Survival Weapons: How to Make, Purchase, or Scavenge Your Self-Defense When SHTF

survival weapons

The best self-defense is to avoid encounters however when that’s not possible, you don’t want to be caught without a weapon.

Having the means to defend yourself and your family is essential for survival.

This article covers the various survival weapons you can use for self-defense in a disaster scenario, including those you can:

  1. Survival Weapons You Can Buy
  2. Survival Weapons You Can Make
  3. Survival Weapons You Can Scavenge

Why Should I Think About Survival Weapons?

Sometimes all it takes is showing your opponent you are armed to deter them from attacking, but in case you are forced into combat you’ll want to be armed with a weapon you’re comfortable with and skilled at using.

survival weapons

When considering the options below, choose those that are best suited to your particular situation and that you will have time to practice with to develop your skill level.

Survival Weapons You Can Buy

There are plenty of suitable and highly effective survival weapons that can be purchased. Not only will this save you the hassle of fabricating your own, but also you’ll have the time necessary to practice and become proficient with its use. Our top choices for store-bought survival weapons are slingshots, tomahawks, knives, billy clubs, and firearms.


Although knives are among the most basic of survival weapons, they require a great deal of skill to wield effectively. Few people have the time to invest in becoming proficient with using a knife, and therefore it serves better as a backup weapon than as a primary. Our fixed blade knife of choice is the Ka-Bar Becker 22.

For a more compact option, opt for a folding knife with that has an open-assist feature, providing quick, one-handed operation and carries a high intimidation factor such as the Kershaw Tanto.

For more info, read our guide guide to choosing the best fixed blade knife.

survival weapons


Slingshots are a great choice for a survival weapon as they are inexpensive and ammo can easily be scavenged. We recommend The Scout Hunting Slingshot as the best all-around slingshot which can also be an effective hunting tool. For more details, read our guide to choosing the best slingshot for survival.



The benefit of a tomahawk is that it functions as both a tool and a weapon, giving you a two-for-one option that will help keep your packing to a minimum. Besides its obvious use as a bludgeoning weapon, a tomahawk can prove quite useful in scavenging as it can help to open containers and other places where food might be kept. It also functions well as a search and rescue tool. The CRKT Kangee Tomahawk is our tomahawk of choice. Check out our guide to choosing the best tomahawk.

Best Tomahawk

Pepper Sprays and Stun Devices

Pepper spray or a stun device are very effective weapons that can stop an attacker in their tracks. These options are especially useful for those that don’t have the brute force to use other types of weapons effectively since they can used from a distance and don’t require a substantial amount of strength to inflict damage.

  • Pepper Spray – Compact and easy to carry. Can be used from several feet away.
  • Bear spray – Similar to pepper spray but designed for long-range (30-foot range) use.
  • Stun Gun – A handheld device that delivers a powerful electric shock when touching an assailant. A good quality stun gun will drop large attackers without a problem.

Handheld Tactical Weapons

These weapons are very effective in the hands of someone with adequate strength, agility, and skill.

  • Kubaton – A discreet weapon that stores easily on a keychain, a kubaton adds spikes to your punch and aimed at an attacker’s eyes, can cause serious damage.
  • Tactical Pen – It’s a dual function pen that is built to also be used as a weapon. Discreet yet effective.


Firearms, America’s weapon of choice – and for good reason!

In most states, firearms are relatively easy to purchase legally and are extremely effective at both intimidating and harming would-be attackers.

Firearms are also desirable if you or members of your bug out crew don’t have the strength to wield a brute-force weapon – it is skill, not size, that counts with firearms.

However, just like any other survival weapon, a firearm requires practice to gain accuracy (especially under tense situations when adrenaline is pumping) and ammo must be hoarded or scavenged. Firearms also require periodic maintenance to ensure they stay in working order.

survival weapons

Survival Weapons You Can Make

There are myriad items at your disposal that can instantly become a weapon if need be – most of which are easy to make and relatively inexpensive. Recent civil uprisings in the Ukraine provide a great case study in how deadly homemade weapons can truly be.

To see how sticks, bats and sledgehammers were able to topple a Presidency, take a look through these pictures at Wired.

The three types of DIY weapons we’ll be discussing in this article are:

  • Bludgeoning weapons
  • Edged Weapons
  • Projectile Weapons

Each can be deadly in their own right, so make sure to choose the type of weapon that you feel most comfortable with.

Bludgeoning Survival Weapons

To effectively wield a bludgeoning weapon, you must be in close contact with your attacker and have a significant amount of upper body strength – delivering a disabling blow requires a tremendous amount of force. If this sounds like the type of weapon you’d do well with, we recommend using a club, war hammer, tomahawk, or flail.


While a club is one of the easiest survival weapons to make, it is no less deadly than any other and can inflict serious injury on an attacker. You can create an effective club by modifying a baseball bat, garden tool handle, or any length of wood, metal or piping. You can increase the destructive power of your blows by adding nails or metal scraps to the end of the club or by building a weighted club with a stone embedded in the end. For ideas on how to build an effective club, check out some examples at The JB Bardot Archives.

War Hammer

A war hammer can be easily assembled using inexpensive plumbing materials and works well for breaching doors and cars, as well as for combat. To create a war hammer, use a length of pipe with a t-splitter on the end and fit it with reducer couplings and plugs – no welding required. For a detailed explanation, see this YouTube video on assembling your own war hammer.


A tomahawk can be used both for chopping and throwing. You can easily make one by splitting a piece of wood and inserting either a rock or piece of metal and tying it together with leather cord or braided plant fibers. You can make your tomahawk even more deadly by sharpening the end of the handle so that it can double as a spear or pry tool. For a more advanced tomahawk, see this YouTube video which explains how to make a tomahawk from lawnmower blades (this requires welding).


A flail is easily crafted by fastening a chain with a spiked ball to the end of a stick or bar. You can also make a dive flail, which has a spiked ball at both ends.

Edged Survival Weapons

There are a multitude of materials that can be used to craft an effective – and deadly – blade, including bone, stone, glass and scrap metal. Blades are an efficient tool for slicing or puncturing your attacker but are notoriously difficult to master. Before relying on a blade in a life-or-death situation, make sure you try it out and can effectively wield it in the heat of the moment.

The most common type of blade is a fixed-blade knife, which can be made with materials from around your home such as saw blades. M40 has a whole article on fabricating a homemade fixed-blade knife for under $1, which you can read here. If you need to arm yourself on the fly, Hedgehog Leatherworks has a great video on choosing the best stones to craft into tools, or survival weapons as the case may be.

Another viable option is to create a spear or ‘rabbit stick’ by sharpening a shaft that is at least five feet long and attaching a sharp point to the end made from either metal, stone or glass.

Projectile Survival Weapons

With projectiles, you can inflict damage while keeping a distance between you and your attacker, making them the ideal weapon when stealth is your objective. However, to cause serious damage you must be highly accurate, which requires a fair amount of practice. The following are some of our favorite projectile survival weapons:

  • Crossbow and arrows (learn to make an arrowhead out of a spoon in this video)
  • Longbow – These can be made from PVC pipe or wood from your local hardware store, as you can see here.
  • Bamboo sling bow – start with a hollow piece of bamboo or PVC tubing long enough to grip with one hand and add two half-inch eyelet screws to hold several strong rubber bands in place; arrows can be fashioned from sharpened sticks with no feathers necessary
  • Bola – an easy-to-make weapon, a bola is thrown at your enemy and will immobilize them by wrapping itself around them
  • Sling – inexpensive and easy to make, you can construct a sling from common household items such as the tongue of an old boot. To build a sling, simply attach a strip of leather to two lengths of string or twine; this will allow you to launch small stones about the size of golf balls and can be mastered rather quickly.
  • Throwing stars and spikes

Want even more info on projectile survival weapons? CLICK HERE NOW to check out our in depth article!

ranged survival weapons
Click on the image above to learn all about the BEST ranged survival weapons right now!

Survival Weapons You Can Scavenge

If disaster strikes and you don’t have survival weapons with you, there are weapons that can be scavenged after the fact. If you find yourself scavenging in a hostile situation, be sure to thoroughly scout the area beforehand and have a group of people with you that can provide enough hands to carry back what you need.

In an urban survival situation, the following can be useful sources of weapons and ammo:

  • Automotive repair garages and gas stations
  • Cars and bicycles
  • Office buildings, schools, apartment complexes – generally, anywhere with a maintenance department
  • Abandoned homes
  • Construction sites

You will typically be scavenging for survival weapons, ammo or both. The following sections discuss what items can be scavenged to serve as survival weapons or ammo.

Survival Weapon Scavenging Tips

When scavenging for survival weapons, try and locate the following:

  • Anything you can use as a club, e.g. street sign posts, rebar, PVC pipe, log
  • Tools, e.g. ice picks, sledgehammers, crowbars
  • Defensive armor, e.g. street signs, car door panels, hubcaps, sports equipment
  • Lashings, e.g. inner bark of trees braided for strength, sinew, rawhide
  • Other useful items such as chains, bicycle gears (can be fastened to the end of a stick), and free weights (can be used to construct a flail)

Scavenging Ammo

When scavenging for ammo, try and locate the following:

  • Bolts or rocks to be used with a slingshot
  • Arrows for bows/crossbows – glass and scrap metal make excellent arrow points when there is no time to chip stone
  • Ammo for firearms – use caution with found bullets as they may be loaded with enhanced explosives
  • Rocks, bricks, and chunks of sidewalks or buildings that can be used for throwing or for a slingshot

Wrapping Up

Investing the time and effort to either buy or make survival weapons that will best serve you is an essential part of the prepping process. Whichever weapon (or weapons) you choose, make sure you can practice with them and they are well-suited to your survival needs.

As an example, a longbow can serve as a great weapon for defending your home perimeter, but probably won’t be useful as part of your get-home-bag. As important as arming yourself is developing the skills to properly wield your weapon in combat, so always take time to practice.

In addition to practicing with your primary survival weapon, make time to develop your abilities in scavenging for ammo and weapons. There may come a time where your primary survival weapon become unavailable and the ability to build weapons from scratch will be a desired one indeed.

It is also worth considering learning and practicing some form of unarmed self-defense.

Your Thoughts?

Do you have a survival weapon that you plan on using? Do you have an idea for one that would be easy to make or scavenge? Let us know in the Comments Section below, thanks!


Chris Ruiz

My name is Chris and I created this site to help ordinary people prepare for the uncertainties of the modern day world. I believe that a well-prepared society is the best safeguard against any natural or manmade disaster.

15 comments on “Survival Weapons: How to Make, Purchase, or Scavenge Your Self-Defense When SHTF

    1. Hey Bill,
      I am of the opinion that we are a long way away from needing any of these weapons but if the time comes, it is better to have the knowledge than wish you had it.

    2. What kind of “disaster” have you been involved in? If none just look at the news, or better camera phone reports. As long as communication is up, even minor regional type disasters will remain controllable. Take out communication, and even LEOs, etc.. will didi mau back home to keep their family safe. Trust me, I’ve seen it. You worry TOO little!

  1. 1. Smaller (slimline) can of underarm deodorant spray & cigarette lighter with flame control ‘jumped’ a couple of notches for a 4″ flame. Produces 12 to 16′ of flame with clouds of a choking dust courtesy of the aluminium oxide in the deodorant. It’s worse than sucking in a lungful of baby powder and pepper. Aim at feet of opponent as heat and gas rises on delivery. Extremely hard to defend against. Cheap and requires only that the can be FULL as a lower pressure will allow the flame plume to travel back to the nozzle – which is potentially very dangerous to the user.
    2. High power smaller water pistol filled with home brew pepper spray. There are plenty of sources around to educate on the making of this.
    3. Compressed air cylinder & home made shot for a close range ‘shotgun’ that can be refilled by a pump or a replaced cylinder and restocked from locally sourced gravel or pellets for ammo without a cache of store bought supplies. An air powered ‘blunderbuss’ of old.
    4. A ‘walking staff’ with brass heels. The ‘quarterstaff’ of yore. Typically 4 to 6″ taller than the user regardless of height. Opponents cannot get within 6′ of one who knows how to wield such a medieval age and martial arts weapon without suffering severe damage; the brass heels can take the target flesh clean out and keep moving. Astoundingly useful for so many other purposes too! A built in stun prod would make this even more versatile.
    5. For subtle hand-to-hand defense; a slightly modified TENS machine (Low pulse repetition, wide frequency, extra capacitors for high power) with contact pads run to the hands (gloves if considered appropriate) can completely paralyze and lock the opponents muscles, and use the opponents strength against themselves. Even Hercules cannot beat his own muscles!
    6. Become proficient in a good martial arts discipline. Body weight and size are not the key factors to winning.
    7. Being ‘a long way from needing’ any or all of the above is great, yet being prepared and having the knowledge and skills practiced to overcome any situation is even better.

  2. 24/7/365 self defense – requires situation awareness, observation and reconnaissance, mapping egress possibilities, training, education, resource logistics, covert allocations and storage, creating a false facade as well as a false persona, and only relying upon trusted and proven information sources.
    There is no way you can be ready for any and every type of eventuality or circumstance.
    But you can have enough presence of mind and self confidence that you can react to any situation without panicking and freezing up – which is the number one reason why people get killed during a crisis. Reacting without violence, and simply just fading back into the shadows and disappearing is the smartest move you can make.
    A cool head, calm nerves, a collected thinking capacity coupled with an instinctive improvisation and creativity will assure you are never caught up in a shit storm that brews up out of nowhere. Being armed is one small part of larger picture. Keep it in mind.

  3. Having read this article I think you covered all bases. There are only a couple things I think could have been added. Geographic location is a huge variable that will be fatally overlooked. Hitting on that would be beneficial to those who may decide to pop smoke and get out of their current area. Putting a farmer in a metropolitan area or a city boy in the sticks leaves both in an element that they are unaccustomed to. Common sense to some of us but most I’m afraid will find their demise not taking things of this nature into to consideration. Humping through the woods and stirring up yellow jackets with an unknown allergen without an epinephrine pin for one example. The only reason I say this is due to the fact that people today are not self sufficient and rely on others instruction or help to make it. The ease of weapon maintenance should be implemented on decision making on your firearms portion as well as round capacity and choice of caliber. To finish up, I have to add that I have and will remain a Cold Steel customer but I had a custom knife sent to me in Afghanistan made by a company from my home state Missouri. The company’s name is DMO “Dead Moose Ops” and the blade is called The Breached. The quote “One knife, One life” is referencing this bad boy! Keep up the good work, I always enjoy the topics you choose and the depth of thought put in. God Bless the US, our Armed Forces, and the .45. Hooah

    1. Hi Garrett,
      You make a lot of great points and obviously have a lot of knowledge and experience so thank you.

      I will check out DMO, thanks for the suggestion.


  4. this is great, you left out making a muzzloader and your own powder. it can be done fairly easy. get the book foxfire 5 its great.

  5. 99 cent brake cleaner makes a great survival scenario self defense weapon. Direct hit to an attackers eyes and lights out. Cheaper and more potent than pepper spray. Compound bows make great self defense and hunting weapons. I have an older model and had it restrung and it would last me a long time. Cold Steel Katana Machete makes a great close quarters weapon last but not least along with a sling shot that shoots arrows.

  6. I’m not in my home country so firearms are not available to me here in Asia.
    I carry an assortment of knives and my EDC is a Karambit. It’s a wicked curved blade like a Saber tooth tiger fang with a nice grip.
    I love slingshots and make my own but I don’t want to depend upon one in a street fight. At best I might get off one shot.
    I made a Tomahawk from some scrap iron and a bamboo handle which is hanging on my living room wall. I’ve also got a five and half foot wooden staff made of tropical hardwood which is near my front door.
    The only time I would consider using a slingshot is if I’m in a defensive position such as up a tree, balcony, or firing from a window.
    I sure do miss my guns in America 🇺🇸 but I just deal with what I have here in the orient.
    Something I haven’t tried is crushed up red 🌶 chili peppers in water or alcohol and put in a squirt bottle. Maybe will make that for a future project.
    For a bugout situation I have two plans.
    1. Stay hunkered down in the city with my food and water supplies.
    2. Split for the Mekong Delta where I have a house near the swamps.

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