Of all the projectile weapons ever made, the bow and arrow is one of the most enduring. Archery remains a major Olympic event, and some outdoorsmen still prefer to hunt big game with specially-designed compound bows, proving it still has a place in the survivalist’s arsenal. Like the slingshot, a good bow makes for an ideal backup should firearms fail and bullets run low.
Being able to construct a bow and arrows with materials on-hand is a valuable skill that should be possessed by amateur preppers and seasoned survivalists alike. Here’s a guide on how to craft a bow and arrows with a material you have stocked in your garage, or can easily buy from the neighborhood hardware or home improvement store – Polyvinyl Chloride pipes, or PVC.
Wood would be the obvious choice for making a bow, but it takes way more time to procure the right wood and craft the bow, compared to using PVC. Woodworking is also a very demanding craft, requiring intensive skill and experience and narrow tolerance for error. If you make mistakes with PVC, it’s much easier and cheaper to start from scratch. Apart from all that, making a PVC bow requires less effort compared to crafting a bow with wood.
Types of bows
There are many ways you can make a PVC bow, but for this guide we’ll show you how to make a longbow and a short bow in the simplest and quickest ways possible. You can even make a compound bow from PVC, except it takes more time and is more complicated to do –defeating the need for a quickly-crafted weapon for when SHTF.
For the longbow:
- A length of PVC pipe (Schedule 40, 5 feet x ¾ inch in diameter)
- 2 fiberglass rods (5 feet in length)
- Duct tape
- Self-sticking medical wrap
- A length of 5/8-inch heater hose
- Bowstring or paracord (56 inches in length)
- Black marker
- Scratch awl
Making the longbow:
- Cut the ends of the PVC pipe at a 38-degree angle (tilt must be towards each other).
- Sand the resulting edges smooth.
- Next, take the two fiberglass rods and mark them at about 1⅛ inches from each end. Tape them together with duct tape, wrapping until only the measured length is sticking out.
- Shove the taped rods into the PVC pipe, with the marked ends sticking out.
- Cut two 1-inch pieces from the heater hose.
- Punch a hole through the center of each piece of hose.
- Put one hose piece on each end of the fiberglass rods; these will protect the bowstring from getting cut by the PVC ends.
- String your bow by placing one end of the bowstring over one end of the rods; bend the bow slowly, then slip the other end of the bowstring over the other end of the fiberglass rods. If using paracord, be sure to make a secure knot and singe the ends of the paracord to seal it and prevent fraying.
- Mark the center of the bow with black marker.
- Wrap the marked part in self-sticking medical wrap to give you a better grip surface.
- Use the black marker to mark the center of the bowstring, indicating where you should nock your arrows.
For the short bow:
- Length of PVC pipe (4 feet x ¾ inch in diameter)
- Duct tape
- Nylon cord
- PVC wrapping tape
- Electrical tape
- ¾ inch foam pipe insulation
- Drill or Dremel tool with ¼ inch drill bit
- Black marker
Making the short bow:
- Wrap the PVC pipe with the wrapping tape, until the pipe is covered in three layers; this is done to give more strength, rigidity and protection to the finished bow.
- At both ends of the pipe, make a quarter-inch hole with the drill bit, about an inch from the end; making sure the holes are even.
- Cut the nylon cord to a length of 3 feet.
- Insert one end of the cord through one of the drilled holes and tie with a secure knot.
- Thread the other end of the cord through the other hole, keeping the bow bent.
- Find the center of the bow and mark it with the black marker; this is where your arrow will rest.
- Mark the center of the bowstring with the marker as well.
- Take some pipe insulation to create an arrow rest, gluing it securely to the bow’s center.
Naturally, your bow would be useless if it doesn’t have arrows to shoot. If you have, or can afford to buy commercially-made arrows for hunting, then go ahead. If you don’t have any arrows on hand, you can make them yourself.
- Dowel rods or arrow shafts (as many as you like, about 34 inches in length, 3/8 inch in diameter)
- 1 ½ inch concrete nails for arrow tips
- Dremel tool with drill bits, grinders and sanders (3/64-inch drill bit, orange metal grinder)
- Strong adhesive (i.e. Gorilla Glue)
- 1 ½ inch wide electrical tape
- Can of spray paint (color of your choice)
- With your Dremel tool and the 3/64-inch drill bit, or the appropriate size for your nails, drill a hole about 3/8 inches deep in the center of one end of the dowel.
- Using the hacksaw, cut the heads off the concrete nails and cut the remaining pieces in half.
- Sharpen one end to a point with the Dremel tool metal grinder; each will serve as an arrow point.
- Fit an arrow point onto each of the dowels’ holes.
- Once fitted, secure with strong adhesive and allow adhesive to dry.
- After the adhesive has set, grind the tip further and sand the dowel so their shapes are flush with each other, for a more aerodynamic profile.
- Make the “wings” or fletches of the arrow with electrical tape.
- Cut a 4-inch strip of electrical tape, laying it on a flat surface, adhesive side up.
- Lay the back end of the arrow shaft on the tape, allowing about ¾ inch of the end to protrude past the end of the tape for the notch or nock.
- Cut another 4-inch strip of electrical tape with the adhesive side facing downward, “mating” it perfectly to the first strip.
- Using the scissors, cut the rectangular tape to a more aerodynamic shape. Reinforce the fletching with more tape if desired, then trim off any excess. If adding tape, be sure to add it equally to both sides of the fletching to maintain proper balance as much as possible.
- On the end of the arrow, cut a notch about 3/8 inches deep and parallel to the fletching.
- Paint the arrow with the spray paint of your desired color.
There are many other ways to create a survival bow out of PVC and other common household materials. This guide offers only one way that is relatively simple, quick and requires minimal tools.
There’s no rule that says you can’t use sturdier materials or be more elaborate in the design, as long as you have them and are willing to put in the time to make a better bow.
As is the practice with any deadly weapon, never underestimate your DIY PVC bow. Treat it as you would a real weapon — never disregard the fact that the arrows are sharp enough to damage property, cause injury or even kill, so never point a nocked arrow at anyone or anything you don’t wish to kill or destroy.
With practice, you can definitely become skilled enough at crafting and firing a bow with reasonable precision. This is a worthy skill to have in a survival situation, whether it’s to forage for food or to use for self-defense.