Choosing a Traditional Bow vs a Compound Bow for Survival - What you should know

"Survival Bows And Who Should Consider Owning One" was the topic of my previous article and we talked about exactly what a survival bow was good for and where they excelled in the world of archery. We even mentioned that such bows may slowly start to be renamed the "compact modern longbow" and as such form a new segment of the archery market more widely accepted than a weapon thought to be useful purely as a survival tool.

Today however we deal with one of the most widely misconstrued perceptions of what makes a good survival bow. In order to do this we need to take a look at the industry benchmark for what is believed to be a good bow and that is of course no other than the compound bow.

We also need to look at a few other options to compare to and this is where more traditional bows such as the recurve bow, the longbow and the compact modern longbow come into play.

I have many a time come across forums filled with pages and pages of people discussing (and sometimes even arguing) about what the best bow for a survival or SHTF situation would be. There is a somewhat clear divide in opinion on what the answer to this question is and it generally comes from two very distinct camps of people.

The first camp is a camp of people who seem to be more open minded. People who like to question things and make their own opinions based on extensive research and personal experience, as well as the actual experience of others. They ask questions, debate with fair reasoning and seem to have experienced the use of many types of bows and equipment suited to the outdoors. They seem to be more experienced in the outdoors in general and have a wealth of knowledge of what it means to be an outdoorsman. It is this camp that seem to be more open minded toward considering a more traditional bow such as a recurve bow or compact modern longbow for a survival or SHTF situation.

The second camp of people seem to be more set in their thinking. They seem to be more biased in their approach to the debate and almost exclusively seem to have little real world outdoors experience other than their annual 200 yard walk to their tree-stand for the yearly whitetail hunt. Added to this they deem any bow other than a compound bow to be substandard, almost without exclusion and with further prodding it normally comes out that that is all they have ever shot.

It is no wonder that newcomers to the world of "survival archery" can be so confused when it comes to choosing a bow for a survival or SHTF situation and its time to put some thoughts on the table and take a look at the pros and cons of what makes a good survival bow and then discuss which type of bow may be better between a more traditional bow and a compound bow. For the purposes of this article we are going to look specifically at takedown bows (recurves, longbows and compact modern longbows) vs compound bows:

Let's first take a look at what attributes make for an ideal survival bow. Survival bows need to be:

  • Powerful enough to hunt game the size of deer and antelope.
  • Accurate enough to take small game such as rabbit, squirrel and medium to large birds.
  • Durable enough to last a lifetime
  • Easy to maintain
  • Easy to transport and free up your hands for other tasks or to carry other equipment such as rifles for self defense.
  • Light enough to allow for carry of other necessary equipment
  • Simple enough to require no or minimal tools
  • Adaptable enough to allow for multiple users or unit members both left and right handed

Those who are trained and experienced in the outdoors in a wide variety of skillsets including survival, hunting, tactical, backpacking, etc will quickly appreciate ALL of the points above. You see a survival or SHTF situation would incorporate most if not all of these skillsets and not just a hunting skillset. That is why I am kicking off this "debate" with a list of "What would make for an ideal survival bow?"

Now let's move on to compare takedown bows and compound bows against this list of points.

The Compound Bow definitely has plenty of power and is as accurate as bows come, but when it comes to durability one has to question them by considering the amount of moving parts involved as well as just how "fragile" these parts are when it comes to the bow taking knocks and bumps when spending extended time off the beaten path. Personally if I had to make it through a SHTF situation I would not feel terribly comfortable putting it through even the smallest amount of hardship I may encounter on my journey, especially if I wanted it to last a lifetime.

Ease of maintenance is also a big issue when it comes to a SHTF scenario. One usually requires special tools and jigs to restring and maintain a bow and you certainly won't be able to carry those around with you. Sure you may have these at home, but if you had to move you would have a problem.

Ease of transport is another big disadvantage to compound bows. Unless you are strapping them to your backpack (which increases the risk of damaging them) you will either need to leave it at a basecamp or carry it in your hand and that not only reduces the tasks you can accomplish and where you can travel, but it will certainly become a nuisance at some stage. Imagine trying to move through thick underbrush or climb up banks or swim across a river. Certainly not ticking the box of easy to transport.

From a tools perspective you will be fine so long as you don't need to change or maintain anything, but scene as this is a bow that is needed to last a lifetime, you will at some stage need those tools and as mentioned above you will at some stage have issues.

And finally, the last point of allowing for multiple users. A compound bow is great in that it allows for various poundages to be dialled in on the same bow. Which is great right? The drawback is that it allows for either a left or a right handed archer, not both and therefore cannot be used in an ambidextrous way. Luckily most archers are right handed so this point is less important than others above.

The Takedown Bow segment has three main categories in the form of the takedown recurve, the takedown longbow and the compact modern longbow such as the SAS Tactical Survival Bow and the SAS Recon Folding Survival Bow (soon to launch at the writing of this article) from Survival Archery Systems.

Each of these 3 types of takedown bows has its own unique attributes which we shall summarize briefly against each of the points on our list.

Bow power is something that is misunderstood when it comes to actual takedown ability. Native North Americans were harvesting bison, elk, moose and deer with bows in the 30#-40# range and it all comes down to arrow placement and blood-loss. If you hit your quarry with any bow 45#  and up in the vitals it is pretty much game over. There is enough penetration power to cause enough blood-loss that the quarry will go down. What is important thereafter is your ability to track the quarry after having given it enough time to bleed-out. So takedown bows are a good choice for a survival or SHTF situation for sure.

The accuracy of takedown bows whilst not as good as that of a compound, is generally good enough for small game if you have put in the practice. Don't think you can just stuff a takedown bow in your bag, whip it out and shoot a squirrel at 30 yards when you get hungry; you will learn a hard lesson. Takedown bows, unless fitted with a well sighted sighting system take practice to learn to shoot with an instinctive style. Other than that they are accurate enough to do the job and thus tick the box.

Durability of takedown bows with respect to real world abuse is orders better than that of a compound bow as you typically only have 3 major parts securely bolted together. The riser and two limbs. Wooden limbs and wooden risers typical of many takedown recurves and longbows are not as durable as composite limbs such as those used on compact modern longbows such as the SAS Survival Bow range, so choose carefully. Composite materials are not only stronger than wood, but can weather out the elements such as rain, sunshine, heat and cold and generally last much, much longer. Wooden products require much care whilst composite materials can take substantially more abuse.

Aluminum is also a great riser material as it has very stable mechanical properties that engineers can use to accurately develop bows to ensure they are working well below material fatigue limits, thereby ensuring your bow will last a lifetime. This is important to remember; if a manufacturer does not claim to have designed a bow using engineering principles then beware, because it normally means designs are more based on touchy-feely shape decisions rather than on structural integrity through material selection and detailed analysis.

Ease of maintenance is up next and again, takedown bows require very little maintenance and just a tool or two at most. Wood certainly requires maintenance to keep it in good condition, but composite limbs and aluminum risers require little to no maintenance at all. You also don't need special tools for compact modern longbows such as the SAS bows, but for recurves and longbows you will generally need a stringer and an allen key or two.

When it comes to multiple users takedown bows generally cannot account for different poundage needs from users. You are pretty much stuck with one poundage unless you are carrying spare limbs around with you. Recurves and longbows with cutouts restrict left and right hand usage with the same bow, but compact modern longbows with non-cutout shapes such as that on SAS Survival Bows allow for both left and right hand usage by simply swapping the bow between hands.

Lastly, let's talk about transport ability and weight. This is where the big gamechanger comes in when it comes to choosing a bow for survival. Takedown bows are all comparatively light enough for easy transport when you have other gear you need to ruck around. From a packability point of view they are even better, because they can fit into large backpacks which not only helps protect them, but get them out of your hand. Compact modern longbows are the most compact of the lot and can even fit into one-day packs if they are shorter than the magic number of 21".

Straight limb bows such as longbows and compact modern longbows pack down much better than recurve bows do and take up much less space. Recurve and longbow limbs are usually quite a bit longer than compact modern longbow limbs so are only compatible with very large backpacks, but all takedown bows are much more suited than a compound bow to a SHTF scenario.

This is super, super important to understand when making a decision on buying a bow for survival. Skilled and experienced outdoorsmen with all the skills we spoke about earlier will tell you that having a bow that can easily fit in a backpack is pretty much the crux of your decision. Why, you ask? Well its like what my dad used to tell me when I was a kid trying to do stuff in the workshop and I had a whole bunch of tools I was trying to use, "Put that down and use both hands boy." He was right and it comes down to freeing your hands up. It makes almost everything you do so much easier.

Like carrying a rifle if you are in a tactical survival situation for instance. Or how about dragging your bike rack deer back to camp? Climbing, swimming, hand-to-hand combat, running with a pack; the list goes on.

Having the ability to get your bow out the way is in my opinion THE most important attribute of a bow for survival and this is exactly why Survival Archery Systems developed its patented SAS Tactical and Recon Folding Survival Bows. They not only pack down very, very compact, but they are the only bow on the market that has a solution for the transport and protection of your takedown arrows. Our customer's feedback speaks for itself and the number of repeat sales purchased for friends and family seals our opinion on why we believe that the SAS Survival Bows should be your bow of choice if you are looking for a compact, silent bow for survival that will not only last a lifetime but will do the job you need it to do, each and every time.

Well I hope that helps you in your decision in which bow to choose.

To get more info and get yourself one of the very popular SAS Survival Bows for your bugout or survival bag click this link now -