Man-Powered Weapons for Survival? – A Review

I’ve written previously on the subject of homemade weapons. That post prompted personal correspondence from a reader with an informal review of one of the books mentioned in that post–The Practical Guide to Man-Powered Weapons and Ammunition. He said I could reprint his thoughts here for your benefit.


The book is very thorough, but technical. I see it as a book for a hobbyist and technician, not for a survivalist. On some projects he says you must have a lathe, for instance. I have never seen its equal in theory. He gives data and formulae for every kind of rubber band, wood bow and air powered weapon you can think of, but not having read your blog, he does not give them for valve springs. If he did it would be the best I am sure.

I want to say this is an excellent book, and could really help someone design and make primitive weapons, if they were skilled and had the equipment. This author has tested some air guns, for example, with a chronograph. But you would have to be very good with tools I think to make these projects. For preparing in advance this would be a good guide, but it is way above my level. Glad to have it, but don’t see myself actually following the plans.

I would add there is much from this book which could help people with their own designs. It contains information on the principles of engineering involved and has good historical knowledge, too. It is a rich book, but too advanced for some of us. It is a book of principles, with excellent illustrations.

The author is very thorough and detailed. He has been making bows and other weapons, including air guns for years. He said walls and furniture of his house are dented from accidents. He also measures velocities with a chronometer. He even mentions using springs in a slingshot but has not done it. He stresses gains from using heavier projectiles, not in velocity, but in force and why it is so.

What I would like to see is someone using his principles in a practical design. He loves theory. He has so many “on the other hand” statements he sounds like an economist. But solid science is here if a person is willing to dig for it.

– Name withheld upon request


My thanks for the above review.

To get your own copy of The Practical Guide to Man-Powered Weapons and Ammunition, click on its title where you see it linked in this post. You’ll be taken to the page where it’s featured. Place your order there.


Author: John Wesley Smith

John Wesley Smith writes and podcasts from his home in Central Missouri. His goal is to help preppers as he continues along his own preparedness journey.

1 thought on “Man-Powered Weapons for Survival? – A Review”

  1. Concerning the book on making primitive weapons I believe his section on air guns is outstanding. He gives some history on air powered rifles. They have been made for hundreds of years. Some, including his designs, are powerful enough for deer hunting or self defense. He tested his designs using a chronograph and gives detailed drawings of what he has built. This practical approach combined with his extensive treatment of theory is a wonderful combination in one book. This could be one way around the shortage of ammunition.

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