Gun vs. Bow – Which One Do You Need for Survival

Editors Note: A guest contribution from Robert Gate of  to The Prepper Journal. As always, if you have information for Preppers that you would like to share and possibly receive a $25 cash award as well as be entered into the Prepper Writing Contest with a chance to win one of three Amazon Gift Cards  with the top prize being a $300 card to purchase your own prepping supplies, enter today.

Editors Note: A guest contribution from Robert Gate of  to The Prepper Journal. As always, if you have information for Preppers that you would like to share and possibly receive a $25 cash award as well as be entered into the Prepper Writing Contest with a chance to win one of three Amazon Gift Cards  with the top prize being a $300 card to purchase your own prepping supplies, enter today.

Sometimes you can end up in a situation that needs you to apply any survival skills that you have. Having the right tools and weapons could mean a lot when it comes to your survival. With many options available as survival weapons, for most, it would either be a bow or a gun. So, which one would be the best to use?

The debate about bow vs. gun has been around survivalist forums for years. They always want to know which weapon would help them protect themselves and their family in a critical situation. Some might prefer guns over bows and vice versa, today we get to go into detail to understand which weapon would be the best.


Editors Note: A guest contribution from Robert Gate of  to The Prepper Journal. As always, if you have information for Preppers that you would like to share and possibly receive a $25 cash award as well as be entered into the Prepper Writing Contest with a chance to win one of three Amazon Gift Cards  with the top prize being a $300 card to purchase your own prepping supplies, enter today.

The bow weapons would come in different shapes and sizes just as it would be the same for the guns. You have to look at the experience you have when it comes to handling the bows. For the sake of survival, you do not want to be an amateur at using the weapon. The same goes for the choice of the bow. Multiple bow types exist today each requiring a different way of handling. No matter whether it is the best compound bow or the best recurve bow, if you are not careful, you might end up with the victim of an accident when shooting the bow as opposed to protecting yourself and family.

The Pros of Using Bow Weapons

  • One good thing about bows is that making the weapons and components, such as arrows, should be easy for many people. Even if the last deer ran off with your last arrow, you can always make new arrows from materials around you. The same could not be said for the guns whereby if you are out of ammo, there is nothing you can do.
  • With a gun, you will make noticeable noise that will make your enemy know your exact position. Having a bow is considered better in some situations due to their quiet nature. Your enemy might end up being defeated by the bow silence and being unable to track your position.
  • The slow speed of the arrow can be a blessing in disguise. If the enemy is smart enough, he can track your position by looking at where the arrow is flying in from. The slow speed should allow you to move from your current position before the arrow hits the target.

Cons of Bow Weapons

  • The first disadvantage can easily be directed towards the rate of fire for a bow. Take the crossbow as an example, it would take long to add the arrow to the bow before firing. This takes time as compared to using a gun. Newer guns will have an increased fire rate and reduced rates of misfires.
  • The amount of training needed to be able to use a bow takes time. The time might not always be on your side in a survivalist situation. Ask anyone who has trained as an archer, the answer is always that the process takes long to master it.
  • Taking bow shots needs the archer to be closer to danger as compared to when using a rifle. You can see that your stealth skills have to be at the top or else you will be noticed before you can take the shot.


Editors Note: A guest contribution from Robert Gate of  to The Prepper Journal. As always, if you have information for Preppers that you would like to share and possibly receive a $25 cash award as well as be entered into the Prepper Writing Contest with a chance to win one of three Amazon Gift Cards  with the top prize being a $300 card to purchase your own prepping supplies, enter today.

There is no doubt that when compared to bows, guns will easily be seen as a more powerful weapon for survival. New rifles today can deliver impressive ranges, some up to 600 yards easily and still maintain accuracy. The ammo used in guns has the ability to drop the target easily if you know how to handle the gun.

Pros of Guns

  • The ability to deliver the ammo over a longer distance than a bow makes a gun preferred by many people. You can aim easily, in the comfort of your stand, and send the bullet towards your target. A number of factors can affect the type of gun and ammo to use, but on overall a gun would be better at shooting over long distances.
  • The stopping power of a bullet has been always enough to take down the target with ease. It is a minimal effort as compared to using the arrows. You might have to shoot your target with several arrows to get it down.
  • How about learning how to use a gun? As compared to using bows, the guns are always easier to master. You will be a pro in using a gun within a short time as when compared to shooting arrows over a long time.


  • The shortage of ammo always makes the gun useless. It is not the same as for the bows where, again, you can make arrows in the wild.

By now you have an idea which weapon you would choose. Each weapon has its best applications, so make sure that you keep that in mind before picking a gun or bow.

Robert Gate is the founder of He was enthusiastic about hunting from the first shot, from then he decided to become a pro hunter. If you find something helpful on his blog, he would be proud to hear from you.

  1. Modern rifles have a 600 yard range?! Lol try 1000+. And they don’t have to be “modern”. A Springfield 1903 chambered in 30.06 was shooting a 1000 yards back in WWI. A bow is no match for even a duty sized pistol. And with silencers available, the bow doesn’t even have the sound advantage anymore. As for running out of ammo, 2000-5000 rounds will last a long time before you would either have to, acquire more. I don’t know anyone that has 2000 arrows.

    1. x2 JD

      There’s also the pervasive belief that any homemade arrow flies well, and flies the same as the last. Nope.
      A bench clamped gun with different ammo may change impact point by 2-6″ in the 50-80-100 yd or meter range by type; the same for lower-grade ammo and home-cast speedy reloading of naked lead.
      A familiar bow and well-aimed shot can miss by FEET at 30-50 yards or meters due solely to differing arrows or components – different tip, different weight or length shaft, different fletching, even with commercial arrows in pristine condition.

      Flip side, I have contention with the theory that any gun will drop a target with fewer shots without the same level of attention to range, stopping power and aim point. An arrow or crossbow bolt is very capable of a one-shot, fast kill even on super tough stuff like deer. A poor shot with a gun is just as likely to require multiple shots.

      I also hate crossbows-bows and all firearms being looped in together in comparisons like these; by so many authors, not just this one.
      They’re 6-15 very, very different things.
      A rimfire, .357 revolver, 9mm-.45 pistol, pistol caliber carbine, 5.56 equiv rifle, .3– equiv, shotgun (+shorty v. field), single-hand-draw crossbow, dual-hand-draw crossbow, compound bow (by draw weight), and recurve bow (by draw weight) differ greatly in capabilities and restrictions.

      There are definitely places for bows and crossbows in closets and in the field, there are arguments that can be made for selective post-event uses, and I definitely advocate learning them and having one (or both), but there’s a reason hunters and the military everywhere choose firearms for the greater part.

      It’s nice to see the topic come up, since it offers personal needs and abilities research and discussion.

      Cheers! – Rebecca Ann

      1. Excellent points Rebecca, as usual! Good to converse with you again. I had a little hiatus but I’m laid off for the winter again so I’ll be contributing in the comments and writing articles to submit.

      2. Couldn’t agree more. I always ask the archers for an article on just how one makes an arrow? What do you use for the fletch, how do you secure it to the shaft, etc.? Never get that article. PLUS, I have way more desert than forest in my “off the grid”…an arrow made from a cholla would be AWESOME but by the time you made it your would have bleed to death from the wounds.

        1. Yeah, there’s a reason the natives, Mogolians, cold-Europeans, and Greeks all had specialists doing the builds as they evolved. The bow isn’t so hard – we see it all over the internet, as simple as PVC and 550 cord or the floating boater’s cord the same dimension (name escapes me, starts with an R or a B). The arrows, though…
          We know it’s been done, throughout history, but … how much time and materials for it, using what handy tools, versus what you get as a result?

          We’ve done several with BSA troops along the way, and the range I belonged to used to have them out to test some of their works for penetration, speed and accuracy at really short distances.

          One of the things that repeatedly comes up is that the nock has to be centered and lined up pretty perfectly with the arrowhead, especially if it’s only a simple NA/1st Nations type head. Otherwise, you have to be a good enough archer to compensate for it – and, like having the painter’s tape on your mag or buttstock, know where to shift your aim like with ammo or fixed-sights gun between the arrows.
          One of the fixes has been to make a slip-on nock. That way their whole carefully turned arrow is not wasted should things go badly.
          Also, the youths have taught us that if you use credit cards or plastic for fletching, you really want some duct tape to protect your fingers (at least while learning).

          traditional archery 100 . com (close it) has been a source as they go along.

          I understand desperation, but … snares, a pointy stick, a handy club are more practical unless it’s going to be something a LOT of time is going to be spent on now.
          Desert tribes used slings, bolas, and spears and various traps/snares as often as they did arrows, and so have jungle tribes (some still do).
          A lot of the images we see are natives with deer/elk, hogs, and turkey, or the big buffalo hunts, but there was a high reliance on the smaller game animals and our less-eaten things like snake, those crazy rats, and tortoise due to prevalence, especially in arid regions but also in those jungle-jungles.

    2. There is no such thing as a “silencer”. There are “sound suppressors” which reduce the level of sound of a shot, but does not and can not make it completely quiet. Plus even if it could, the ammo would have to be “lower power” to avoid breaking the sound barrier and being audible in flight.

      Arrows are reusable

      1. The inventor of the “suppressor” called it a silencer. Therefore, I refer to them as silencers. If someone believes that a silencer makes a gun truly silent, well, then it’s amateur hour and they need to do much studying.

        1. Just because a person or people use an incorrect term, often for political purposes, you don’t mind supporting that? I suppose you are willing to call a semi-auto with a pistol grip an “assault weapon” or a person who sneaks into the country illegally an “undocumented immigrant”…

          1. Who says it’s the incorrect term? Suppressor is the incorrect term as far as I can see. The inventor called it a silencer. So I suppose Hiram maxim didn’t know what he was talking about. I suppose the machine gun wasn’t invented by him neither. Some self proclaimed expert in the gun/training industry decided he didn’t like the term silencer, so coined the term suppressor. Learn the facts before you bless us with your knowledge.

            1. Mr. Maxim was a great inventor, and a pretty good businessman. “Silencer” was a marketing term, not one of complete accuracy. If you want to use it, that’s your choice, but it causes more of a fear response than “suppressor” (which first appeared in a patent from 1985, which seems odd since Maxim patented it in 1909).

              1. I don’t give 2 rat fornications what kind of “fear” response the term silencer causes. I am not PC. I do not conform. I call them like I see them. And I use the proper nomenclature related in my industry because I know what I’m talking about. Any snowflakes in fear can go to their safe space.

      2. Re-useable if you can find them and they are not broken or damaged. Not mentioned in the article as a bow ‘con’ is the fact that many people simply may have physical difficulty in using bows of sufficient poundage due to a multitude of reasons. Even a .22lr eclipses using a bow for self-defense, and they are not that loud.

        1. Yes, bows require both physical capability and skill. If a peron does not have and can not or will not get one of these, then archery equipment is probably a waste of money and space. Of course, if a person doesn’t have the capability of drawing a reasonable weight bow, one wonders what other survival tasks will be beyond them.

          1. Believe it of not, some experience injuries that present a chronic problem in doing certain movements, like drawing a bow. I have a shoulder injury from 33 years in the fire service. But, at 66 can do 100 pushups and lift far above my body weight. Will I have a “problem” with other survival tasks? I don’t think so. Work smarter, not harder, and a firearm does that.

          2. Or, finger strength to pull and hold 75-150# in perfect position for the 30 seconds to 5 minutes for an animal to turn or take a step, but no problem with either a release trigger or standard trigger, or with looping line around the wrist or across body to haul it up/out, running a Gator/quad/pickup to get it home, and gripping a knife for 1-5 hours for working hides and butchering.
            Some of us can do it with biggies like bear, even, by ourselves, using come-alongs to get them where we need them for every step of the process.

            There’s all kinds of things where a physical disability prevents one specific thing but in no way impairs the ability to move quickly, move quietly, use firearms (safely), maintain a farm, raise animals and families, maintain a house, do yard work, or garden.
            In some cases, they may need something to help (the thumb latches for buttons, keychain rings on pants zippers), or to avoid one thing (my motorcycle days are pretty well done, my father is on the verge of needing steering wheel panel shifters), but there are usually plenty of ways to get around *it* especially in this modern era. Most of those ways and abilities won’t go away, even during standard survival disasters or the long-term crises.

            Cheers – Rebecca Ann

    3. You stated “modern rifle” and then proceeded to talk about a round designed in 1901. I think a gun more aptly described as a “modern rifle” would be the AR-15, which has an effective range barely reaching the 600 yard range in the best case scenario.

  2. As the author indicates, a bow shooter must engage the target at a relatively close range, say 100 feet or less, to achieve lethal accuracy. That is fine for game hunting because deer and turkeys don’t shoot back. Since the article is focused on protecting yourself against an enemy in a critical situation, I cannot imagine any advantage to a single-shot bow versus a semi-automatic pistol, rifle or shotgun, including, of course, pump action.

    I’ve tried visualizing the defense of my home interior at night using only a bow and arrow, versus a 12 gauge shotgun or side arm. I’ve also tried visualizing the use of a bow against an enemy target in forested or jungle terrain where there would be an advantage over firearms, but I come up short on the logic.

    A single 30 round magazine of 5.56X45 ammo exceeds the capacity of any standard quiver, and the standoff distance plus semi-auto rate of fire in the hands of a competent shooter will always defeat some guy with a bow.

    1. 5.56×45 is high on penetration and less high on transferring energy to the target. Semi-auto shooters can have a tendency to rely on volume of fire over bullet placement. So while a “competent” shooter will usually defeat “some guy” with a bow, I would say that a “competent” archer has a pretty good chance against “some guy” with a 5.56 semi-auto.

      Certainly, using a bow and arrow at night, inside the house, is not optimal. On the other hand, there are situations where the sound of a shot or multiple shots could attract more attention than you could deal with. In which case, one of those compact compound bows would be maneuverable enough, and with good skills, quick enough and effective enough.

      The bow encourages stealth and camouflage, which are useful skills when using a gun as well. Ambushes are particularly effective.

        1. That’s kind of silly. The military strives for competency with whatever weapon they use, and that weapon needs to be competitive with what the other military they may come into conflict with uses.

          I don’s say that archery is better than firearms in EVERY situation, but there are a few situations where that is the case.

    2. i shoot medieval archery,, my standard quiver will hold 34 armor piercing bodkin point arrows,, tho i normally carry 24. if we are doing a “war ” scenario then i have 3 quivers @ 102 arrows.
      in Vietnam special forces trained with bows, for silent kills and to train the natives.
      and the native american indians did a lot better than rifles an pistols in the forested areas.
      advantage stealth,, 5 to 1 odds, you in a concealed position, you can shoot an move, an most likely they wont know, so you can pick them off. but one shot with a gun and they know where you are at.. also yes i would use a gun in the house.!
      and finally the answer,, Both depending on the situation.

      1. I have AR’s and A Springfield Scout Squad. My standard magazines hold 30 and 20 rounds respectively. They are also more accurate projectile flingers than a bow, and when dealing with threats more practical. I can dump a magazine into you faster than you can shoot arrows at me.

  3. High powered compound bows can only use factory arrows with suitable spine strength, a home made arrow will explode, most likely punching splinters through your forearm. Carbon fiber arrows are not good for hunting for table meat, as splinters of carbon fiber can be left in the carcass and as a result, eaten. Aluminum arrow only for table meat from a compound bow. Low powered recurve/long bows are best choice for preppers wanting to make their own arrows. You want the arrow to stick into the beast, so when it runs, more damage is done and bleed out. Heart lung shot is best. High powered compounds on soft skinned animals will pass right through, so power isn’t everything to succeed. Most successful kills (here in the tropics) are under 15m, mid afternoon while animals take their siesta. I use a 75lb compound, but am target 100kg + feral pigs, I also have a rifle on the ATV in case the shit hits the fan.

    1. I almost forgot, As for which one I would choose in a self defense situation, I would make that decision in the first 2 seconds, as I use both. Love your work, from Australia

    2. That’s a good point (pun intended) and that’s also the main advantage of a slingshot. You can literally use anything: rocks, broken glass, ball bearings, anything. There’s a guy on YouTube who runs The Slingshot Channel where he mostly makes his own out of inner tubes and he does some pretty devastating things with them. Another advantage they have is that they can be easily concealed, and so can the “ammo.”

  4. “Which to choose” is the wrong question. It would be somewhat suicidally insane not to have both options available. Sometimes you will need the range or ammo capacity of a gun. Sometimes you will need the silence of a bow. And if the bow will suffice for a particular scenario, reusable ammo is a better choice than consumable ammo.

  5. From personal experience with both bow weapons and firearms, I’d say the firearm is better in a post-Apocalyptic situation. The use of a bow or crossbow requires you to be in good physical shape, and in a crucial situation, that might not be possible if you’re sick, injured, or malnourished. When I bought my 80 lb compound I spent 2-3 months training with it every day after work before I was even able to pull the string back, and that was 30+ years ago. Since none of us are getting any younger, I think that firearms are a better investment long-term. They’re the ultimate point-and-click interface.

    1. I would say that pretty much every aspect of surviving in a post Apocalyptic situation would require good physical shape. And yes, firearms are easier to learn to use, easier to use, and less dependent on physical condition. They are, however, highly desirable targets to be looted, nowhere near silent and the ammunition is a “consumable”.

      Once you have your firearms set, it would be wise to get some basic (non-compound) archery equipment and learn how to use it. It IS essentially silent and the ammunition is reusable. And if you lose all your supplies but have archery skills, you can make your own weapon. Compound bows are more effective, and if you want to add them later, that is fine.

      1. Very true. Regarding weapons I’d say everybody should have both types of weapons and be proficient in their use. Both have their unique advantages: bow weapons for their stealth, and firearms for their ability to rapidly fire off several shots in a row.
        The number one killer in any kind of catastrophe (war, natural disaster, etc.) is disease, surprisingly enough. Mostly easily curable diseases under normal circumstances. That’s why I’m stocked up on antibiotics, mainly doxycycline, neomycin, and ampicillin. Got 2 woodburning stoves with flat tops so I can cook meals or heat (disinfect) water if need be, AND physical books, mostly reference books on all different things for any grid-down situation. Even if I never have to use my woodburning stoves ever, they’re still a great way to save a bit of money occasionally, and for waste disposal. There’s a German guy on YouTube who has a channel called The Slingshot Channel, and he’s an expert on slingshots where in one video he proved that he had better accuracy than a rifle. Slingshots have the advantage of silence, and you can use any kind of ammunition. But in terms of real accuracy, the blowgun is the most accurate because you have it directly between your eyes, and you can get really close to an animal (or human) before firing it.

  6. Cant shoot wooden arrows in a compound bow. They will explode causing severe injury. Arrows are designed based on weight and straightness and spine strength.

  7. Bow hunting has many advantages, its much quieter, more sporty, but it takes skill to not wound an animal. You can bow hunt near population centers without danger of hurting someone, The meat has less chance of being damaged and meat from the loss of blood from an arrow makes the meat taste better, less “wild” My shooting limit is 60 yards but other hunters may be better and still others choose to shoot closer. Most, but not all bow hunting is with a compound bow. They are sophisticated and powerful shooting up to 350 feet per second. All of us compound bow shooters know that it is critical to have a well made, carbon arrow, with the proper spine strength based on the bow poundage. Dry fires and exploding arrows are a real and present danger. My target and hunting bows cost over 3000 dollars for both not to mention 300 dollars sights, weights, dampeners. Of course there are good bows that are cheaper but personally I would sacrifice for quality and look at Bowtech, Matthews, Prime, PSE, Holt and a few others. Don’t be a hero so shoot at 50#s or less, practice often, shoot targets accurately before you try to kill animals. I love to shoot my bow, its relaxing, fun and cheap once you get by the initial costs.

  8. A guy in the Navy had the CMH for taking out a large number of VC with a crossbow over the course of 4 days, retrieving his bolts where he could and also using his knife. . I won’t say how many but it was significant. I know this to be true because I personally maintained his service record.

  9. I can’t imagine choosing to rely on a bow for self-defense against opponents who most certainly would be better armed with a firearm of any description. As for hunting, traps and snares are even more stealthy and they ‘hunt’ 24/7 in any weather condition. Certainly a bow and arrows that you can realistically use and maintain is better than a pointy stick, but its only next in the evolutionary ladder of weapons. I’ll stick with the traps and the firearms. Just because someone really likes using a bow doesn’t mean its a good choice when the chips are down.

    1. Traps and firearms are certainly better choices in many circumstances. There are a few situations where a bow would be a better choice and to not have that option available may be problematical.

        1. Well, the bow has three things it can do which a firearm can’t. 1)
          be silent. So if you need to hunt or take out an enemy without letting everyone around know, a bow might be the better choice. 2) carry things. If you needed to send a note or tiny object someplace, a bow can do that. It can also have a line attached to it to send the line someplace you can’t get to, or to retrieve what you shot. 3) be on fire to set things alight or signal.

  10. Become proficient with both, any gun is great as long as you have ammo, with a bow you could make arrows as needed but for compound bows wooden arrows aren’t recommended, then there’s that long range part about guns you can’t match with a bow but on the other hand there’s that silent death thing about a bow, I still recommend both

  11. Thank you for sharing this info about “Gun vs Bow”. Really appreciate it. In my opinion, I think it’s best for us to master both gun and bow. We can use it according to our needs at that particular time. I haven’t had the chance to learn using a gun yet but I did some basic training with the bow. I hope to learn using a gun in the near future. It’s best to maximize our survival skills.

    As a thank you for sharing this wonderful blog, I would like to share with you one of my favorite survival book. It’s really easy to understand and very useful in so many ways. It contains so many survival guides that most of us don’t even know of. My favorite part of the book is that it help the readers to learn making their own medicine using medicinal plants that most of us don’t even know that it can be use for that purposes. The book teaches how to identify and prepare the plant for medical uses. But that’s just a small part of it. There are so much more survival guide in that book.

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    Thank you again : )

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