Letter Re: The Limited Practicality of Primitive Weapons

Dear James:
I was interested to read the comments on atlatls in yesterday’s post “Getting Prepared: From the Homestead to Living Off the Land”. By way of background, I’ve been interested in atlatls since an anthropology course in junior college, and a couple of months ago bought an atlatl from Bob Berg at Thunderbird Atlatls.

All the points mentioned on atlatls by the writer are true; they are simple to make (my 11-year-old nephew made his own out of scrap lumber in about twenty minutes after seeing mine), and making darts is merely
an exercise in scaling arrows up, although tuning them for best performance is more painstaking. They can launch darts over long distances (my first time out, I made a 63 meter cast without trying too hard) and with really surprising power. And anthropological studies have demonstrated that they are capable of taking game up to and including elephants. I have no doubt whatsoever that in trained hands they are deadly.

However, atlatls shafts are not easy to throw accurately. After a couple of months of occasional practice, I am proud to announce that I am now capable of consistently throwing minute-of-brushpile groups from
fifteen meters. Yesterday I scored two solid heart/lung area hits on a deer target (out of over thirty casts) from the same distance. My aim is improving, but from a survival perspective, energy spent making
an atlatl and dart and hunting with it would probably, unless you’re already an experienced hunter and atlatlist, be best spent on other ways of gathering food.

Best Regards, – A Moderately Prepared Canadian.