Types of arrows and bows are probably not the first thought popping up in your mind when you think of survival. When s*it hits the fan, people seek protection in raw, bombastic power, and would only feel safe with loads of firearms, bulletproof armors and homes.
While these survival aids can provide reassurance and peace of mind along with protection, there are amazing benefits to primitive weapons and skills. They don’t have much merit indoors, but are downright invaluable if you choose to bug out into wilderness or the backcountry. Easy to carry and operate, they are also silent in action, self-sufficient since they aren’t dependent on stores and technology. And they are precious for hunting.
There’s another ginormous advantage of bow and arrows. Unlike most other survival weaponry, acquiring them doesn’t require you to dish out thousands of bucks. In fact, if you’re crafty enough, you don’t have to spend a single dime, as making them from scratch isn’t too tricky.
But using them is an entirely different matter. It’s probably the subtlest skill one may hope to master. And you can’t take shortcuts by resorting to all kinds of fancy tools and gadgets like you can with firearms, for example. Even if you were to mount a scope on a compound bow, it still wouldn’t make a great archer out of you.
Most of it is in your hands and fingertips, and not in an optical or digital device. When it comes to primitive survival, only skill will do. And you can’t acquire this skill by throwing cash at it.
What Types of Arrows Are There – Shaft Materials
While all types of arrows do the same job, the materials they’re made of will make a lot of difference. And there’s more than a single way of classifying them: by the shaft, arrow points, spine or stiffness, grains per inch (also known as GPI), vane type.
The most obvious classification depends on the shaft material. Archers and hunters would say there are four or five types of arrow material: wood, aluminum, carbon, fiberglass, and various alloys. Further on, they would say, wooden arrows are the worst.
But a survivalist must think outside the box of what is readily available in our consumerist, store-oriented culture. That’s why we’ll go beyond the ready-made approach and add one more category – scroll down for details.
Naturally, this is the oldest arrow type. But is old gold in modern target archery?
Not exactly. Wood is an abundant and therefore cheap material, but it’s also whimsical to the point that you can’t trust it to always provide identical results.
Even if someone were to make arrow shafts from a single piece of wood, using an identical technique, the arrows will significantly differ from one another. Different arrows yield different results. And different results translate to unreliability. Another reason why wooden arrows are a big no-no in modern archery is that they are prone to breaking or splintering easily.
However, as a survivalist, you won’t bring your arrows to an arms fair. When you are left to your own devices, you won’t really care about the rules of aerodynamics and physics. Wooden arrows need to be functional just enough to kill you a dinner. And kill they will, as we’ll see below.
A carbon arrow has the biggest spine, which is why it’s the best match for heavy bows and longbows. In other words, it’s the stiffest of all arrows, while still being very thin and easily penetrating.
They are typically pretty expensive, but they’re absolutely dependable and, if other parts are made right, deadly accurate. No wonder that hunters love them.
Typically less precise than their carbon counterparts, aluminum-shaft types of arrows can greatly vary in sizes and diameters. They are more convenient for beginners, being way cheaper but also more durable than carbon arrows.
Where a carbon arrow splinters, an aluminum one will simply bend. Which is something you can fix relatively easily.
Apart from wood, they are the cheapest of arrows. Which means they should probably be your first choice as a beginner, primarily because you’ll need lots of arrows until you get the hang of bow and arrow. If nothing else, you’ll probably lose hundreds of arrows before you learn to hit a particular target from where you can retrieve them.
Fiberglass arrows are also pretty durable and heavy, which means they’ll make more of an impact once they hit the target. However, they won’t fly nearly as easily or speedily as carbon or even aluminum arrows. Another significant con is that they tend to splinter lengthwise.
5. DIY From Whatever You Can (Mostly Wood)
Making your own bow and arrows isn’t just your kid’s idea of an exciting afternoon. It’s a skill in its own right, and comes with enormous advantages.
While you certainly won’t be able to make perfectly balanced, mutually identical arrows, they will do their bidding once you manage to get them right. Our prehistoric ancestors used to make composite bows from wood, animal bones or horns, and sinews. And arrows with wooden shafts and flint points.
You think that can’t be effective enough? Try taking down a mammoth with a $5 arrow from your local sporting goods store. Unless you hit the mammoth’s eye (pun intended), you won’t have much to show for.
Instead of flint or rocks, you can even use pointy bones or glass for your arrowheads. As for shafts, there are surprising varieties of wood you can use.
Types of Arrowheads (a.k.a. Tips or Points)
An experienced archer or hunter will likely have tried at least a dozen types of arrow points. Some are sharp, designed to kill by piercing flesh, such as bullet or field points, or even tearing it – such as broadheads. Others are blunt (and conveniently called blunt points) but no less deadly, at least where small animals are concerned.
A beginner archer, hunter or survivalist, however, won’t need to experiment too much with arrow tips. The most convenient option is to get arrows with fixed tips. But if you have extra cash to spend, get a set of so-called Judo arrow points. They have little hooks on top, which will prevent it from burying deep into leaves to the point where you can’t even tell where it is.
Once you get to a higher skill level, you’ll be able to transition to any of the aforementioned types. Or not, if you’ve found the one that suits you!
Fletchings Types – How Well Is Your Arrow Gonna Fly?
The fin-like vane on the rear end of an arrow is called a fletching. It doesn’t look like much, but it’s actually a pretty sophisticated part of an arrow.
Why so? Well, fletching is the feathery part (sometimes made of actual feathers) that provides stability and balance, and determines the arrow’s flying behavior. Will it fly straight? How fast will it fly, and how much of an impact will the wind have on its path?
Some types of fletchings will work great across long distances, others are made for shorter ranges. Even if you’re not sure which style best suits your purpose, make sure to make a choice. Any fletching is better than none. Without it, you may as well use your bow and arrows blindfolded.
There are different forms and shapes of vanes, but the materials classification is more basic.
Feather or Plastic?
Naturally, feathers are the type that’s been prevalent through humankind’s long and turbulent hunting and wartime history. Not today, however! Even if you managed to fletch perfect feathers, they wouldn’t last long. They would lose much of their stability in rain, and would easily break.
Turkey wing feathers used to dominate the field until the industry came up with synthetic feathers. Even though they are much more consistent in quality, they still suffer the same fate and aren’t much more resistant to wear and tear. They are lighter than their plastic counterparts, but that isn’t always good. It can even be detrimental when paired with a heavier shaft. With lightweight shafts, however, it translates to greater speed and much less air resistance.
As for plastic vanes, they are much more durable and therefore dependable. Unlike feather fletchings, they also vary in configuration. The basic, straight type of configuration allows for greatest flying velocity but can easily be affected by wind. Offset fletching (straight at the shaft, a bit offset towards the end) is a bit more wind-resistant, but the arrow won’t fly as fast. And finally, helical fletching induces a spin, which allows for greater accuracy, whatever the wind, but it sacrifices speed.
Conclusion – What Should a Survivalist Do?
Getting acquainted with archery’s basic facts is definitely a must-have for preppers. This eons old skill can’t let you down like technology can (and already has more than once). But since you don’t plan on applying for the Olympics, there’s really no need to go so far as to try out every single type of shaft, tip, or fletching for your arrows.
To make sure you’re ready when disaster strikes, either hit the store and stock up on the most affordable options you can find, or learn the DIY aspect so that you can stop depending on what others have to offer for your coin. In the wilderness or on the brink of civilizational collapse, your credit card won’t be of use. That’s why it’s time to stop depending on it once and for all.
Even though trying to make your own bow and arrows from scratch can be a daunting affair, you’ll muster a lot of confidence along the way. Ultimately, confidence and self-assurance is what will shield you through any peril, along with a handful of primitive skills to help you fill up the belly.