"We have four boxes with which to defend our freedom: the soap box, the ballot box, the jury box and the cartridge box." - Congressman Larry McDonald M.D.
(1 April, 1935 - 1 Sept., 1983)


God Save The Republic

23 August 2010

Crossbows . . . The Pros and Cons In Survival Situations

I recently purchased a Barnett Revolution AVI crossbow package that includes a detachable quiver, a 4 x 32 mm five reticle scope (w/t see thru bikini lens covers) and five 22 inch bolts with field points. I chose the Revolution model because (1) the "prod" (bow section) has a quick disconnect feature, allowing it to be removed from the stock section, giving it a smaller and flatter profile for packing and / or transporting, and (2) it is a compound style that boasts a 345 feet per second velocity. Although it wasn't a deciding factor, the "AVI" designation stands for Anti Vibration Isolation, which basically consists of a ribbed rubber jacket around the limbs to help dampen noise when fired.

The stock body is fitted with an adjustable cheek piece, to help get a consistent cheek weld and alignment with the scope, and an adjustable butt piece for a more custom fitted length of pull. The grip is a large thumb-hole type pistol grip and, the stock is dressed out in Realtree HD Hardwood Green camo. The prod is a subdued shade of black and runs 27" from limb tip to limb tip. The overall assembled length is 35.5" and weighs 7.7 lbs.

The reason I bought a crossbow is because, over the last few years, I can no longer draw a conventional style bow, whether compound or recurve in design. As much as I hate to admit it, I can't hardly draw the string on a youth's model bow, thanks to arthritis in my right shoulder and a couple of fingers.

A crossbow, though, is pretty much a one shot weapon. If you miss on that first shot, don't expect to pull off a quick follow up. (1) Like vertical bows, they are an extremely short distance weapon, where out beyond forty yards is really stretching it's limits. (2) They are not silent. They're not even as quiet as a conventional bow, partly due to the fact the crossbow string contacts the top of the flight rail during firing, and (3) cocking the string back into the trigger mechanism requires far more labor than is needed to charge and shoot an arrow from a conventional style bow. Although the power stroke is only 15.5", the draw weight is 150 lbs.

I should note that a few hunters have reported deer being spooked by the sound of a crossbow firing and being long gone before the arrow reaches what was it's intended point of impact. That is the down side of a crossbow's noise and slow velocity at or over it's practical distance limits. The speed of sound (1124.933 fps) is moving more than three times faster than the bolt.

Due to the laborious cocking process, most hunters will cock a crossbow in advance of a game stalk or climbing into a stand, then loading the bolt when ready. Also, care has to be taken to assure the string is centered in the triggering device since being a little off either way will cause the bolt to yaw to the left or right. Not a task one would want to rely on in haste or under stress. And, it is no plus that crossbows are notoriously front end heavy, making prolonged aiming without a rest a shaky experience.

I suppose by now I have made a solid case against the expense of adding a crossbow to the list of useful survival equipment. The one and only pro I can give is this; they are quieter than a firearm and therefore less likely to alert anyone nearby that you have taken game. A real advantage when stealth may insure one keeps the game, or keeps their life, when zombies are roaming about the neighborhood.

Like a sniper's rifle, a crossbow is a specialty use weapon that fills a specific job function... just not a job in a modern combat role.



  1. Just bought a Parker Buckbuster 175, mainly because I want to get started deer hunting five weeks earlier. It's my first foray into the strings & sticks world. But I can see that it might have SHTF applications, and I'm always willing to add another tool to the box.

  2. I had a friend, ex-submariner, many years ago. He would always say, "if you've been shot by a crossbow, you're going to wish you'd been shot by a .45". Also, "Best thing about a crossbow: say someone's breaking into your house. You can both shoot them and stick them to the wall until the cops get there."

    I've never played with one, but nailing an invader to the wall, like a giant moth with pins through its wings, does have a certain charm to it.

  3. Someone once said that the Indian wars would have turned out different if the Indians had stuck to their bows and arrows and not adopted guns. The immediate vision we all have is of Indians circling the wagns so the settlers can pick them off but in fact Indians knew they had to sneak up on their prey to be close enough to be effective with their weapons. The gun forced them to fight in a way they were not accustomed to and were not good at. They were the most effective Guerrilla fighters in history and they were lured into using a less effective technique. There is also something to be said for the fear factor for those not injured when they see arrows sticking out of their buddies. I can't imagine anything more "disheartening" then having an arrow through my chest that I can't pull out and can't push on through. All you can do (in a primative situation) is take a few days to die a horrible death. The bow and arrow is a fearsome weapon.