The crossbow is a simple weapon, but you can’t just pick it up and expect to know how to shoot a crossbow. Taking the time to learn the basics of shooting and a few tricks to deal with common problems is the key to getting off to a good start.
Parts of the Bow
A crossbow is a simple machine with just a few parts. There is no need to learn how all of the parts work, but it is important to recognize them and to know the names in order to discuss them. Learning each part should be the first step when learning how to shoot a crossbow.
- Stock: This is the crossbow’s primary structure. The front is the foregrip, while the part at the back is the buttstock.
- Limbs: These stretch out from either side of the stock and connect to the bowstring. This is the part that stores power to propel the crossbow bolt when firing.
- Bowstring: This string runs between the limbs and makes it possible to send energy from the limbs into the bolt when firing.
- Trigger: This works like the trigger of a gun and fires the crossbow. A trigger system should also have a safety to prevent accidents.
- Rail: This is the top part of the foregrip. The bolt rests on top of it.
- Stirrup: This frame, usually made out of metal, goes near the front of the crossbow. Shooters can stick their foot in it to help keep the crossbow in position while they cock it.
- Bolt: This is the ammunition for a crossbow. They are not arrows and the two cannot substitute for each other.
It is vital to remember that a crossbow is a weapon and accidents can happen when shooters are careless. Staying safe should be every shooter’s top priority. Fortunately, just following a few basic rules and keeping some important tips in mind will be enough to manage most of the risk. Anyone who has used a gun before should be familiar with most of these rules, but a few of them are unique to the crossbow.
The most important thing is to be responsible when handling and firing the bow. Never point it at anything that you do not intend to shoot, and always be aware of the direction that it is pointing. Keep the safety on until you are about to operate the weapon. If you are shooting with other people, try to be aware of their positions at all times and only operate the bow if they are safely behind you. Even standing next to them can be risky because they might get hurt if the bowstring breaks.
Shooters also need to make an effort to keep their fingers safe when learning how to shoot a crossbow. Pay attention to your finger placement on the bow to make sure that they will not get caught by the bolt or the bowstring when firing. It is also important to make sure that they don’t slip in front of the bolt itself when firing. Those may seem like minor things, but it is all too easy to do heavy damage to your own fingers by accident.
Ultimately, awareness is the key to safety when shooting. Most accidents happen due to careless errors. Even experienced shooters can run into problems if they get too lax about safety. That means that every shooter should always make an effort to stay as safe as possible by paying attention to their environment and their own actions.
Shooting the bow is fairly easy. Every crossbow is different, but they all share the same core loading and firing procedures.
Start by making sure that the crossbow’s safety is engaged. Once you have done the safety check, put your foot in the stirrup to hold the crossbow in place. The next step is pulling the string into position. Many people prefer to use a cocking device to make that easier, but it is possible to do it by hand. Start with a hand on each rail, and then use your fingers to get a good grip on the string. Leave your thumbs on the rail to help keep things centered, and then pull the string up. Your to use your whole body to pull by straightening up as you pull to make it easier. You will need to keep pulling until the string latches into the retention system. You will hear a click on most crossbows when it is in position, but that does vary between models.
Your crossbow is cocked and ready to go! Get into a shooting stance by moving your feet to shoulder width and facing your target. Your shoulders should be square to the target when you are shooting. Once you are in position, you can load the crossbow. Support it in one hand and use the other to slide a bolt onto the rail.
Most of the bolts will have a single vane that is a different color than the rest. That one should be facing down when the bolt goes into the groove. Move the bolt back until it is firmly seated on the string. The crossbow is now loaded and dangerous, so be sure to keep safety in mind while handling it! Never forget that safety is first when learning on how to shoot a crossbow.
Move your hands into the shooting position while keeping your fingers away from the rail and the trigger. Your dominant hand should be near the trigger, while the other hand should be at the center of the foregrip to support the crossbow. Nestle the buttstock into your shoulder and rest your cheek on the stock so that you can use the sights. Take careful aim, disengage the safety, and squeeze the trigger to fire. Be sure to follow through by keeping an eye on the target until the bolt has stopped moving rather than by immediately lowering the crossbow.
Use a Cocking Aid
The hardest part of that process for most people is cocking the crossbow. It can take a lot of strength, especially for a bow with a heavy draw. There are tools, called cocking aids, that can make that much easier.
There are quite a few different kinds on the market, such as rope systems and cranking devices. Different models will reduce the draw weight of the crossbow by different amounts. Some get integrated directly into the crossbow before use, while others can be stored in a pocket and attached as necessary in the field. Most new shooters who want to use one of these aids will want to have an experienced friend or simply an employee at the store help them find the right one because there are so many options to choose from. They do make a big difference, so it is worth putting in the effort to find the right one. Sometimes the use of a cocking aid makes the difference on whether someone wants to continue to learn how to shoot a crossbow.
Know Your Limits When Learning How to Shoot A Crossbow
Most shooters can learn to use a crossbow fairly quickly, but it still takes time and practice to get good at it. A lot of new shooters go too quickly, struggle, and come away from the experience with the belief that they can’t use a crossbow. That sort of experience is no fun, and the way to avoid it is to know your limits.
Start by shooting at fairly easy targets and only move on to more difficult ones when you can get nine out of ten shots right in the center. Take your time when shooting and try to get a feel for your crossbow. This sort of gradual learning is a lot more fun for most shooters and a much better way to improve over time. It’s always best to use the best crossbow for you. Keep at it and you’ll be surprised at how quickly you can improve!
In addition, this is a great video to help you visualize each step when learning on how to use a crossbow: