Let’s get this right out there in the open now. Crossbows have become one of the top alternative weapons of choice, in large part due to Daryl Dixon’s (Norman Reedus) use of it in The Walking Dead.
But the real question is whether or not the crossbow would be a suitable weapon in a real-life apocalyptic or post-collapse situation. We also talked about the differences between a bow and a crossbow in another article.
While the go-to for many when it comes to needing a survival weapon is a firearm, it turns out that the crossbow would make quite an excellent weapon for both self-defense and hunting, at least in certain situations.
However, as with any type of weapon, there are advantages and disadvantages to using the crossbow in a survival situation and you need to be aware of all of them. What follows is a discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of using a crossbow, based on different aspects of the use of the bow.
One of the biggest disadvantages of a crossbow when it comes to a survival situation is the size and weight of the weapon. Crossbows are heavy and bulky, which makes them more of a pain to lug around than a firearm. It is also much more difficult to conceal a crossbow than it is a firearm.
Having said that, the weapon generally comes with a good strap for carrying it over your shoulder, which makes it somewhat convenient to carry, even if you have to deal with its weight and bulkiness.
Note that you can go for a foldable crossbow.
One of the best things about a crossbow is that it is silent. If you have to shoot an assailant or a hunting target, you aren’t going to be alerting anyone who might be nearby of your location. This is a distinct advantage when stealth is required.
Having said the above regarding a crossbow, while it is silent when shot, it is not the best weapon to use in tight quarters.
Because of its size, it can be easy to make noise by knocking it into things around you if you don’t have ample space in which to wield the weapon. This can bring the attention you were hoping to avoid.
Perhaps the greatest disadvantage to using a crossbow as a survival weapon is the fact that you can only load one arrow or bolt at a time.
On top of that, it takes a lot of time to reload (up to a minute if you’re inexperienced) after you shoot and that time can cost you your life or your dinner.
For this reason, you need to be an extremely good shot so that you hit your target the first time you shoot.
A crossbow is easier to shoot for someone who is new to the use of the weapon than it is when using a recurve or longbow. Once the arrow is loaded, it is ready to go.
The draw weight is always consistent and there is no concern about hand placement and holding the draw until the arrow is released.
Also, while it takes longer to load a crossbow, when it comes to firing it, it really isn’t any different from a regular firearm, particularly if the crossbow has a scope mounted on it. Essentially, you just aim and pull the trigger to release the arrow in much the same way you would shoot a gun.
Having said this, you still have to train to properly aim a crossbow. No one can pick up a firearm the first time and be a precision shooter right off the bat and the same is true of the crossbow.
You will need to practice to become a good shot, which is critical to ensure you hit your target properly the first time you shoot.
Another benefit to shooting a crossbow over a firearm is that if you can find a way to light it on fire (perhaps with an oil-dipped rag wrapped around the end of it), it can act as a beacon (if necessary) or it can be used to shoot fire at your assailants, catching them or their camp on fire.
If you can find a way to make flaming arrows, this can be a very useful alteration to the weapon that can be used to your advantage.
Another very significant advantage to the use of a crossbow is that the ammunition is reusable. When you consider firearms, once a bullet has been shot, that’s it, it’s gone.
Once you have used up your store of ammo, that’s it, you’re done, unless you are able to find more ammunition (not easily done post-collapse).
When you shoot an arrow from a crossbow, you can go to your target, provided you have injured it enough that it can’t run away, and you can retrieve the arrow.
A little cleaning and it’s ready to be used again. If you miss entirely (let’s hope you don’t do that!), you can in all likelihood retrieve the arrow.
Plus, as long as you have learned the skill and practiced beforehand, you could, in a pinch, make your own arrows out of available materials, which would include wood and any other materials you can find.
When it comes to ammo for a crossbow, you also have to choose the best arrow head for what you want to accomplish. There is a wide range of arrows and bolts from which to choose, which allows for great versatility.
For instance, the best injury and killing power will come from a razor broadhead, but these are more difficult to retrieve from the body.
The less lethal the projectile is, the easier it will be to remove from the body and the less damage it is likely to sustain. The key is to find a balance between lethality and recoverability.
A crossbow won’t have the same range as a firearm, which is a disadvantage when using it for self-defense and for hunting. With a good crossbow, you are looking at a 25- to 50-yard range, although some claim to be good up to 80 yards and even over 100 yards.
The range depends in part on the arrow being used and your skill as an archer. You can shoot a much longer range with a firearm than you can with a cross bow. Having said that, statistically, most gunfire happens within the range a crossbow can comfortably handle.
Need for Repair
Another disadvantage to the use of a crossbow is that its construction is more complicated than that of a longbow or recurve.
This means that it has more parts that can break or need to be replaced and will show more wear over time.
It will be difficult if, at some point, the crossbow needs to be repaired and you have neither the skill nor the parts to make those repairs.
How to Choose Your Crossbow
The best way to determine if a crossbow is the best weapon for your arsenal is to try it out. If you have a friend who has a crossbow, then you can take it for a test drive. Otherwise, go to your nearest archery shop and try them out.
Hold the crossbows, aim with them, feel their weight, and if you can, try it out (any respectable archery store will have a target range on which you can test the bows).
Once you find the crossbow that suit you, the most important thing is to get out there and practice. The more you practice with it, the more comfortable you will be with it and the more skilled you will become at aiming, firing, and loading the arrows.
If you work with it enough, it will become an extension of your body and will feel very natural. Most of all, when you find a crossbow that suits you, have fun with it!
The Top 5 Survival Crowsbows
If you have decided that you want a crossbow and that it would be a good weapon for you to have in your arsenal, then you need to know which one to purchase.
There are so many crossbows on the market, that the decision can be a tough one. To get you pointed in the right direction, here are a few of the top-rated crossbows on the market…
Excalibur Crossbow Matrix 405 Mega Crossbow
This crossbow is pricy at $1,192.85 (regular price $1,299.99), but worth the investment. The crossbow is the hardest hitting, most accurate bow on the market and the brand is the most respected in the world of archery.
With no moving parts on the limbs, it makes it easy to assemble out of the box. Plus, you don’t need a bow press to change the string, which makes it easy to change on the go.
A speed of 405 fps and a draw eight of 290 pounds clinches this crossbow as a powerhouse.
Parker CenterFire Crossbow
Available for $649.95 (regular price $699.99), this crossbow has a classic Monte Carlo design and 335 fps center fire, and 165 pound draw weight, making this crossbow very fast and accurate. It is easy to hit the bullseye with multiple bolts one after the other.
There is also a thumbhole that takes the pressure off the wrist and sighting is easy, within three shots out of the box. Assembly is a snap.
SA Sports Empire Aggressor Crossbow
Priced at $529.99 (regular price $599.00) this cross bow is fast! The accuracy is phenomenal and the scope and trigger are great, especially considering the price.
The crossbow is lightweight and has a unique tactical look and feel, featuring a tactical drop front grip for ease of use. In addition, the AR-style rear stock is adjustable. Speed is 390 fps and the draw weight is 185 pounds.
Barnett Quad Edge 350 FPS Crossbow
On sale for $382.68 (regular price $499.00), this is a bow that shoots fast and has a 150 pound pull. Comes with a storage compartment a 3-arrow quiver, and 3 22-inch carbon fiber bolts.
The handguard has a pass-through fore-grip to prevent fingers from being placed along the rail and you can add a crank if desired to help cock the crossbow. Smooth trigger and optics are good for hunting at a distance. Not a lot of recoil or vibration when shot.
PSE Dream Season Skullworks RDX Crossbow
Priced at $709.96, this crossbow is very fast and accurate. With a range of up to 80 yards and easy cocking, this crossbow is a dream to use. It features an independent machined aluminum barrel, which is mounted with a composite stock to improve the stability of the crossbow.
With a speed of up to 365 fps and a draw weight of 155 pounds, this crossbow is a pleasure to shoot. It is also a relatively quiet model, which is nice when stealth is an issue.
A crossbow is a great weapon to have in a post-collapse society, but it is not ideal in every survival situation. Unless you have just one target or have time to reload between shooting, a crossbow is not going to be terribly helpful when defending yourself against a group of assailants.
However, provided you are good shot, you will have far better luck with it in a hunting situation. When hunting, you generally have one target and don’t have to worry about reloading quickly once you have hit that target.
All in all, a crossbow makes a great backup to a firearm, and if for some reason you do not have access to a firearm, then a crossbow is a great second choice.
An urban prepper and rural wannabe, Karen has been working as a freelance writer for a decade and prepping for about half that time. She has gathered a wealth of knowledge on preparing for SHTF, but there is always more to learn and she has a passion for gathering and sharing that knowledge with other like-minded folk. Karen lives in London, Canada with her two children and plethora of cats.