Archery for the Zombiepocalyse

I know that we have all heard various opinions, myths, and rumors about Archery and Zombies. I’m here to help set the record straight. The bow has a number of potential advantages for survival after the SHTF, as well as a number of notable disadvantages that have for a long time now removed it from the top of the projectile weapons pyramid.

Bows are quieter than guns. Arrows are often retrievable, and able to be shot again. You can hunt both large and small game with a single bow, with a preference towards using a specialized arrow for each application. This includes bow fishing, with proper arrows and tackle. “Primitive” bows, made out of wood or natural composite, such as sinew or rawhide, can be both easily taken care of by the archer and have arrows made by them for use with their bow. Bows often weigh, sometimes by a considerable degree, less than a firearm, even given an equivalent number of upgrades or accessories. The cutting surface of Broadheads and the slim, piercing shape of them can penetrate soft armors that would stop bullets.
The down size is that arrows are easy to lose in natural environments, often sliding along the ground or burying themselves underneath forest loam. Arrows can bend or shatter on contact with an object, in particular a hard one. If you get Zombie on an arrow, in all likelihood the Zombie residue will never completely be able to be removed, which means that anything shot with the arrow, and potentially anything behind what you are shooting should the arrow pass through, will be infected with whatever Zombie is left on either the arrowhead or the shaft. Wooden Arrows have two major drawbacks. They must be properly dried and sealed with a sealing agent in order to not warp after being straightened, and there is a high likelihood that a modern Compound Bow or Crossbow will shatter the shaft, causing the arrow to blow up in your face and in your hands, with the full force of the bow behind it. Bows can break. When they do, they can be as dangerous as a gun doing the same.

Choosing the bow that is right for you:
There are a lot of bows out there. A lot of types, a lot of styles of shooting, a lot of specialized accessories to assist in the particular application a given bow is being used for. Hopefully this will help you in choosing one for yourself.
Non-Compound Bows:
These are bows made in the old styles, made of wood, other natural materials, metal, or fiberglass, some combination of the above. These can be broken down into a wide array of styles, each with unique advantages and disadvantages. These can be broken down into self bows, made solely of wood, and composite bows, typically with a thin wooden core sandwiched between either horn, sinew, rawhide, or fiberglass, specially prepared for reinforcing the bow. All of these bow types have models available that break down in some fashion to be more easily transported.
First, the Longbow. The traditional long bow is perhaps the simplest of the bow designs, being primarily a selfbow crafted of plain wood to within roughly six inches the height of its intended user. Longbows have the advantage of being light in weight, 2lbs or so, ease of crafting, an amateur can craft one in 10-20 hours with tools, and ease of maintenance. The long bow is the longest bow, however, which can be a deciding factor.
Second, the Recurve. The recurve bow is evenly bent or curved away from the archer along its surface. These curves allow for more of the wood to be under tension before the string is draw, allowing for faster flight times as the bow flexes back into shape upon firing. Traditionally, recurves are almost entirely of composite construction. The composite construction allowed for minimal resources, like in areas with minimum amounts of usable wood, to layer usage resources together to create a complete bow. It also allowed horse fighting and hunting cultures to have a smaller bow with a shorter draw to have the same power as a larger, more traditional bow.
Thirdly, we have the Reflex Bow. The reflex bow is something of a cross between the previous two bows, and is often confused with the Recurve. On the reflex bow, the tips, or very upper portion of the bow, curl away from the archer, as opposed to the belly, or middle of the bow limbs. While not as fast or as compact as the recurve, the reflex requires only a small amount of reinforcement around the bent tip portion, as opposed to a whole backing. Otherwise, it often differs little from a longbow, which pound for pound it will outshoot. The Reflex bow also requires special tools and techniques for bending the wood in the correct shape to keep from being ruined in the attempt.

Non-Compound bows have several advantages over Compounds. They can shoot any type of arrow without fear of it shattering, within limits of it being properly construction, and the shaft being of a suitable weight for the bow. They weigh much less, which means they are easier to maneuver through most environments, will fatigue the person carrying them less, and are much less likely to become hung up on the environment being traveled through. More easily repaired and tended to, requiring fewer specialized tools than compounds. Often last for years or decades with proper care.
The down side is they require more constant preventative maintenance than compounds, such as oiling them after exposure to wet or damp conditions. Changes in temperature and humidity can cause decreased performance as the bow fibers take in moisture. Longer than compounds, which can be an issue in confined spaces. Traditional style pieces do not accept modern gadgets and accessories, but that does not mean that those things are necessary in the first place. They do not need to be left strung when not in use, as the strain on the wood will decrease performance over time. They do not “break over”, as the cams or pulleys on compounds do, meaning that the further you pull a traditional bow back, the higher the poundage is, and the harder it is to hold in place.
Compound bows:
Compound bows draw their strength from a set of rotating pulleys, or cams, through which the string is set. When drawn to full draw, the cams “break” over, being ovoid in shape, allowing for the string to be held at full draw at a decreased weight than the full draw weight of the bow, which much be achieved to move the cam over into the “broke” position. Compound bows have been steadily altered in design to fit with the modern tendency to hunting cramped stands that preclude a longer bow being able to be drawn easily to the rear. This allows for them to be set at poundages that a given shooter could not reach with a traditional bow of the same draw weight.
Bows, like guns, require practice to learn and keep skills at their current level. Compound bows, in the same manner as modern firearms, as designed to be accessorized in order to allow a person unwilling or unable to put aside the time to become proficient with the weapon in any other manner. Sights, arrow rests, even triggers to make them more familiar to people accustomed to firearms. Many of these accessories can be used on modern traditional bows, who have adapted to this trend in the archery world.
The downside is that compound bows are clunky, being shorter, fatter, and with more things hanging off and in the way. They are less comfortable to carry for longer distances, and much bulkier to store. They are less likely to malfunction or degrade in the normal fashion of a more traditional bow, but there is often little or nothing you can do about it other than seek professional help when something occurs.
Crossbows are nothing more than one of the above bows attached to the front of a stock with a trigger mechanism that can how the bow at draw until ready to fire. They are heavier and bulkier still than the bow that they draw their power from, and require more parts and services besides. They can, however, be taught to be used in a handful of minutes, and be designed to be used with spanning devices, such as a winch, that can cock a crossbow multiple times more powerful than any man could draw by hand. Modern crossbows are often equipable with scopes, further increasing their ease of use.
The problems with crossbows are many, but not insurmountable. They require, at a minimum, a solid surface to be pulled against, and a strong person to cock one. They are much slower than a bow. The bolts, as crossbow arrows are known, bleed speed extremely fast, translating as a more limited range than a bow.


The Archer’s Paradox:
When an arrow is fired from a bow, it does not travel in a straight fashion. The arrow wobbles in midair, flexing back and forth. The primary thought on the subject is that this is caused by the back end of the arrow is traveling faster than the front, sending a shockwave through the arrow as the two ends seek to match up. Regardless, arrows have what is known as a spine weight. The spine weight of the arrows you need will correspond to the poundage of your bow, at the length you draw to before releasing. In practice, if you cannot hit the target because your arrow is wobbling, either the spine weight is incorrect for the bow you are shooting, or you are doing something completely wrong.


Arrows could be their own article, and may be. Arrows are what make a bow deadly.
Shafts are the body of an arrow, and they determine both the draw weight and length of an arrow. Shafts are usually made out of either natural fibers, aluminum, or carbon fiber. Natural fiber shafts can be both harvested and turned into arrows by hand, but are the most prone to bending, and the correct shafting material must be chosen for a given weight and application of arrow. Aluminum, the old standard, is slowly going the way of the dinosaur. Probably the toughest shafting material, aluminum is also the heaviest of the three, and requires an extrusion machine and lath to create. Carbon fiber shafting is the new standard, being the of extremely light weight and nearly impervious to bending, carbon fiber is but far the weakest and most brittle shafting material.

One natural shafting, you have as many options as you can make work. Aluminum and carbon fiber shafts both require metallic inserts in order to have arrowheads equipped to them. These inserts are typically glued in, and can either come with the arrowhead permanently attached to them, or be threaded so that various heads can be screwed on or replaced as wanted.
Target points, often shaped like bullets, are TARGET points. They are designed to provide a lot of surface area and drag on contact with a target, and to be able to be removed easily. That shape means that they will not penetrate well, will not do a lot of damage to what they penetrate, and will plug up any wound channel they do cause until removed. None of those are pluses for killing, well, anything.
Broadheads are edged arrowheads designed for killing. They are razor sharp, often made of surgical steels, and will kill a man as well as a zombie as easily as they will a deer or a raccoon. They are not, however, designed to make contact with any surface other than maybe bone. They will stick fast in wood, too tightly wedged to be removed in a lot of cases, and contact with metal or stone will often shatter them into pieces.
Broadheads also come in multibladed versions that are spring loaded, allowing for the aerodynamics of a target point, and the potential of the broadhead for killing. They require carful resetting after every use, often use rubber bands, and are the most expensive. I have, however, seen a test where a large turkey hunting one beheaded a ballistic gel simulation, complete with bone, with a neck shot at reasonable distance in non-ideal lighting.
Bird points are designed for small game. Traditionally they are either an extra large, flat head, used to transfer force into the target instead of penetrating it, causing death be shock. .38 Special cases have often been used for such on natural shafting. Bird points, often with protruding wire loops are available for modern shafting.
Arrows are as deadly and capable of ricocheting as bullets. The same safety rules apply.


Practice. Practice. Practice. Nothing will make you an archer other than practice. And make no mistake; no one other than an archer should even consider carrying a bow in SHTF. Start close, 10 yards. Treat your bow like a pistol, as far as range and accuracy are concerned. That is a good rule of thumb.
`Bows shoot in an obvious, pronounced arch. Each bow has a different one, the only way to know it is to shoot it, often, at progressive ranges. If you can do that, consistently, then you need no other accessories to use a bow, other than personal protection.
Personal protection means some form of arm guard. You will understand if go shooting without one. Some form of covering for your fingers, such as a finger tab or archers glove, to protect them from the bite of the string under tension. String wax for a waxed string is a must, and weighs nothing. For non-compound bows, an extra string or two is traditional and smart. Be sure to keep at least one dry and preferably on your person. Should your bow require, something to oil it with. That’s potentially cams for compounds, and tallow or wood oil for traditionals, I would ask the maker. I have been told raccoon tallow or fat is best for selfbows. For people considering Eastern styles of archery, including horse archery, the string is usually draw using a ring on the thumb, as opposed to being drawn with the fingers. These rings are common and cheaply available.
Should it be your preference, sighting options are neither amiss nor looked down upon, particularly if you have limited time to practice. Be warned, they will handicap you to their use, and have the potential to limit your range and reliance on them remaining intact.
Buy or make you a target. There is a fine tradition of stump shooting(stump meaning already dead wood) with target points. Targets are common, as are hay bales. Clubs also exist, as do shooting sports.

I believe that quivers deserve their own section. Quivers are what you carry your arrows in. The traditional viewpoint is that the sit over your shoulder in a leather tube, with the top quarter of them exposed for easy removal.
The problem is, quivers not adjusted choking tight into your neck do have a tendency to slide around peoples backs when trying to fetch an arrow, causing one to use both hands to draw an arrow from the quiver, one on the arrow, one supporting the quiver.
Hip quivers suffer from a similar issue, constantly bouncing and doing a poor job of containing arrows.
Limb quivers attach to the bow limbs, allowing a small number of arrows to be at hand at any time the bow is carried. They tend to make the bow more cumbersome to wield, as well as offering little protection to the arrow, a common flaw with the above mentioned carrying devices.
All of the above come primarily from Hollywood and ideas of Robin Hood, or from archery ranges and clubs, where protection of the arrow and fletching, the main role of a quiver, do no matter nearly as much as convenience. The exceptions are specifically compartmentalized, since modern broadheads are very angular, and get tangled with each other when not purposefully separate.
Traditional Native American and European designs have provisions specifically for covering up the fletchings, to protect them during travel. The Native American versions often where low slung, close to the belt line, to allow for various points of draw for the archer. The arrow bag, a European tradition, sits on the belt, and makes use of either a hardened spacer or ring to keep the bag open and the arrows free to be retrieved. Both of these can have problems with the more sharply angular modern broadheads.

This information holds true of modern, commonly available archery equipment. For older styles or custom making of equipment, and martial archery, a future article may be forthcoming.

Written by Wheelgunner, posted by AVM