Now I know y'all like your guns, and that's fine. I like mine too. I once heard someone say, “If you don't have gold and silver you're doomed.” Now these two things are also very important, but I question how this man planned to defend his precious metals without a well-stocked armory.
As Mr. Rawles himself has said, guns are tools much like those found in a carpenter's tool box. Each fills a different role. But although guns are good at a great many different things, there are some roles which are difficult for them to fill. For instance, here in the United States you have to pay the BATF a $200 tax for each suppressor you purchase. But knives, bows and crossbows are silent by their nature [although the arrow and blade recipients are often quite noisy]. And in the most of the gun-restrictive states you are better off carrying a knife than trying to smuggle a pistol. [JWR Adds: Be sure to check your state and local laws. For example in California it is a felony to carry a concealed fixed blade knife of any length on the first offense!]
Which brings me to my point: While they should in no way be relied upon as a primary means of defense, cold weapons (Essentially meaning weapons other than firearms, usually primitive in nature, such as the aforementioned bows and knives) have their place in the Survivalist arsenal for special situations. Don't pretend to be a ninja with them, because there's a 99.9% chance you're not. (If you are one of the 0.1% of SurvivalBlog's readership who is a practicing Ninjutsu student, then I salute you.)
Carrying a knife is a lot like prepping in general: Some people will view you as strange and paranoid. That is, until they get into a situation where their life is in danger. Then it's suddenly, “Hey, you have your knife with you, right?”
Thing is, knives have about a thousand uses which have nothing to do with violence. I certainly don't recommend doing this, but I once used a knife to widen a hole for a doorknob. You can safely use them to open packages, cut rope, cut food, do limited woodworking, the list goes on and on.
Their use as a weapon is an added bonus, but strong caution must be advised. Straightforward combat is where the combat knife is weakest. It can be done, but you're likely to get just as wounded as the opponent that you're attacking.
If a knife is to be used, it should be used with stealth, against a lone target. Keep in mind that you're not trying to give your enemy the death of a thousand cuts. Deep abdominal and throat stabs with a knife are much better than slashes.
There are many ways to grip a knife, but there are two that I usually use. The one is pretty standard: Essentially just a clenched fist around the knife handle. This is usually called the hammer grip. The other grip is called the reverse grip, and is like the hammer grip except that the blade extends from the bottom of the hand rather than the top. In the latter grip, your thumb rests against the pommel to support it for thrusting. In practice, I use the hammer grip for the few times I want to do slashing (which again is not the optimal way to knife fight.) and the reverse grip for stabs.
If you think the idea of a gun fight is terrifying, knife fighting is even more so --definitely not for the squeamish. Disable your opponent quickly and by whatever means possible and be prepared to bandage multiple wounds of your own when the fight is over.
The bow, while not as effective in modern combat as shown in the movies, still has several advantages over guns.
First, it is silent by nature. [Although, again those on the receiving end will probably scream prodigiously unless you are lucky enough to sever their spine and have them bleed out quickly.This makes it suited to hunting both four-legged creatures and stealthily taking out lone opponents.
Second, arrows can be handmade with simple materials if necessary. Wooden dowels are very inexpensive at your local hardware and general stores. Look for ones which area about 1/3rd inch in diameter. Then, cut them down to match the draw length of your bow. Cut a notch in one end with a serrated knife or a handsaw. Cut it deep enough that the bowstring fits snugly inside.
Then, about three quarters of an inch from that draw a line around the circumference of the arrow. There are several ways to make fletchings, including feathers and plastic, but my favorite is explained in this video. I have tested it and found it to work, as long as you are good with your measurements.
Arrowheads can also be done several ways. If you're wanting to siphon your inner caveman, you can go for the flint approach. This is not recommended. If you just want to sharpen the end of your arrow but don't want to add weight to it, you can actually use a pencil sharpener to carve it to a fine point. This is good in a pinch, but you'll have to adjust your aim. This is because the head weighs down the arrow. This sounds like a bad thing, but without that weight at the tip, the arrow jumps up when you shoot it, causing you to overshoot your target unless you correct your shot.
What I've found to be a cheap alternative to store-bought heads is gluing nails to the arrow's end with woodworker's glue. This is what some bow hunters in Africa do, (without the glue though, they carefully hand-inlet theirs) and it works pretty well [for small game].
If you have a big budget you can buy an assortment of arrows with very fancy heads, such as springing blades. They're expensive, and will probably break if you miss, but if you hit you can be pretty sure that whatever you just shot will bleed out quietly.
Another advantage of arrows is that they can very easily be made into incendiary weapons. Simply wrap some cotton around the tip and douse it in oil or alcohol or another flammable material, and light it with your choose of lighting implement when you're ready to shoot. Arrowheads can also be dipped in poison, if you're looking for a way to deliver it.
As for shooting with a bow, keep in mind that this is not the Hunger Games, and you are likely a lot less “Elite” than you make yourself out to be. If you're shooting at humans, like I said with the knife, aim for lone targets from stealth. Keep in mind that arrows travel in an arc, and where you aim might not be where the arrow ends up. If the arrow has no head, it will probably overshoot.
Depending on the distance from your target you will have to angle your shot upwards, which is a skill that takes a lot of practice. A rule of thumb is to aim for the head, because even if you undershoot that you'll get a chest shot. Horizontal accuracy is not amazingly hard to achieve with a bow, but watch out for wind. If it's an especially windy day, you're probably better off sticking to your guns.
Crossbows negate some of the disadvantages of a bow, while retaining all the advantages. For one thing, you can keep a shot loaded with a lot less effort. They're also easy to sight with. Some of the more expensive models even come with scopes. In addition, they generally have a lot more force behind them. An added bonus to this is that they travel in a much more straight line than bows do, meaning less aim adjusting. Crossbows are often more expensive than bows, but the above advantages may make it worth it for you.
Acquiring ammo for slingshots is even easier than it is for bows and crossbows. Look for appropriately sized rounded rocks. That's about it. If you want to get fancy you can pick up steel balls at a hardware store. With a little training, you can become pretty accurate with the darn things. I wouldn't recommend using them against humans unless absolutely necessary, but they could be pretty nifty against birds and small game.
In addition, there are some people who do crazy things with slingshots. And then can teach you how. Who I'm talking about is this guy: Joerg Sprave.
An absolute legend of the slingshot world. If you're willing to endure occasional adult language, you can pick up a lot of neat tricks on this channel. I just recently made his sling pistol, and it was a great learning experience.
They won't make you a ninja, but in certain situations they can be pretty useful. For one thing, with the exception of the crossbow they're a lot less regulated than firearms. They can help you to conserve precious ammo, and give you the ability to make silent kills on small and big game without the BATF paperwork and $200 transfer tax for purchasing a registered suppressor. All good things, in this pilgrim's opinion.
Peace, and God Bless. - Daniel