Do you want a durable, compact collapsible bow you can take absolutely anywhere that has a really small footprint and fits inside your day pack or grab bag?
Maybe you are a keen survivalist… or maybe even one of the ever growing numbers of preppers? If you don’t know what a prepper is a quick scout around the multitude of prepping and SHTF websites around today will fill you in with the details. In brief though a prepper is someone who spends time preparing for all eventualities. The next world war, the apocalypse, Zombieland, serious terrorist attack, you name it really.
A folding survival bow is a designed to fit with the requirements of these people and more and in this article we’re going to take you through our top picks for 2018 and give you our winner.
Our Best Survival Bow Picks for 2020
- SAS Tactical Survival Bow – Best survival bow overall
- Xpectre Spectre II Survival Bow – Best value
- SAS Recon – Quickest to deploy
- Xpectre Nomad Survival Bow – Most compact folded
Note: Our individual reviews are below, but you can also click any of the links above to check current prices.
Takedown Recurve vs Survival Bow
What’s the difference?
Both the takedown recurve bow and the survival bow function using the same principle. The limbs are detachable from the riser. Other than that, though, they’re really not all that similar.
While you can remove the limbs from the riser on a takedown bow, this is more for seasonal storage and maintenance than portability. Even a takedown bow usually features fine craftsmanship, and stuffing it down in your rucksack could scratch or even damage it.
On the other hand, survival bows are built with durability in mind. You can pack them with all your other gear or take them out into grueling conditions and still expect them to work at 100%. They’re also far more portable since you can store arrows right in the riser. This takes up a lot less space in your pack and makes them significantly more useful in survival situations.
Now, survival bows are essentially just small, collapsible longbows. As you might guess, this means their power is quite a bit less than a takedown recurve bow. Most survival bows can shoot accurately up to 30 yards, though, which is more than enough for deer hunting, especially for survival.
Survival Bow Buying Guide : What Features do I Need?
The overall size and weight of the collapsed bow is a critical feature. This type of bow is something you want to be able to easily shoulder and carry in a case. It’s something you want to be able to fit inside your day pack or bug-out bag. Nothing cumbersome and certainly nothing heavy.
Most of these types of bows will come with a carry case that you can use to store your survival bow when collapsed. The quality and extra functionality offered by that case should also be a deciding factor. Does it double as a quiver? How many extra pockets does it have?
Price & Affordability
Depending on exactly what you want to use it for the price of a survival bow will have a bearing on your decision. If you want something you’re going to stick under the seat in your car or squirrel away in a secret cache then you probably aren’t going to want to spend a lot on it. However if you intend to travel a lot, and practice regularly, better quality and design may be where you want to invest.
Bow Size / Draw Length
A longer bow length will have a longer draw length. There are ways to easily measure your draw length for shooters of recurve and compound bows. Your ideal draw length is a factor you probably won’t be able to achieve when looking at a survival bow. Due to their defining feature being portability they break down small and that means they are shorter bows when assembled. A longer bow gives you a longer, smoother draw, a more forgiving shot. That isn’t to say you can’t be accurate with a survival bow, but they aren’t designed for target archery competitions. A long bow that doesn’t sacrifice portability is a better choice than a short bow that breaks down too small for your needs.
Durability & Corrosion Resistance
Survival situations are going to mean you may need to get wet or live in wet conditions. You’re certainly going to take a few knocks and bumps along the way. When these things happen you need the bow you’ve chosen to take those knocks and still work afterwards. It needs to be able to get wet and not start to rust. You also want it to be durable and to do this repeatedly over long periods of time, possibly years.
Arrows and Arrow Storage
A bow isn’t much use without arrows. What arrows (if any) do you get with the bow? You can purchase take-down survival arrows separately if your choice does not have them included. A very useful feature of any survival bow (or included carry case) is storage of arrows. If the folded unit includes a handy place to store and protect arrows this is a bonus.
Takedown arrows are also available, and often designed to takedown into small enough pieces to be portable alongside the bulk of the taken down bow itself.
Left or Right Handedness
Modern recurve and compound bows come in left and right hand variants. The riser is cut through to provide a shooting shelf which acts as an arrow rest, so that it sits as close to straight with the path of the string as possible. A survival bow doesn’t usually cater for this as the riser is normally a single piece of durable metal. There may be an offset between string and arrow path. This means if you’re a modern bow shooter you’ll need to adjust your aim to correct, much like you would if shooting a traditional bow.
Not having a shelf does mean the bow becomes a truly ambidextrous bow that anyone can pick-up and shoot either left or right hand. This is something to be aware of. If you’re in a survival situation with other people it may not be you that ends up needing to shoot your bow. The more people that can use it, the better.
The Arrow Rest
Don’t expect a fancy arrow rest on a good survival bow. If one is supplied in the package it will usually be a stick on arrow rest that you can add to either side of the riser. Either that or you can skip using an arrow rest altogether and shoot ‘”off the knuckle”. This also has the advantage of meaning you can use the bow either left or right handed without needing to re-attach a stick on rest.
A collapsible bow breaks down into pieces, nobody has developed one that morphs out of a wooden staff just yet! Those pieces, how many there are, how easy they are to lose, and how they go together should be another factor in your decision. Something with lots of bits that you can’t assemble quickly isn’t what you want. You aren’t going to find something you can just flip up and shoot. But you need to think about the pieces and how easy they are to keep track of. A survival bow that’s missing one of the limb ends or a retaining bolt that fell out of the case is no use to you at all.
Styling / Appearance
The styling of a survival bow really isn’t going to be much of a concern, when you’re trying to survive you aren’t going to care too much about how you look. The only caveat to this may be that you want to remain hidden and blend in with your surroundings. A camo finish on the bow would be a bonus in this situation. A non-reflective finish may also be a good idea for night hunting or even sunny situations so as not to scare prey. Certainly a bow that allows you to modify the finish yourself to suit your situation would be ideal.
Different manufacturers give different warranty periods with their bows and will generally only ever cover the riser and limbs and not things like the string or arrow rest. A warranty on something you’re going to tuck away and may not use for years is possibly not a major concern. Knowing what type of warranty comes with your bow is always a good idea.
Our Top Picks In Detail
SAS Tactical Survival Bow
A high quality survival bow made from aerospace grade aluminium and marine grade steel. Resistant to corrosion, coated with non-reflective covering. This bow folds down small, (not the smallest, but small) into a 21″ package and even has storage inside the riser for take-down arrows.
The pieces are easy to assemble and have little danger of being lost. Assembled this is a 60″ bow that is available in a range of draw weights from 45 to 55 lbs. It isn’t the cheapest example, but it is one of the best appointed. The supplied camo-bag can also be used as a back quiver when the bow is in use. Read the full review here.
- 21″ day pack compatible folded size
- Arrow storage inside the riser
- Powerful 55 lbs draw available
- Useful quiver / camo bag
- Non-reflective coating
- Arrows not included
- Limited grip ergonomics
Xpectre Spectre II
This is a very affordable survival bow with a great price point. If comes in a choice of draw weights from 35 lbs all the way upto 55 lbs meaning you can get a lower draw weight bow. A lower draw weight is always a good choice if you aren’t an experienced archer. The assembly for this bow is probably the quickest of all the bows we’ve reviewed. 3 pieces slot together and then you string it, simple as that. The carry case included is very basic but functional. This bow however is 23″ long when folded so you need to be sure that fits inside your chosen day-pack otherwise you’ll be carrying it on your shoulder seaprately. Read our full review here.
- Low to high draw weights : 35, 45, 55 lbs
- Tool free, speedy assembly
- 23″ folded size
- Supplied arrows not take-down
SAS makes several survival bows, and the Recon is their quick-deploy model. You can deploy it fast, and no assembly is required in the field. Along with a riser built for arrow storage, this means it’s ideal for emergency preparedness. With selectable draw weights of 45-55 lbs, this bow is definitely powerful enough for survival hunting.
Of course, its quick deployment does come with some downsides. Specifically, the Recon is a little bigger than SAS’s other survival bows at 24.3 inches and 2.4 lbs. That’s small enough to still be portable, but it might not fit in just any pack.
The engineering on this bow is also really nice. Its riser is made from aerospace grade T6 aluminum that can withstand decades of use. Plus, it’s treated to create a non-reflective coating that won’t give away your position and allows for camo paint if you want to apply it yourself.
What we liked:
- Fast deployment
- Arrow storage in riser
- Aerospace-grade aluminum riser
- Durable construction
- Non-reflective coating
What we didn’t:
- Larger size
- Doesn’t come with arrows
The Nomad is the slightly more expensive brethren of the Spectre II. This survival bow breaks down to a pretty impressive 17″ in length. That’s short. In order to achieve this though the bow comes in 5 pieces, each limb is 2 pieces plus the riser. That is a few more to keep track of even though there are no tools required for the assembly.
The Nomad also usually comes with 3 take-down arrows which is a big bonus. This is the smallest and most complete survival bow package available and even though it is more expensive than the Spectre it is still affordable. Read the full review here.
- Very compact 17″ folded size
- Supplied with 3x take-down arrows
- Tool free-assembly
- Only available in 45 lbs draw
- Bow length of only 48″ long when assembled
Verdict : Best Survival Bow 2020
Our choice for 2020 is the The SAS Tactical Take-down Survival Bow.
You get what you pay for.
My grandma is always saying that… the longer I live the more I think she’s right. It doesn’t always hold true, some things that are more expensive just aren’t worth the money. Then there are things that are, and the SAS survival bow is one of them. The design is one of the best, it folds small and assembles into a decent size powerful bow with a good 31″ max draw.
It has nifty features like being able to store 3 full arrows inside the riser, or 5 rear halves.
This helps to protect them as arrows are a vulnerable part of the package.
The supplied carry bag is camo, comes with 2 shoulder straps and doubles as a back quiver.
SAS used quality materials in the construction and coated them with non-reflective paint. They’ve done everything then can to make sure this bow is a quality product and it shows.
This is our pick for the best survival bow for 2020.