Bows Vs Crossbows – the Pros and Cons of Each
Bows have been around since humans emerged and the only things that have changed are how they are made and the arrowheads used.
Later on in human history, crossbows were created as an easier alternative to using a bow and now in the modern age, we have air-powered bows that are more rifle-looking in appearance.
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A design spanning millions of years and has been used in nearly every war since humans emerged. In WW2 a British Lieutenant-Colonel by the name of Jack Churchill, nicknamed “Fighting Jack” or “Mad Jack”. He used a bow instead of a rifle in combat. This soldier has the only known bow and arrow kill of WW2 and in modern warfare.
A bow is a fallback for many people as you can make arrows or bolts from a tree branch, thin twine, and feathers (making a sharpened wooden tip arrow) and any arrow or bolt is reusable, you can reclaim the arrow or bolt when fired until it suffers a malfunction.
There are three types of longbows:
- The traditional or recurve bow is just a piece of springy wooden or springy metal limbs, which makes up the traditional or recurve bow body, then a tight string is added (knotted at both ends of the bow) that is used to attach or “nock” the arrow using the nock groove of the arrow.
- The compound bow is a modern take using cams and a lot more bowstring, it works in the same way, except the body is designed to have extras, like a bow sight, arrow rest, and grip. Some come with a pistol grip instead.
- There is also the traditional longbow made famous by the English, who came up with the design in the 1300’s and it dominated warfare as it had the power and range to hit the enemy before they reached their front line, using the famous point at the emery and aim high, this, when loosed makes an arc to rain hundreds of arrows on the charging enemy.
Draw weight is important when picking a bow as if you can not pull it is useless. You must also know the correct arrow length to use as well.
Again there is the recurve type and the compound type as bows do, however they fire shorter arrows called bolts.
The main purpose of a crossbow is that it can be used by anyone and the added trigger mechanism allows you to cock the crossbow, knock the bolt and take aim. However, these can be slow to cock and make ready.
My Jaguar recurve rifle crossbow has a draw weight of 175 pounds making it a serious threat, however drawing it is no easy task, even for me, that’s why it came with a cocking pulley rope which makes it easier.
You can get self-cooking pistol crossbows that require the user to pull back the stock to cock the pistol crossbow, they tend not to have a draw weight exceeding 100 pounds.
You can get repeating crossbows and they have roots in China. The modern rendition includes Cobra RX Adder Repeating Crossbow, cocked like a repeating rifle.
Then there is the air-powered one. This is designed to look like a real rifle or pistol and use air to propel the arrow instead of drawing a bowstring into a firing position.
The UMAREX Airsabre Airbow is an air-powered rifle that has quickly grown on me. I will have to budget to get one that is legal for where I live.
How Easy Is It To Learn To Loose a Bow?
The answer is that it will take time to knock, draw, aim, and loose an arrow or bolt, but it’s not hard to learn.
For me, it was easier to learn to use a bow and crossbow than it was to learn to use firearms. You just need practice.
You have to know your draw weight, mine is around 175 pounds because of my crossbow. If you are unsure, visit your local archery store and get a true measurement, you can increase the pound draw weight as you progress. A healthy adult should be able to draw a bow of at least 20 pounds with relative ease.
The accuracy depends on the skill of the user, it is not always as simple as pointing the arrow or bolt and shooting, though many who loose an arrow or bolt should hit the target at least twice out of four arrows or bolts.
Longbow, Crossbow And Airbow Power
The power of a bow and crossbow is proportional to the draw weight of that bow or crossbow.
A 175-pound crossbow can reach up to 360 feet per second or 400 kilometers per hour, meaning you should get good groupings at between 50 and 100 yards, depending on the quality of the crossbow, the quality of your scope, and your skill level.
While a longbow set at a 65-pound draw weight and set between a draw length of 24 inches and 32 inches can reach a speed of up to 300 feet per second.
Airbows will be subject to the law of your country and will come designed within that law.
They can reach up to 450 feet per second and will gradually decline as the air pressure in the reservoir declines.
How Quiet Can A Longbow Or Crossbow Be?
Longbows and Crossbows are quieter than firearms, however, they still produce some noise.
Longbows are the quietest of the three arrow and bolt users as crossbows clang when fired, and airbows produce that puff of air when firing a bolt. You can get limb dampeners for longbows and crossbows, however, airbows can not be dampened.
This is most likely why hunters prefer a longbow over a crossbow or airbow or prefer something that can hit a target from a good distance away.
Weight And Bulk of Bows
Bows can be lighter to carry than a crossbow or airbow.
A crossbow can weigh around 6.5 pounds (including quiver), while a longbow can weigh up to 3.9 pounds (including quiver).
An airbow can weigh at least 6.3 pounds (including quiver and in-use air canister) which does not include a bandoleer or belt of extra air canisters and does not include the canister converting attachments or hand pump as extra carry.
A longbow stands tall rather than being wide, unlike a crossbow that is wide at the front, some crossbows can have a reduced limb length or no limbs at all.
An airbow has no limbs and relies on air to launch the bolt.
When measuring a longbow we go from axel to axel. Some can be as long as 32 inches for an adult, however, many will just sling it over their shoulder using the bowstring, something many archers have done for centuries in place of a sling or quiver.
The height of a longbow makes it unusable when moving in small spaces, like when clearing a building and trying to get through doors.
That’s the advantage of a crossbow and airbow, they can sweep buildings and go through doors much better, depending on the limb length of the crossbow.
An airbow will do this easier, you just have to watch the PSI levels, so a backup is always useful to these three bows, if you’re prepping.
How Much Do Longbows, Crossbows or Airbows Cost?
The price depends on what you want, some are affordable on budgets and some are not.
Some longbows start from around $200 and the best ones range from $400 to over $1,000, the same is true for crossbows, some can go for more than $2,000.
Airbows range from around $400 to $2,000 depending on what you want.
You will be paying for the quality though and some bows will not come in a pack where you get slings, bow quivers, or any accessories or other attachments, which is ideal for those looking for a more custom bow.
How Safe Are Bows?
Longbows are relatively safe, there is no safety like on a crossbow, airbow, or firearms, as you need to be able to pull the bowstring to even fire one, especially if you have an arrow, however, if the longbow has a good construction you can use it close quarters, like you may have seen in hero related archer TV series or movies, but it would not be advisable, as you could break your longbow.
A crossbow has the same safety feature, you have to be able to cock the bowstring and knock a bolt before it becomes usable, the trigger safety is also a bonus to the safety, but the kick or recoil of higher draw weights will not be for everyone if the body is thin and weak.
An airbow will have three safety features:
- PSI being empty
- Removal of canisters
- Trigger safety
- Bolt storage
The first two are just good storage practises of air weapons, the fourth is much like how you might have heard how to store bullets, separate from the firearm, the same is true for bows.
The Simplified Pros and Cons List
|Carrying a bow is a little easier as you can sling it to your body using the bowstring to carry it. Which is something that people have been doing for centuries as it is practical.||Hard to sweep buildings due to the bow being tall, it might get caught in the frame if held in a drawn position.|
|Faster shooting can be attained when using a longbow. The more you practice, the more arrows you should knock, draw and loose downrange.
In theory, anyone who practises should be able to knock, draw and loose one every one to three seconds.
|Price vs Quality. You might get a basic good longbow, however, you might have to get the accessories separately.|
|Keeping the bow drawn will sap your strength and energy. That’s why archers will not hold a bow drawn.|
|Easier to sweep a building with. You can maneuver a crossbow through doors with more ease.||Price vs Quality. You have to spend more on a crossbow to get one that is well made, you may also have to spend more money on accessories if it does not come with any, this goes for the recoil or kick, a thicker and sturdier body will keep the recoil low.|
|You can draw the bowstring and knock a bolt to store the kinetic energy to fire it.
This allows you to reserve energy for a later shot, rather than having to keep the bowstring drawn, unlike with a longbow, which can quickly sap your strength and energy when held.
|Noise. Some make a clang when fired and that can scare off prey or create a beacon to your location.|
|Range. They will have a good range when a good PSI level is reached before firing.||PSI. If the PSI gets too low you lose range and accuracy.|
|They will sweep a building. The rifle or pistol designs allow the user to sweep a building without limbs being in the way.||Air Canisters and Refuelling Accessories. Some only take canisters and you will need to carry a lot to ensure you have plenty. You also need to carry adaptors to use other canisters. Some can be refilled by hand pumps, those add weight to your loadout.|
|Faster reload time than a crossbow. Even with a rope cocking aid or cocking winch, airbows are faster as you just need to add a bolt to the airbow pipe, if the PSI is at a good level.||The bolts need to be ones designed to work with an airbow. Anything cheap will not be recoverable as cheaper bolts or the wrong materials will cause a malfunction. The bolts for an airbow can be expensive.|
|Finding Canisters and Refuelling. You have to have a regular supply of canisters and in some cases, a source of electrical energy or a fuel source to run other ways to refuel your airbow via a compressor or electric air pump.|
So Which Is Better?
Well, the short answer is neither are better. All three have pros and cons to them that make them useful in some areas and fail in others.
It depends on your needs and budget. You can learn to make bolts and arrows. You can learn to make a bowstring and learn to make a longbow or crossbow from scratch.
You can not refill used disposable air canisters. You have to find other ways to use your airbow or lose the use of your weapon if you can not attain suitable air canisters, especially if your airbow can only use air canisters.
A longbow is better with space but horrible in close quarters, it makes it hard to use when sweeping a building, however, the reload time is one of the fastest of the three bows.
A crossbow is better at sweeping a building than a longbow and works in open space, but the reload time is a little longer than a longbow. The draw weight and potential kick or recoil might not be for everyone.
An airbow is better when sweeping a building or in an open space.
The downside is being able to refill the airbow you are using as canisters will be hard to come by, the power to use compressors might not be available, and you will run through many depending on how much you use the airbow to shoot.
You may not be able to make new bolts for the airbow.
Each of the bows have places they will shine and places they do not. You have to pick the right bow for the job.
If you are hunting then a longbow might be better due to speed and range as well as being the quieter of the three listed when loosed. The target will not know you fired until the arrow hit it.
If you are sweeping a building for supplies or for another reason then a crossbow or airbow might be better due to the ease of wielding it around doors and corners, also having the bolt knocked and drawn ready to fire at a pull of a trigger is a bonus.
The drawback is the reload time is a little slow for an airbow, but even slower for a crossbow.
My dad was military. My grandfather was a cop. They served their country well. But I don’t like taking orders. I’m taking matters into my own hands so I’m not just preparing, I’m going to a friggin’ war to provide you the best of the best survival and preparedness content out there.