Thoughts on alternative weapons…..

A discussion recently came up on alternative weapons with a group I meet with once in a while. My first thought when I saw that the topic of discussion was “alternative weapons” was alternative to what? I assumed alternative to firearms. My second thought was, “What would  be the intended purpose for the alternative weapon?

The group met and we discussed that in a long term survival situation where bullets eventually ran out – what would be left to use?

Here is the list of alternative weapons discussed:

  • slingshot
  • blowgun
  • bow – recurve and compound
  • crossbow – recurve and compound
  • spear
  • sling
  • knife
  • airgun

Everyone had their opinions on what was best and most useful for hunting, and defense. Discussions were had about learning how to make crossbows  and bows from commonly found materials. We talked the value of an airgun to hunt small game. Crossbows and bows were attractive from the perspective of being able to hunt with as well use for defensive purposes. Slingshots were a favorite for most all due to their simplicity and available ammunition pretty much being everywhere.

I have to be honest – I felt a little out of place in the discussion. Why? Because I have absolutely no plan to ever be down to a slingshot, a crossbow, or a sling. I think the chances that YOU will run out of ammo at the same time as everyone else around you is slim to none.   This is one of the reasons why the .22LR is so valuable. Thousands of rounds can be stored rather inexpensively.

Nothing wrong with “alternative weapons” – but there is a reason why they are called “alternative”.



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25 thoughts on “Thoughts on alternative weapons…..”

  1. Well all of the weapons mentioned are pretty quiet. There may be some situation where you don’t want to make a lot of noise. Could be hunting, pest control or defense.

    It’s also not abd idea to own and know how to use some alternative weapons. Some of it is just plain fun. Take yourself for example Rourke, you do some stick fighting right? Martial arts and those sticks you use are a form of alternative weapon, other then a firearm.

    Also you know the first prepper group you land with might not be the one you hang with long term, or you might have more then one group. I was very lucky to find the people I call my group but I still continue to branch out and meet with new local groups.

    Take care

  2. I see this from 3 angles.

    Some folks have a weapon lying around they are currently using for something. A bow to hunt deer under more lenient rules, a nice air rifle to practice marksmanship in the back yard, etc. The potential survival benefit is a secondary matter.

    Sort of dovetailing with the first many folks like to collect swords or shoot black powder or whatever and try to justify that as a practical preparation. Like you really want to take a flint lock black powder rifle into the woods over a real rifle or wield a sword instead of a shotgun.

    The last are really prepared people who genuinely get this stuff as a backup. A guy with 20 guns, 100k centerfire ammo, a repair setup that would shame the average gunsmith, 10 years of food for their whole clan, live in an off grid house on 100 acres in the middle of nowhere, etc.

    For the first group it makes sense as the survival function is secondary and for the third group it makes sense because their ducks are seriously in a row. The problem is when Bob is buying swords/ bows/ crossbows instead of ammo for his real guns or food. It’s fine that he has that interest but it should be funded with fun money not survivalist money.

  3. I Do have “back-up” weapons from a big Barrett X-bow to slings and sling shots and quarterstaffs, spears, and swords. The slings and slingshots allow me to take small game without a soul knowing I am or waking the neighbors. The crossbow serves the same purpose for bigger game. As for the rest, I carry my Glock 22 everywhere but can have a weapon nearly ANYwhere I happen to be at any given time. Given the political and media climate nowadays shooting an otherwise unarmed intruder will most likely go worse in court for me than prosecuting them for just breaking in, threatening, whatever. Besides, describing in court (legal and court of public opinion) how I chased some moron around with an Asegai or Gladius while perforating his body parts will likely go better for me- especially if I happen to mention I could have used the Glock, a shotgun, or rifle. The quarter staff keeps me upright in the hilly woods, has bonked a crouchy black bear I inadvertantly awoke in a berry patch, and serves to keeps bad guys far enough away to draw another tool. You SHOULD have such back-ups. As the old saying goes, “two is one, one is none.” How many knives do you carry or have in a BOB? I have a Gerber, Leatherman, and replacable blade razor knife on my belt everyday, plus spares in the BOB. Same rule applies for other “tools.” For the record, I’d have a suppressor for a firearm but it’s just about the only firearm law Vermont has and even possessing one is flat out illegal. Just an ole’ cop’s 2 cents.

  4. Alternate weapons deployed against high velocity weapons carried by gangs of looters or other thugs, there would be an advantage to the thugs.

  5. These are not Alternative Weapons. They were all designed with a purpose in mind, well before a pistol or rifle was invented. That said, I would argue that a firearm is an alternative weapon. Dont get me wrong..I do have my share of rifles around my I prefer to use Bows and slings as they do not give away position when used as much as a firearm would. Ive never had muzzle flash from my bow. Then again, I would not use a bow when an intruder enters my AO. Nor would I use a Butter knife for a screwdriver….OK maybe I did a couple times. I guess I am trying to say…There are no Alternative Weapons..But a Weapon for a every situation…And we all need to train with each one for proper use. BTW.. I was showing a friend my pack and he was distraught and amazed that he never thought about adding a slingshot.

  6. Having a full arsenal of weapons is important because just like I carry no less than 3 knives on me at any time (1 for every day work, 1 for self defense, & 1 tool) there are different weapons for different uses. A bow or crossbow( my favorite hunting weapon) is fairly quiet. A slingshot is easy to carry and ammo is just at your feet in most places. Air guns are fun, cheap to feed (at todays ammo prices better to practice with an air gun) and quieter than a .22LR. The main thing is no matter what you have you need to practice with it or it will do you no good.

  7. Machete and bow are my alternative weapons. But in an “oh $hit” situation I’m more likely to grab my machete. I’ve been using them since I was 6 so have become very comfortable with them.
    Besides I could use the machete to make a spear or some other natural device. or build a shelter, cut fire wood, etc. You cant do that with a bow or blow gun.

  8. Whatever you decide to use, you have to have back up components for. The rubber on the slingshot has a limited lifetime – it degrades in light and with use.

    A bow string will need to be replaced. New arrows will have to be made. Fletching will have to be redone. Maybe the bow will become damaged and have to be replaced, as well.

    Everything has a lifetime. Even .22LR will age over the years and may become less reliable. It won’t matter the care given, or the age of your tools if you don’t know how to use them. And that use includes taking time to practice with them from time to time.

    It won’t help you a bit if you are trying to take a squirrel out of the garden with a slingshot, or bow, or crossbow 5 years from now if the rubber is rotted or the string is, or if you can’t hit the animal. Know your tools, and know how to use them – then keep using them.

  9. Everything is an alternative weapon. There is an ancient CIA training adage “If you are unarmed, get armed” I took this to heart decades ago and it has become a natural reaction to seek out a weapon when ever i feel a threat, where ever I am. It is a good habit to get into as part of your situational awareness. Any weapon gives you the high ground over the unarmed.

  10. Also, those well armed thugs that are in range of my crossbow that have wandered into my Gen 3 NVDs and thermal on a dark and rainy night are probably the ones who are going to be at the dis-advantage. Wondering what is killing them and where it is coming from. Many odd weapons have an advantage in the right circumstances.

  11. Anyone who has seen Denzel Washington in “The Book of Eli” knows that his primary weapon was a sword and that he only resorted to his postols when necessary. 😉
    Personally, I see no harm in having a backup plan and a backup plan for that. The old saying that “it is better to have a gun and not need one than to need a gun and not have one” works for all these other weapons, as well. I plan on getting a good crossbow this week, as soon as my CC is paid off.

  12. I think its useful to have some skill in other “weapons”. Lets face it there is something very primal about hunting with a bow. In my area, ALL ammunition is limited so it has reminded me that there may come a time when I need to limit how much I shoot. If I can spare a rifle round for an arrow, I think it helps me in the end. Thanks for the insightful posts.

  13. IMHO Alternate….. I have taken impact weapons training a few times…. OUUUHH ain’t I the badddd one. Wouldn’t a prudent man or women ‘arm’ themselves with less than lethal means of defense…. offense? I am very well versed with the use of a simple cane. I can take one on any airplane ‘guarded’ by the TSA. They’ll loan you one of theirs while they xray yours. Three of the first moves taught me are killing blows. I rather like the fourth….. which universaly results in a distroyed knee at worst… if the perp is really lucky they are down on their face long enough for you to GOOD or….. deliever one or more of #1, 2, or three… your choice. I wouldn’t under rate anything you can put in your hand….. to cover your… ass.

    • Thomas –

      I have studied Balintawak for many years. The simple “stick” can be a formidable weapon. A #1 or #2 (head strikes) are deadly. Others are debilitating allowing follow up strikes – or departure.

      My concern with any alternative weapon is bringing it to a gun fight.


  14. I look at it this way: You wouldn’t fill a golf club with only 5 irons, or putters
    – there’s a different tool for every purpose. It does make sense to have silent hunting weapons in the interest of OpSec (where you need to be discreet, ie.- escape, evasion). The other consideration is legality in an urban environment. You might be in a position where no defensive arm is even legal. In New Jersey, if you’re pulled over by a state trooper a stick of wood is a “billy”; a slingshot or a BB gun is A FIREARM! Each of these is a felony: You can lose your right to legal firearm ownership nationwide for an obviously stupid local law. I have a homemade plywood boomerang (non-returning) for small game, a frog spear and archery tackle. Do they replace a rifle or shotgun? No, but they fill a niche for being silent, and under the radar if all else is confiscated. The latter scenario is far more possible if you live in a city in the Northeast. A caveat: Don’t buy or make a blowgun in Kalifornia: Felony. Know your local laws.

  15. i think we’re missing something here. it Doesn’t matter what alternative you choose or i choose. What really matters is are ya gonna paratice it or with it enough to be able to use it when you need it? skills skills skills. thanks delr

  16. I lean more toward dead falls, tangle foot traps, punji pits etc. The quieter the better. A simple tied back limb with a spear is awesome but picture that same limb coming up against a stop and dislodging several dozen treated darts at one time with a slight pattern spread of perhaps six feet built in. I shudder to even think of it. In all my 73 years the deadliest alternative weapon I have seen was a #10 iron skillet flung by a mad wife that brought down her husband and his brother because as she told the sheriff, she just did not feel like being beaten on that day.

  17. I personally do not consider any weapon to be an alternative weapon.
    A weapon is a weapon. Just different tools to do the same job.

    There is a military maxim that states “No weapon is obsolete”

    I would consider using any of the weapons mentioned in lieu of a firearm if I didn’t absolutely have to use a firearm. If anything, I would use them to save my ammo for when I needed it in a life threatening situation.

    Semper Fi

  18. We are in the process of making Life Canes out of 1″ PVC pipe. Cut it into 3 sections and make it 6′ long. On the ends we have metal caps as the plastic caps tend to break. Attempting to mount some type of heavy blade to one end that can be stored inside the tube and pulled out and turned over to cap on the end of the pole as needed. Useless against a gun or arrow probably, but would work fine for limited hand-to-hand. Great hiking stick, and if you thrust it in someone’s chest, it will leave a mark. Storage within the PVC pipe is up to you, but some rope, matches, tinder, firstAid, etc comes to mind…

  19. There’s a myriad of reasons for “alternate weapons,” some of which are recounted above by others: when you need something quiet, when you are out of ammo, when you don’t have time to reload, when current laws prohibit the carrying of either a sidearm and/or a long gun, when you need something deceptively less threatening, when you experience exigent circumstances and use what is at hand, etc.

    I usually have a large variety of “alternate weapons” or things that double as “alternate weapons.”

    Recurve Bow – Quiet, fun to shoot. Increased distance over most other “alternate weapons.” * A word on bows, either traditional or crossbows, avoid the compound bows unless you have a plethora of arrows. Arrows are eventually lost or damaged beyond repair. The cost/size/availability of most carbon fiber or aluminum arrows make acquiring a near unlimited supply of them almost impossible. While wooden arrows could be made from found items and fired from a recurve, compound style bows put too much stress on the wooden arrows and injury is likely to occur.

    Sword – Hey now! The zombie apocalypse COULD happen. Just look at what happened in Florida. And wouldn’t you feel silly walking around with a swiss army knife if it happens. Seriously though, some type of sword has been seen in almost every culture. It was an effective and still is. If everyone is out of bullets, the sword gains you some distance over your closed mitts.

    Blowgun – I personally like the Cold Steel blowguns. They are a serious caliber. Darts are easily carried. The accuracy of these are amazing with a little practice and once you have buried a bamboo dart is an oak tree, you realize that they do have pretty decent penetration. The steel broadheads are even better and you also have the option of stun darts. I persoanlly carry mine whenever hiking as they make excellent walking sticks (and as a result are low profile). Paracord wrapped down the shaft further disguise it’s original use and provide a handy way of carry 20 -30 ft of extra cord. The Cold Steel variety effectively double as a staff (I’ve seen Lynn Thompson beat tires resulting in only a slight bend but it still worked as a club/staff).

    Entrenching tool – Used for decades as a backup weapon, they are far superior in hand to hand over the bayonet. I personally like the Cold Steel Special Forces shovel. With the sides sharpened, mine regularly cuts as well as a machete, but still digs holes when needed. It also can be used as a measuring device, hammer, paddle, fire poke, straight edge, hand to hand combat shield, throwing weapon, etc.

    Walking staff/cane – always low profile, they provide stability over uneven terrain or for those injured. They are so low profile that most canes even pass a TSA checkpoint. Like the old swords, they provide a defender distance in an encounter. There is even the Unbreakable Umbrella. VERY low profile. Google it and prepare to be impressed.

    Long blades and short blades – Machetes, kukri’s, bush knives, multi-tools, swiss army knives, fixed blades, pocket knives, tactical knives………seriously, if I have to explain why these are useful and can be used as a weapon, you’re on the wrong website. lol

    Bullwhip – Pretty uncommon now days except in Australia, but historically still a very effective tool/weapon. Does require practice (While everyone can wear Indy’s hat and leather jacket, most can’t use the bullwhip without incurring some scars.), while it seems like a toy, the end of that can easily slice flesh and snap smaller branches in the hands of an experienced user.. Heck, TSA is afraid of them so they must still be good. LOL

    Boomerangs – Again, a historical weapon for creating or taking things at a distance. Don’t think of the the plastic boomerangs that you probably grew up with, check out the serious boomerang that Cold Steel put out (Wow, starting to sound like a Cold Steel advertisement. Sorry. Not my intention, but they do put out a lot of good “alternative weapons” out there that are generally battle-worthy).

    Sling or Sling shot – Historically a very effective weapon (Just ask Goliath). While I have a small one for fun, I myself have never been able to master one. There’s a guy on you tube who invents amazing ones and using steel balls/rocks are quite deadly. He’s also just fun to watch and some of his inventions are just amazing.

    Tomahawk – smaller, lighter and quicker than an axe, these are deadly in hand to hand. Currently in use by some “in the sand box” they are still effective today. Historically, few woodsman in the US entered the woods without one and Roger’s Rangers mandated that every Ranger had a sharpened tomahawk with him.

    Finally, with those above shown as examples (and tons of others that I’m sure I’ve missed) there are very good reasons for obtaining “alternate weapons”…………..however…………….that being said……………….GO BUY MORE AMMO!!!! (It’s just so much more easy!)………………..and once you’ve gotten all the ammo you will likely need…………………………………………GO BUY MORE!!!!!

  20. I can definitely see situations where a silent weapon would be more beneficial then a firearm. Unless you have a real good silencer of course. Some of my group have practiced ambushing certain types of “individuals”, and we had decided silence is your best friend in these situations whenever possible. As for knives, EVERYONE should own at least one high quality multitool, fixed blade and one folding knife. I tend to like Spring assisted knives as they open with one hand, or a high quality switch blade like a Gerber or a Bench made (if youre made out of money! LOL). KNives are useful for everything and are your most valuable tool/weapon.

  21. This is has got be one of my favorite posts, besides being necessary and practical, it’s just plain fun! I will admit, I wasn’t too keen on the guns in the house idea when the kids were little, I’m sure many of you guys have had that conversation with the missus. But, I finally came around! Years of Kajukenbo and Missouri Dept. of Conservation youth and adult rifle/ handgun classes have put things in a proper perspective. If you have anyone you know with fear about guns, I would encourage you to find out if they have these classes in your neck of the woods. These folks at DofC are even ok with been asked “what’s that ‘thingy’?” And where I live anyway, the classes are even free and most provide the firearms for you. Rarely do I get to say, my tax dollars at work, and grin about it!
    As to the alternative weapons, to me that’s the fun part. This is where I get the boys and a few like minded neighbor kids and we wander around the house, garage, shed, yard, car and look for stuff to defend themselves with. It’s like an Easter egg or scavenger hunt for big kids. It’s amazing what they come up with! Then we practice. Take em outside and pick a target, if we run out of slingshot ammo, use dog food, take them to river and use rocks. Buy up old baseballs and have them get good at hitting targets. ( Ive even used cans of soda for this, think ‘everyday item’) I have them in scouts and we made walking sticks, so they learn some basic escrima.
    I could go on all day, but the important part is to get even the kids on board. Yes, you got to keep em in line, they go a bit overboard on occasion, and when they do, listen and try it out, they will catch on real quick what works and what doesn’t. It gives a sense of achievement, confidence and above all else, situational awareness. Maybe you even get some of those unwilling folks to see you’re just being practical and using some good old fashioned common sense.


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