Letter Re: Swords and Bows for that Dreaded Multigenerational Scenario

In a multigenerational TEOTWAWKI, consider having a good set of swords (and crossbows). Unlike ammo which may only last 50 years, a good sword will last hundreds. You can choose a Japanese style cutting sword, an epee or foil style piercing sword or a hacking style great sword. All other swords are some variation and combination of these types. A great sword for hacking will take the most abuse but be the heaviest. You should have great arm strength for this. A European style fencing stabbing sword requires speed over strength. If you are a wiry and fast but not overly strong person, this is for you. It is also easy to carry but will not end a fight immediately. The recipient will die from a puncture but it may take at least 60 seconds before he runs out of steam even with a heart shot. A Japanese sword has the advantage of being the fastest to draw and you can take off a mans head before he can get his gun pointed at you or cut off the hand holding a weapon.(Think of the Japanese sword as the quick draw style of gun fighting.) The edge however will not take a lot of abuse. Short swords as in the Barong in the Filipino tradition are another option. It has the hacking/cutting style but in a lighter smaller sword, better for carry and smaller framed people.

In the event of a MGTEOTWAWKI (multi generational), we must concede the possibility of running out of functional ammo, either because it’s all used up or it just gets too old to work. While some of us with access to caves full of guano and a volcanic source of sulfur can recreate black powder, for the rest of us it’s the time warp.
The most feared weapon pre-1247, (the first recorded use of gunpowder at the the siege of Seville) was a crossbow. Capable of going through plate armor at considerable distances, accurate and easy to learn, this was the ‘equalizer’ from 400 BCE (first representation of a crossbow in China) until the common use of gunpowder
The crossbow was outlawed by both Pope Innocent II in 1139 and the Magna Carta. Consider them the assault weapons of their age. It seems the authorities are always looking for ways to prevent the common man from defending him (or her) self.
A strong piece of wood, a truck leaf spring, an anvil, hammer, tongs, forge, some wood working and metal working tools and you should be able to make one yourself.
For hand to hand combat, it’s the sword. Swords too were outlawed for farmers (Japan) and peasants (Europe). In Medieval England a peasant caught with a sword would be stung up on a gibbet and left for the crows. Only members of the ruling class could have weapons…
Easier to make than crossbow, requiring only a forge, leaf spring anvil and hammer. I’ll be trying my hand at both within the year.
If you’re looking for a MGTEOTWAWKI career, perhaps you could be the local armorer/weaponsmith. Armorer…hmm. Some wire bent into circles could make some nice chain mail, but that’s for another posting… – SF in Hawaii

JWR Replies: I agree that the Japanese katana is a great design. Either buy a quality antique sword or buy a replica from Cold Steel. Don’t bother with a Chinese replica. Most of those are garbage, strictly made for looks–not strength or for holding and edge. I have a friend in Finland that owns a wakazashi length Japanese sword (circa 1650, but in modern mountings) that is wickedly sharp. I found it for him at a gun show here in the States. He keeps that sword at home for counter-burglar duty. He also has the kendo training to go with it, so burglars beware!

For hunting, crossbows have some utility, but for combat, recurves or compounds rule. It is true that someone can be taught to accurately shoot a crossbow in less time than they can be taught to shoot a long bow, recurve, or compound (which can take years of practice). However, crossbows have a grossly inferior rate of fire. (It was the fast training time that made crossbows popular for arming peasant levies in Europe in the late Middle Ages. They made up for the slower rate of fire by simply massing crossbowmen.) Granted, a compound, recurve or long bow is not as powerful as a crossbow, but they can be fired four to six times for each shot that is loosed by a crossbow. Also, not nearly as well known is the fact that modern crossbows eat their strings, through friction. The widely touted Barnett brand, for example, is known to require string replacement as frequently as every 200 shots. (Some other brands of crossbows, such as the Benedict, are easier on their strings, but are still relatively high maintenance.)

Perhaps some of our readers that are ardent archers would like to add their two cents worth. Specifically, I’d appreciate your recommendations on specific brands of recurve or compound bows, as well as durable arrows and “pointers” (pardon the pun) on arrowhead selection. Keep in mind that the most efficient points for killing deer are not necessarily the best for penetrating armor.

OBTW, my friend in Idaho, Joey Vaughan, commercially manufactures bow strings. If you want to stock up on a quantity of top quality spare strings for your bow, he would appreciate your business. Contact: Clearwater Archery Supplies, P.O. Box 1074, Orofino, Idaho 83544 phone: (208) 476-4342. Be sure to have the exact model specifications of your bow handy before you call.

One side note: An interesting piece of FFTAGFFR on “post” firearms era weaponry is the science fiction novel Dies The Fire, by S.M. Stirling.The author did some great research for the book. It gives a glimpse into what life might be like in an age after firearms are viable. If you can get past the implausible premise of the book (an overnight change in the laws of chemistry which renders gunpowder non-explosive) and get past the pagan/wiccan philosophy that the book espouses, then I consider it a good read. Coincidentally, Dies The Fire is one of the favorite novels of The Werewolf–our SurvivalBlog correspondent in Brazil. Coincidentally, one thing that Stirling mentions in Dies The Fire is that motor vehicle leaf springs can also be re-arched to make crossbow limbs. If flattened they can be made into swords. There will be countless springs left around un-used in TEOTWAWKI. Perhaps we ought to discuss what else can be re-used from cars under such “worst case” circumstances. Batteries, alternators, and 12 VDC light bulbs also come immediately to mind. Speaking of car batteries, given proper safety precautions, they are also a ready source for lead for casting bullets. For proper bullet hardening, wheel weights can be mixed. in.