Tents / Tarps / Bivies
Wild Camping

Lightweight Backpacks
Sleeping Bags

Wilderness Survival
Hiking Adventures

Edible Wild Plants
Survival Kits

Making a Bow and Arrow

(Adapted from the U.S. Army Survival Manual)

Bow and Arrow

A good bow is the result of many hours of work. You can construct a suitable short-term bow fairly easily. When it loses its spring or breaks, you can replace it.

Select a hardwood stick about one meter long that is free of knots or limbs. Carefully scrape the large end down until it has the same pull as the small end. Careful examination will show the natural curve of the stick. Always scrape from the side that faces you, or the bow will break the first time you pull it. Dead, dry wood is preferable to green wood. To increase the pull, lash a second bow to the first, front to front, forming an "X" when viewed from the side. Attach the tips of the bows with cordage and only use a bowstring on one bow.

Select arrows from the straightest dry sticks available. The arrows should be about half as long as the bow. Scrape each shaft smooth all around. You will probably have to straighten the shaft. You can bend an arrow straight by heating the shaft over hot coals. Do not allow the shaft to scorch or bum. Hold the shaft straight until it cools.

 Steve's Notes: Reed grass sometimes has dried stalks that are strong enough to use as arrows, and they are very straight compared to most woods. The bamboos and related grasses generally have too many "knots" or knobs to work well when firing them as arrows.

You can make arrowheads from bone, glass, metal, or pieces of rock. You can also sharpen and fire harden the end of the shaft. To fire harden wood, hold it over hot coals, being careful not to bum or scorch the wood.

You must notch the ends of the arrows for the bowstring. Cut or file the notch; do not split it. Fletching (adding feathers to the notched end of an arrow) improves the arrow’s flight characteristics, but is not necessary on a field-expedient arrow.

Making A Bow And Arrow

While it may be relatively simple to make a bow and arrow, it is not easy to use one. You must practice using it a long time to be reasonably sure that you will hit your target. Also, a field-expedient bow will not last very long before you have to make a new one. For the time and effort involved, you may well decide to use another type of field-expedient weapon.

 Steve's Notes: It is extremely unlikely that you could make a decent bow on your first try, and then kill an animal with it, if you have never made one. Spend your energy elsewhere if you don't have some experience at this. On the other hand, it can be educational and fun to try making a bow if you have the time and are handy with a knife.

Arrow Points

- To make an arrow point, use the same procedures for making a stone knife blade (see the page Survival Knives).

- Chert, flint, and shell-type stones are best for arrow points.

- You can fashion bone like stone - by flaking. You can make an efficient arrow point using broken glass.

Back to Survival Weapons.

Back to main page of the Wilderness Survival Guide.


The Ultralight Backpacking Site | Making a Bow and Arrow