When considering a new ranged weapon for either hunting or hobby uses, the crossbow may be a more suitable fit than a bow for several reasons. Although similar in use and design, the crossbow features several key components that distinguishes it from other ranged weapons.
Crossbows consist of a short bow affixed horizontally to a barrel and stock. Unlike traditional bows, the crossbow utilizes a locking mechanism when the bowstring is drawn back. The locking mechanism is released through a trigger, resulting in the arrow being fired.
Modern crossbows have improved on the design of both the bow and barrel. Many barrels are made of aluminum or polymers rather than wood. Bows and bowstrings may be made of polymers or metals as well. These improvements allow greater aiming precision and durability.
Two additional improvements modern crossbows feature are the cocking stirrup and limbs. Depending on the type and style of the bow, the limbs of the bow may be longer or shorter. Typically, compound bows will have shorter limbs than a recurve bow. The cocking stirrup sits at the front of the crossbow and allows the crossbow to be cocked more easily without slipping. To use the cocking stirrup, the user places their foot in the stirrup while cocking the crossbow.
Due to the differences between bows and crossbows the arrows for each are not interchangeable. Crossbow arrows are shorter than standard arrows and are generally between 18 and 22 inches long. Much like standard bow arrows, the shaft of crossbow arrows are made of aluminum or carbon and feature feathers or plastic fins on the ends. If using the crossbow for hunting, the tip will end in a broad-head. If using it for practice or sport, the arrow generally will end in a metal field point.
Not all arrows are suitable for every crossbow. When choosing arrows, consult the owner’s manual for specific size, length, and weight for the crossbow in question.
An important component in safely firing a crossbow is choosing the correct arrow. If the wrong arrow is selected the crossbow may become damaged or fire incorrectly. An additional aspect to consider is ensuring all hands and fingers are not in the path of the arrow or strings. The crossbow should be held with the leading hand safely beneath the stock.
To fire a crossbow, the weapon must first be cocked. Although most modern crossbows automatically engage the safety, ensure it is properly engaged until ready to fire. After cocking the crossbow, it can then be loaded and fired.
Much like any ranged weapon, avoid pointing a loaded crossbow at anything that is not intended to be shot.
Proper Crossbow Storage
When storing a crossbow considerations should be made in regards to both safety and protection of the weapon itself. Proper storage prevents the possibility of a curious child finding and handling the weapon. In addition, it can prolong the life of the crossbow.
To store a crossbow, first remove the cables and strings. By removing any cables and strings the crossbow is not subjected to unnecessary tension while not being used. The scope and body of the crossbow should be covered as well. This prevents build up of rust and moisture related damage. If hanging the crossbow, the bow can be hung by the cocking stirrup.
Storing the crossbow in a damp or wet location should be avoided. If there is no alternate place to store the crossbow, consider a hard case to prevent moisture damage.