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Thank you for this article. I am a range safety officer and rifle, pistol, and shotgun instructor.

Your general point about bows requiring more skill to use than firearms is true. However, I disagree that "Pulling the trigger of a firearm does not require any skill or practice."

The "pad" of the finger must be placed on the trigger for an accurate shot. Novice shooters often use the joint closest to their fingertip to pull the trigger, which causes the gun to point in an unintended direction.

Shooters must also be trained on the speed and pressure to use when pulling a trigger. Shotguns require shooters to "slam" the trigger (when shooting flying targets), while other firearms require a gentle "squeeze" or two squeezes if the trigger has is two-stage.

These skills take diligent practice to master.

Archery has four important drawbacks for hunting:

1. You must be closer to an animal to harvest it. This is less important in regions that use ambush hunting (e.g. tree stands), but plains or desert usually require stalking. As effective range decreases, your likelihood of harvesting an animal decreases, since the animal could be scared off when you approach.
2. Archery is more affected by wind than firearms are.
3. Deer can hear the "thwack" of a bow or crossbow and duck out of the way of an arrow or bolt. Because of this, hunters must compensate by aiming lower.
4. Archery cannot penetrate brush as effectively as firearms. Because of this, there are fewer shot opportunities in wooded environments if you do not use a firearm.

In hunting, weapons are often used closer than their effective ranges to maximize lethality and minimize the chance of suffering for animals.

There is also a spectrum of low to high-tech with firearms. A muzzleloader is more sustainable than a break action rifle, which is more sustainable than a machine gun. The easier a firearm is to repair and source ammunition for (without global supply-chains), the more sustainable it is.

Other low-tech weapons that are still useful for hunting are spears, slings, slingshots, and airguns.

I think the best plan is to use a mix of low-tech and high-tech weapons depending on the activity. Hunting and target shooting with archery are commonplace and could become more popular. Self-defense, law-enforcement, or military applications with a bow are unlikely to be practical, since criminals and rogue nation-states will continue to use firearms even if they are banned. For self-defense, there are low-tech solutions, such as martial arts, edged weapons, and blunt weapons.

Thank you,

Kris De Decker


--> Your general point about bows requiring more skill to use than firearms is true. However, I disagree that "Pulling the trigger of a firearm does not require any skill or practice."

Thank you, Seth, I will change that sentence.



For local, low-tech firearm manufacturing the Palestinian Carlo may be of interest. Sometimes made from homemade parts, sometimes assembled by recycling broken or obsolete weapons, sometimes by upcycling airsoft or paintball guns, usually welded in motor shops or on construction sites. Magazines may be jury-rigged to hold different calibres from the original. Operational life span is certainly less than the average longbow, though probably longer than the 3D printed handguns everyone was worried about a few years ago.

PS- in article link to "When lethal weapons grew..." is broken.




Dear Kris,

I love the website and and I implement quite a few technologies myself in our as sustainable as reasonable organic farm.

It seems that you were not aware of the work of Jörg Sprave and his slingshot channel. See for example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xUMBKcRwl9k

He has been at the basis of a development of hand powered weapons that closed the difference between guns and "crossbows". Quite impressive actually. Also what one can make from plywood with minimal tools at home.


kris de decker


@ W.

Thanks, we fixed it.

@ Tjeerd

Yes, I have seen some of his videos, quite impressive indeed. However, I left the slingshot out of the story because it's not a primitive weapon. It can't work without vulcanized rubber, an industrial product that you can't find in the forest.

The low-tech predecessor of the slingshot is the sling: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sling_(weapon) It's a very effective weapon (I think the record range is more than 400 meters) but it requires a lot of skill to operate accurately (or even operate it at all), more so than the operation of a bow.

An improved version is the easier to use staff sling, which was still in use during the middle ages: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zSHD8RG_mSo

Both weapons are extremely easy to make.



Hi, Kris

I've been reading all of your articles in both Low-Tech Magazine. It's a little bit shocking to me that you included violence in the sustainability topic but violence will never become sustainable because the main goal of war is to win or to defend so your country must use anything at all cost possible to defend. However, accessing in low-tech weaponry is good for self-defense for the civillian people since many cannot afford even the cheapest guns especially in my country which is very poor. 

Low-tech weaponry is cheap, easy to produce, and accessible for everyone, arming civillians with a low-tech weapons could prevent mass shootings for worsening the number of kills, 20 people equipped with bow/crossbow in an area could prevent 1 shooter for going further massacre or robbers from robbing the store and also it can enable you, your neighbours, family, and friends to defend yourselves from violent crimes, it is not perfect though, it wouldn't always saved someone's life especially if the aggressor equipped with more advanced weapons but atleast the victim/s could fight unlike the unarmed when there is a shooter/aggressor, all that they can do is hide and run for their lives defenselessly.  The only problem is that government keep banning self-defense weapons even if it is not a gun.

The best thing about low-tech weaponry especially if made out of sustainable material such as wood is that it is applicable for mass ownership since it doesn't create a lots of material waste pollution if disposed, and the projecticles/ammo/arrows can be produce locally , don't need to rely on imported products/materials just to get reloaded.

Here are my favorite low-tech range weapons I've found.

1. https://youtu.be/TcDP9jN_FFQ
Bow with an arrow magazine - This is the most semi-automatic bow I've seen, the arrow magazine let archer shoot arrows without the need to pick arrows from the quiver one by one.

2. https://youtu.be/3WqUHy0bxGg
Chinese Repeating Crossbow - The chinese repeating crossbow is the fastest crossbow in history, however it is not used in the battle since it lacks range, and power. As far as I know, it was only used to defend against home invasion where aggressor is just in the close range enough to get killed by this crossbow

3. https://youtu.be/kP8bqIgd5ro
Gastraphetes/ Belly Bow - I don't much know about the history of this crossbow but it is one of the fastest way to reload a crossbow by pushing the front wood using the belly, although not as fast as chinese repeating crossbow but it has an advantage of range and power that is applicable in combat.

4. https://youtube.com/shorts/u981KjyN2QU?feature=share
Alcohol powered gun - This gun shoots marble or any light circle material, it has an effective range of 50 meters and the maximum of 100 meters. Although, the materials used came from an industrial output but it is mostly/all made out of recycled materials and the handgrip, stock and the barrel can also be made out of wood and bamboo, the reason I included this is that it is very easy to make, it make good use of the waste materials and most importantly is that the propelling charge is alcohol which is very locally available and can be made locally, unlike gunpowder which is expensive and hard to find but denatured alcohol is mostly used for extra power.

5. https://youtu.be/zSHD8RG_mSo
Shepherd Sling with stick handle - The stick handle gives more effective range which compared to just sling only

6. https://youtu.be/NHgUMUk3YwY
Atlatle/ Spear Thrower - It as simple as stick with a hook where you can place your spear and throw it with more power boost compared to hand throw only.

7. https://youtu.be/xRck2DS2o_U
  Chakram - it is a throwing circle metal with a hole in the center. It has been said that it was more easier to throw than knived and axes since this weapon has an aerodynamic shape which lowers the air resistance when thrown. An expert chakram thrower could easily cut limbs of a person. Just like bow, the user'a need to have a skills to be able to effectively throw.

8.  https://youtu.be/_L0o7lFSTIc
Blowgun - This weapon is easier to make than bow, the tips is usually dip in a poison to make it deadly. The propelling force of the blowgun doesn't only came from blowing, it can also came from compressed air, or alcohol just like the marble gun.

9. https://youtu.be/lslErRK05mw
Crosbow slingshot - crossbow slingshot just like crossbow,  it gives an advantage of accuracy than ordinary slingshot. Although the rubber came from industrial output but it is easy to make and doesn't need gunpowder to propell the projectiles.



Why do we environmental types talk about bikes and not bows? I suspect it's because as environmental types, we tend value human life, and that viewpoint doesn't sit well with lethal weapons of any time period. The purpose of a bike is movement. The purpose of a bow and arrow is to kill. It can't be an alternative to something harmful because it is harmful.

While there are weapons bans, they're sustained in a context of military and economic force. Any intransigent powers face punishment from other powers. We haven't banned nuclear weapons in any meaningful way. They still exist, and they still threaten us. The same logic doesn't apply to banning guns (or fossil powered militaries in general). If they were banned, then any intransigent power with a fossil military could easily fight off any attempts to punish it. And any power with just bows and arrows would be easy to overpower.

So I have some concerns about bows and arrows. But bows and arrows aren't the only alternative to a fossil powered military. I think the best alternative is Gene Sharpe's idea of Civilian Based Defense -- the use of large scale nonviolent resistance as a way to defend against invasion. The key idea is that while an invader might be able to put soldiers on the streets, they wouldn't get much further if enough people in the invaded nation refused to co-operate with them even in the face of violence.

Nonviolent defense doesn't get talked about much either. Largely because it feels too close to pacifism, impotent in the face of violence. It's easy to dismiss as obviously impractical without deeper investigation. But it has been put into practice, in more instances than the famous stands by Gandhi and King.

It has a good theoretical base. On an individual level, an armed person can kill or injure an unarmed person, but if an unarmed person chooses not to co-operate even in the face of threats, that's all they can do. And on an institutional level, large scale non-cooperation tends to break the complex, fragile systems that modern military conquest relies on.

It's also about as low tech as you could hope for. All it needs are trained people. Communication helps, but that could be carrier pigeons as much as social media.

Nonviolence defense sounds unrealistic. But then, as you say, so are bows and arrows. You're right that this is a discussion that we do need to have, but in the case of defense the better alternative isn't a direct substitute.



Dear Kris,

I apologise in advance for a long email, but I hope you are able to take the time to read it. I love your blog, and my partner and I have the book versions as well. I was just this morning reading your recent post ‘What if We replace Guns and Bullets with Bows and Arrows?’ I’m currently in my final year of a PhD. on war prevention so the post caught my attention. I don’t usually like writing in the comments, but I hope it is okay for me to write to you with some thoughts and a suggestion I have on this. I also want to be clear, these only pertain to the extent to which you discuss sustainable war, not weapons generally. Weapons have a wide range of uses (eg. hunting) and I have no issue (or knowledge) on those aspects of the post

There are three key parts to my thoughts:

* The least resource intensive weapons already are used in warfare and cause huge amounts of damage to the civilian population.
* You are overlooking a significant sustainability impact of war, which is the resource use required because of the weapons use.
* I think that you overlook the most sustainable alternative, which is not ‘greener’ weaponry.

The nature of war is to kill and harm. War pursues a logic of trying to cause as much destruction and hurt as possible, so that the opponent is unable or unwilling to continue. In a modern war, 90% of the casualties are civilians. Modern wars also do not often ‘end’ in a clear victory or defeat either, but are usually ended through a peace negotiation. This is possibly connected to the high civilian death rate— those suffering are not the ones able to end the war.

Yet this high death rate comes only in part from direct battle. Much of the harm caused is potentially ‘sustainable’, at least using the understanding you adopt in the post of a focus on the resources used to create weapons. This is because the spread of disease, cold and hunger do not need weapons per se, but just the destruction of the community’s infrastructure. This is both physical, such as roads, stores, farms, health clinics etc; as well as bureaucratic, for example, people flee and leave no staff to manage the department of health, or the port, or to take responsibility for sewer repairs. In this sense, hurt and destruction in war is spread not only through ‘direct’ violence, but also through the disintegration of the taken-for-granted, life-supporting systems that we all rely on.

With that context, the first thing I wanted to highlight is that in speaking about ‘sustainable’ weapons only from the perspective of ‘physical’ weapons, you ignore the huge harm caused by ‘sustainable’ (ie. low resource intensity) weapons currently (starvation, death through preventable disease, etc.). These take an enormous toll on civilian population (who are the predominant victims in modern war). I think that any discussion of modern warfare and the weapons it uses ought to address this.

The second point I wanted to raise is that you write only from the perspective of the resource intensity of the weapons creation and use. In doing so, you are ignoring perhaps the most significant sustainability impact war, the destruction it causes. This is particularly significant because it is also the intended impact of the weapon. Even the most sustainable weapon is designed to harm and destroy, and it will destroy things that need to be there. That is the point of weapons. They do not target the superfluous. This means that every time a weapon is used, there will need to be energy and resources put into repairing and re-building. This is all extra resource use, and ranges from hospital resources, to physical buildings to farms. What’s more, this repair may need to occur many time over because ‘re-builds’ during elongated conflict many be destroyed multiple times. It strikes me, that war cannot ever be sustainable, not because it is ‘unrealistic’ that militaries will use sustainably sourced weapons, but because the impacts of all warfare will necessarily demand extra resource use.

And this brings me to my final point, which is that when it comes to war, the real sustainability comparison is not bows and arrows vs. guns and bombs. The real comparison is war or not-war. Although it is not regularly spoken about, preventing war is entirely possible. Indeed it is the norm, both currently and historically. Anytime a war occurs, we should be viewing this as a policy decision, and one for which there were many alternatives.

So to be clear, my criticism is not that a low-tech weapons transition is ‘unrealistic’. You rightfully point out that weapons ban campaigns are often successful, and often successful despite military opposition. My criticism is that weapons transition is the wrong idea to be promoting. When it comes to war, the sustainable option is not to have war at all.

I know it isn’t really my place to ask, but I wondered if you would consider editing your blog post? To me, your blog post might be better to speak only about weapons (which have uses beyond war, such as hunting), and to avoid speaking about the sustainability of warfare. War and organised political violence is a very complicated area, and whilst there is a lot to say in relation to resource use and sustainability, the relationship is more complex than the post currently gives them credit for.

As I mentioned, how wars are avoided is the topic of my PhD. research, and it’s something I’m happy to speak to you about more (via zoom or email). What I would emphasise now though is that not-only is war prevention realistic, it is actually the norm.

I apologise for such a long email, I hope you don’t mind me writing to share my thoughts on this matter. As I mentioned earlier, I’d be happy to email more, or to call and speak.

Thanks again for your time,


kris de decker


Ashley and Liam, thanks for your insightful comments.

First of all, I agree that the most sustainable option would be to have no war at all. But war has been around for a very long time, much longer than the firearm.

I think we all want the same. Less violence, less warfare. My understanding is that switching to the bow and arrow would have that effect. However, as you argue, there are other ways and they may be even better, although not necessarily less unrealistic. I didn't know Gene Sharpe's work, and I am happy to read that people do a Phd on war prevention. This could be a topic for another article.

Liam, it is correct that nuclear weapons have not been banned, although we have not used them for 75 years. The example doesn't fit in that sentence. I will edit it.

Ashley, concerning the destruction of the community’s infrastructure. I agree that these wider impacts are the main sustainability problem in modern warfare. But I have two things to add here. First, hand-held firearms do not directly damage community infrastructures significantly. That is mostly done by artillery and bombs. If these would be replaced with trebuchets, catapults, and ballistas, it would become a lot harder to cause such destruction.

Second, high-tech societies are extremely vulnerable for the type of warfare that you mention. For example, if every household in Ukraine would have had its own power and heat infrastructure, Russia's strategy would not have worked. It only works because the power and heat infrastructure is highly centralized. Only half a century ago, society was less vulnerable to such attacks because it was less dependent on infrastructures and high energy ways of life. This included food production and distribution, which was also more decentralized and not dependent on power and fossil fuels.

I am not saying that war would have no wider impacts in a low-tech society, but there would be much more resilience. The "taken-for-granted, life-supporting systems that we all rely on" have changed a lot, and keep evolving.

I am always willing to edit an article if a comment gives reason to do so, but if I would follow your suggestion it seems that I would have to rewrite half of the story. I take warfare as the main example, not hunting, policing, or whatever else people think they need firearms for. For the sake of developing my argument, it is arguably also the most interesting example. If you have a suggestion for editing a specific sentence or paragraph, let me know, but otherwise let's have a chat in the context of a future article.



A somewhat less optimistic take on the performance of bows vs early firearms, especially accuracy and range (they agree with you on lethality vs ROF), using many period sources: https://bowvsmusket.com.

Interestingly the author also doesn't think that guns were easier to train! https://bowvsmusket.com/category/conclusions/

Kris De Decker


Declan, thanks for the link.

I read a few articles but don't understand the author's arguments. Does he come to the opposite conclusion because bows were not as good as other sources say or because muskets were better?

I think the problem is that this author only relies on historical sources. There's a reference in my article [2] which explains the problem with this approach in relation to the range of bows. Therefore I also included scientific experiments with replica's of old weapons, results from archery contests in the early twentieth century, and so on.

For example, there are many historical sources that claim rather extraordinary feats by archers. Those may be true but may well be exaggerations for many reasons. The author also quotes several references from when the English debated the merits of bows versus firearms. Both sides in that debate did not agree about performance characteristics, for obvious reasons. That is an issue that several of my references also treat.

It took me eight months to finish this article because there are a lot of inconsistencies in historical material about weapons. Meaning it is easy to select the data that support your argument. Of course I may have fallen prey to the same problem, but this author doesn't convince me.




Thanks for the thoughtful response. I wouldn't want to presume on your time, but I think the content of Ashley's PhD together with nonviolent civilian defense could definitely form the basis of another article. Something about how the abolition of militaries isn't as impractical as it seems.

I'm not sure such a topic quite falls under low tech in the same way bows and arrows do, but it does present an alternative to an unsustainable part of the modern world, and a reasoned argument against a default modern assumption.



I live in a house named "The Butts" on the edge of the parish of Orcop in England. My modern house is close to an old farm building currently being rebuilt, also named "The Butts".

In this area the old field names survive. Nearby are two fields named "Long Butts" and "Short Butts".

Could this be because two skills were practiced. Direct shooting and up and over shooting?

Simon Robinson


There is another precedent for de-industrialising the military: the India-Kashmir border flares up with occasional fistfight skirmishes because (if I understand correctly) both sides have agreed to disarm in order to reduce the chances of a larger conflagration.


Simon Robinson


A poster above mentioned Gene Sharp's work on nonviolent civil defence, here is a short article describing how such an approach could have been used in Ukraine.


A major advantage of this approach (from the perspective of this blog i.e. of sustainability and low-energy solutions) is that in civilian self-defence nothing gets destroyed and so nothing needs to be rebuild (the massive destruction in Ukraine means it is going to need staggering inputs of materials and energy to rebuild....especially if they continue business-as-usual rather than rebuilding in a sustainable way)



If everyone except one guy has a car, then ok, we can handle that.

If everyone except one guy has a gun - then he rules the world.

Hyperbole, but there you go. As long as someone else has a gun, I want one too.

Plus, its hard to shove a bow down your pants without people noticing;)



Kris - you might find it interesting in a lot of US States hunting regulations that govern crossbows treat them the same as a firearm. States have an Archery hunting season (can be as long as an entire month) but in a fair few states you can't use a crossbow during that period as it is considered unsporting. Instead the aspiring crossbow hunter must compete with his rifled brethren during that hunting season.

Speaks to the relative effectiveness of the crossbow...



If nothing else, arrows grow on trees and lead does not. I suspect bows and crossbows are where we’ll end up in the end. Maybe black powder will continue for a millennium or two, but if humanity chugs along another million years or so before going extinct, then the Firearm Era will have barely been a fad.

My interest in Low Tech comes from a Peak Oil perspective, so I can easily see a resurgence in bows, especially crossbows, as supply chains wither. In the U.S., where I am, ammunition prices skyrocketed during 2020 and haven’t really come down. Even the money savers who load their own ammo got screwed because reloading supplies vanished. Crossbows provide cheap (if not free) and easy-entry recreational shooting, pest control, hunting, and also home defense in a pinch. More likely, they’ll increasingly be used for the first three, with firearms saved for the last.

Perhaps, even after millennia, there is still room left for improvement. Hopefully, a “semi-automatic” crossbow can be achieved. One shot every ten seconds may as well be forever in a serious situation. The various repeating crossbows I’ve seen online haven’t impressed me: they seem more like potentially dangerous toys than something I would bet my life or livestock on. Crossbowmen started the Middle Ages with 50–100 pound hand-pulled weapons and finished with 1000 pound crank-drawn ones. I’ve wondered if the jumbo prod could be attached to the smaller crossbow and used to reload the weapon. A more likely achievement I think would be a crossbow with two bows and two triggers, the William Tell equivalent of a double-barreled shotgun. Excalibur sells such a crossbow, called the TwinStrike (more like the WalletStrike, I’ll build my own, thank-you-very-much).

My major disagreement with the article is the one you saw coming: I can’t see countries voluntarily going this route until there is literally nothing else. The weapons we’ve agreed to ban are mostly things with a poor sadism-to-usefulness ratio. Blinding weapons, poison, and torture can be classified as “pointless cruelty”. Chemical and biological weapons aren’t much better. From what I understand, they aren’t particularly effective against modern equipment and procedures, while being far less controllable. You can douse high explosives in gasoline without them going off, but if some rando drops a petri dish we’re back in 2020. Countries that can build thermobaric and nuclear weapons, conveniently also the most powerful, have a strong incentive to pressure the rest not to use these marginally-effective WMDs.

Firearms, on the other hand, would provide an extreme advantage to the party who breaks the agreement first. I don’t think it’s unfair to say that Spain, with guns, could take on all Europe without guns. Building hydroelectric plants and mandating eco-efficient housing will improve national quality-of-life over time; the military is what stops it from being conquered right now.

I do think there will be military downshifting in the future, but as a consequence of peak oil and resource depletion. A lot of military equipment requires a industrial supply chain. Predator drones full of complex electronics and rare materials will be increasingly hard to field in large numbers. Stockpiles will diminish, maintenance will diminish, performance will diminish, and commanders will be forced to make do. Everyone will prop it up as best they can but one day they’ll wake up and notice they’re barely being used, except in a bare bones form. None of this will occur by mutual agreement in the vast majority of cases. One exception, nukes: they are expensive and, really, you only need to kill the world once. China, France, India… they understand this. I suspect that within thirty years, some future Biden and Putin will split a Nobel Prize for limiting their arsenals to a few hundred missiles apiece.

Continuing with the Peak Oil Path To Arrows: some aspects of modern war are more resilient than others. The ones that survive will go together in an eccentric mix-and-match. For instance, the Anarchists of the Russian Civil War did very well for themselves by attaching heavy machine guns to light horse-carts (The “Tachanka”). The Wehrmacht also did well with outdated bolt-action rifles, by training the entire squad to be support for one guy with a general-purpose machine gun. Eventually the machine-guns will go too, and even simpler weapons will remain. Boxlock shotguns, falling block rifles, and single action revolvers will be that which survives.

Perhaps that is how guns will go extinct, but perhaps they can be made truly sustainable. Sustainable black powder, made without sulfur, does exist. Ignition without chemical percussion caps is possible via a fire piston. A discontinued junior rifle called the Daisy V/L showed that the concept is feasible, and I suspect someone is going to make a mint soon by fitting one into a black powder rifle and making caps obsolete. The projectile is less clear but perhaps a concrete slug, fitted in a sabot, is doable? I can picture a three-pound monstrosity of bog iron, recognizable as a revolver, holding three or four ninety-caliber bullets and launching them fifty yards or so. A better home defense weapon than a one pound, eleven-shot Springfield Hellcat? No. But I’d take it over a crossbow.

Also, as a first-time commenter, I just wanted to toss in that I love your website. You're doing God's work.



A very interesting article, I am glad to see thinkers in sustainability considering violence and war as well, there is a tendency among the environmentally concerned to forget that war is inevitable and natural.

I am inclined to agree with Joshua that resource shortages will be the likely driver of the adoption of lower tech weapons, as very few nations are like to willingly give up superior weapons in the face of an uncertain future. Precision guided weapons will be the first to go, the complex supply chains needed to produce the sophisticated electronics will not survive a small civilizational shake up, so weapons that can be made locally with short supply chains would allow for more soldiers to be equipped at lower cost.

Basic firearms can be made more simply than they currently are, steel cartridge cases and corrosive perchlorate primers are suboptimal but much cheaper and easier to produce than high quality modern cartridges. Very simple grenades and rockets similar to the last ditch weapons used by Germany and Japan at the end of WWII could be made much more cheaply than more sophisticated modern versions.

Another technology that could survive a collapse better than firearms is airguns, airguns have existed since the 1500's but the expense of precise machining and making pressure vessels prevented widespread adoption. Precise machining technology is unlikely to disappear even if power must be supplied by waterwheel or biomass burning hot bulb engine. Airguns can shoot slugs at similar velocities as pistol rounds and early black powder cartridges, this is inferior to modern high velocity rifle rounds but with good projectile design and optical sights effective ranges of 200-300m are achievable. Precise machining is required but projectiles can be made from lead, copper, or even steel if supported in a soft plastic sabot. The only material needed other than steel is something for airtight seals, rubber is ideal but leather can be used. Compressed air tanks can be refilled in field with hand pumps (though not in combat), and since muzzle velocities are already limited to around the speed of sound firing suppressed at subsonic velocities will not seriously decrease effectiveness.



Realistically, there is one and only one prospect for this to happen- forces armed with preindustrial weapons would have to consistently prevail over forces armed with contemporary weapons. Personally I don't see that happening any time this millennium.

Rodrigo Fernández


It seems wrong to me to suggest that primitive firearms were not technically superior to bows and arrows, in at least four respects:
1) The latest plate armor was extremely difficult to pierce even by arrows fired from the most powerful bows a human with years of hard training could wield. Tod has done a lot of experiments on this matter https://www.youtube.com/@tods_workshop . On the contrary, the bullets went through them like butter, making them immediately obsolete.
2) The damage produced by the bullets is much greater than that produced by the arrows. In the battle of Lepanto, the Christians, who used firearms, were satisfied with their performance and estimated that the greater destructive power more than compensated for the higher rate of "fire" of the Turkish bows.
3) Arrows are huge, while bullets are tiny and easily portable.
4) The discharge of firearms produces a strong psychological impact, which is a very important factor in war.
On the other hand, if ease of handling had been the only determining factor in abandoning bows, and technical considerations had not played a part, crossbows might well have been adopted, which are even simpler to handle than primitive firearms, and moreover more cheap and required the use of fewer special materials such as iron, lead and gunpowder.



I am comenting as a marksman,with anything from a thrown stone to a rifle,with the latter I can put three bullets in the same hole and with the former I can kill a duck at 150'
Hand eye cordination and practice.
Bows require much more core streagth and focus,sling shots require stealth and secret knowlege...
cross bows are just terrifieing
and if you want to know about the ultimate human powered weapon,
then check out foot bows,with a range of over 5 miles firing
steel bolts
thrown knives are a good minimalist equipment type of marksmanship that require much of the same skill set
and trick shooting with even a pellet gun is a valid test of



Let's look at this.

100 good bowman vs 10 machine gunners each with a Sten gun.
They are 50 m apart and each carry as much ammo as they can carry/chose.

Two Stens malfunction two of the bowman snap their strings. (Note for the Sten that is a much higher failure rate than actually happened in practise).

End result 2-3 wounded Sten gunners 100 dead bowman. Every time. Simples.

The only real way for a bowman to beat a gunner is to catch the latter by surprise.

A Sten can be made out of very average steel in a very average machine shop no hi tech required.



Umm... love your work but I'm writing this on the West Coast of North America. In case you hadn't heard, the indigenous bow-and-arrow people were almost completely wiped out in short order by firearms (and a bit of smallpox).

It's not even an argument. As long as firearms exist, they will be used and they will win.



It is significantly harder to cleanly kill a deer without it suffering when using a low energy delivery projectile like an arrow. A .308 shell firing a bullet out of a long rifle delivers enough energy to instantly kill a deer. At least for hunting, the primary purpose of firearms, arrows are less cool if you care about animal suffering (and meat quality).



Agreeing(21), I think it's worth noting that this has been a pretty common debate. The following link is a SpaceBattles thread on this subject,

From what I'm seeing here, is that the discussion tends to be quite centered on English longbows. If one broadens the horizon of discussion, it's easy to note that guns caught up even in countries with strong archery traditions such as Japan. The Native American cultures similarly also quickly embraced guns as quickly as they could, even if it entailed depending on trade with Europeans to do so. Moreover, one can note that all these cases center around matchlock arquebuses and not earlier guns.

As for crossbows, one has to consider that the type that arbalests and similar crossbows didn't really have a higher rate of fire than muzzle-loading guns, all the while being mechanically more complex due to the need for windlass mechanism. Moreover, the bow limbs made them bulkier and more awkward to handle.

Finally, I think I should piggyback on (18) by noting that historically, there's been a few experiments in using alternative materials for ammunition:

The first is the Schuboe pistol, which used a wood-cored projectile. This, apparently, would be a good choice for low-power rounds intended for close-range use as it'd be likely to cause griveous wounds, yet it'd be unable to be used at range.

A second noteworthy experimental round is the 7.92x40 MM CETME, which was made of an aluminum core with a gilding metal cladding, which, combined with the round's length, enabled it to be longer-ranged than conventional ones.

Finally, it's known that in late WW2, Germany resorted to making sintered iron rounds, which would be more energy-intensive but have less deleterious effects on the local environment than lead rounds. Of course, one would then also have to note that modern buckshot is often made of steel as well.

Charles W. Fink


Hello Kris,
I just found your website, it is very interesting. I got here in my search for a subject I saw in a library book written back in the 70s. It was an article about a design using ropes and pulleys attached to the tops of several trees that used their movement in the wind to generate power.I think it might have been to pump water, but I don't remember, it was back in the 90s. It may have used a ratchet drive or a rack and pinion. Anyway it seemed pretty clever, there was a web work of ropes to at least three different trees, the ropes didn't have a lot of travel but they would have had considerable force, and whenever they pulled away from the central spool or flywheel they would contribute to its rotation. Have you ever come across this?
It just so happens one of my hobbies is making modern hurling devices. I've built two whipper trebuchetes and three ballistas (giant crossbows). If you search 'Steampunk Inswinger Ballista' on you tube you can see a few short videos of a pretty cool art and engineering project. I just finished a Ravin R18 (unusual modern compound crossbow) inspired ballista that is ready to be tested. I don't hunt, they are just functional art projects to keep my mind and skills active. There is an ancient Chinese triple bow called a San Gong Chuangzi Nu that is worth a look. Great website, I am looking forward to exploring it.

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