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Bow or Crossbow for Survival | Which is Better?

Crossbows and bows are both excellent tools for survival if you know how to use them. That being said, space is an issue. You can’t store multiple weapons in your kit or bug-out bag, especially if you want to leave room for food, water, and emergency supplies. So, should you choose a bow or crossbow for survival?

Crossbows are much quicker than bows, but a bow will give you better accuracy. If you’re able to aim well, then a crossbow would be a good choice. If your precision is lacking, then you should choose a bow to make it easy for you to shoot.

Throughout this article, you’ll also learn the following information:

  • The differences between bows and crossbows
  • Why you should choose one over the other
  • Review of the best bow and crossbow on the market
People Firing Bows and Crossbows Silhouette

Should You Choose a Crossbow or a Bow for Survival?

Melee weaponry is great if you know how to use it, but there’s no denying the benefit of being able to hit a target from a long distance. Both bows and crossbows allow for long-range combat, which can prove to be life-saving if you’re hunting for food in a survival scenario. Eating an animal sure beats trying to find edible plants while avoiding inedible ones. However, there’s no straightforward answer between the two choices.

Let’s break down the reasons that you might choose one over the other:

  • If you’re accustomed to shooting rifles, then a crossbow would probably be a better selection for you. They’re held very similarly to a gun, and they require a few of the same maneuvers for reloading, handling, and aiming as well. This might not apply if you’re also great at bow hunting, though.
  • If you’re bad at aiming a weapon, then a compound bow will be a good choice. Although crossbows have speed and sights, bows are noticeably more accurate at mid to long-range archery. You won’t have to worry about the arrow or bolt swaying in a different direction unless there’s wind.
  • If you want something that’s more portable, then a bow will be a great option. You can strap it to the side of your backpack without taking up much space. On the other hand, crossbows are bulky, and they require special handling and security buckles every time you’re done using them.
  • If you prefer to adjust the power of your shots, then a compound bow is the best option. You can limit the draw strength by reducing how far back you pull the string. Crossbows only have one setting when you lock the bolt in place, so you won’t be able to determine how short or far it goes.
  • If you want less vibration and distraction when you shoot, then pick a bow. Regular compound bows don’t vibrate very much, and they’re not at all uncomfortable to use. However, crossbows vibrate quite a bit when you release the bolt, especially if it’s moving at a high velocity.

Related How Far Can a Bow Shoot? | Ranges by Draw Weight (With Chart).

Pros and Cons of Compound Bows and Crossbows

Crossbows and compound bows can both be very effective in the right hands. Anyone who knows how to use them properly would be able to secure a meal, whenever they needed to if survival calls for it. However, there are advantages and disadvantages to both weapons.

If you’ve never used either bow before, here are the pros and cons of each:

Pros of Compound Bows

  • Compound bows are much easier to learn with. You can adjust the distance, change the height, and fix everything else to work with your preferences. They’re also available for a wide range of prices.
  • Compound bows are also much less bulky than crossbows. You don’t have to worry about lugging around a big, loud weapon everywhere you go.
  • It’s very easy to train a beginner on how to use a lightweight compound bow. There’s definitely a learning curve, but it’s shorter than the crossbow training process.

Cons of Compound Bows

  • They don’t come with sights that are as accurate as crossbows. You can’t zoom in or adjust for windage, nor can you look for marks to change and account for a drop.

Pros of Crossbows

  • Crossbows are much quicker than compound bows. You can reload a bolt in a few seconds and shoot it right away. Reloading isn’t a problem, and shooting is made easier thanks to the sight on top.
  • Crossbows don’t need to be restrung as often as a compound bow. Even if you have to eventually change it out, the process takes less than half the time you’d have to spend with a bow.
  • Crossbows are compatible with most gun sights. If you have a scope that you prefer, you can buy it at a gun store or online to fit your crossbow.

Cons of Crossbows

  • Crossbows are much larger and awkward to handle and store than compound bows. This problem not only makes it slow to pull out initially, but it also makes it harder to store and carry for long distances.

The Best Crossbow or Bow for Survival

Once you’ve read through all of the reasons that you should choose either a crossbow or a traditional bow, it’s time to make your selection.

Recommended Crossbow

When looking for a crossbow, there are a few criteria that I recommend It should come with around 185 pounds of draw weight, which is far more than enough to go hunting. There should also be an adjustable stock and an ergonomic grip that helps you aim better and move around with comfort. This is the crossbow I currently recommend (Click the link to see Amazon listing).

There are suppressors on this crossbow that cut back on the vibration as well as the release noise. You won’t be drawing attention to yourself, nor will you have to deal with frustrating movements in your crossbow as you move. On top of the crossbow is a sight that you can aim down, or remove it for iron sights.


  • Virtually silent suppressors with very little vibrations
  • Includes a removable sight
  • Plenty of target-stopping draw weight
  • Comes with a really nice stock warranty

Recommended Bow

For a bow, you will want something that is as compact as a crossbow but still has the characteristics of a longbow. Tactical bows fit these criteria perfectly. They fold down to fit in your backpack and can be unfolded to shoot within seconds. If you’re looking for something to store in your backpack while you move around, then you won’t find a better option. This is my current recommend tactical bow, also found on Amazon.

A bow should be able to shoot up to around 200 feet per second for it to be ideal for stealth hunting. It should measure in with around a 31-inch draw length, fine for even small people. It’s good to go with a lightweight option and best if it weights less than 3 pounds (1.5 kg).


  • Tactical bows fold down for easy portability
  • At least 50-pounds of draw force
  • Shoot up to 200 feet per second or greater
  • Made with high-quality materials

Both bows are worth investing in, but it all depends on what you feel the most comfortable with. If you’re used to firing rifles, and you’re okay with the bulkiness, then crossbows offer unparalleled shooting power. On the other hand, if you prefer the traditional style, portable, effective nature of a bow, then you should choose the tactical bow.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to choosing a bow or a crossbow for survival, both of them have their own benefits. There’s no direct answer. You should find out which of the two you’re better with, then choose the best bow on the market. After all, why would you settle for anything less when you’re trying to survive?

Crossbows and bows are similar in the sense that they’re quick and effective, so don’t worry too much about which one you should pick. Worst case scenario, try both to find out which you prefer. There are plenty of inexpensive models to purchase.

For more, check out Do You Need a License for a Bow and Arrow? | Owning vs. Hunting.