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    8 Natural Weapons You Can Find In The Wild

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    8 Natural Weapons You Can Find In The Wild

    In a remote, wilderness survival situation, the needs are fairly basic: water, fire, shelter and food. But in some environments, a need for weapons emerges. On a basic level, simple weapons can be used for hunting.

    In areas where wildlife is well established, there may be a need for self-defense if not the reassurance that you can at least do something if confronted by a wolf or worse—a pack of feral dogs. Bears are another possibility but primitive survival weapons are no match for a charging bear.

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    Searching for Materials

    Forest During Sunset

    If you look at a history of primitive weapons you’ll see some fundamental source materials for weapon making. They include:


    Either for the weight they bring to a weapon or projectile, or sharp edges for cutting and penetrating.

    Rounded rocks and stones were most often used for throwing or hurling either by hand or with the use of a sling or bola. Volcanic minerals like obsidian and flint were best for the sharp edges they created and were most commonly used for arrow and spear points, knives and as cutting tools.

    Stones in the Wild


    Also uses weight to deliver brunt force or is sharpened to a stabbing point to penetrate or used as a handle for a tomahawk or torch. In its simplest form, wood was used as a club.

    Both wood and stone are probably the most prevalent raw materials for improvising weapons and were the most often used by primitive cultures.

    Primitive Items Made From Wood

    Animal Skins

    To fashion everything from slings to bolas and as a braided string for a bow and arrow.

    Tanned Animal Skins


    To both repel animals from a location and to intimidate them if confronted.

    Fire in the Wild

    There are other weapons from poisonous mushrooms and berries like Belladonna to the proven caveman technique of rolling boulders down a steep hill into a herd of animals or enemies. A lot has to do with how many are in your group and what you’re trying to accomplish.

    Primitive Weapon Making

    Primitive Arrowheads

    Our ancient ancestors depended on hunting and gathering for food, but it was the hunters who developed a range of weapons not only to hunt fish and game but for self-defense of the tribe.

    In a primitive time, hunting was far from a recreational activity or sport. Quite often, the survival of the entire tribe or village depended on the skill and success of the hunters and just as important—their weapons.

    As a result, hunters developed both strategies and tactics that determined the types of weapons they used and how they used them. It may be unlikely that you’ll have the skill to fashion arrowheads from flint, but in some remote areas you can actually find them…if you’re lucky.

    Arrowheads in the Wild

    Weapons for Hunting

    Hunting in a wilderness survival situation is often a matter of luck and a good awareness of any animal life around you. The best tactic is to carry 2 or 3 weapons that will allow you to take advantage when you encounter prey. That could be as simple as a few rocks, an improvised spear, or even a walking stick that doubles as a club.

    That doesn’t sound like much, but the weapons you can find or improvise in the wild are going to determine what you could in fact hunt for food. A few rocks and a spear aren’t realistically going to do much if you encounter a deer or an elk, but they could give you a fighting chance with a rabbit, squirrel, or wild turkey.

    Rabbit by a Plant

    More robust weapons like a bow and arrow or a sling can increase your odds, but you need to have the skills to make them and use them. Spears can be effective but have a limited range unless you know how to maximize the inertia with an Atlatl. We’ll cover that later.

    Weapons for Self-Defense

    Think of it two ways. Self defense against wild animals and self-defense against people. In both cases, a lot depends on how dangerous the threat is. A poisonous snake may be deadly, but they’re more easily dispatched than a charging bear.

    Dangerous Snake

    As far as people are concerned, most people in a wilderness survival situation would be relieved to come across someone else. If they’re a threat, the most you can do is avoid them, hold your ground and, if need be, defend yourself with the best weapon you’ve been able to improvise. A lot depends on their intent.

    Groups versus the Solitary Survivor

    A group can more effectively hunt and defend itself for a variety of reasons:

    • Safety in numbers. A group could keep eyes in all directions to avoid an ambush by large, predatory animals or enemies.
    • A group could also hunt animals in force to take down an animal using multiple weapons of the same kind or varying kinds.
    • Groups allowed individual hunters to carry and use the weapon that best fit their strength, ability, and experience. Anyone can throw a rock but it takes some skill to accurately fire a bow and arrow and good bit of strength to hurl a spear effectively.
    • Groups could transport large game easier than a solitary hunter.

    Unfortunately, many wilderness survivors are on their own and alone. In that case, the multiple weapon strategy is the best approach.

    Wild Weapon Effectiveness

    Three factors determined the effectiveness of any primitive or wild weapon.

    1. Accuracy. There’s a reason hunters engage in target practice. If you miss the mark, the hunt is a failure. The accuracy of any weapon is often the result of the hunter’s skill with that weapon, but some weapons are more forgiving than others. We’ll identify the advantages and disadvantags of accuracy as we cover the types of weapons.
    2. Inertia. The combination of weight, speed, and penetrating power or impact of a weapon determines its effectiveness. We can only throw a rock so hard, but when propelled by a sling or slingshot the speed/weight ratio or inertia is increased.
    3. Multiple shots. Throw a spear and miss and you’re out of luck. Other weapons give you more chances. This includes rocks, slings and slingshots, and if you can fashion it: a bow and arrow.

    The 8 Weapons

    The primitive weapons listed below are prioritized from easiest to make to more complex.

    1. Rocks

    • Where to Find Materials: Riverbeds, exposed banks.
    • Ideal Distance: Close-quarters to mid-distance.
    • Ideal Game: Squirrels, rabbits, chipmunks, birds.
    • Skill level: Beginner.
    • Advantages and disadvantage: Plentiful but require precise aim and shorter distances.

    Select rocks that feel right in your hand with sufficient weight to deliver a knockout blow, but not too heavy to throw accurately and for some distance.

    Rounded Rocks for Throwing

    Some rocks like Flint, Chert and Obsidian cleave into sharp edges and can be used in a variety of weapons.

    Chips of Flint and Chert

    Better yet, the sharp edges may be the only tool you’ll need to make additional weapons.

    2. Dagger

    • Where to Find Materials: Tree branch, dropped Deer antlers.
    • Ideal Distance: Close quarters.
    • Ideal Game: Snakes, small turtles, frogs, wounded or stunned prey.
    • Skill Level: Beginner.
    • Advantages and Disadvantage: Extreme close-quarters use. Best for small animals or to finish off larger animals.
    Dagger from Wood A

    A short length of a tree branch that has been sharpened to a point. The dagger can be any length although 12-inches are about the maximum. A dagger is a close-quarter weapon and is usually used to dispatch prey that has been stunned, trapped or captured.

    Dagger from Wood B

    A good way to harden the point and make it easier to carve is to insert the tip in a fire until it chars and carefully scrape it down to the point.

    3. Club

    • Where to Find Materials: Tree roots, tree branches.
    • Ideal Distance: Close quarters.
    • Ideal Game: All game wounded, slow moving or stunned.
    • Skill Level: Beginner.
    • Advantages and Disadvantages: Heavy to carry long distances: close-quarters use. Powerful defensive weapon and to finish off animals of all sizes.

    Clubs are usually 2 to 4 feet in length and taper towards the end with the slimmer part in the hands.

    Tree roots make great clubs. You want a handle that gives you a firm comfortable grip and the heavier weight towards the end of the club.

    Basic Club from Wood

    4. Spear

    • Where to Find Materials: Trees with straight trunks and branches: saplings, pines, oak.
    • Ideal Distance: Close-quarters to mid-distance.
    • Ideal Game: Raccoon, possum, squirrel, rabbits, fish, snakes, large turtles.
    • Skill Level: Intermediate unless used for close quarters stabbing.
    • Advantages and Disadvantages: One shot, strength, and skill required, good for close-quarters use. Distance inertia limited. Small to medium game.
    Spear from Wood A

    Spears are typically as long as the hunter is tall; as straight as possible and the points are hardened and re-sharpened after repeated heating and scraping of the tip in a fire. The average circumference is usually about ½-inch to make it easier to throw.

    Spear from Wood B

    Sapling trunks are the best materials. Branches of most trees tend to meander while small trunks tend to grow straight and true. A spear intended for close-quarters stabbing doesn’t have to be perfectly straight but should be as long as you can handle and carry. The easiest approach is to use it as your walking stick or staff.

    5. Atlatl

    • Where to Find Materials: Tree roots or branches with knots that can hold the base of a spear.
    • Ideal Distance: Long distance.
    • Ideal Game: Large birds, raccoon, possum, rabbits, possibly small deer.
    • Skill Level: Intermediate to advanced.
    • Advantages and Disadvantages: Requires some skill, excellent distance and inertia. Can be used for larger game.

    An Atlatl consists of two parts: the spear and a lever about a foot to two feet in length with a notched end to fit into the base of the spear. The spear is the same design as a conventional spear. The handle to thrust the spear forward is best made from a tree root or a branch with a knot at one end to create a pocket for the end of the spear.

    Throwing Spear With Atlatl

    The Atlatl handle and spear are held together and as the spear is thrown forward, the handle is gripped and used as a lever to add velocity to the throw.

    6. Bola

    • Where to Find Materials: Straps from strips of animal skin. Braided strips of bark or natural fibers, 2 to 3 rounded rocks of equal size.
    • Ideal Distance: Mid to long distance.
    • Ideal Game: Large birds in a grounded flock, raccoon, possum, squirrel, possibly small deer.
    • Skill Level: Intermediate to advanced.
    • Advantages to Disadvantages: Requires strength and skill to throw, good for hooved animals. Good inertia.

    The Bola is an ancient South American invention. Making a bola is fairly simple It’s essentially three rocks tied to the ends of 3 long strips of leather or other cordage about 2 to 4 feet long.

    Throwing Rock with Bola

    The rocks are twirled above the head by the cords and all are thrown at the legs of an animal to cause it to fall. Strips of animal skin or braided vines or Burdock stems can be sued substitutes. What’s important is that the rocks are securely contained and tied to the ends of the cords. Its primary use was on hooved animals like deer and antelope.

    7. Sling

    • Where to Find Materials: Strips of animal skin, braided plant fibers.
    • Ideal Distance: Long distance.
    • Ideal Game: Rabbits, possum, raccoon, squirrel, large grounded birds in a flock.
    • Skill Level: Advanced.
    • Advantages to Disadvantages: Requires skill. Good for all animals if accurate. Good inertia.
    Sling With a Stone

    A sling is a small patch of animal skin or fabric that usually has two thin strips of leather or other cordage tied to either side of the patch. The best type of rock or stone is smooth and rounded to release from the sling pouch cleanly and travel through the air aerodynamically.

    How to Use a Sling

    The strips of cordage are 2 to 3 feet long and the stone in the pouch is swing over the head or at the side of the body. One of the ropes or cords is released and the stone is projected towards the target. Mastering this skill requires lots of practice.

    8. Bow and Arrow

    Not easy to make in the wild but highly effective if you have the time.

    • Where to Find Materials: Osage orange and willow for bow/straight, thin branches for arrows, animal skin strips or braided natural fibers for string.
    • Ideal Distance: Short to long distance.
    • Ideal Game: Rabbits, possibly deer, raccoon, possums, squirrels, large fish.
    • Skill Level: Intermediate to advanced.
    • Advantages to Disadvantages: Good distance and inertia, accuracy dependent on straightness of arrows, fletching and skill. Hard to construct.
    DIY Bow and Arrows

    The bow is a flexible carved branch of wood about 4 to 6-feet in length with notches cut at each end to hold the bowstring. The bow should be carved with a taper from the center towards both ends. The bowstring should be a taut material made from braided animal skins or natural fibers like Burdock stalks.

    The arrows are the straightest sticks you can find with one end sharpened to a point with a notch in the opposite end to be inserted onto the bowstring. Here again, toasting the points in the fire will harden the wood and make sharpening easier.

    Springy hardwoods like Osage orange and Willow are the best wood for the bow. Arrows are best made from firm hardwoods like Oak and Maple. In a pinch, any tree will do but distance and accuracy may be compromised.

    Notches in Arrow Point

    You can add 3 feathers torn down the center rib of the feather and attached with straw or other natural grasses to the notched end of the arrow to act as fletching so the arrow flies straighter.

    Other Options…

    Ø  The Poison Option

    Belladonna Berries

    Ø The Torch Option

    DIY Torches

    Practice If You Can

    Hopefully you’ll never need to improvise these weapons in a survival situation. If you’re simply intriqued by how our ancient ancestors made them, take some time to a put a couple together and practice.

    There may be no need to hunt wild game, but even plinking a few tin cans with an improvised sling can be fun on a lazy afternoon…and very necessary if you’re ever stranded in the wild.

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