How To Make Use Of Improvised Weapons

How to Make Use of Improvised Weapons | DIY homemade survival weapons tutorials #diy #homemadeweapons #survivalweapons

In a SHTF scenario where ammo is scarce or you're forced to leave your supplies behind, improvised weapons may be your only choice.

But don't worry: there are plenty of improvised weapons that work just as well if not better than traditional weapons.

We all love our guns and we can’t imagine life without them.

We live by the survivalist’s golden rule, the 3 G’s: guns, gold, and a getaway plan.

But, if you’re a realist, you must take into consideration any plausible scenario and one of them (maybe the most disturbing one) is the following:

What are you going to do in a survival situation when you’re out of ammo and the bad guys are still coming?

I don’t know if you saw the movie “Snatch”, but if you didn’t, I highly recommend it.

Don’t expect a survival movie, but it contains one epic scene where “Boris The Blade”, a Russian weapons dealer, is trying to sell a big looking pistol to some guy, and he says (after the customer notices that the gun is pretty heavy): “Heavy is good, heavy is reliable, if it doesn’t work, you can always hit him with it”.

Basically, this sums it up: when you’re running out of ammo, use blunt force trauma! It always works, if you hit hard enough and are fortunate enough to beat your opponent to the punch.

Improvised Weapons to the Rescue

Now, on a more serious note, in any kind of scenario from societal collapse or zombie apocalypse, you can find yourself in an unpleasant situation where you’re out of ammo for that nice AR-15 of yours and you have to protect your life or your property.

Don’t worry, there are ways of surviving without firearms; humanity managed to endure for thousands of years without guns.

I don’t advocate relying on cold weapons as your primary means of self-defense, but here’s a list of “alternatives” that every survivalist should be aware of if SHTF and you’re out of ammo:


Consider carrying a knife on your person at all times. Knives are tools in the first place and they come in handy in a multitude of situations not associated with violence.

But, when the moment comes, you have to do what you have to do. Carrying a solid knife presents obvious advantages; blades don’t need reloading.

Aside from cutting rope and opening boxes, a knife may save your life someday. A word of caution though: use it wisely and remember that knife fighting exists only in B-rated movies.

In a real-life survival situation, a knife must be used stealthily, quickly, and decisively.

Knives | How To Make Use Of Improvised Weapons

Besides knives, there are plenty of other “melee” weapons that can be used for self-defense in a survival situation.

Weapons like spears, swords, clubs, hammers, police batons, baseball batshells, even a fire extinguisher, a crowbar or a shovel will do the trick in close combat when absolutely necessary. They aren’t as portable as a knife but they’re still pretty good for home defense in a pinch.

A high-tech melee weapon would be a Taser, but if you’re out of ammo and you can’t resupply, I seriously doubt that you have power available for charging such a gizmo.

Bows and Arrows

If you enjoyed The Hunger Games (the movie), then bows and arrows are familiar to you. The good thing about bows and arrows is that they can be improvised from scratch, even if you don’t own or can’t afford a high-tech modern bow bought from Sporting Goods.

You can easily manufacture one and the same goes for the arrows. The hard part is to train yourself in the fine art of archery, but it can be done.

Bows and Arrows | How To Make Use Of Improvised Weapons

Aside from protecting yourself, bows are pretty useful for hunting games, so you should take bows and archery seriously if you’re into prepping.

Crossbows are basically high-tech, mechanized bows, just more powerful and more precise and also much easier to master and aim with.

They are easy to load and some of the high-end models available on the market come with scopes. Using them is child's play compared to aiming and firing a recurve or compound bow; they are reliable and make for a formidable cold weapon.

The biggest advantages when using bows and arrows are that they’re stealthy, silent, deadly and, perhaps most importantly, you can re-use the arrows(unlike bullets), and also you can build new ones from scratch.


Another old-school cold weapon, used for thousands of years, is the slingshot. If you had a real childhood, like I had, you surely know what I mean when I say that slingshots are awesome!

You can build yourself a powerful slingshot or buy one; they’re pretty cheap.

Getting ammo for a slingshot presents no significant problem, and if your aim is good, a slingshot can be as deadly as a firearm from a close distance. If you aim for the head; remember the story of David and Goliath.

You can use anything from rocks to scraps of metal for ammo and you can even hunt small games if you have the skill.

Slingshots | How To Make Use Of Improvised Weapons

Last but not least, you must deal with the fact that sometimes you’ll have to improvise, in the heat of the moment. There are no definitive solutions (nor answers) to all life’s problems.

Training makes perfect, and a positive attitude may save your life someday. Being able to think on your feet is perhaps your greatest weapon. When practicing, make a habit of thinking outside the box when you consider running out of ammo.

That way, your brain will already be in that mode if you actually find yourself in that situation.

One final word of advice: when using cold weapons (or any other weapons for that matter), keep in mind that you’re not a ninja or a vigilante, and don’t use them against fellow human beings unless it’s absolutely necessary.

Use your best judgment at all times and be prepared for the worst!

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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on October 9, 2014, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.

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47 Responses to :
How To Make Use Of Improvised Weapons

  1. WarzoneB52 says:

    One Quick note about all the above mentioned weapons. NEVER pull out a weapon unless you are doing one of two things; a. Hunting and out of sight of other people or b. Your Life is in immediate peril! Also, if you have a simple ball point pen you have a weapon. Simply take the cap off and keep it hidden until you have to use it, then go for vulnerable areas such as the eys, temple, throat, etc… Thanks for the tips. Good Stuff!

    P.S. Slingshots have evolved quite a bit from the time we were kids in the 60’s. They’re known as “Wrist Rockets” and have an incredible velocity to them and can take out game at 25 yards or better! I’ve seen standard steel balls from them punch through 1/4 inch plywood.

    1. John says:

      , a wrist rocket can become a formidable weapon indeed! Just on a lark 3 years ago I use my sons high powered wrist rocket to take down a doe at 20 yards!.50 Ball from my muzzle loading kit will do an amazing amount of damage when launched from one of these things.

  2. C.D. Lamberth says:

    Good article and grest advice! I’m afraid many people have a very dangerous perspective on survival fighting and defense. In scenarios where not only YOUR survival is at stake, but your family’s as well, then the old military style combat mindset can get you killed. Ammunition DOES run out, firearms DO malfunction, and in most survivalist situations, the logistics corps AIN’T COMING to make an emergency air drop. Plus, in situations where you are facing opponents who do have near limitless logistic and support capabilities, such as government agencies, any and all weapons should and must be utilized. What is lost to the survivalist in numbers and materiel can be at least offset to a large degree in skill, cunning and out-of-the-box thinking and preparedness.

  3. john says:

    I did some re-loading of 9mm bullets & have a lot of primers left over. There must be some other use for these as either low yield support weapons or warning trip wire devices. Maybe some other readers have already accomplished this or can lend suggestions to pursue for future patriots.

    1. codie says:

      The primers can be used as blasting caps for dynamite bombs and traps.

    2. Ed says:

      Primers will be quite valuable as barter items, given they are the hardest reloading component to make yourself…I would keep them.

    3. tom says:

      you should use them as explosive arrow tips

  4. Nate says:

    I have a machete. I’ve read articles that it makes a good survival weapon. Another person said that there are better bladed weapons than the machete. I don’t own any of those. Even if he’s right, I don’t have one. Like the age old question of “which is the best gun in the world?” And the classic answer: The one I have on me.

    1. Keith Rayeski says:

      I like the Indian Gurkha….but it really comes down to preference…..

      1. Amren says:

        Exactly what I was going to say, Keith. What you lose in length, you gain in cutting power. Cold Steel has the best IMHO.

    2. SmokeHillFarm says:

      Firearms seldom malfunction if you are careful to pick the right ones. I have some semi-autos but my primary reliance, and largest ammo stockpile, is on revolvers. I have single-shot shotguns and pump guns, mostly, and though I do have an SKS with a 1000-round pack (remember when that ammo was only $80/1000?), most of my rifles are bolt-action — except for my old M-1 carbines. Love that sloppy action that very seldom jams.

      When we may be relying on old or scrounged ammo someday, I have little use for the finely-machined, precision semi-autos everyone lusts after.

  5. Ken says:

    Another good cold weapon is a machete. Great for chopping plants and chopping heads, arms, chest, ect. A double edged one like a Cold Steel Gladius Machete is a great tool. In a life saving situation you start swinging until the threat goes down.

  6. Smith says:

    OK THE 3 G’s ARE

    Without God we have nothing!!!!

    1. Mike says:

      good answer

      1. celticwaryor says:

        Thumbs up answer!

  7. Buck Crosby says:

    Ingenuity is the greatest weapon at your disposal . I once had a military laundry bag with a red brick in it do yeomens duty as a defensive weapon and save my neck . Another real good azz saver was a craftsman half inch drive breaker bar . Also NEVER forget your feet , always wear hard shoes ( not sneakers ) and remember how much more power you have in your legs than your arms , just be aware of maintaining your balance .

  8. codie says:

    I made a machete out of a lawnmower blade with my forge. Very very durable unlike the flimsy cheap ones.

  9. Meathead says:

    Using a knife or a club or ??? to hold off a crowd of a dozen so starving individuals probably won’t be very successful. If you’re not well stocked on ammo (like DHS, IRS and the Postal Service, etc.) when the SHTF moment arrives, it WILL be too late to get any. Besides, ammo can be used for barter, especially when it is not available.

    1. andy says:

      Homemade claymore primers.

    2. andy says:

      They will have to get past my boobytraps first. If they make it that far then I would resort to cold weapons.

    3. Dallas says:

      I am pretty sure I could hold off close to a dozen men with a bat/club with nail spikes coming out the end. Yeah, pretty sure. Most could not do that but I am a combat guy, so in a pinch, you do what you gotta do. It does not hurt if you are a raging fearless SOB.

    4. SmokeHillFarm says:

      That’s what my dogs are for — not only an Early Warning System, but something to keep the intruders busy while I take careful aim.

      Since I’ll eventually run out of the ton of dog food, these neighborly “volunteers” will be a handy addition of protein to the dogs’ diet.

      Improvised or alternative weapons, especially the silent types, definitelyy have their place in defense, though most take a lot of practice, and some — like bows — are expensive to feed unless you spend a LOT of time making your own arrows (not easy work). Probably the best is the sling, though the time it takes to develop any skill is monstrous. The slingshot, though it has far less potential power than th sling, is a good solution, and the ammo is also cheap (or free, if you have a lot of rocks & gravel handy.

      Clubs, batons, etc. should always be kept handy. If nothing else, they save ammo when you use them for that final killing blow after disabling your opponent (or game).

    5. SmokeHillFarm says:

      This is why it is VITALLY important to have at least one, preferably at least three primary weapons available (depending on how many in your household of group), with LOTS of ammo.

      Preferably a revolver of at least .38, though .357 is obviously better … a rifle, even if it’s bolt-action, in a caliber you can afford to stockpile ammo for … and/or a 12-gauge shotgun, pref. pump action. But if a single-shot .410 from H&R, or a .22 rifle, or a .22 revolver is all you’ve got — that’s still OK. Just buy lots of ammo.

      The key to survival the first few weeks is TIME. Buy yourself all the time you can by hunkering down in as safe a place as possible, and let the rest of the survivors kill each other off, which will happen quickly. Each passing day you have FAR fewer enemies to contend with. But at this point, unless you can remain invisible to them & off their radar screen, you will need as much firepower as possible to either kill them, or convince them that it’s smarter to move on to easier pickings. It’s best to avoid discovery & confrontation when possible, but when it’s not — strike quickly and decisively.

      Too many people have a wish list for weaponry instead of ACTUAL weaponry. But you always wind up going to war with what you HAVE, not what you WANT to have. Get the basics now and add to it when possible.

  10. Dan Colley says:

    I have found that a simple automobile ignition or house door key makes a terrific ad lib weapon. If you hold your key ring in your hand and “pinch” one key between your index finger and thumb and “point” it like an extension of your thumb, it makes a great tool for “playing the xylophone” on a close-in attacker’s ribs. I have used it once to great effect. Just rub it down a person’s rib cage with about 5 pounds of force and the first thing they will want to do is get away from you. It does not take a lot of pressure to inflict some SERIOUS pain on someone who doesn’t have your best interests at heart.

  11. Donald Abbott says:

    Besides the above mentioned item, a five foot metal pole or even a lead pipe can be useful in close infighting. you can keep people away from you more easily than with most cold weapons and then, if necessary revert to the other hand held weapons. A little practice is needed, but most moves come almost instinctively.

  12. Smoke Hill Farm says:

    I am also a firm believer in a number of “cold” weapons. A machete or even a baseball bat can be very intimidating — even when facing several attackers. Unless they have a firearm, they’re going to be somewhat reluctant to go against either one. While bats are readily available and often go for a buck or two at garage sales, I actually prefer either a nightstick or a cut-down baseball bat — easier to handle & faster. I recommend cutting a bat down to 23-24″ and perhaps adding a bit of lead to a hole bored in the end.

    Bows are excellent weapons if you’ve practiced, but I’d recommend buying a good bow and several extra strings for it. Homemade bows are NOT easy or quick to make yourself. Arrows are not that easy to make properly either, so you’re better off stocking up on at least a few dozen “factory” arrows, plus a lot of replacement points and fletching for the time you have to make your own- — if you can find some adequately straight limbs to work with. Probably smarter to just buy a LOT of 1/4″ or 3/8″ dowels for your stash.

    Wrist-rockets are great, but DO stock up on extra rubbers for them, and plenty of steel balls. Sometimes cheaper to buy ball bearings or marbles.

    In addition to machetes, you can never have too many other blades of various types. A good hatchet is very intimidating and has a longer “reach” than most fighting knives.

    Ammo can certainly run out, but I worry more about semi-automatics malfunctioning or needing some fine-tuning when you have to use scrounged ammo and there are no gunsmiths around. For that reason my arsenal is geared mostly toward revolvers (.357/38, .22 magnum & .22 LR), which is my main stashed bulk ammo. I also have a number of semi-autos (and a few hundred rounds for each) in case all I can scrounge is some 9mm, .380, etc. For long guns I rely mostly on pump shotguns & bolt-action rifles.

    And don’t overlook the high-power, target-quality airguns, esp. in .22 caliber or higher. My Model 34 RWS cost about 200 bucks, and the 20,000 pellets for it were VERY cheap. It will take small game (about 900 fps) and a decent shot will at least maim, and perhaps kill, a human at medium range. Even without using a scope I get 3″ groups at 40-50 yards, and the near-silent aspect might be very useful in a SHTF environment. In 22 yrs of heavy use (killing trash birds & varmints on the farm), I’ve never had a problem with the RWS in over 3000 pellets shot. But I wouln’t rely on the cheaper imported stuff like Gamo to perform as well, or as long.

    1. John says:

      very true indeed about the imports! I have tried several of the latest supposably quality high power models and I was not happy with any of them

  13. jim says:

    One of my favorite cold weapons is a piece of rebar. The diameter & length is up to the individual, the uses are unlimited. It can be forged, welded, flattened & sharpened or just pointed. Cheap & available everywhere. You can make several for each family member for that special moment.

    1. dave says:

      Construction sites are lousy with short pieces you can get with impunity, and they make excellent fistloads. You can leave the cut edges sharp for ‘punishment’ or smooth them off for more convenient pocket carry and extraction. It comes in so many different diameters you can equip everyone in your family regardless of size. I wear an XL glove, and like 3/4″ – but I haven’t found any 7/8″ yet to try.

      Longer pieces make good (and dangerous) escrima sticks (like for your car’s door pocket), and a piece a little longer than your fist gives you the ability to make some very painful strikes. Slide your hand all the way to the end and you have a few inches of steel to block an enemy’s weapon. Two short pieces attached on either end of a short piece of chain or steel cable can make an effective ‘morning star’, but can also dump a motorcycle if thrown into the spokes.

      I use a 5′ long piece of 1/2 inch rebar as a hiking staff. It’s heavy enough for exercise, but light enough to not weigh me down or tire me. And it has enough rigidity for prying some things, feeling for bottom in a creek or river, and smacking coyotes or two-legged varmints. I paint mine to prevent rust stains to my clothes, and of course I have black painted versions of all pieces for night-time use.

    2. SmokeHillFarm says:

      Don’t forget to craft a “handle” for that re-bar, or it’ll be slipping out of your fingers.

      You can do it with something as simple as duct tape, though it takes a lot of wraps to get it out to a comfortable level. It’s better if you can scare up an old bicycle handgrip to attach there (VERY securely) with epoxy and a pin or screw.

      I’ve never tried it, but it seems like it would be easy to modify the business end of the re-bar to be more damaging — maybe flattening the first couple of inche & sharpening it, so it could also be used like a bayonet as well as a club.

      Several widths of re-bar are available, so many things are possible. Just don’t make something too big to swing quickly. Speed is much more important than mass.

  14. Ralston says:

    The bow and slingshot will be good hunting tools, no noise and reusable ammo. However not the best for self defense unless it is a “running” battle with lots of room to maneuver, and lots of time to “reload” (regardless of what Hawkeye did in the Avengers).

    For close combat against multiple attackers you will need to narrow the space so that only one or two can attack at a time. In doing so, you will also limit your ability to swing wide and will need a spear type weapon to fight with. If out in the open, sure, you can use your machete or hatchet, but you can be attacked from eight different angles, so you will need to practice swinging in eight different directions fast enough to prevent them from landing a blow on you.

    All that fight training will wear you out, and actual fighting is extremely physically demanding. It is better to keep your preparations and strategies hushed, shared with very few if any, and not tell your kids about what you do and don’t have (they seem to be very poor about keeping secrets).

    Avoidance and evasion will be the key parts of the survival strategy. While it may be prudent to be very well armed, it is essential to remain low key (off the radar). Pretending to not have anything worth taking, will keep you off the looters list of places to visit. Thus no fighting to the death, and staying safe and secure even when the SHF is all around you.

  15. Steve says:

    As for the slingshot, rubbers break. Consider the original sling. Cheap and easy to make with readily available materials, and lots of range and power. Needs practice to master.

    1. SmokeHillFarm says:

      No prepper with a slingshot should be without a number of spare rubbers (and the leather pouches) for each model.

  16. john says:

    Was just wondering if you had anymore of the match lighters that I could get or know where I could find them.

  17. I’m a fan of the throwing stick myself. Especially for taking small game. Works well to fight off attackers too

  18. kevin says:

    Enjoyed the article but where you are talking about bows you were talking about modern equipment which I’m pretty knowledgeable of and fairly proficient but where you say if you run out of arrows you can make more… I will go ahead and tell everyone right now if you “just so happen” to run across a modern bow this includes cross bows also, do not, I repeat, DO NOT try to make an arrow for them, any bow that is not homemade should NEVER shoot homemade arrows…say you don’t heed my advice then worst case scenario: won’t last long for you cuz your jugular just got ripped open by flying shrapnel of wood & carbon(modern bow limbs are made of carbon) or best case scenario find some tweezers and a friend to pick the splinters out of your face and hopefully the limbs of the bow won’t blow apart… Just a little helpful advice… Should be common sense not to shoot a spindly piece of wood out of something that shoots up around 400 fps…
    But common sense is a super power these days and the super hero’s are going extinct!

  19. dave says:

    A sling – not ‘slingshot’ – is always a good choice. It can be carried in a shirt pocket, worn as a hairband or belt, and can be made from paracord and a scrap (literally) of old leather or even cloth. Goliath was killed with one, and there are Latin medical treatises on how to do battlefield surgery on soldiers hit with sling stones (those were manufactured from lead). The lead ‘stones’ would pierce armor. Range is a bit limited, but more than you would think. So it’s a weapon that is valuable for both survival hunting and fighting. And it’s quiet, so you might get follow-up shots. But you do need to practice, as with any other weapon.

  20. Gary Trus says:

    Just a quick note to say that you missed a good one that is as effective as a slingshot and predates it by centuries. You alluded to it though. The weapon that David used against Goliath was a sling. Basically two leather thongs (2 to 3 feet long) and a leather patch tied between them. Put a finger sized loop on one thong (Put your middle finger through it) and tie a small stick (a 2 inch piece of pencil works great)on the other. Load your shot and swing it around in circles next to your side and at the appropriate point (you’ll learn how to judge when very quickly) you let go of the stick and watch the shot fly. The faster you swing it around, the faster your shot flies. As a boy, I was quickly able to learn to use it and became accurate enough with it to hit birds sitting on telephone wires.

  21. Janet Julien says:

    If you’re in a close quarters one-on-one or two-on-one situation, try using a pair of steel toed workboots held by the laces as a possible set of nunchucks if you have the skill with them. Either way, swinging them at your opponents head, either the big or little one, will make them back off some or at least make them think of picking on someone else instead.
    Ladies, you have two to three advantages if you are attacked while wearing spike heels. First, go for riding the spike heel down your opponent’s shin before impaling his instep. It might cost you a pair of Pradas or a knock-off brand but surely a pair of shoes is worth your life. Secondly, ladies, your next weapon is your purse. DON’T go with one of those dainty, “hold nothing but a kleenix and credit card” styles. Instead go with a more substancial, leather, 1/2″ wide strapped shoulder bag that can carry a good amount of necessities as well as a good book or two and a travel size can of hairspray or perfume. You’ll need to practice swinging and “popping” the weight of the bag part of the purse from the top of the strap loop but once you learn how to control that… you might as well be using a medieval flail or Morning Star for the potential damage you can do to their head, groin or kidney areas depending on the amount of weight you’re hauling in there. Thirdly, there is that travel sized can of hairspray or perfume in the purse you can use to blind the guy by spraying it in their eyes. Even if it’s just temporary, it will give you time to get away and for a few hours, all you need to do is tell your homies that he smells like “My Sin” or whatever fragrance you used and they could track him down for Round Two. May he rest in pieces…

  22. Keenedge says:

    He had a fairly large stick and had just broken my windshield with it.
    All I could get to was a little tire iron and he was coming around the front of my car.
    I focused on the hand holding the stick and gave it my best shot with the tire iron. Smack! He dropped the stick.
    I tapped him on the head as sweetly as I could a few times as he retreated to his friend’s waiting truck. He jumped in the bed and down the road they went.
    I saw him later at a little bar. He told me “Damn man, you broke my funkin’ hand. I had to go the ER.” I said, What was I supposed to do, let you hit me with that funkin’ stick?”. I bought him a few beers and we left as friends. Oh, and I gave him his stick back.

  23. Vic says:

    I have been reading your post for quiet awhile and have got several items from you . And enjoy reading your articles my latest item I have ordered from you is your throwing knife I have been throwing knifes and axes for years and making sling shots and bows and arrows and spears I also have shown my three sons these things and my five grand daughters. Keep the news coming and I will continue reading and ordering thanks.

  24. James McDonald says:

    A high voltage system setup at choke points around your house(I am very good with electronics), Using a old car ign coil and a old camera flash unit- you can make a 250,000 Volt system to get people to back off. High voltage will get people to back off. And with a pulsed system it does not draw much power from a 12 volt deep cycle or car battery in an emergency. Then this will give you time to use something else or get out or shoot some.

  25. robert says:

    Bush hook is another cold weapon that can be very usefull and it comes in a 2 handed and smaller one handed version

  26. Mark Bennett says:

    Thanks for the add

  27. PRINCE4EVER O(-> says:

    Eye am the ultimate weapon.

  28. Dave Moore says:

    Stick your keys between your fingers and hit someone. It will be the last time that you ever do that. It’s not because they can’t do damage to your attacker, but it will sure hurt when they twist between your own fingers causing damage there, too. IMO, and after 35 years of the Martial Arts, keys, the little thing cat like faces, et al, are some of the worse things that have ever been put on the market as an improvised weapon. If they are holding you and you just gouge them in the eyes, maybe okay. If you miss, bad day.

    I highly recommend never using those type items between your fingers. With a punch, your fingers are not strong enough the withstand the torque when it hits something. Have you doubts? Put ’em in there and hit a punching bag. You’ll see what I mean.

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