As long as man has existed, we have needed weapons to hunt, defend against predators, and defend against each other. There are varying degrees of complexity with these weapons, but they all serve a purpose. If you find yourself in a survival situation, these weapons are even that much more important. Sure, it would be nice to have a gun or a bowie knife on you when things go wrong, but for most people, this is not the case.
I feel the need to put a small disclaimer in this article. While weapons are a vital part of survival and you should know how to make them, you cannot rely entirely upon them. Hunting for food with primitive weapons is incredibly inefficient and difficult. The odds of bagging an animal with primitive weapons is not great. You should always supplement hunting with fishing, trapping, and collecting wild edibles. This will ensure that you have some food even if your hunting efforts do not pan out.
In addition, primitive weapons should not be your first choice when you encounter dangerous animals. For bears, wolves, big cats, and alligators you are best to adjust your behavior to back away or scare them away. Every animal will require a different response. However, you also want to have a weapon as a last resort in case the animal attacks. In this article, we will cover several different primitive weapons you can make and how to construct them in a survival situation.
When humans first started searching for weapons, their options were limited. For many humans, simply picking up a rock or a stick with a large knot on the end was their typical choice. This was fine for self-defense and for killing small animals at close range. To this day there are cultures that still use throwing sticks to kill birds, lizards, and small mammals. In fact, some cultures can be accurate with throwing sticks at distances of 50 feet. These weapons do not need to be built but do need to be practiced.
The next development in primitive weapons was the spear. Instead of using blunt, crushing force it uses piercing force. This allows for the pursuit of larger or faster animals as well as defense against larger predators. Primitive spears fall into two primary categories. You have single point spears used for large animals, and four-point spears used for fish and smaller animals.
A single point spear is very simple to construct. You should find a straight pole that is at least shoulder height. This is to prevent you from falling on your spear when walking. You can use green poles or dead poles, but ensure that they are strong either way. Sharpen one end with a taper that starts at least six inches from the tip. You can do this on a rough rock or preferably with a knife. It is optional, but you can strip all of the bark off of the pole to make it more thin and smooth. You then need to harden the tip of the point in the fire to draw out the moisture.
A four-point spear is simply an adaptation of the single point spear. It starts the same way. However, before fire hardening the point you need to split the tip in half and then split it again at a 90-degree angle. Once you have your splits in place, shove a small stick in the first split and then another one in the second split to spread out the four points. Use your best judgment as to how far to spread the points. You may need to sharpen the points again before fire hardening them.
Spears should typically be used for thrusting instead of throwing in a survival scenario. Last summer I found myself stranded on a boat for a survival challenge. With lots of practice, I was able to use a four point spear to snag some bullfrogs to feed myself during the challenge. The odds of success when throwing a spear are very small. People rarely have the accuracy or speed to kill an animal. In addition, you may break or lose your spear if you throw it. I surely would have gone without food if I had tried to throw my spear. The same goes for self-defense. Never throw a weapon when defending yourself because you have now lost your only weapon if you miss.
As effective as the spear can be for certain animals, it requires you to get very close to your prey. This is difficult for large game as they normally are much faster and more powerful than humans. What man needed were weapons that we could accurately launch from a distance that also had piercing power. The first natural progression was to find a way to accurately launch the spear with killing force. This is when the atlatl was created.
An atlatl is the combination of a long thin spear designed for flight paired with a throwing arm for additional velocity. The spear is typically a single point spear, but much thinner than a thrusting spear. However, it still must be strong enough to handle the force of impact with a larger animal. This means your choice of wood is more important. You will also need to add fletching to the rear end of the spear. You can use feathers or leaves as long as they are evenly spaced and of the same shape and size. The fletching adds drag to your spear to help it fly straight. You will need to find some cordage to attach the fletching.
The throwing arm is the final piece of the project. This should be a stick between two and four feet long based on your build. It should have a hooked end with a point that will fit into a notch at the rear of your spear. You will need to carve the notch and the point so that they fit tightly. The throwing arm gives your throw more of a whip effect because the force is applied further from your shoulder. As you place the spear on the throwing arm and let it fly, it gives you as much as double the velocity and distance of throwing it with just your arm. With practice, you can be accurate and deadly at up to 100 yards with the atlatl.
I should also mention that the bow and arrow is still considered a primitive weapon. While you can build a bow and arrow from natural materials in the wild, it is very difficult to build one that works well. It takes years of practice to find the right wood, carve it right, and treat it so the bow provides thrust without breaking. While it is very possible to make a bow in the wild, I would not suggest it unless you have years of training.
As you can see, there are several options for hunting and defense in a survival situation. Some weapons are found and some are created. The more time you spend on your weapon, the more options it will give you. However, the most important point I can make is that you must spend time practicing with any of these weapons. Do not build a weapon and expect to have a successful hunt on day one. Be patient. If you build a solid weapon and take the time to learn how to use it, it will be well worth your time.