PVC Survival Crossbow





Introduction: PVC Survival Crossbow

In a survival situation several things are crucial, water, food, shelter, and security. In this instructable you will be taking care of two of these things by building your own survival crossbow. Once finished you will have a hand crafted tool that can be used to hunt for food, and keep you safe from hungry beasties (i.e. zombies). So get your zombie slayer face on, grab a few materials from the supplies list, and let's get started!

Step 1: Parts and Tools

Bow Stock

Trigger and Safety Pin

Bow and String

  • 32" - 1 1/4" PVC (16" draw length)
  • Paracord
  • 2' 2x4 w/ 1" spacer blocks
  • 22" - 3/4" pvc
  • 5" - 1" pvc


Step 2: Stock

For the stock, I used a design from Jwilliamson. You may have seen his instructable, Building a Custom Rifle Stock. Complements to him for the design. He provided 3 printouts that you can use as a template, and I'm including them here.

Print out the stock design and cut it out. Then trace it to a piece of stock board and cut it out. A band saw would be ideal; however I used a hack saw and a wood rasp since I don't have a band saw. Test out the stock taking note of how it feels and make adjustments as necessary. I put a slight positive angle on the grip for comfort. Once satisfied, use this cutout as a template to cut out two more stocks. On the middle stock you will need to cut out a large section from behind the trigger to after the string release mechanism.

After everything is cut out, take some time to line the stocks up with each other to ensure general accuracy (you can fine tune it after it's glued together). If you're satisfied with the results then glue them together with wood glue and binding/clamping them together for 24 hours. Once they're ready you can make any detailed adjustments with a wood rasp, sand paper, or a dremel.

Step 3: Bow

To make the bow, I used a 1 1/4" PVC pipe and cut it to 32". Make three marks, one in the center (16"), and two marks an inch out from both sides of the center. To give your bow a subtle taper you can make a flattening jig with a two foot 2x4 and two pieces of 1" blocks on the corners of one end. Heat up the pipe with a heat gun until it's pliable, then use the jig to flatten it to size, one side at a time. Flatten one end by squeezing the pipe between a flat 2x4 and your jig, having the 1" blocks positioned between the center mark and the 15" mark. Clamp the boards down and allow the pipe to cool before releasing the clamps. Do this to both sides. This will create the proper shape (notice both ends are flat, and the center has depth with one flat side).

Put a recurve to your bow by first marking three inches from the ends. Heat the ends with a heat gun and use a small pot as your guide to shape the recurve. Curve it up to the three inch mark you made.

The string notches I made have a 3/4" gap between them. Mark the center of the bow's width and make two marks at 3/8" from the center mark. Now cut out the notches with a saw. Once you have the notches cut you can give the bow its proper curve. Tie a piece of paracord across the bow, then heat the center of the bow and pull up on the cord until the bow comes into shape. Keep it in place until it cools. Then you can cut your final cord and string your bow. I used two bowline knots to string it up. At this point I took the opportunity to paint the bow. It's not necessary, but I like the way olive drab looks over white.

To keep the bow in place I cut a 1/4" hole through the end of the stock and hammered a length of 1/4" dowel rod through the hole. I then used a long length of paracord to tie it down using the rod as an anchor. I used a clove hitch knot on the rod first and proceeded to wrap back and forth across the bow. Finally I finished with a clove hitch and tucked in the excess line.

Step 4: Make the Trigger System

Be sure to click through the pictures for added detailed notes about each process.

The elements of the trigger system include the trigger itself, and the string lock gear. I made the trigger from a spare piece of wood. I cut the general shape and used a wood rasp and sand paper to fashion the details. The trigger pivots on a bolt, and is spring loaded to bring it back into position after it's pulled.

The locking gear is made out of a piece of wood sandwiched between two washers. The washers are cut in the same shape. I used a dremel and a metal cutting wheel to cut the washers. Make sure you use proper safety precautions when cutting metal. Sparks will be flying so use gloves, ear protection and proper eye protection. DO NOT CUT METAL WITHOUT GOGGLES. After the washers and wood are cut to size, use super glue to bind them together. The gear is similar to the trigger in that it rotates on a bolt and returns by the aid of a spring.

More on Trigger Mechanics

The string is drawn and rests behind the top notch in the gear. The gear will want to rotate counter clock wise to release the string due to the force. Follow the counterclockwise force placed on the gear and you will run into the top of the trigger. The trigger then will have a clockwise force placed on it. For this reason I drove a nail just behind the top notch in the trigger to prevent the trigger from moving clockwise, and the gear from rotating counter clockwise (releasing the string). The string is locked into place since the gear will not move because the trigger will not move. When the trigger is pulled this pushes the gear clockwise slightly until the notch in the trigger releases the gear to act on the force placed on it by the string. The gear releases the string and the string pushes the dart forward. The gear and trigger are then pulled back into position by their springs. Hope this helps.

Step 5: Arrows

I made my own arrows using a 5/16" dowel rods cut to 18". I cut feathers down the center and super glued them to the back. I made a notch with a wood rasp where the arrow will rest on the string. Finally I made an arrow by cutting a washer to the proper shape and sharpened it. I attached the arrow by cutting a notch in the top of the dowel rod, sliding the arrow into place (it was snug), and wrapped twine around the end to keep the arrow in place.

To keep the arrow in place I cut two pieces of PVC and shaped them with the heat gun. After this I cut two ends off of tooth brushes and glued them to the pieces of PVC. I then screwed them onto the front sides of the crossbow stock. When the bow is cocked you can drop the arrow into place; the bristles will keep it there, you can even flip the crossbow upside down without losing the arrow!

Step 6: Test the Bow

You'll need some Crossbow Bolts for this step. Either make your own like I did, or buy them. Remember to be safe as you are now dealing with a dangerous tool. Make sure you aren't in a residential area when using your crossbow, this can seriously injure or kill someone. Once you have found a safe location set up your Target away from anything you don't want to shoot. Draw the string back until it is locked. Insert the bolt. Aim at the target and fire.

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81 Discussions

Hello, I tried to make this but completely failed... After shaping and forming the prod and letting cool down for a while I flexed it just a little bit and it just folded in half... I was using 3/4" white pluming or electrical PVC (I don't know for sure which one it was). What do you suggest as I don't think the more expensive furniture grade PVC is available in my country...?

Crossbows are perfectly legal in Az., for recreation and hunting. Still, be absolutely what is behind what you are shooting at, otherwise an innocent could be maimed or killed.


2 years ago

Its illegal without a licence but its for educational project of medieval times in social.

2 replies

whether it's legal or not would depend on where you live. It's pefectly legal where I live.

And hey its not illegal if theres no rope to go with it during transportation right?! That cant do anyways. ._. im just wondering about the bus though. haha

hi I tried making this for my son, I failed miserably I was wondering if you sell it me or make me one please it's awesome.

1 reply

Actually I gave my crossbow away as a gift myself so I no longer have it. Perhaps I could help where you failed?

hi I tried making this for my son, I failed miserably I was wondering if you sell it me or make me one please it's awesome.

this is an awesome design and i am super happy with what i have made

11 replies

Kids read this too. They're not aware of what could be illegal. It wasn't posted in the thread. Thanks Mom.

This kid will definitely be building this. I'll even shoot it.

And yes, it is legal where I live. And I have common sense. ;)

Lets hope that no 9 year old goes and builds this, using a saw, cutting metal, common dude, If Someone were to build this, they probably are older and have access to the tools needed

exactly. who is responsible for your kids? You are! If they dont have common sense and aren't being supervised guess who is at fault?

What would you do without me? Be in Prison? At home with a $2000 fine? Both prison and a fine?

I didn't chastise the creator of this for publishing. I'm not the creator's mommy. If I were I would have chewed the creator out. I'm an adult who has some life experience and I wish to pass that on. After all, if we don't learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it.

This is a good 'ible. Well thought out, well executed, and well documented. I'm just making sure people know that things that appear to be fine are illegal in some places. As said by others, crossbows are illegal to shoot in a lot of cities because they are silent and as deadly and accurate as a rifle (also a lot easier for someone with no exp. to fire accurately). In Oregon, it's illegal to hunt with, for anything.

I would rather not see on the news that a kid made this and fired it in his backyard and a police officer sees it. Prudence is a good thing and is learned. Kids don't have experience to back up their decisions.

Thanks mom! Ha Ha! In all seriousness Jabar is right. Please check with your laws, and be safe (pretty sure I mentioned safety in a few places). I'm usually not one to post a page full of safety concerns and warnings because I believe in common sense. Don't do anything stupid folks!

Ha Seriously, Common Sense is all that is needed, don't do anything without common sense lol.

And who's going to know you shot a crossbow?


The cop who drove by on his patrol and saw a kid with a crossbow. See the last paragraph in the above post.

There aren't that many cities that outlaw crossbows, mainly larger cities. Also it has nothing to do with them being quiet. Those that outlaw crossbows also outlaw standard bows, firearms and air guns because of the distance a projectile can go and hit someone you can't see or know is there. Oregon is the only state that does for hunting, some restrict them to disabled hunters. Owning one and shooting it in the city are two different things. With the rare exception of over strict weapon law cities like New York, you can own it, but only shoot it outside the city limits or at a range. A simple check with your local city hall is all you need to do. For instance in my city, it's illegal to shoot a BB gun in the city but you can go just outside the city limit and are fine. As far as hunting with crossbows, this is a good reference.