Watch: How to Make a Primitive Crossbow that Really Works

When sticks and rope are all you've got to work with, you get creative.

Survivalists are experts at using whatever is available to do what needs to be done. Resourcefulness is what sets them apart. Popular survival YouTuber Survival Lilly is as resourceful as they come. Using some components scrapped from another primitive bow project, Lilly sets about trying to create a new bushcraft bow from wood and rope.

She has chosen a dense, strong wood for this project to be able to hold up to the wear and tear that shooting the bow will put on it. First she uses a knife to whittle and shape the limbs.

She quickly realizes she made the limbs much too strong, as the bow is too much for her to shoot accurately in the traditional sense, so Lilly shifts gears and fashions her bow into a crossbow. She finds two forked limbs and cuts them to length before securing them to the bottom of the bow as a crossbow platform.

"It's super strong," she said after shooting her homemade crossbow. "Stronger than any survival bow I've ever made. Yea!"

She shoots it several times to get grouped in. At first, she is hitting low, but with some aiming adjustments she is dialed in on her squirrel target.

"Look at this grouping," Lilly said after a particularly good set. "It's really nice. I'm getting better with every try."

It's clear once she has her aiming figured out that she has made an effective, if primitive, tool for hunting small game.


We'd call this crossbow a feat of bushcraft engineering. It takes some clever thinking to turn a traditional bow into a crossbow like this. There are probably ways to increase the power and the accuracy, but considering how little time she spent making it, this thing looked highly effective. It didn't look like the bolts were getting a ton of penetration, but that could likely be fixed through slightly lighter bolts. At the very least, it would likely be effective on squirrels and possibly a rabbit—if you could get close enough.

Obviously, something this crude takes a little practice, but Lilly was able to get some decent groupings considering the only commercially manufactured portions of this bow were the string and the arrows.

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