Camping & Survival

Five Alternative Weapons for Survival

Image shows a woman dressed in a wedding dress with blood splatter on it, holding and swinging a bloody baseball bat

Obviously, the perfect weapon for survival—for getting food and self-defense both—is a firearm. However, there is a finite amount of ammo available and even reloading components eventually will run out. What ammo remains in a long-term survival scenario will be worth so much more than what you have in trade or services that having back-up weapons in your survival cache is a smart idea.

You can always use your knife as a weapon or tool, same with a big flashlight or rock as a blunt force weapon. However, hunting with either of those will take extreme skill, patience and a whole lot of luck.

In a survival situation, you will need something lightweight, easy to use and can strike an animal—two-legged or four-legged—within a safe, effective and stealthy distance. Even if you have plenty of firepower, ammunition and reloading supplies, at times an alternative weapon will have advantages over a firearm. Many alternative weapons are quiet, if not downright silent. A firearm will give away your location and if you are not a skilled hunter, will scare off potential game if you miss your shot.

This article provides five good alternative weapons for survival.


Slingshots are one of the most primitive and first recorded weapons used in history. Ancient peoples used slingshots in survival, hunting and self-defense. However, they were very different from the slingshots of today. The invention of the modern slingshots evolved when Charles Goodyear created vulcanized rubber. For the deadliest, most effective slingshot ammo, use steel three-eights or three-fourths shot and don’t forget to pack replacement bands.


  • Quiet
  • Easy to operate
  • Never run out of ammo—rocks, shotgun shot, nails, marbles, glass, fishing weights, or arrows
  • Will kill grouse, squirrel, rabbits, rats, dove, pheasant and quail
  • Lightweight
  • Easy to pack and transport


  • Bands break and need replacing
  • Requires significant practice to master
  • Accuracy
  • Velocity limitations
  • Effective range limitations


Scientists have found evidence of bows used for hunting dating as far back as 20,000 BC. People used rocks, flint, sinew and feathers to form arrowheads and construct bows. The modern compound bow uses a sophisticated system of cables, pulleys and levers making it easier to use, more effective at longer ranges, and more accurate and faster than traditional long or recurve bows. Derived from the traditional bow, the crossbow looks more as if you turned the traditional bow on its side and mounted it on a rifle stock. A crossbow releases its arrow using a trigger instead of by hand.


  • Anyone can learn
  • Reusable “ammo” (arrows)
  • You can make your own primitive longbow and arrows cheaply and from very limited supplies
  • Quiet
  • Stealthy
  • Accurate
  • Will take down small, medium and large-sized game


  • Portability
  • Challenging


It is likely that the spear was the most used weapon in history. Either thrown or thrust, spears have been used in battle as well as for hunting and fishing. Chimpanzees and orangutans have even been known to make and use spears to kill their prey.


  • Easy to use, learn and make
  • Quiet
  • Effective
  • Versatility


  • Requires strength, skill and practice
  • Range limitations
  • Accuracy


The axe was originally a handless tool used to manipulate wood. It is also one of the world’s oldest weapons. Scientists have found evidence of hand axes in Africa dating back 1.8 million years. By the 19th century, 300 different types of axe heads were in production. The key to a good axe is keeping the blade sharp!


  • Easy to make
  • Due to its balance and weight, it is easy to be effective with it
  • Can be thrown
  • Doubles as a tool
  • Used to slaughter domestic animals for food
  • Versatile


  • Range limitations

Air Rifles

Multi-pump or break-barrel air rifles require nothing but air, ammunition and a little bit of manpower to work. They also tend to be slightly more accurate than CO2 or pneumatic powered rifles. .177 or .22 caliber air rifles will kill small game and birds.


  • Can take down small game
  • Inexpensive compared to traditional rifles
  • Ammunition is cheap, lightweight and easy to carry
  • Are not classified as firearms-no transfers, no background checks, no paperwork, no registration (where legal)


  • Hard to conceal
  • Awkward to carry
  • Noisy

Of course, as last minute, last ditch items, you can always use anything sharp—a machete, shard of glass, a dagger, a tactical pen or even something that will cause blunt force trauma such as a rock, baseball bat or D-cell Maglite.

What is in your survival weapons cache? Tell us what they are and why in the comments section.


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Comments (19)

  1. Hey…I’ll take the spear any day. Besides, I’d hope to have enough sense to hire those yummy spear chuckers to defend me, provided that our California legislators haven’t outlawed them—(the spears, that is..)

  2. I have no doubt that the alternative weapons mentioned in the article are efficient in the hands of an experienced user but I think for a lot of us they’d still have to be a last resort.

    I have a friend who was lethal with a Wrist Rocket and after reading this article I called him up and asked him if he still practiced? He said he didn’t but he was curious to see how long it would take to get it back. He put new rubbers on it and shot at soda cans at about 50 paces and he was disappointed with the results.

    In the absence of ammo they would be stealthy but with the exception of the bow I’d probably be a vegetarian at a loss to use any of them sucessfully.

  3. @ Hank Alvarez.

    No punning intended. No matter the subject, usually a couple of guns in the subject background, somewhere. But, the Indians, I’m pretty sure they had Winchesters, Colts, Schofields, Sharps, and whatever else they could capture, or barter for as well.

  4. Two Drink Minimum: You’re right. Ask the Indians how they made out against Winchester? I hope I never have to use one again but if I do I don’t want to be outgunned.

  5. Couldn’t tell ya. Not familiar with G 30?. I can still fill a book with things I don’t know. But I have a Rem. 7400 Semi-auto carbine in .30-.06 was discontinued some time back. Can still get mags. 5 rnd. mags for it though @ a Hefty Price from Rem. E-bay sells the 10 rnd’rs and Brownelles sells them too on order. but not of Rem. Origon. Many years ago I bought 10 rnd’rs from D & E magazines in my area. I cut the top off half of them & the bottoms off the other half and welded them together for 10 20 rnd’rs. Works great but only holds 18 rnds. each due to 2 mag. springs and a anti=spring binder plate in-between. Tack weld them together in an alignment jig, then run a weld around with electric welder only. Don’t want to heat warp the mags.

  6. @ Martin Pierce.

    Question, is the Winchester G 30R .30-06Sprnfld. (7.62x63mm) Carbine. Still in production, or being licensed manufactured by somebody else. No hurry!!!

  7. Necessity may be the mother of invention but there are few substitutes for the right caliber firearm and plenty of ammo.

  8. Make a Slingshot from a Jeep manual transmission clutch lever fork and bands made from an old inner tube. Works great–pick one up @ the junk yard. Barnett pistol crossbows work good for close range–add a sight–laser or?. And Practice.

  9. As a kid in the 70’s I spent hours practicing with both longbows and slingshots. Both are easy to make..I would also add traps and snares in a survival situation to round out my chances for success.

  10. Sorry, but I still favor my bow. When I was introduced to it in the 70’s I was told, “KIS” keep it simple.” I’ve shied away from compounds and the most complicated contraption I have is a cross bow. All of mine are standard re-curves that I can carry Indian style across my chest. I’m not William Tell but I can generally hit what I aim at.

    As far as air guns are concerned, when this BS 22 long rifle ammo shortage began I bought a Gamo 177 suppressed rifle that is very quiet. It’s lethal with small game like rabbits. In the right environment it would do.

  11. Agreed, if you are looking for a throwing weapon and not a thrusting weapon the atlatl is wicked.
    I like Bob Perkins’s site (atlatl dot com), but I’d like to see atlatls and darts made of modern composite materials for hardcore, long-term survival/combat applications. The authentic reproductions are VERY cool, but I’d sure love to see a modern interpretation of the concept.

  12. Having a spear is great, but it you really want something far more reaching than a spear. Then learning how to use an ATLATL, is the way to go. An ATLATL has all the attributes of a good solid spear, plus the far reaching, reach of an Bow and Arrow.

  13. To each his own but I really favor a Slingshot as an alternate. I can take out a squirrel or rabbit pretty easy with one. Practice and watching the slingshot videos on Youtube to learn technique really helps. It likely will not take out a Brontosaurus but it will fit in you back pocket and it will feed ya.

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