As this time isn’t challenging already: Coronavirus and stay-at-home orders alone are enough to make the world feel like the zombie apocalypse. Now we have social unrest, along with extremist groups rioting in our beloved towns and cities.
And murder hornets. Don’t forget about the murder hornets.
If you’ve never considered getting a survival bow for your SHTF toolbox, perhaps now would be a good time, you know, before the Fourth Horseman arrives. All kidding aside, even if you are not a hardcore prepper, a survival bow is an important item to have in an emergency survival situation.
While it may not be the best choice for home defense, a survival bow will be a quieter, lighter-weight option for hunting. It’s a weapon that will be less prone to failure and will hold up to weather conditions better than a firearm. Also, a bow has reusable ammo.
As long as you don’t hit a thick bone or bounce it off a rock, it is possible to reuse an arrow for multiple animals. I once used the same arrow to take a deer and two elk over a three-year period. You will save on your firearm ammo, too, if you can use your arrows or bolts multiple times.
If the need arises, you can also make your own arrows. It’s much easier than trying to reload firearm ammo. Conservation is key to survival.
The 5 Best Survival Bows
A good survival bow is made up of several attributes: durable, light, simple, and easy to deploy and takedown.
Cost and value are worth thinking about, but remember the bow’s intended use. What you seek is not a bow to just go hunting with for a week or two. You are looking for a bow to use in the event of an extended survival situation. That could mean natural disaster, the fall-out from war, or any catastrophic incident that is going to render most modern conveniences useless.
It is an investment, but luckily most bows that truly fit the bill for a great survival bow are relatively inexpensive.
Without further ado, let’s get into it, shall we?
What to Look for in a Survival Bow
For the purpose of this article, we’re not discussing the best traditional, recurve, or longbow. When we talk about survival bows, we’re talking about bows that are going to function the best in a true survival capacity. It doesn’t matter if a bow is labeled “survival bow” or not. If that weapon meets our criteria—it’s a survival bow for our purposes.
You may have noticed we did not include a compound bow nor a compound crossbow in this list. Compound bows are killer (no pun intended), and I use one myself for bowhunting a majority of the time. The reason for their lack of inclusion simply boils down to their design—too many moving parts and too many things to go wrong.
My suspicion is that you won’t be able to fashion a cam or drop away rest if it breaks. Even restringing a compound is going to be problematic without a bow press.
Without a doubt, many bows on the market will do what you need them to. Whichever particular bow type or brand you have when the SHTF—that is your survival bow. The point is to prepare and get something best-suited for such a situation, and that is what we have narrowed down for you here.
Scale-back and simplify.
Here are the criteria to consider when choosing your bow.
Longevity is what we are looking for here. While wooden takedown recurve bows and longbows are historic and beautiful, durability is a factor. They won’t have the same level of “infinite life” that modern designs achieve with alternative materials.
You want to consider a bow that can take a beating over a long time, both from the weather and daily handling. Who knows how long a survival situation might last? A bow that you have to baby isn’t ideal.
Your survival weapon should be as resistant as possible to common causes of damage. Rain, snow, and heat can all take a toll on traditional wooden bows.
When the gas has all been used up in your generator or vehicle, you will likely find yourself on foot or bike. A light bow that is very packable will serve you much better than a traditional one-piece or compound bow, or even crossbow.
Depending on the size of the backpack, these weapons can be problematic. They’re challenging to strap to a pack and nearly impossible to stow inside with other gear. The lighter and more compact, the better for mobility.
Handedness isn’t an absolute necessity but should be considered. Most shooters are righties, but what if you are a southpaw like myself?
If you were to end up amongst a group of people in a survival situation, it would be advantageous to have a bow that multiple people can use. Hunting rotations can then be considered, and you won’t be stuck doing all the hunting.
There aren’t many truly ambidextrous bow models on the market, but you should at least have the option to purchase left and right-handed risers to swap the limbs out with.
Minimal tool use and maintenance are some of the important qualities you want in a survival bow. Ideally, you don’t want to worry about any tools for takedown or set up.
Many takedown recurves and longbows out there require Allen wrenches, so that can be tough to get away from. It is just one more thing to worry about losing, thus rendering the bow inoperable if you do.
Knobs that you only have to screw-in by hand will reduce the number of things to keep track of.
5. Efficient and fast
Your survival bow should be light and packable without sacrificing speed. By their nature, the best survival bows are simple, with no assistance from a pulley system.
In this case, the power of the bow lies in the limbs, draw weight, and draw length. The limbs need to be long enough to help achieve a good speed for taking down a variety of game.
Your quarry should not suffer any more than it needs to, so a draw weight of 40 pounds minimum should be your target. This is also a legal requirement in many states.
Now, it goes without saying that any legal issues surrounding draw weight will probably be the least of anyone’s concerns in the event of a catastrophe. However, the ethical issue still remains.
Our Picks for the 5 Best Survival Bows
Taking our five things to know about survival bows into account, we’ve chosen the following models as our five best survival bows. These products are the top choice in their respective categories, and they’ll have your back when it’s up against the wall.
1. Best Overall Survival Bow: SAS Atmos Compact Modern Longbow
This is the best takedown longbow you’ve likely never heard of. Launched in 2018, Survival Archery Systems create some incredible bows, and they’ve really outdone themselves with this one.
CNC machined from aerospace-grade aluminum, the riser is an exceptionally durable, futuristic-looking thing of beauty. Combined with limbs made from the same sturdy composite fiberglass that make up compound bows, you’ll have a compact modern longbow that will stand the test of time. You can even leave the string on indefinitely without worrying about “string-set.”
The bow stands at 60 inches when strung and packs down to 22 inches when broken down.
While SAS doesn’t tout this bow as a survival bow, with its ability to stand up to the harshest weather conditions, its range of customization, the overall weight of 2.6 pounds, this silent shooting powerhouse ticks almost all the boxes.
All except one—that darn Allen screw. But considering everything else this bow is, it gets a pass on that one. Just keep that Allen wrench secure.
The only other con is the cost. The Atmos is one of the more expensive longbows on the market, but not insanely so. It rivals the price of a typical compound bow. Considering you can attach nearly all the same components to it as a compound, it is an investment worth making.
- Exceptionally durable and weather-resistant
- Ultra-lightweight and compact for a longbow
- A few turns on the two Allen screws provides a quick takedown and set-up
- One of the more expensive bows on the market
- Requires an Allen wrench for takedown and deployment
2. Best Takedown Survival Bow: Southwest Archery Samick Sage Takedown Recurve Bow
The Samick Sage has the classic traditional recurve-look with a tool-less takedown, and beautifully crafted maple and dymondwood laminated riser. This is a great bow.
Pre-installed bushings are featured on this riser to allow for various attachments. The riser is very durable, with a comfortable and ergonomic grip. With limbs that are hard maple and fiberglass composite, the Samick Sage will stand up to most of the potential abuse you’d expect in a survival situation.
Although at 3.4 pounds, it is a bit heavier than our other survival bows listed, this is a bow you can grow into since it features a range (25 pounds to 60 pounds) of draw weight. Just switch out the limbs.
We have concerns about the bowstring not being very good quality, so you may want to pick-up a better one.
The Samick Sage Takedown Recurve is often classified as a good entry-level bow, and that is true. But overall, this is a very good bow that will be an excellent choice for survival.
- The tool-less takedown/deployment design
- Durable hardwood and fiberglass composite construction
- Limbs can be swapped out to increase draw weight
- A little heavier than the average recurve.
- Included bow string is not the highest quality.
3. Best Folding Survival Bow: No products found.
It doesn’t get much more compact than this bow from SAS: A bow that folds up into a storage compartment that will also hold up to 3 takedown arrows.
The SAS Tactical Survival Bow is a pretty ingenious folding bow, made from aerospace-grade aluminum and high-quality composite fiberglass. Everything from the riser and limbs, to the retaining pin and limb-securing bolts, are made from materials that won’t easily corrode. SAS does recommend you lightly oil the bolts periodically to help with rust, however.
At 2.2 pounds, this ultralight tactical survival bow folds down from 60 to 21 inches and shoots up to 210 fps (feet per second) at its highest draw weight.
With all the good things about this bow, there were a couple of dislikes that we had.
Even though it is a genuinely ambidextrous bow, the arrow rests on either side of the riser are stick-on Fred Bear rests. They aren’t cut-out arrow shelves. The Bear rests are not permanent and could get torn-off. Then again, if the riser featured cut-out shelves, there wouldn’t be enough room to store the arrows—definitely a trade-off.
To get a bow with longer limbs to fold up to 18 inches, one of the limbs has to be reversed. This means you have to undo the limb completely, turn it around and tighten the pin and screw when assembling. This opens you to losing parts that will render the bow inoperable.
- Extremely compact with tool-less takedown and deployment
- Converts to all-in-one storage case that will also hold 3 arrows
- Very lightweight considering its robust design
- Features a stick-on Bear weather rest instead of a cut-out shelf
- Awkward deployment with potential for losing attachment bolts
4. Best Survival Crossbow: Excalibur Crossbow Matrix GRZ Package
We don’t typically consider crossbows a good survival weapon because of their bulkiness and weight. However, this one is for the hardcore crossbowmen who insist on having a crossbow as a survival weapon.
The Excalibur Matrix GRZ recurve crossbow is free of extra moving parts, but still features blazing speed in a 5.5 pound frame. With incredible speed and precision accuracy, you’ll be taking everything from grouse to elk with the Excalibur.
A couple of things to note: There is no dry fire protection, but there is a manual safety.
I also wouldn’t declare this a great weather-resistant weapon as it has a scope that will probably rust at the attachment points—much like sights and sight pins on compound bows.
- Extremely accurate
- Very lightweight for a crossbow
- Fast enough to take elk-size game, while retaining simplicity
- Confusing instructions
- No dry fire protection
5. Best Value Survival Bow: Keshes Takedown Hunting Recurve Bow and Arrow Kit
Keshes Takedown Hunting Recurve Bow is another well-crafted, tool-less takedown recurve. It features a laminated wood riser and maple/fiberglass composite bow limbs.
Similar in build and style as the Samick Sage, the Keshes takedown recurve comes in a small kit at a great value. The attractive riser features pre-installed bushings for sights, bowfishing reels, and other attachments. Limb bolts feature knobs that quickly and easily attach the limbs for a 62-inch length, tip-to-tip.
A great bow at a great price, we’ll call out the same potential issues as the Samick Sage: A wooden riser that’s prone to damage from weather and handling.
Also, we thought the “kit” was a little lacking. It would really push it over the top if Keshes included some extras like an arm guard, finger tab, and even a rudimentary carry bag or quiver. However, it does come with a stringer tool, sight, and excellent set-up directions.
- Excellent value
- Pre-installed bushings for sights, bowfishing, and other attachments
- Tool-less takedown and deployment
- Wood riser that could be damaged by weathering or getting banged around
- We wished the kit included a few more extras like storage bag/quiver, armguard, and finger protection
Setting up Your Survival Bow
As we come to a close, the last thing you need to know is how to set up a survival bow. Let’s first go over the takedown recurve and then the folding SAS tactical survival bow. For this instruction, it’s assumed the nock point is already on your string, and your rest is already attached.
How to Set Up a Takedown Recurve
- Identify the top and bottom limbs.
- Screw in the limb bolt to attach the bottom limb. Repeat this process for the top limb.
- Attach the string by pulling the large loop over the top limb and sliding it down the limb. Attach the smaller loop to the bottom limb.
- Using a stringer tool to finish setting the string, place one end of the stringer on the bottom limb. Pull the other end over the top limb, past the string loop.
- Step in the middle of the loop created by the stringer tool. This will flex the bow limbs. You will then slide the string up until it seats into the groove. Double-check that both ends of the string are seated well in the grooves.
- Check brace the height with a measuring tape by measuring from the “throat” of the grip to the string. Brace height should be 7.5 to 8.25 inches. If it is below 7.5 inches, put more twists in the string and repeat steps 4-6.
How to Fold a Tactical Survival Bow
- Remove the velcro strap and pull the end caps off.
- Unfold the first limb.
- Remove the nylon screw from the second limb. Remove the limb and flip it around. Re-insert the nylon screw and hand tighten it.
- Attach the bowstring to the bottom limb. Stepping between the bow and bowstring, brace the bottom limb on your foot. Twist the string a few times and bend the top limb towards you, fastening the string to the limb. The string should now be attached to the bow. Double-check to make sure the string is set securely in the grooves.
- Check the brace height with a measuring tape and adjust it by putting more twists in the string. The recommended brace height is seven to eight inches.