As far as an ancient and venerable weapon that’s still just as effective in its purpose today as it was when it first came into popular use back in the 6th century BC, there’s almost no dispute that the crossbow fits the bill. Other than the longbow as a weapon of war, the crossbow has pride of place when it comes to discussing significant improvements in weaponry throughout history. It wasn’t until medieval times in Europe that western civilization took the crossbow into common usage. The question, though, has always been about how to make a crossbow that’s effective.
Basically, the crossbow is a weapon that consists of a bow that has been attached to a stock (back then, it was a stick called a “tiller,” usually) that shoots what’s called a “bolt.” These are simply modified arrows, shortened and improved in such a manner that they’re perfect for use on the crossbow. Crossbows themselves usually consist of a manual pull in which the bow string is drawn back by hand and held in place by a pin or other release latch, which is lifted, allowing the bow to fire off the bolt. There are also mechanical versions which pull the bow string back through a crank or other mechanism.
As far as constructing a crossbow that’s both simple yet effective, any number of prints or diagrams are available online, which can assist in this process. The following are a few general recommendations and things to keep in mind when deciding to make one.
First of all, most of the best crossbows are still made of fine hardwoods of sufficient tensile strength to handle the stresses of hundreds or thousands of bow pulls and fixations of the bow string. These woods are cut into an approximate shape that resembles the classic wooden rifle stock we’re all familiar with, though it’s much shorter than a long gun’s stock would be. And all woods should be coated in a nice lacquer that’ll help prevent warping or bending of the wood over time.
It’s also crucial that an effective bow and bow string be selected that can be easily and strongly fastened to the bow’s stock and that will allow for smooth, seamless and quick drawing of the bow string. It also needs to be proportional to the length and width of the crossbow’s stock. An effective, well-built bow is still a weapon without compare when hunting for rabbit or other small game, and when used in the right hands.
Lastly, the trigger mechanism and the trigger guard and bow string release latch need to be of good enough quality so that it can fire off a bolt with at least 75 pounds of pressure. Don’t scrimp by purchasing poorly-made parts of questionable origin or quality.
As far as bolts go, make sure you invest wisely in decent arrow shafts, points (the metal pointy ends), feathers and the like so that making these mainly becomes an exercise in just assembling them, and not a finely detailed work of art. If you don’t have the time to make them yourself, any good sporting goods store can sell you as many as you need at a decent price.
If you follow these recommendations, it’s a sure bet that any crossbow you make will surely be an effective weapon that’s good for many years of enjoyable recreation and sport hunting. They’re truly a classic, historical weapon.
Crossbow Archery Overview
Crossbows were invented in medieval Europe for use as weapons of war. The draw on a crossbow was much stronger than could be achieved with an ordinary bow because the crossbow could be set with a lever if necessary and held in place until the trigger was pulled. The arrow, commonly called a bolt, could be placed in the groove and set in a firing position until ready to fire.
Modern crossbows are often grouped with traditional bows as far as determining when a hunting season is open for use of them. Some tend to disagree because of the vast differences in the draw of a crossbow compared to an ordinary hand drawn bow and the fact that crossbows are typically fired in much the same way as a rifle.
The effective range of a crossbow is seldom over 30 yards, similar to a recurve or a compound bow. The major difference is how the crossbow is sighted, very similar to a rifle, and fired, again, similar to a rifle. The draw weights of most crossbows are such that a bolt shot from one is very likely to pass completely through the animal being fired on. Many hunters claim this is more humane than a traditional bow that may fire an arrow that stops inside the animal and is jarred around when the animal moves. A through shot animal usually does not even realize it is hit until it bleeds out and dies.
Modern crossbows work on much the same principle as compound bows, making use of cams to release the tension on the string when it is in the firing position. This reduces the stress on the trigger mechanism and wear on the string when fired.
In recent years, crossbows have been marketed with laser sights mounted on them that can be calibrated to light up a red dot on the side of the animal being aimed in exactly the location the bolt will enter at a specified range. The accuracy of such crossbow sights is phenomenal when properly set by a person experienced in the use of the crossbow and adequately practiced.
For those less technologically inclined sights that make use of fluorescent pins calibrated for different ranges or fiber optic elements set in similar fashion make it possible for hunters to set their sites for up to three different ranges. The archer can then judge the distance to the target and sight in accordingly based on the placement of these pins.
Crossbow archery is very different from traditional hand drawn bow and arrow archery. While grouped together for purposes of hunting, crossbows and bows have very little else in common. Crossbow archery has the advantage of being better suited to those with a limited ability to pull a bow despite the heavier draw of a crossbow. Levers are used to cock the crossbow and it can be left in a ready to fire position for an extended period. Firing a crossbow is more closely related to firing a gun than a bow.