatchets are essentially small, single bladed axes that are popular in the survival community. The primary differences between the two are that the tomahawk has a straight shaft whereas a hatchet is more curved.
Both the hatchet and the tomahawk can also be used for close quarters self-defense, and the blades can also be struck against certain rocks to create sparks and make a fire.
Sailor’s / Monkey Fist Knot
This knot was used by sailors but it can be an effective way to hit someone. Best of all, it has no sharp edges, so it’s legal even in those European countries that don’t allow knives for EDC.
Step by step explanations and photos on how to make it here.
Walking Sticks, Canes and Trekking Poles
Who’s gonna arrest you for having a walking stick, right? Get the right one and you’ve got yourself a veritable alternative weapon that can do a lot of damage.
Baseball bats are a handy survival weapon to have because they are extremely unintimidating at first, so you won’t attract any unwanted attention by carrying one around.
When used for self-defense, you use a baseball bat largely the same way as you would a club: up close and by using your upper body strength to deliver a powerful and incapacitating blow.
Shovels (and Other Gardening Tools)
Many collapsible shovels will have a serrated blade on one side for cutting purposes as well, meaning that you can use the shovel as either a bludgeoning or a cutting weapon for self-defense.
Other Alternative Weapons
A very important category of weapons are the ones that aren’t really weapons.
If you’ve been reading about survival for some time, then you came across things like “this survival can double as a weapon”, right? Well, let’s see a list of these items, so you don’t have to rely on becoming creative when you’re under attack:
- PVC pipes
- paracord (you can choke someone)
- the inner bark of trees
- oilpot (in Medieval times, this was a clay pot filled with highly-flammable oil)
- daggers (it’s lightweight, you can throw it)
- handaxes (sharp, primitive stones that you can also throw to damage your opponent from afar)
- flamethrowers (you can make them from fire extinguishers, or aerosol spray cans)
- paintball gun
- whips (when I was a kid, my job was always to stand in front of the cows and the oxcart, and make sure they don’t move why my grandpa loaded the cart with hay. It can be very painful…)
- …and even dirt!
With so many alternative weapons to choose from, it’s easy to forget the ones you can use to defend yourself.
The best way to defend yourself against alternative weapons as well as bullets is to wear body armor… but you can make your own shield that will at least stop knives and many of the weapons we talked about above.
This video shows how to make an airsoft shield that will stop an airsoft gun:
There’s only one thing you can do once you selected the arsenal of weapons that will protect you both in good times and bad. And that is PRACTICE.
Don’t wait for the end of the world to get a chance to use them. Become good before it happens. Dedicate at least one or two hours a week to practicing with your weapon so you can become more efficient with it. Your life may very well depend on it.
Another thing you can do is check out this other article on do-it-yourself survival weapons. The ones presented require some skill to make, but you’ve got plenty of videos to guide you.
updated 09/20/2019 by Dan F. Sullivan
My dad was military. My grandfather was a cop. They served their country well. But I don’t like taking orders. I’m taking matters into my own hands so I’m not just preparing, I’m going to a friggin’ war to provide you the best of the best survival and preparedness content out there.