Crossbows 101: The Ultimate Educational Guide

Cross Bows 101: The Ultimate Educational Guide

In this post, we want to educate you on the basics and underlying mechanics behind crossbows. They are quick and deadly weapons that can be used for hunting, military, and archery. Our main purpose is to give you accurate information on crossbows so that you can make the right purchasing decision.

What Is A Crossbow

Crossbows the perfect blend of a bow and a rifle. They use a strong, fast string to release arrows like bows quickly. Crossbows also have a stock trigger like a rifle. These bows are quicker than traditional bows and are used to make quick and accurate shots while out hunting.

Crossbows can be modified to hold rocks and even special bullets. The firing mechanism of the bow entails pulling the lever back until the bow is in a fixed position. Once this occurs, the bow is ready to fire. When you release the lever, the arrow is released.

Aiming With Modern Crossbow

Accuracy is one advantage that crossbows have over traditional bows. In fact, they are proven to shoot at further distances than traditional bows as well. On average, crossbows can shoot at ranges past 360 feet.

The main purpose of the crossbow was that it was made for warriors and hunters on the battlefield. We'll discuss more about the history of crossbows below.

History Of A Crossbow

The earliest invention of the crossbow was referenced in the Bible. A ballista was a large ancient arrow missile weapon that would fire a projectile towards a distant target. The design of the ballista appeared similar to the modern crossbow.

In the Bible, II Chronicles 26:15, King Uzziah "made in the Jerusalem engines, it was created by intelligent and cunning men, to be positioned on the bulwarks and placed on the towers to shoot out arrows and stones."

Crossbows were officially invented in ancient China. Back in 6th BC, bows were made to improve the skills and accuracy of archers. It is reported that bronze bolts from crossbows were found at a Chu burial site located in Yutaishan, Hubei.

If you look at the origins of the world, crossbows came from China and their neighbors. It was used for marksmen to help aim at targets and assassinate enemy officers. The crossbow is a deadly weapon, and some would say it's the first invention of a modern gun.

In textual evidence, crossbows were used in 4th and 3rd BC. As time progressed, documents showed that giant bows were made in the 5th and 6th century BC. Crossbows have been used as weapons for a long time and are effective tools for hunting and war.

Ancient Greece

After China, Greece also started to use crossbows. In the 5th BC, Greek warriors began to utilize them into their archer training and in hunting food.

A Greek historian named Diodorus Siculus calls the crossbow invention an arrow shooting catapult. They described it as a katapeltikon. It was used by a Greek task force that used it as a siege machine and to destroy the enemies defenses.

Cocking Ancient Greece Crossbow

The siege machine was inspired by an earlier crossbow design. It was called a belly shooter or a gastraphetes. It was proven that gastrapetes could store more arrows and energy than the average Greek bow.

Gastraphetes is utilized by a composite bow. Archers had to rest the stomach of the bow at the rear of the stock. Then they would have to press down on the trigger with their full strength.

The first crossbows were heavy and would need a prop to make it stand correctly. Most of them were placed on a tower's wall or used a standing prop like the ancient monopod.

Medieval Europe

With the Roman Empire as a primary influence, the crossbow became a popular weapon in Europe. In Scotland, it was used as a hunting tool on four Pictish stones during 6th and 9th Century. It was primarily used in battle during the Battle of Hastings from 1066 until 1530.

What Are Crossbows Used For Nowadays

You would think that the crossbow would just be limited to just a hunting weapon these days. However, that's a complete myth.

Various military institutions in China and tribal forces use crossbows as a weapon. Since crossbows are distributed worldwide and have no regulations or restrictions, it's used as a stealth weapon and for the enhanced psychological effect.

Crossbows had a long history, and it's been used to for military and hunting use. It's used in today's military because it is easy to learn and hits targets with accuracy.

Crossbow Types

With different crossbows bringing different abilities to the table, the type of crossbow you choose will determine the success you will have in pursuing your purpose.


The Recurve Crossbow is designed from the earliest blueprint of a crossbow. It has a more traditional design and is used for more long range shooting.

Modern Recurve Crossbow On Grass

It has a longer draw, meaning that it will take more time for the user to reload. What it sacrifices in speed, it gains in power.

Recurve Crossbows are known for being loud. While this may be a problem for some, it makes up for it by giving the user improved accuracy. You should get this bow if you tend on doing hunting or archery.


Compound crossbows are more modern in their design and function. They combine the traditional usage as a bow and the modern mechanics of a rifle. If you're looking for a bow that's made out of high tech material, then you should consider getting a compound bow.

Another advantage is the bow's reduced resistance. This makes it easier for the user to control the force generated by the pulley of the bow. As a result, the added force allows it to shoot further than a long bow.

Compound bows are more expensive than recurve crossbows. A good bow can cost around $100-$1500. Because of this make sure you have a set budget before you buy one. Doing this ensures that you'll get the right compound bow while also saving your money.

Repeating Crossbow

Historically, repeating crossbows were invented in China. The bow was made to defend a tower against enemy sieges and invasions. When fired, the automatic crossbows bows would attack multiple targets and enemies at once.

The repeating crossbow has the ability and speed to fire multiple arrows in succession. While automatic crossbows have a high fire rate, they are sometimes inaccurate. Make sure to practice with this bow often if you want to see any results.

Recurve Vs Compound Bow

Crossbows that have recurve limbs are longer than compound bows. This means that there is a longer barrel which increases power stroke of the release. Most hunters tend to use recurve crossbows because of their simplicity.

Compound And Recurve Crossbows

Compound bows are known for having more durability. The average compound bow is made out of aluminum, making them more durable and smaller than recurve bows. Plus, the compound bow has more accessories than the recurve bow which makes it more versatile.


You'll need to understand the certain specs and features of crossbows before buying one. This ensures that you'll get a crossbow that worth your money. Knowing these specs will make you a more informed buyer and receive a useful crossbow in your arsenal.

Draw Weight

The draw weight measures the maximum weight the archer will pull when drawing the bow. With traditional bows, the draw weight increases as the bow is drawn. The higher the draw weight, the further your shot's distance is going to be.

Compound bows increase in their weight and then drop in the weight according to the holding weight. Your holding weight is about 20-30% of the archer's peak weight.

New archers can pull around ten times more than their regular weight. With a few weeks of practice, the user's muscles become strong enough to shoot with more accuracy and precision. Make sure to practice shooting your crossbow frequently to improve your maximum draw weight.

Here's a chart displaying the average draw weights:

Initial Size

Draw Weight

Small children 50-70lbs


Children 70-125lbs


Most women/boys 100-130lbs


Athletic women; adolescent boys from 130-150lbs


Most men 150-180lbs


Most men 150-180lbs 3D or Bowhunting


Athletic men/Men over 180lbs


We suggest not to pull too much draw weight. It's not good for your joints, and you could potentially injure your shoulders. Keep you draw weight within your initial weight size, and you'll be able to shoot with complete accuracy.

Draw Length

Your draw length is described as the distance from your bow's nock point to the grip's throat plus 1 ¾". Usually, this length will be the same length for compound archers as well.

Man Cocking A Crossbow

We'll teach you how to measure your own draw length. Start by standing your back against the well and stretching your arms outward. Then, measure the distance from one end of your middle finger to the end of your opposite finger. You'll want to get the length of your chest, arms, and hands.

Once you find the measurement, subtract it by 15 and divide it by 2. This is now your new draw length.

Warning: Don't make your draw length longer than what it has to be. This will negatively affect your accuracy, and you'll find it harder to land your shots.

To measure your wingspan, it's usually the same as your height in inches. It's your height minus 15 divided by 2. That's your average draw length. At the very least, it's a good starting point on how far you should extend your bow before shooting it.

Arrow Length

Another factor that you have to consider is the arrow dimension of your bow. The higher the dimensions, the heavier the arrow will be. On average, your arrow's dimensions will be at least 1 3/4'".

You need to know the length of your arrow before firing it. The arrow length depends on the type of bow that you're using, your arrow rest position, and your bow draw length.

As a rule of thumb, you'll want your arrow to be a bit shorter than the bow's adjusted draw length. Make sure that your arrow is positioned perfectly on the arrow rest for the arrow to fire correctly.

Safety Warning: Remember, you don't want arrows that are too short for your bow setup. This can become a hazard because it can lead to missed shots and it lowers the user's general accuracy. The best practice is to ensure that your arrows sit at least 1" beyond the arrow rest when the bow is fully drawn.

Giving your arrow a bit of length is okay. However, an arrow with a very short length is not. Arrows that are too short can get placed behind the arrow rest at full draw. Once this occurs, the bow can snap upon release and sends shards of carbon into the hand or arm of the bow.

Five Arrows

While lowering your arrow's length can increase your speed, we don't recommend it for beginners. That extra 1-4fps you gain with a shortened arrow isn't worth putting yourself in danger. Never shoot arrows that are smaller than the length of your bow rest.

Arrow Spine

You'll also need to know the arrow spine of your arrow. This will help you obtain the right arrow for your next hunting trip. Your arrow spine must have the correct amount of stiffness and strength to complete the task.

Your arrow's spine is measured by its stiffness. This means that its measured by resistant your arrow is to bending. Some arrows are very nimble while others are completely stiff. If you're trying to achieve the maximum accuracy on your crossbow, you'll need an arrow that's perfectly balanced in stiffness and mobility.

How To Use A Crossbow

Here is a step by step list on how to properly use a crossbow:

Step 1: Prepare The Bow

Preparing the crossbow can take time. You can do it either manually or through a crank operated. To manually crank your bow, place your feet on the stirrup on the front of the bow. Next, you'll want to pull your crossbow string back fully until the barrel is fully cocked.

However, there is an easier method to use than that. Modern crossbows come with rope cockers and crossbow cranks to make the process even easier. Whichever one you use, you'll have your bow cocked faster than manual methods.

Step 2: Load Up The Crossbow

Place an arrow on your crossbow's barrel. Make sure to align the cock vane of your arrow to the barrel. Lock your arrow in place and position the bow to the direction you're planning to aim at.

Step 3: Begin To Aim

Most hunting crossbows come with a mounted scope or a pin arrangement. Some of them have optical scopes with reticles, which helps the user aim better. You have to place your sights on a target, then shoot.

Aiming With Crossbow

Warning: Make sure that there aren't any obstructions or obstacles that can get in your way. These obstacles can get in the limbs of your arrow once they snap forward and cause an injury. Just don't place your thumb on the forearm of your crossbow.

Step 4: Shoot At Your Target

Once you have a target in your sights, squeeze the trigger as you would a rifle. When you squeeze harder, you'll start to hear a pop in the trigger release. The bow will fire out, and a bolt will be fired and hurtled directly at the target.

Getting your bow's scope aligned might take some time and adjustments. It's similar to the way you would adjust your rifle. But once it's perfectly sighted and you're hitting your targets, then you're good to go.


Whether you are looking for the cheapest working crossbow or the best crossbow no matter the price, here are some of the top crossbow manufacturers.


Barnett is a company that incorporates modern designs, accessories, and materials to provide the best crossbow products. Since its beginning in 1962, Barnett is known for being one of the main pioneers in crossbow creation and production.

When getting a crossbow from Barnett, you're getting it from a reputable brand. Each of their bows is made to shoot and hit their targets accurately. Buy a bow from Barnett if you want to increase your skills and performance in archery.


Ten Point is one of the main leaders in crossbow production. It began in 1994, where its main goal was to provide high-quality bows and arrows for their local community. As time progressed, they became known as one of the best crossbow distributors worldwide.

One thing we like about Ten Point is their affordability. You can find a good bow from this company for about $100. If you are a hunter on a budget and want a quality bow, then you should consider getting one from Ten Point.


Excalibur is a reputable company whose main goal is to help hunters enjoy their sport. Ever since 1983, the company fulfilled this goal by providing the best service and equipment that's available.

Excalibur Crossbow On Grass

We like Excalibur bows because of their accuracy. When firing, the arrow smoothly releases from the base of the bow and hits your desired target. If you want a bow that will hit your targets with the upmost precision, you should get one from Excalibur.

Carbon Express

Carbon Express is a leader and pioneer in creating innovative arrow technology. It's three main focuses are technology, precision, and innovation. After starting in Flint Michigan, the company has designed high-performing carbon arrows and arrow accessories for target shooters and sport hunters.

The company takes pride in helping hunters achieve the accuracy that they need. When using one of their bows, you'll notice how fast and straight the arrows are upon release. Get a bow from Carbon Express if you want to have the most accurate shots when you're out hunting.

How To Build A DIY Crossbow

Creating your first crossbow can be a challenging process. However, if you follow the steps in this mini-guide, you'll make one within a few hours. All it takes is a thorough hand, proper materials, and a strict adherence to the procedure to make a good crossbow.

First, you want to start with a stock that's a comfortable length. Make sure that it can sit comfortably on your arms for you to aim better. Begin with some pine wood that's about 38" long, 2" wide, and 2" tall.

The longer your stock, the more powerful the bow will be. But, it's not a good idea to have it go over 3.2 feet because the bow will shatter. After that, you'll want to use you a handsaw or any other cutting tool to remove the amount of wood needed to make the bow.

Next, you'll want to create a rounded rectangle shape for the trigger. It should be 4" long and 1" wide. Once you do that, make sure that it's comfortably placed so you can fire correctly.

Carve a rectangle out of the wood and then create a grove to hold the string. This ensures that your trigger is positioned properly and can rest horizontally on the rectangle's hole.

Once those steps are completed, you need a place for your hands to grip onto while shooting. Create the grip by cutting at least 8 inches of wood. You'll want to use wood or PVC glue to ensure that the grip is placed on the bottom on the stock. Make sure that it's in the center and leave the glue to dry for at least 7 hours.

DIY Wooden Crossbow

Lastly, you'll want to protect your wood with some quality wood sealer. Use either wood stain, varnish, or another wood sealant to make sure that the wood is protected from the elements.

Safety Features & Tips

In this section, we want to show a few tips to improve your skills with a crossbow. While crossbows use only arrows to shoot, it's still deadly if used incorrectly. Read this section to prevent injuries and issues from occurring when shooting your crossbow.

  • You always want to wear some safety equipment and glasses when loading, cocking and shooting your crossbow
  • Don't place your hand on the bowstring's release path on a loaded or cocked bowstring
  • Watch your shooting lanes to ensure that there are no obstructing targets nearby
  • Don't move your crossbow off of the safety position until you are completely ready to fire the trigger
  • Don't shoot a crossbow when others are standing adjacent towards you. Because if a string starts to break, then the debris will fly sideways


To conclude, we believe that having a useful crossbow is the first step into becoming a good hunter. But there are a few things that you need to know. You need to know exactly which crossbow products are worth your investment. We invite you to look into our buyer's guide to help you find some high-quality crossbows to use for your next hunting adventure.

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