It is difficult to imagine what type of event will send society spiraling into an all-out survival-of-the-fittest situation, but bullets are only going to last so long. Then, what?
The following options, which are excellent backups, are much less expensive than pistols, shotguns, or sporting rifles and can be concealed with great ease. Though they are all silent, they are considered short-range options and have substantial limitations to wounding or killing, but they can bolster your self-defense. Remember that they are not your primary weapons; they serve only as a plan B to your firearms.
They might look cool, like a ninja, but try using one. It’s not easy. You probably can’t even hit the broad side of a barn with it on your first try. Out of all the examples here, a throwing star takes the most patience to learn how to use. The obvious worst part about them is figuring out how to hold and throw them without slicing off your fingers in the process.
There are many methods to throwing them: over- and underhand, as well as like a Frisbee. Do whatever feels the most natural. Start at 10 feet, throw them into heavy-duty cardboard, and slowly work your way back until you feel you can’t hit the target with any effective speed. Hold the star by one blade between your thumb and index finger. You might find that by using a combination of forward toss and flick of the wrist, the star will leave your hand and not cut any fingers or skin.
As with anything, the first time you do it, use caution. This includes practicing away from any pets and small children who are in the area.
There are several different types of throwing stars. Some are three- or four-pointed stars, all the way up to a dozen or more. You may find the lesser-starred types easier to learn with. They come in several color schemes; and none of the stars is more aerodynamic or easier to throw than another.
Inexpensive, lightweight, compact, reusable and can be deadly
Somewhat difficult to (hold) throw, hard to find (buy), short range
There are dozens of designs of throwing knives. Don’t fall for the “cool” factor; get practical and well-balanced knives instead of those that look like something from a Klingon battle collection. The nifty thing about a throwing knife is that it is balanced, but some are heavy on the blade end, while others can be heavy on the handle end.
However, the most troubling thing about a throwing knife is having the ability (talent) to throw one. Similar to the throwing stars, start close to a very large piece of cardboard, about three to five feet. The most common mistake: Some people think the knife is supposed to continue rotating during flight. That is not the case—it should fly straight like a dart. The heavier end should fly out of your hand first. So, if you start with a blade-heavy knife, hold the handle. If the handle is heavy, hold the blade part in your hand. There are techniques to follow for throwing at medium to long-distance targets.
Grip the knife with your index, middle, and ring finger in the center of the handle (assuming the knife is blade-heavy) on one side and with your thumb in the center on the other. Turn at a 45-degree angle to your target with your non-dominant shoulder toward the target. Throw it overhand very similar to how you would a ball. Keep the knife horizontal to the target and follow through with your hand.
The less you bend your arm in the swing, the longer the knife will remain stable in flight.
Typically come in sets of three, deadly, inexpensive and lightweight
Various sizes—each throws a little differently, may be tough to find a set that is balanced to your abilities, hard to find (buy), finding a way to carry several on your person without them getting stuck on other gear. It takes lots of practice to get really good.
Axes And Hatchets
There are axes and hatchets designed to be used as throwing weapons, but not all of them can be treated this way. Imagine, however, how it could be used as an effective close-range weapon against an attacker, human or otherwise. This weapon, in properly practiced hands, increases your chances against anything from a mountain lion to a wolf. If you’re able to lower yourself quickly enough, you could deliver a slaying cut to the belly of the animal. Without having done this, I’m not sure if the animal would retreat or step up its attack. But if it were a deep slice, it’s easy to assume you would have the upper hand.
Something to consider if you like the idea of having an axe on your defensive weapons list is the size of the handle in reference to your hand. The grip needs to feel good and solid. Anyone with big hands is going to need a larger-diameter grip. An axe used in a defensive manner isn’t one of those weapons that should be shared within a group of people; each one should individually fit its owner.
It’s important to try and keep the weight to a minimum, as well. Some like to think of an axe as an extension of their fist. But instead of using it to punch, you swipe at the target. It could be useful to find a way to strap an axe to your leg so it won’t get in your way while trying to climb a fence or squeeze through a tight entrance. There are some axe sheaths that can be mounted on the back of a vest or to the webbing of a pack—as long as you can reach it quickly and with very little noise.
Multi-use item—defense or as a tool, can extend your reach in combat and, if kept sharp, can cut big material with ease, has an intimidation factor toward enemies, plenty of styles to choose from. A good axe will last a long time.
Can be somewhat heavy and bulky, based on design, and a bit expensive
To be honest, this isn’t a product you might have ever considered being effective. That is, until you try it. There are two choices of “calibers” within the blowgun world: .40 or .50, with the .50 often referred to as a “big bore.”
The driving force behind these weapons is your lung capacity—not just in volume, but also in pressure. It requires a hard, fast “punch” of air to send a heavy dart any distance with accuracy and enough force to do any damage. With enough practice, you should be able to, with just your lungs, sink a .50 “pro hunter” dart into a healthy tree over a half-inch deep at 30 feet. Now, understand that might be in perfect conditions, without any crosswind. You should still be able to stick the dart at 50 feet, but it will have much more drop and won’t penetrate as deeply.
A smaller blowgun still has a wide range of darts to choose from and can be just as deadly with a skilled operator. In strong winds, there is much more drift with the smaller calibers (just as with small-caliber rifles). One nice thing about the .40-caliber is that it comes in many more lengths—at least four—from 16 to 48 inches.
Regardless of which caliber dart you use, there are important points to remember when using a blowgun: The big ones are a bit heavier and much longer. As you aim and hold them up for a while, you will feel the weight. Keeping it steady can be tricky, especially if it’s windy or if space is tight.
Capable of good accuracy in calm conditions, ease of use, choice of style of darts
Big ones can be hard to strap to your person and a bit pricey compared to smaller ones, affected more by wind, could break or bend under stress or impact
Most people assume using a slingshot is incredibly easy. However, I’ve seen more than one person get frustrated because they couldn’t hit a trashcan the first time at 30 feet. The left-to-right aiming is very simple, but how a person pulls back a slingshot can determine the elevation. It takes a little practice, but generally, it is easy to figure out after four to five pulls. You can buy a few sizes of plastic or steel balls. If you can afford it, try them all and find one you like the best. Then buy what you can afford and stash it.
The best thing about a slingshot is that even a nice one is inexpensive. A slingshot will have a little more range than a blowgun and a bit more speed, too. However, the stopping power is somewhat in question. A dart will easily go into a soft object. A large, round ball bearing will need some serious force to penetrate a rabbit or similar-sized animal. That being said, you can imagine how it limits the effective distance for a kill shot to a small animal.
Inexpensive, compact, ease of use, readily available to buy, reasonably accurate with practice
Not lethal to big game, ammo can rattle around in a pocket, limited effective range, can be damaged somewhat easily
Though there are many reasons to carry one of these weapons, the best reason is that when a short-term catastrophe turns into a long-term survival situation, ammunition and traditional weapons might be hard to find. On the other hand, the weapons discussed here are all retrievable, so they can be used again and again.
Perfect Point P-869-3 Throwing Knives
Made from 440 stainless steel, this set of three beginner’s throwing knives comes with a nylon sheath that holds them all. Each blade is full tang and wrapped in a length of nylon cord. The 4-inch blades are only slightly sharpened. They come in a variety of colors.
• Overall length: 9 inches
• Blade length: 4 inches
• Weight (all three): 6.4 ounces
• Blade material: 440 stainless steel
• Sheath material: nylon
• Handle material: nylon cord
Wuu Jau Throwing Stars
The four-piece set of throwing stars comprises knives that are all 2.5 inches in diameter and made of anodized black stainless steel. They possess very sharp points and come with a nylon carrying pouch. Cannot be shipped to CA, MA, NY, IN, IL, KS, DE, or VA.
• Diameter: 2.5 inches
• Blade material: stainless steel
• Sheath material: nylon
Blades USA RC Throwing Knives
With a spider printing on the side of each knife, these 8-inch, full-tang blades are made from stainless steel. They include a nylon sheath to carry all three. The blade is sharpened on both sides, which means it will penetrate no matter where the knife strikes the target. The three slices on the face of the blade are for aerodynamics.
• Overall length: 8 inches
• Blade length: 4 inches
• Weight (all three): 12 ounces
• Blade material: stainless steel
SOG Three-Piece Throwing ‘Hawks’
Offered in a set of three, this ‘hawk’ is 10.75 inches overall and weighs approximately 25 ounces. The blade length is 1.75 inches and is made from 3CR13MOV steel. The handle is glass reinforced with a paracord grip.
• Overall length: 10.75 inches
• Blade length: 1.75 inches
• Weight: 25.40 ounces
• Blade hardness: 50-56 RC
• Blade material: 3CR13MOV steel
• Sheath material: nylon
Amazon Commando Blowgun
This .50-caliber blowgun kit comes with a variety of darts (44 total: 16 target, 8 spike tip, 10 spear, and 10 broadhead). It is made of heavy-duty aluminum and comes with a foam grip for comfort and a sling to carry it on your shoulder. The darts are stored in six quivers that attach to the blowgun. This item is available in 36-, 48-, or 60-inch sizes (the 48-and 60-inch models break down to two pieces).
• 44 darts
• 16 target darts
• 8 spike-tip darts
• 10 spear darts
• 10 broadhead darts
• Carry sling and foam grip
• 6 dart quivers
Starting at $19.95
Maxim Flipkung Survival Slingshot
The Maxim Flipkung is composed of ¼-inch anodized 6061 T6 aircraft aluminum, which makes it tough, yet lightweight, and compact enough to store just about anywhere. It is wrapped generously in more than 9 feet of 550 paracord. The forks allow for fixed tubes, looped tubes, flatbands, and even chain-linked, basic rubber bands, if the need arises.
• Fork tip width: 3 7/8 inches
• Fork gap width: 1 7/8 inches
• Overall height: 5 5/8 inches
• Overall width: 3 5/8 inches
• Thickness: ¼ inch
Avenger Ninja 18-inch Blowgun
The Ninja blowgun line is an easy-to-use blowgun made from high-quality aluminum. It includes 12 target darts and 8 stun darts, dart quivers with dart protective tip guard, safety mouthpiece, muzzle guard installed on the blowgun, as well as two foam grips. It offers the two most-popular dart types: target and stun dart. Comes in black, blue, purple, green, or red.
• Overall length: 18 inches
• Lifetime warranty
• (12) 4-inch target darts
• 8 stun darts
• 16-point quiver
• 8-point quiver
• 1 dart guard
• 4-inch foam fore grip
• 2-inch foam rear grip
• Muzzle guard
• Safety mouthpiece
Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the November 2015 print issue of American Survival Guide.