I have some experience with archery, and from a suggestion in one of the comments on another post, I’ll do my best to share what I have learned. I have been shooting off and on for 20 years although for purely recreational reasons. The focus of this post will be practical information, but it is you, the reader that will need to go out and practice. I am by no means an expert, but I hope to get you started in the right direction. This subject is so broad that I will be breaking it up into several sections. The first section is about the bows themselves.
There are three main families of bows. These are the compound bow, the traditional bow, and the crossbow. The compound bow uses cams, pulleys, cables, etc. to provide a mechanical advantage. The benefit of this is less draw weight while aiming, faster arrow speeds, and flatter trajectories. This results in more accuracy. Traditional bows are split into two types, recurves and longbows. A recurve actually bends backwards when unstrung, while a longbow is flat. Recurves do provide more power in less length, but with modern materials the difference in length is only about a foot. Crossbows have a short, often compound, bow attached crossways to a stock. These bows provide the most power, but are the slowest to ready. They also have a trigger system to hold the bolt and string back, greatly increasing accuracy.
I have limited experience with crossbows, as I have never been impressed with them. I do not like crossbows because their rate of fire is horrible. For a time I could get off six well-aimed arrows a minute from my longbow, where a crossbow could do only two bolts in the same time.
I prefer traditional longbows and recurves to compound bows. Compound bows are “better” in the sense they are more accurate. The price difference is significant, and the additional complexity is not worth it IMHO. I’m old fashioned, so I’ve always used the traditional bows. A decent longbow is ~$200 new, where a cheap compound is ~$280.
Because of this mechanical advantage, and the way the bow is built, traditional bows and compound bows are shot completely differently. Most people grab a bow, nock an arrow, and draw it to their ear. For traditional bows, that is incorrect. You can learn to shoot that way, but when I was finally shown how to draw my longbow to my chin instead of my ear I gained a lot of accuracy and more importantly, consistency. I’ll go over shooting in another article.
If you break a string, you can easily re-string a traditional bow, where it takes a lot of work to re-string a compound bow. As most of us are preparing for when the SHTF, it’s a no-brainer to go for a traditional bow. It’s actually surprisingly easy to make a bow yourself. Here are two books that I’ve bought on the subject, although I have yet to try to make one for myself.
As for the weight, traditional bows are rated at so many #’s at so many inches. For example, my bow is 46# at 28”. At 28” of draw, there is 46# of pull on the string. Draw it farther and you get more pull, draw it less and you get less. Using a longer string on a bow can reduce the pull as well. If you’re just starting out, see if you can use a slightly longer string and work your way up to the normal string. Not all bows can do this, best to ask a local archery shop for advice.
I would recommend at least a 50# bow. This is sufficient for deer, black bears, and two-legged prey. For moose, grizzly, elk, etc I think you need at least 70#, talk to local hunters to make sure.
There are take-down recurves available for purchase these days, and these have the various mounting points for sights and stabilizers. I’ve never owned one, but I have almost purchased one in the past. If in a SHTF situation, the increased accuracy from sights and stabilizers might make the difference in having dinner. The limbs can also be interchanged, which is nice. These interchangeable limbs allow you to “work your way up” if you do not have the strength for a 50# bow by purchasing target or youth limbs. Likewise heavier limbs are available so the same bow can be used for elk and deer.
Traditional bows must be stored unstrung. Stringing a bow is an easy process, which I’ll do my best to describe. Nock the string on the bottom, and place the bottom tip of the bow on your right foot. This keeps dirt from getting jammed in there and prevents damage while nocking. Hold the bow at a 45 degree angle to the left, with the left hand on the tip of the bow. Hold the string out in the right hand, and step through with your left leg. Now the back of the bow should be under your left thigh with the string above your left thigh. In one smooth motion, compress the bow with the left leg and slide the string up until it nocks. Then gently release the pressure so the string is taught, and you’re done.
The next article will be on arrows, points and accessories.