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Crossbow vs. Compound Bow – Best Type of Survival Bow?


In a worst-case scenario, when everyone else reaches for the guns or knives, what are you left with? That’s right, good, old-fashioned bows and arrows. Well, to be more specific, crossbows or compound bows, as these as two great survival instruments.

What’s the best type of Survival Bow? Crossbows and compound bows can both be used for hunting, allowing you to maintain a steady food supply. They also transport easily, and, if you have a well-built model, shouldn’t fall apart on you when you need them most in a survival situation.

As you see in the title, this is crossbows versus compound bows for survival, which means there can be only one. Which is better, the old-school crossbow or the modern marvel the compound bow? In this article, I’ll tell you.

What Is a Crossbow?

Crossbow vs. compound bow

Is the Crossbow Best for Survival?

Before I can discuss whether you want a crossbow or a compound bow for survival situations, I thought it’d be best to clearly define the differences between the two. Let’s start with crossbows first.

Crossbows date back to the 1500s when Medieval Europeans and East Asians used them as weapons of war. The first iterations of the crossbow are credited to ancient China. As we entered the 10th century, Europeans began making their own crossbows with wooden bows. At the time, these were referred to as lath or prod.

By the time the 13th century arrived, more materials were incorporated into the bows. These included animal tendon and sinew, horn, and wood. These composite bows, as they were called, were more powerful because of all the materials used in their construction. In the next century, steel was the select material for making crossbow prods.

The design of a crossbow is largely unchanged from centuries and centuries ago. The main part of the crossbow is its stock, which is also called the tiller. This is the frame of the bow. Near the stock, you’ll find a trigger mechanism so the string can let the arrows fly as well as well as a taut space for the bowstring.

Europe and China had two different ways of making their crossbow locks. In Europe, they favored the rolling nut lock. The frame’s top had a transverse slot for the string. The notch’s bottom would be pierced through so a vertical rod could fit into it. There was also a tickler near the rod, which is a lever at the rear of the crossbow. This was scrapped in favor of a nut, which would keep the string secure.

In China, they used vertical trigger locks instead of rolling nut locks. This lock was a bronze structure with four pieces that were held together by dual rods. They were also made of bronze.

Crossbows are still used today, mostly for paramilitary and military applications as well as for scientific, leisure, and hunting purposes.

What Is a Compound Bow?

Crossbow versus compound bow

Compound Bow Best for Survival?

Next, there’s compound bows, a more modern creation. These utilize pulleys and cables as part of the bow’s levering system. The bow itself boasts angled and even curved limbs to accommodate the strings. These limbs are also designed to be stiffer. While you might think this is less advantageous for you, the user, it’s actually the opposite. That stiffness means you don’t have to put as much energy into each shot. Sounds pretty good, huh?

Unlike crossbows, which have existed for centuries, compound bows are a much more recent creation. Back in 1966, Holless Wilbur Allen created the first crossbow. He got it patented by 1969, and they have caught on ever since.

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Compound bows have eccentric cams. No, this doesn’t mean they’re quirky. It’s a mechanical engineering term that refers to circular discs and the way they move. When on a rotating axle, the circular discs do not sit centrally on the axle as they turn. With a compound bow, that means you get a greater shooting radius.

There are dual cams that have their own tracks. The outer track goes through the bowstrings while the inner track has cables that connect it to the other cam or limb. You can adjust both cam tracks for your own draw-stroke profile, choosing between soft-drawing and hard-drawing according to your needs.

Another feature of the compound bow is a riser. This is a stiff part of the bow that allows for the quiver, stabilizer, or sight to be included. Today, 7075 aluminum alloy is the choice material for making risers, with carbon fiber, magnesium alloy, and aluminum also sometimes used.

Compound bows are very much favored today for hunting and target practice.

What Type of Bow Is Better for Survival?

Now that I’ve defined both crossbows and compound bows, it’s time to answer the question of which bow is better for survival purposes. To do that, I’ll go over several different points, such as ease of use, speed, and accuracy to help you decide which bow is more exceptional.

Price Differential Between the Crossbow and Compound Bow

Depending on your budget, there’s a crossbow for you. Obviously, the more high-end models are going to be more expensive. These will be made with the best materials and are intended for long-term use.

So yes, while you can get a cheap crossbow for under $200, for survival purposes, it’s worth it to invest in the highest-quality bows. These may start at $500 and up. Remember, you’ll also need bows and accessories like a shoulder sling for easier use, which means you could be spending $800 to $1,000 for everything.

Crossbows are undoubtedly less expensive than compound bows. These bows start at around $1,000, and that’s without any arrows or accessories. Some of the best models cost $1,500, so don’t be surprised if you drop more than $2,000 for a well-made crossbow and all the gear and accessories you need.

Ease of Use of Crossbows and Compound Bows

When it comes to ease of use, both bows have their advantages. Here are some reasons the compound bow controls well.

  • Rubber-coated blocks are included as part of the pulley system. As you pull back, the blocks will work to create a type of wall for pulling the string along. This lets you choose your own draw length for more reliable shots.
  • There are fewer vibrations and less recoil to worry about when shooting with a compound bow. This is due to the way the limbs move as well as the cables. The limbs will curve inward to control recoil.
  • You also don’t need a control cable for most compound bows because the idler wheel and single cam are designed to be different from one another.
  • Arrows may be able to go further, again due to the cams, especially the soft cam. Using a harder cam may lessen the total distance you can achieve.
  • As mentioned, it takes less energy to shoot arrows using a compound bow because of the cam system.
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That said, dry loosing or dry firing is a risk when you use a compound bow. This is when you don’t set up any arrows but still shoot the bow. Obviously, if you’re doing this, you’re either testing the bow, or it was a mistake. Try to limit dry firing if you can, because it could break down the components of the bow.

Many archers who rely on both crossbows and compound bows for survival purposes do mention the semi-steep learning curve associated with using a compound bow. Just looking at these bows, you can quickly see how complicated they can be. If you’ve never handled a compound bow before, it’s easy to make mistakes, like dry firing. You might want to start with a crossbow then, which has fewer moving parts (and thus less risk of them breaking down). Once you get familiar with your crossbow, you can upgrade to a compound bow if you want.

Best Type of Bow for Shooting Speed

As for how much time you’ll spend loading your arrows, the compound bow is the winner. That’s because of the lower draw weight these bows boast. However, it’s crossbows that can shoot more quickly. This again has to do with the draw weight. Since this weight can often exceed 100 pounds with crossbows, the arrows will fly faster than they would with a compound bow.

If you’re trying to catch an elusive animal while hunting, then the speed at which you can shoot your arrows is very important. It could be the difference between you and your party eating or not eating for the day.

Best Type of Bow for Accuracy

Speed is one thing and accuracy is another, and compound bows are a more accurate shot than crossbows. This is attributed to the above-mentioned pulley system with its rubber-coated

blocks. This gives you an almost customizable shot. If you want a shorter draw length, you can achieve it. The same goes for a longer draw length or even one that’s mid-length.

It’s not advised you switch between draw lengths once you choose one. When you settle on a single draw length, you get an anchor point you can rely on again and again during that round of shooting. That can improve your accuracy.

As I discussed earlier, you do need to be familiar with a compound bow to enjoy this accuracy. Just like with any bow, you’ll very rarely if ever pick up a compound bow for the first time and begin shooting perfectly with it. It takes time to learn and adjust to it, so practice often!

The Verdict

Both crossbows and compound bows have their advantages. Instead of picking one over another, it’s worth it to take the time and the money to invest in quality models of both bows. Having bows that shoot quickly and accurately is important. Crossbows are better for speed while compound bows are more accurate.

In some instances, being able to shoot fast will matter. That said, if you miss all the time, then a compound bow would be better to have. That’s why you shouldn’t limit yourself to one type of bow over another, especially in a survival scenario. You need all the chances you can get to hunt food and ward off predators, and both crossbows and compound bows are adept for those jobs.



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