Tips for Choosing a Survival Crossbow: Recurve vs Compound

When you get serious about being a survivalist you will get to a point when you consider alternative survival weapons. The standard three projectile survival weapons (the air rifle, the handgun, and the shotgun) will work just fine in 99.9% of survival situations. Still, it is nice to have options. That is what the survival crossbow is; a nice, quiet optionan alternative survival weapon. In this article I am going to give some tips for choosing a survival crossbow should you choose to purchase one.

Why a Crossbow?

  • Crossbows are quiet.
  • Crossbows never jam.
  • Crossbow bolts are easier to manufacture than cartridges. The tools to do so are also easier to acquire.

Crossbow manufacturers are similar to car manufacturers…each one claims that they are the best. Though there are some differences in details, style and performance, crossbows all do basically the same thing…they project a bolt from a trigger controlled bow. What you as the survivalist needs to figure out is what features you need for survival.

Survival Crossbow Options

Now, when choosing a crossbow for survival or hunting, you have several different options to choose from. Should your crossbow be recurve or compound and use short or long bolts ? Also, what kind of game will you be hunting and how tall are you? Do you need to have a cocking device or will you be able to cock the crossbow by hand. In this article I am going to focus on the differences between recurve and compound crossbows.

Important Factors When Considering Recurve and Compound Crossbows:


Recurve crossbows are simpler than compounds and thus are usually easier to maintain and repair. This makes them more reliable. Compounds have small moving parts such as the cams that wear out and need maintenance.


Weight is an important factor to consider when in a survival situation. Recurve crossbows are generally lighter than compound crossbows. An ultralight recurve crossbow such as the Excalibur Phoenix weighing about 6.3 pounds weighs about a pound less than the lightest compound crossbows.


Compounds are generally less accurate than recurve bows because they go out of tune. Just knocking a cam on a limb or dropping the crossbow can render it virtually useless until you re-tune it.


Recurve crossbows can be restrung easily. Not so with Compound crossbows. With the compound system you need a bow press and then you need to tune it.


Recurves are quieter. Less moving parts equals less noise.


Cocking is easier with a compound crossbow. Recurve crossbows don’t have a cocking mechanism and require you to use your physical strength to cock.


The power of the crossbow determines the speed of the bolt. Compounds are generally more powerful than recurve crossbows. That is not to say that recurve crossbows are not powerful. They are just not quite as powerful as compound crossbows. Speed of the bolt becomes more important as the size of the game increases.


Recurve crossbows are less heavy on the limb because there are no pulleys, cams, cables, or sliders: thus, they are more balanced and are quicker to aim.

U.S. Crossbow Hunting Regulations

If you don’t know the crossbow hunting regulation in your state here is a good reference.


If you have been hunting with a vertical compound bow then you might think that is the way to go with a survival crossbow. Not so. Compound crossbows are to complicated for survival situations. Recurves are simpler, lighter, quieter, more reliable, and are more accurate because they don’t go out of tune. The only reason I can see someone choosing a compound crossbow over a recurve in a survival situation is if they lack the physical strength to cock the recurve crossbow.