The crossbow and the bow use similar projectiles and similar mechanisms to launch the projectile. But this is essentially where the similarity of these two hunting and defense tools ends. They have very different characteristics in their makeup and abilities, which determine their suitability as a survival and hunting weapon. So which option would be better for survival, a bow or a crossbow?
The crossbow would be the best for survival for a novice without experience on either weapon. If you are experienced with the bow and crossbow, the bow would be the best choice since it is more reliable, easier to fix in the field, and it is easier to make more ammunition for using natural materials.
Bows and crossbows have been used for hundreds of years by primitive man as a means for hunting for meat as well as a defense tool or a weapon of war. Both have strong points that make them ideal tools for certain applications and disadvantages that count against them. Let’s see how these two hunting tools measure up to each other for the purpose of survival.
Is The Bow Or The Crossbow Better For Survival?
In order to make a determination regarding the best survival tool between the bow and crossbow, we need to compare the two in a couple of criteria that would be typical in a survival-type situation.
We are not talking exclusively about their suitability for hunting of fishing here, but rather the one that you would want to have with your when your life depended on it and the one that would give you the best advantage for survival.
Ease Of Use Of The Crossbow Or Bow
Most outdoorsmen will tell you that the best hunting weapon to have with you is the one you know how to use. This is certainly true of these two choices as well. If you are familiar with a bow and well-practiced in its use, then it would be a better choice for you than a crossbow.
Likewise, if you have experience with a crossbow but not a bow, then a crossbow would be the logical choice for you as the best hunting tool in a wilderness survival situation.
However, if you are unfamiliar with both, then the better choice would probably be the crossbow. The reason for this is that the shooting position of the crossbow, as well as the sight picture, is very similar to that of a rifle. This shooting position is more familiar to most people who have fired a rifle than what the bow is.
A complete beginner would probably feel more comfortable with a crossbow than with a bow and would therefore probably have more success with the crossbow in a survival situation.
Another aspect of ease of use is that a crossbow is generally smaller and easier to carry than a bow, although they are generally heavier. The crossbow’s smaller size also makes it easier to hunt for food in thick vegetation without getting caught up on branches and bushes and giving your position away.
Crossbow Range Vs. Bow Range
Effective range is a much talked about aspect of these two hunting bows, but the truth of the matter is that the range for a bow and a crossbow are about the same.
This means that the projectile from each type of bow will be able to travel the same distance and be effective in bringing down the animal.
Mostly, when you are in a survival-type situation, you are not going to be wasting your ammunition by taking long-range, uncertain shots and take the chance of losing the prey as well as the bolt or arrow.
While this works in principle when you only take trajectories and velocities into account, it is not always the case when you factor in the accuracy of each style of weapon, which will be discussed in the next section.
Your hunting will take place at a range where you can make sure that you will be bringing the animal down without a doubt!
As a result, even if the two choices were not equally matched for distance, it would not matter that much when hunting at closer distances.
Crossbow Accuracy Vs. Bow Accuracy
While the range of a crossbow is similar to that of a bow, the range is of no value unless the projectile can be delivered with accuracy.
The crossbow is not as accurate as a compound bow, or even a traditional bow, especially when it comes to the longer distance shot.
In a survival situation, you may be tempted to take a longer shot because you are desperate to get a meal. With a bow, you would stand a better chance of making this shot successfully than you would with a crossbow.
Crossbow Reliability Vs. Bow Reliability
In a survival-type situation, simplicity often means better reliability, and this applies when evaluating the crossbow against the bow as well.
A compound bow is a complex machine and requires much maintenance and tuning, and it would be difficult to do running repairs in the field on a bow like this. However, if your bow is of a simpler design, such as a recurve bow, there is less to go wrong with it, and if something does go wrong, it is easier to repair.
The modern crossbow is a fairly complex shooting apparatus, and as a result, it may be more difficult to fix than a recurve bow. The mechanism is not significantly complex, but it does have more moving parts than a simple bow.
From a reliability standpoint, a simple bow such as a recurve bow would be more robust and reliable than a crossbow for survival.
Should your bow get damaged out in the field, you could make new parts from natural materials, depending on the part that breaks. However, depending on your level of bushcraft skills, you should be able to fashion a complete bow from natural materials that you could find out in the wilderness.
This makes it possible to completely replace your bow if necessary and still use the ammunition. Doing the same for a crossbow would be a bigger ask, and no matter your level of bushcraft skill, it is unlikely that you would be able to re-create a crossbow from natural materials in a survival-type situation.
Crossbow Ammunition Vs. Bow Ammunition
A crossbow fires a shorter, sturdier arrow called a bolt, whereas the bow fires the traditional arrow. Taking either of these hunting devices in the wilderness with you will require you to carry ammo with you.
Arrows for a bow are longer and bulkier, and as a result, you may not be able to carry as many arrows for the bow as you would bolts for the crossbow. While this is an advantage for the crossbow, with both these hunting tools, you will have limited ammunition.
You would need to hunt at closer ranges to make sure that you will bring down your quarry than run the risk of losing ammunition by wasting it on long shots.
This being said, if you run out of ammunition with either of these weapons, you can attempt to make ammunition from the natural materials you find around you in the wilderness.
When trying to manufacture ammunition, the bow will be the easier one to make additional arrows for. This is because it is more forgiving when it comes to ammo type, and the imperfections in your bush-crafted arrows will not affect the accuracy or performance of the bow as much.
Making handmade bolts for the crossbow can be done, but unless you get the weight and straightness of the bush-crafted bolt just right, it will affect the accuracy and effectiveness of the crossbow to a much more significant degree.
When it comes to selecting between a crossbow or a bow for the purposes of survival, the choice is very personal and will be guided by your preferences and experience. If you are more familiar with a crossbow, then this should be your go-to survival hunting tool, but if you are more familiar with a bow, then that should be your choice.
If you are a novice with both of these hunting tools, then my advice would be to go with the crossbow since the learning curve to use it well enough to hunt an animal will be much easier than with a bow.
As with any survival tools, you should be practicing your skills on this equipment so that you know them intimately when the time comes to trust it with your life. Trying out a crossbow and a bow before you find yourself depending on them for your food would be the ideal situation.
Testing your skills on both types of equipment will quickly show you which one would be better for you with your skill level, hunting knowledge, shooting ability, and bushcraft ability.