Crossbow FAQ

Current Original version of the Crosbow FAQ

As of November 2001, Lyn Clark (Lyn@ausbow.com.au) has taken over the maintainance of the Crossbow FAQ. Below is an older copy until I get a copy of the new one...


Old copy of the FAQ

Crossbow FAQ

Last-modified: December 12, 1997
Written by: Dave DeLaurant (dlaurant@sjvls.lib.ca.us)

Credits:

Yogi (Y.) Shan
Coralyn Clark
Roy Nielsen
Howard Thelemann
Matthew J. Rapaport
Carl & Kathy White
Chris Smith
David R. Watson
Barbara Stephen (yshan@bnr.ca) (Book)
(medcc@lure.latrobe.edu.au)
(roy@arctic.nmt.edu)
(hthelem@wis.com)
(mjr@crl.com) (Crossbow List owner)
(kwhite@nbn.net)
(chriss@rand.nidlink.com)
(crossbow@moontower.com)
(barbaras@rom.on.ca)


CROSSBOW FAQ INFORMATION

Contents

GLOSSARY:

Note: Some of the terminology preferences used in this list are the author's and not common modern useage. Crossbow terminology is not altogether standardized and one should not be too pedantic about it.
ARBALIST
Latin language term for crossbow, derived from arcuballista (also spelled ARBALEST).
ARMBRUST
German language term for crossbow which is often preferred in international circles.
ARROW
Synonym for bolt which is preferred by some modern crossbow manufacturers.
BACK
Side of bow or lath facing target.
BALLISTA
Roman seige engine similar to oversized crossbow.
BARREL
Section of the stock between the latch and lath; sometimes used as synonym for track.
BARRELED CROSSBOW
Crossbow having a tubular barrel rather than a track; used to shoot balls, usually of lead; synonym for slurbow.
BASTARD STRING
String to brace a crossbow for installation of bowstring; synonym for bracing string.
BELLY
Side of bow or lath facing shooter.
BELT HOOK
Metal hook(s) attached to belt to aid cocking.
BENDING LEVER
Hindged lever to aid cocking; pushes string back using lugs or a ring mounted at front of crossbow; provides mechanical advantage of about 5:1, varying with lever length.
BINDING
See BRIDLE.
BOLT
Short projectile for crossbow resembling arrow.
BOLT CHANNEL
See TRACK.
BOW
See LATH.
BOW IRONS
Metal fittings used to secure lath to stock; usually tightened with metal wedges.
BOWSTEEL
Steel lath.
BOWSTRING
String used on all archery weapons to transfer force from bow to projectile.
BRACED
Position of bowstring when mounted on bow or lath, but not cocked.
BRACED HEIGHT
Distance between braced bowstring and belly side of riser, measured from the bowstring's center.
BRACING STRING
See BASTARD STRING.
BRIDLE
Binding, usually of twisted sinew cord, used to tie lath to stock on medieval crossbows.
BULLET CROSSBOW
Crossbow designed to shoot bullets; generally used in reference to double-string types.
BUTT
Rearmost portion of crossbow stock; also refers to earthen mound used in long range target shooting, and as a general term for backstop.
CATCH
See LATCH and SAFETY.
CENTER SHOT
Bow or crossbow lath designed so that the arrow/bolt passes through its center; center-shot crossbows often have two separate limbs.
CLEAN DRAW
See POWER STROKE.
CLIP
Spring used to retain bolt to cocked crossbow prior to shooting; usually made of horn or metal.
CLOUT
Long range archery shooting. Modern practice uses a horizontal target 15 meters in diameter outlined with flags; scoring is determined by measuring distance from center.
COCK
To draw bowstring from braced position to latched position.
COCKING LUGS
Metal protruberances on crossbow for anchoring bending lever, cranequin or goat's foot.
COCKING PEG
Peg required to set some crossbow trigger mechanisms prior to cocking.
COCKING RING
Metal ring bound to the front of the lath to anchor bending lever.
COCKSCOMBING
Method of serving sometimes used on loops of crossbow bowstrings.
COMPOSITE
Combination of materials used to construct lath including horn, wood, sinew and baleen.
COMPOUND
Modern lath construction using cables and eccentric pulleys.
CORD AND PULLEY
Cocking aid consisting of cord with ends attached to crossbow butt and user's belt running through a pulley attached to bowstring; provides mechanical advantage of 2:1.
CRANEQUIN
Cocking device using rack and pinion; can provide mechanical advantage of about 145:1, varying with size and number of teeth.
CROSSBOW
Archery weapon consisting of a lath mounted to a rigid stock, having a mechanical means to hold and release the drawn bowstring. See also ARBALEST, ARMBRUST, BARRELED CROSSBOW, BULLET CROSSBOW.
DOG'S FOOT
See GOAT'S FOOT.
DOUBLE STRING
Complex form of bowstring designed to launch round projectiles from crossbow; has leather pouch at center to hold ball.
DRY FIRE
To release cocked bowstring without projectile; term borrowed from firearms.
END
Shooting phase of an archery competition; a set number of arrows or bolts shot consecutively before determining score.
END LOOP
Loops at either end of bowstring.
ENDCAP
Protective cap to protect rear of bolt; similar to arrow nock, but not forked.
FIRE
To light incendiary crossbow projectile; often used incorrectly as synonym for shoot or loose.
FLIGHT GROOVE
See TRACK
FOOTCLAW
See STIRRUP.
GAFFLE
See GOAT'S FOOT.
GASTRAPHETES
Greek weapon described by Heron of Alexandria similar to crossbow; literally "stomach weapon".
GOAT'S FOOT
Two-piece hindged cocking lever designed to pull bowstring from behind latch (curved shape of lever vaguely resembles goats leg); provides mechanical advantage of about 5:1, varying with lever length.
GROOVE
See TRACK.
HANDBOW
Term used to distinguish hand-held bow from crossbow.
LATCH
Mechanism for holding crossbow bowstring in cocked position, and for releasing bowstring when trigger is pulled. Synonym for catch.
LATH
Bow portion of a crossbow storing motive energy for propelling projectile; term preferred by some archery historians; not common parlance among modern crossbowmen. See PROD.
LIMB
Portion of lath to right or left of center.
LOOSE
To launch an archery missle.
MANUBALLISTA
Smaller form of ballista; from the Latin "manus" meaning hand.
NOCK
Forked protective cap on rear of bolt; usually necessary with trackless crossbows to keep bolt in contact with string. Notches at each end of bow or lath to accept string are also called nocks.
NOSE
Forward end of crossbow; sometimes used to refer to assembly attaching lath to stock.
NUT
Cylindrical latch usually made of ivory or antler.
PAVISE
Large shield used to protect military crossbowmen in the field while loading and shooting.
PELLET CROSSBOW
See BULLET CROSSBOW; usually low powered weapon.
POWER STROKE
Distance between braced and cocked string positions as measured along track.
PROD
Bow portion of crossbow; term also used as name for light bullet crossbow (also spelled PRODD).
RELEASE MECHANISM
See LATCH.
QUARREL
Bolt with four-sided head; often used as synonym for bolt.
QUIVER
Container for carrying arrows or bolts.
RISER
Thick, non-bending center section of bow or lath.
SAFETY
Mechanical device, usually in the form of a button or lever, used to prevent crossbow from shooting unintentionally. Often referred to as "safety-catch," "-button," or "-pin."
SCORPION
See MANUBALLISTA.
SERVING
Wrapping of thread used to protect the center and loops of bowstrings.
SET TRIGGER
Trigger which may be set to release under very light pressure; 'hair trigger'.
SHOOT
See LOOSE.
SLED
Guide attached to the center of crossbow bowstring to lessen string wear and insure exact centering of the string when cocking.
SLURBOW
See BARRELED CROSSBOW.
SPANNER
General term for any device used to cock crossbows; [German, winding tool, from spannen, to stretch, from Middle High German, from Old High German spannan.]
SPANNING
Physical act of cocking a crossbow.
STRING LOOP
Loop bound to center of some crossbow bowstrings to engage latch.
STIRRUP
Device for holding the crossbow with feet while cocking; usually 'D' or 'T' shaped, sometimes made from webbing or rope.
STOCK
Portion of the crossbow to which all other components are attached and by which it is held.
STONEBOW
See BULLET CROSSBOW.
TASSEL
Traditional archery accessory worn on belt to clean bolts or arrows.
TILLER
See STOCK.
TOMMY-BAR
Type of bow iron tightened using threaded rods instead of wedges.
TRACK
Grooved portion of the crossbow between the lath and latch where the bolt rides.
TRACKLESS
Crossbow with an bolt rest in front instead of a full-length groove; forked nocks usually necessary to maintain contact between bolt and string.
WINDER
General term for windlass or cranequin.
WINDLASS
Crossbow cocking device using a system of pulleys and cords; provides mechanical of about 45:1 depending on construction.


HISTORY:


Literary and physical evidence suggest that the crossbow originated in China during the 4th century BC, though a type of crossbow called the gastraphetes may have been independently invented in Greece at about the same period. It wasn't until the 10th or 11th centuries AD that the crossbow became a significant military weapon in Europe. It passed from general military service in the 16th century, but its use for hunting and target shooting has continued to the present day. The most of following chronology is abridged from GUIDE TO THE CROSSBOW by Paterson:

341 BC   Earliest reliable record of crossbow use at battle of Ma-Ling in China.
228 BC   Earliest crossbow artifact, a bronze lock mechanism from the tomb of Yu Wang.
0-100 AD   Heron of Alexandria describes gastraphetes.
300-700   Roman carvings of crossbows.
385   Vegetius mentions crossbows in DE RE MILITARIA.
1066   Crossbows introduced to England by Normans.
1096   Anna Comnena describes Norman crossbows.
1100-1200   Composite crossbow lath appears.
1139   2nd Lateran Council interdict forbids use of crossbow among Christians.
1192   Crusader victory at Jaffa aided by crossbows.
1314   Earliest reliable record of steel lath.
1346   Genoese crossbowmen defeated at Crecy by English longbowmen.
1373   Earliest illustration of cranequin.
1503   First of many English laws restricting possession and use of crossbows.
1550-1600   Firearms replace crossbows in most Weatern armies.
1860   Photographic evidence from Chinese shows repeating crossbows still used there as military weapons.
1939-45   "Arrowspeed" crossbow used by Austrailian commandos in Pacific Theatre.
1945-1975   Crossbows employed by Montagnard peoples and US special forces during Vietnam conflict.
1960?-present   Crossbows used to shoot anesthetic darts for capturing and treating wildlife; also used to obtain tissue samples from marine animals for obtaining genetic information.


CURRENT MANUFACTURERS:


Barnett International, Inc.
P.O. Box 934
Odessa, FL 33556
813-920-2241 voice
813-920-5400 fax
5/94

Bear/Jennings Archery, Inc.
4600 S.W. 41st Blvd.
Gainesville, FL 32601
http://www.beararch.com/
7/96

David Balbirona                  Custom Crossbows
1213 Whatcom Street #120
Bellingham, WA 98226
12/97

David Watson                     Custom Crossbows, parts
201 West Crestland
Augsin, TX, 78752
12/97

Rebecca Huntington                Custom Medieval & Renaissance Crossbows
219 Allen Street
Lansing, MI 48912
12/97

Michal Dabek
6871 Rawdon Parc Boul
JOK ISO Rawdon
Quebec, Canada
12/97

James Koch                         Crossbow Products
Alchem Incorporated
314 East 195th St.
Euclid, Ohio 44119
216-313-8674
http://www.en.com/alchem/crossbow.html
12/97



Horton Manufacturing Co., Inc.
484 B. Tacoma Ave.
Tallmadge, OH 44278
216-633-0305
5/94

New World Arbalest
1402 West 51 St.
Austin, TX 78756
512-453-2628
http://www.moontower.com/crossbow/
7/96

Precision Shooting Equipment, Inc.
2727 N. Fairview
(P.O. Box 5487,
Tucson, AZ 85703
602-884-9065
5/94

Excalibur Crossbows
45 Hollinger Crescent, Unit 2
Kitchener, Ontario N2K 22I
519-743-6890 voice
519-743-6964 fax
6/94

Ausbow Industries
P.O. Box 325
Bundoora Vic. 3083
Australia
+61-3-467-5328 fax
8/94

Custom Crossbows
3 Palmerston Street
Hamilton
New Zealand
+64-7-838-1441 voice/fax
8/94

Philip Ambrose                  "Modular Ring Ten" Field Crossbow,
7403 Jackson Ave.                Crossbow parts
Takoma Park, MD   20912
301-270-8415

Bud Fowkes                       Custom Field Crossbows
904 7th St.
Verona, PA   15147
412-828-5166

Lancaster Archery Supply         Field Crossbows, Crossbow Kits,
2195-A Old Philadelphia Pike     and all Parts and Accessories
Lancaster, PA   17602
717-394-7229
717-394-9635  FAX

Stan Pennypacker                 Custom Field Crossbows, Limbs
RD1, Box 245B                    and Accessories
Spring Mills, PA   18975
814-422-8715

William G. Pimm Jr.              Crossbow Broker
28 Southbridge Rd. #101
Charlton, MA   01507
508-248-4857

Red Lion Crossbows               Barnett Spirit Distributor, as well
55 Red Lion Row                  as many Parts and Accessories
Kennett Square, PA   19438
215-388-6413

Leroy Rowe                       Custom Field Crossbows, Limbs
43 Cone Ave.
Meriden, CT   06450
203-238-7302

Ray Stauffer                     Custom Field Crossbows
538 Habecker Church Road
Lancaster, PA   17603
717-285-5465

Saxon Crossbows
40351 U.S. Hwy 19 No.
Suite #302
Tarpon Springs, FL   34689
813-938-4882
813-934-8754
http://www.iigi.com/os/prod/saxon/saxon.htm


READING LIST:


Books

THE AGE OF CHIVALRY PT. 1
by Liliane Funcken., Prentice-Hall, 1983.
DIE ARMBRUST
by Egon Harmuth, Akadem. Druk, 1975.
DIE ARMBRUST - EINE SPORTWAFFE
by E. Heer and C. Vetterli, Schlapfer & Co., 1976.
BIBLIOGRAPHY OF ARCHERY
by Fred Lake and Hal Wright, Simon Archery Foundation, 1974.
THE BULLET CROSSBOW
by Daniel Higson, W. J. Sandiford, 1923.
COUNTRY CONTENTMENTS
by Gervase Markham, Wilson, 1654.
THE CROSSBOW
by Sir Ralph W. F. Payne-Gallwey, Holland Press, 1903, 1958.
(Note form Dave Watson: Can be purchased from Barnes and Noble books stores for about $20 in a new large format edition. This does not have the catapult and Turkish recurve articles in it, but it is otherwise complete.)
THE CROSSBOW AS A MODERN WEAPON
by Galen L. Greer, Firepower Publications, 1984.
THE CROSSBOW OF ULRICH V COUNT OF WURTEMBURG
by Baron C. A. de. Cosson, Westminster, 1893.
CROSSBOW WORKSHOP NOTES
by John Clark and Ken Murphey, Diamond Valley Archers, 1981.
CROSSBOWS
by Roger Combs, DBI Books, 1987.
CROSSBOWS
by Frank Bilson, Hippocrene, 1983.
CROSSBOWS: FROM THIRTY-FIVE YEARS WITH THE WEAPON
by George M. Stevens, Desert Publications, 1980.
FIELD AND TARGET ARCHERY
by Edmund Burke, Arco, 1961.
GREY GOOSE WING
by Ernest G. Heath, New York Graphic Society, 1972.
A GUIDE TO THE CROSSBOW
by W. F. Paterson, Society of Archer Antiquaries, 1990.
HISTORY OF THE CROSSBOW
by Martin C. Wilbur, Shorey, 1972.
THE MEDIEVAL ARCHER
by Jim Bradbury, Boydell Press, 1992.
THE MODERN CROSSBOW
by Terry Stewart, Solway Offset Services, 1975.
THE ORIGIN OF WEST AFRICAN CROSSBOWS
by Henry Balfour, Smithsonian Institution, 1911.
OSS CROSSBOWS
by John W. Brunner, Phillips Publications, 1990.
SEAFOWL SHOOTING SKETCHES
by Daniel Higson, David A. H. Grayling, 1990.
TREASURES OF THE TOWER: CROSSBOWS.
Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1976.
TREATISE ON ARCHERY
by Thomas Waring, Seale and Bates, 1814.
USE AND MISUSE OF CROSSBOWS IN AUSTRALIA
by John Clark, Archery Australia, 1994.
EUROPEAN CROSSBOWS: A SURVEY BY JOSEF ALM
Royal Armouries
H.M. Tower of London
London
EC3N 4AB, England
Price: w/postage to US: 12.45 Pounds Sterling -- roughly $18.00 (Mar 1995)
Originally published in Swedish in 1947, this brand new English translation is a first-class book in every respect, and is by far the best single volume on crossbow history currently available. In addition to the translated text, the book contains 71 b&w illustrations and photos, with footnotes to correct a few conclusions and statements by Alm that have been proven incorrect since its original publication. Best of all, the work includes a bibliography of materials in all languages on the crossbow that runs sixteen and one half pages.
BULLS EYE: CROSSBOWS
by Ragnar Benson, Paladin Press, 1985
CROSSBOWS FOR SURVIVAL
by H. Steele, Author, 1979

Periodicals:

"Auto-Spring Crossbow" by Bertram Brownold.
MECHANIX ILLUSTRATED, August 1940; pp. 82-84, 143.

"Classic Crossbow; You Can Build Your Own"
MOTHER EARTH NEWS, Sept/Oct 1984; pp. 92-95.

"The Crossbow" by Foley, Palmer & Soedel.
SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, January 1985; pp. 104-110.

"Crossbow Controversy" by Clare Conley.
OUTDOOR LIFE, June 1985; pg. 4.

"Crossbows for the Record" by Clare Conley.
OUTDOOR LIFE, October 1985; p. 4.

"Hunter's Crossbow" by E. Milton Grassell.
MECHANIX ILLUSTRATED, December 1953; pp.120-123, 196.
"Just how good was Armor?" by Stephen V. Grancsay.
TRUE, April 1954: pp. 44-46, 89-92.

"The Life and Hard Times of the Crossbow" by Robert L. O'Connell.
MHQ, THE QUARTERLY JOURNAL OF MILITARY HISTORY, Winter 1989;
pp. 46-49.

"Land of the Crossbow" by George Forrest.
NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, February 1910; pp. 132-156.

"A Modern Crossbow You Can Make" by Norman Weis & Sid Anderson.
MECHANIX ILLUSTRATED, December 1976; pp. 134-136.

"Oriental Crossbows" by H. Beveridge.
IMPERIAL AND ASIATIC QUARTERLY REVIEW, 1911 #3; pp. 344-348.

"Pistol Crossbow" by E. Milton Grassell.
INDUSTRIAL ARTS AND VOCATIONAL EDUCATION, October 1956; 263-265.

"Repeating Crossbow" by Austin H. Phelps.
POPULAR MECHANICS, August 1951; pp. 165-167.

"Robin Hood of the Ozarks" by M. Perez.
NATION'S BUSINESS, May 1951; pg. 92.

"Space-Age Crossbows" by Angus Laidlaw.
POPULAR MECHANICS, December 1983; pp. 81-82, 128-129.

"The Story of the Arbalist" by Maurice Thompson.
ST NICHOLAS, September 1880, pp. 861-866.

"This and That (Vietcong Crossbow)" by William Witte.
ARCHERY, November 1967; pg. 13.

In addition to the listings above, the JOURNAL OF THE SOCIETY OF ARCHER
ANTIQUARIES has published numerous articles dealing with crossbows. Consult
the BIBLIOGRAPHY OF ARCHERY by Lake and Wright for specifics.


CROSSBOW DESIGNS:


As mentioned before, the crossbow's earliest widespread use was probably in China, during the 3rd century B.C. or earlier. On single-shot crossbows, one type of latch/trigger mechanism was a very clever precision bronze casting with three moving parts and no springs. Surviving wooden stocks end in a type of pistol grip. Their laths were either of composite construction or made from multiple bamboo slats bound like an automobile leaf spring.

Another type of crossbow used by the Chinese since at least 210 B.C. was a repeating design with a gravity-fed box magazine! The magazine was situated above the bolt track. When the lever at the rear of the crossbow was first raised and then lowered, the box moved forward, caught the string in a wooden recess and drew it to full cock, dropped a bolt into the track and released the string. These crossbows were neither powerful nor accurate, but they could launch a bolt every second or two until the magazine emptied. Poison was usually smeared on the points to increase their lethality.

In the manner of handbows of the same period, early Western crossbows featured wood laths and long power strokes (compared to later examples.) The most common latch mechanism was a rotating nut of bone, ivory or antler. To achieve greater power, massive "composite" laths made from sinew, horn or baleen, and wood came into use; these were shorter and much stiffer than earlier wood laths. As draw weights increased, new methods and devices for spanning had to be employed, which included the cord and pulley, belt claw, "goat's foot", bending lever, cranequin and windlass. Steel laths later provided even greater power. Spanning devices made reloading a slow process compared with hand bows. Crossbows were more useful for hunting and siegecraft than in open battle, where their slow rate of fire was a serious handicap.

Features usually found on military and hunting crossbows of the 14th to 16th centuries include a fairly plain, straight stock, a sinew bridle binding the lath to the stock, a cylindrical latch nut and a long iron trigger. It would have either a simple rest or a grooved track to guide the bolt; a stirrup, cocking ring, or cocking lugs would be present depending on which cocking device was to be used. The stock could be held in the same manner as a firearm, or rested on top of the shoulder and the trigger manipulated with the thumb. The bolt's point usually served as the front sight when aiming.

Sporting crossbows of the 17th to 19th centuries were used for formal target competitions and hunting. Aperture sights and set triggers were usually present on target crossbows. Bow irons and similar fittings for securing the lath replaced the sinew bridle. Bullet crossbows became popular for small game hunting and informal target shooting, using a double bowstring with a leather pouch to launch a lead, clay or stone balls. The barreled crossbow or slurbow also shot round balls, using a conventional bowstring and a tubular barrel. The range of features found on sporting crossbows of this period is better seen than described; the books by Payne-Gallwey, Stevens, Bilson, Heath and Paterson listed earlier include illustrations.

The crossbow was (and in some cases still is) a popular hunting weapon in Southern Asia and parts of Africa. The construction used in both areas is similar in that a relatively weak wood lath is mounted to a straight stock with a bolt track. The latch is simply a notch in the stock; the trigger is a peg that is pushes the string out of the notch from below. On some examples, the stock is horizontally split for part of its length, so that pressing the two halves together pushes the trigger peg upward. Since bolts from these crossbows have little kinetic energy, they are invariably poisoned. Bolts are slivers of hardwood or bamboo, usually with simple leaf fletchings.

Crossbows of medieval and renaissance design were very inefficient devices. Modern tests indicate that armor-piercing bolts, while heavier than war arrows, achieved about the same velocity (130-40 fps) from a 700 lb. draw crossbow as an arrow did from a 80 lb. draw longbow. The initial velocity imparted to a crossbow bolt is governed by the velocity of the bow tips as the bolt and string part company. Despite their heavy draw weights, medieval laths were too massive to accelerate rapidly. This was made worse by short draw lengths, which reduced the time available for the tips to accelerate. In addition, the massive bowstrings required for such heavy draw weights robbed energy from the bolt. Balanced against these faults is the higher ballistic coefficient of the short, heavy crossbow bolt, as compared with an arrow. This meant that crossbows often could shoot further and hit harder than hand bows.

Modern hunting crossbows are engineered to launch 400+ grain bolts at initial velocities in excess of 200 fps, with draw weights of about 150 lbs. This provides ample kinetic energy for big game hunting with a far lower draw weight than would be the case with a medieval crossbow of similar power. A longer power stroke coupled with a less massive fiberglass lath makes the difference.

Modern target competition with the crossbow falls into two quite different classes. In international 10 meter competition, shooters use a crossbow that marries the elaborate stock and sights of a smallbore target rifle with a short-draw steel lath. The draw weight is well over 100 lbs., so cocking is performed using a long steel bending lever. Bolts are about 6" long and made of unfletched wood; their metal points are threaded like a coarse woodscrew to facilitate removal from the lead plates used as backstops. Field crossbow competition takes place at 30, 40 and 50 yards, with bolts similar to those used in hunting. Because lighter-drawing field target crossbows are shot over greater distances than in international 10 meter, their stocks and sights must be suited to a broader range of adjustments. Field target crossbows are usually hand-made, often home-made by their users.


ROLLING YOUR OWN:


Bolts for modern crossbows require the same basic materials and techniques as conventional arrows. Cut 31" aluminum arrow shafts at the center to produce two bolt shafts. Points or threaded inserts are cemented in at one end, endcaps at the other. Endcaps may be purchased from Horton Mfg. Co. for 26 cents each (the Horton LS6 cap fits 2117 shafts); they can also be made by cutting down a plastic arrow nock. A forked nock suitable for trackless crossbows can be made by enlarging the fork of a plastic arrow nock with a file or a heated metal rod to fit around the larger diameter of crossbow bowstrings. If a flat endcap is used, it will be easiest to fletch the bolt in a three- place fletching jig. A single-place jig can work, but it will be difficult to accurately position the second and third vanes without a forked nock; one way around this is to install a forked nock, fletch the bolt, then saw and/or file the nock flat. Plastic vanes seem to last longer than feathers on hunting crossbow bolts, provided the target material used is dense enough to prevent the bolts from burying themselves to the vanes. Feathers and vanes work about equally well with less-powerful target crossbows.

When making bolts for a factory-made crossbow, try to obtain at least one factory bolt to measure its length and weight. Bolt length does not seem to be very critical on tracked crossbows, but you would do well to make your bolts be the same weight or slightly heavier. Lighter bolts will fly faster, but may shorten the working life of the lath. Bolt weight is a careful compromise, usually determined at the factory through destructive testing, and it would be most cost-effective to accept their recommendation.

Bowstrings for crossbows, though shorter, are also made in the same manner as for handbows. Obtain the length and number of strands by inspecting a factory string and make yours to the same specifications. If you don't wish to make your own strings, you should still obtain a serving jig and a spool of serving thread for re-serving the centers whenever necessary. Abrasion from track and latch contact wears through crossbow center servings very quickly. Depending on the design of your weapon and the waxes and lubricants used to reduce friction, the center serving may begin to fray after only a few dozen shots; by re-serving the center as needed, a crossbow bowstring should last thousands of shots.

For those wishing to make their own crossbows, the National Crossbowmen of the USA offers plans and a partly fabricated lath for sale at a nominal cost. See the Archery Organizations FAQ for their address.


CROSSBOW HUNTING CONTROVERSY:

Unless you read hunting or archery periodicals, you are probably unaware that crossbows and their users are not universally loved in the USA. You won't find crossbows or their accessories advertised in bowhunting magazines (in the following discussion, the terms bowhunter and bowhunting refer to HANDBOW hunting.) Among avid bowhunters, favorable comments about crossbows often earn a scathing rebuttal and lasting enmity. This state of affairs stems from disargeements during the past couple of decades over the suitablity of allowing crossbow use during bowhunting seasons. Bowhunters feel that crossbows are so much more accurate and easily mastered than handbows that they violate the original reason for providing an extended archery hunting season. They would prefer to see crossbows limited to muzzle-loading or modern firearm seasons. Some also grant that crossbow use during archery season would be acceptable if limited to physically handicapped shooters.

The author of this section is not a crossbow hunter and has absolutely no desire to generate flames over an issue that is already the source of bad feeling amongst fellow sportsmen. There is a side-effect to the controversy which must be addressed, however. In support of bowhunters' arguments, some pretty unrealistic claims about the range and accuracy of contemporary crossbows have been published. Typical examples can be found in two 1985 editorials by Clare Conley in OUTDOOR LIFE (see reading list.) It is unfair that beginning or prospective crossbow user should take up this challenging weapon burdened with exaggerated expectations. What follows is a partial correction of some of the more commonly encountered claims.

- CROSSBOWS CAN BE MASTERED WITH VERY LITTLE PRACTICE

It is easier to aim a crossbow with metal or optical sights than it is to learn instinctive handbow aiming. In addition, the crossbow's string held in the cocked position and released mechanically; the handbow archer, on the other hand, must train his body to draw, aim and loose with the consistency of a machine -- a far more difficult task.

After studying some good instructional materials and putting in about a dozen or so half-hour practice sessions at the range, a beginning crossbow user will probably know his or her weapon well enough to take deer at under 50 yards; 35-40 yards would be better starting limit, however. Of course, this assumes he can already estimate distances fairly well. This skill is important because, like handbow arrows, crossbow bolts travel at relatively low velocities. Peak velocity for hunting crossbow/bolt combinations is usually under 250 fps, which is almost in the same ballpark as compound handbows. Range estimation starts becoming important at 35-40 yards, and it gets critical beyond 50 yards.

Words like mastery, accuracy and marksmanship are relative, and therefore deceptive. A shooter who can reliably hit the vital area of a deer at 35 yards could still place dead last in a field crossbow tournament. Beginners will need quite a bit of practice to keep all their bolts within 4" of an aiming mark at 50 yards; you won't find many rifle shooters who would find this kind of performance -- 16 minutes of angle -- satisfactory.

- EXPERT CROSSBOW HUNTERS HAVE TAKEN GAME AT 80 TO 115 YARDS

True. And practiced duck hunters occasionally kill waterfowl over 80 yards away with a 12 gauge shotgun. Neither example is recommended because the chances for a clean, sporting kill at at such ranges with such weapons is poor.

For the crossbow, the main limitation on hunting range is low bolt velocity. Time of flight to 100 yards is something like 2 seconds, and (as already implied) the trajectory starts to lose its relative flatness beyond about 40 yards. In very still air a long shot can work OK, but a chance gust of wind or a spooked animal could easily result in a cripple. Crossbow hunters would do better to accept 50-60 yards as a maximum range, and try to get closer whenever possible.

On the other hand, TARGET shooting at 100 yards or more can be a lot of fun. Clout shooting involves very long distances, usually 180 yards; group sizes at such ranges are measured in yards. Understandably, it is very difficult to find an acceptable location for this type of shooting.

- CROSSBOWS HAVE SOPHISTICATED TRIGGERS, TELESCOPIC SIGHTS AND COMPOUND LATHS

Life would be a lot simpler for the target crossbowman if the former were always true. Many of today's factory crossbows use an inexpensive and very primitive latch based on the medieval rotating nut. They do an acceptable job for field shooting, but the mechanical releases used with handbows are generally more sophisticated. For that matter, so are the cast bronze latch and trigger assemblies of 2200-year-old Chinese crossbows. A shooter already familiar with firearms will find most factory crossbow triggers a big disappointment.

The principal advantage of telescopic sights on factory crossbows is that they can be adjusted with more precision than the type of sights usually provided. Most factory sights use a front sighting system based on the multi-pin archery type. Trying to make accurate vertical adjustments with such sights is very frustrating.

Optical magnification would be of little or no value on a well-made target crossbow unless the shooter had vision problems; remember, the targets are highly visable and less than 80 yards away. Hunters might find a scope more helpful, but it's doubtful that it would determine the outcome of a hunt.

As for applying modern compound technology to crossbows, the advantages are not as great as with handbows. One point in their favor is their narrower width, which makes the bow handier when hunting in woods or brush. Compound models from Barnett and Horton achieve higher velocities than comparable recurve models by the same makers; according to one Canadian maker, however, a well- made recurved crossbow lath can equal or exceed compound performance (see CROSSBOWS by Roger Combs, pg. 131.) On the negative side, compound crossbows are more expensive, difficult to restring and keep in tune, physically heavier and (sometimes) noisier. Also, compound technology does not reduce crossbow cocking effort.

- BECAUSE OF THEIR SIGHTS, STOCKS AND TRIGGERS, MODERN CROSSBOWS ARE MORE LIKE RIFLES THAN HANDBOWS

If so, then batteries and pushbuttons make pocket caculators more like cellular telephones than slide rules.

It would be OK to say that rifles resemble crossbows, since the early firearms were styled after the crossbow. But while crossbows are aimed and shot like a rifle, but they lack the noise, odor, flash, recoil, range, accuracy and kinetic energy of a hunting rifle. Moreover, modern rifles don't possess bows or strings either, and require little physical effort to load.

The ballistic and accuracy potential of crossbows is similar to powerful handbows. Many handbow archers use sights, and latches with triggers called mechanical releases. The signal difference that separates these two classes of archery weapons is that handbows are held at full draw with the shooter's muscles while he aims, while crossbows are held in the cocked position mechanically.

CROSSBOW HUNTING IN THE USA:

Considering that 30 years back only one state (Arkansas) allowed crossbow hunting at all, the weapon has gained a surprising degree of acceptance. The lists that follow are adapted from a table on the back of the crossbow catalog published by Precision Shooting Equipment, Inc. Since game laws frequently change, be sure to get and read all the current flyers published by your state's fish and game department before taking to the field with a crossbow.

If you spot any errors in this list be sure to let us know by email at dlaurant@sjvls.lib.ca.us We want to keep this data current.

CROSSBOW HUNTING PROHIBITED
AL, CT, ME, MA, MI, NV, NJ, NM, NC, OR, UT, VA, WA, WV
BIG GAME DURING ARCHERY SEASON
AR, OH, SC*, WY
SMALL GAME DURING ARCHERY SEASON
AR, IA, KS, OH, SC*, WY
BIG GAME DURING FIREARMS SEASON
AK, AZ, CA, CO, FL, IA, KY, MO, MT, NE, SC, WY
SMALL GAME
AK, AZ, AR, CA, CO, FL, HI*, ID, KY, MO, MT, NE, OH, TN, SC, WY
PHYSICALLY IMPARED DURING ARCHERY SEASON
DE, GA, IL, IN, IA, KS, LA*, MD, MN, MS, ND, NE, NH, NY**, OK, PA, SD, TN, TX, VT, WI, WY
ROUGH FISH
AZ, AR, CA, CO, GA, ID, IL, IA, KY, MO, OH, OR, SC, UT, VT, WI, WY

*) Additional restrictions apply

**) The state passed an act to amend the environmental conservation law, in relation to the use of crossbows by physically handicapped. they are now legal as of 3-13-96 (bill ao9412) permit cost: $5.00 good for 5 years.


Colected Messages

>From Yogi:

"Catapult"
Subtitled: "Harry & I Build a Siege Weapon"

Jim Paul. N.Y.: Villard Books (1991).
ISBN 0-394-58507-0

That's the hardcover edition I have. It's also out in paperback,
and I don't know who put it out (if different). The hardcover was
US$18.

It's a fun book, but not at all a how-to manual. Their design is of the cross-bow type. They use a "come-along" and leaf spring in the design.


>From Coralyn Clark:

"The Australasian Arbalist" is an adhoc publication about crossbow activities particularly in Australia and New Zealand. John Clark as Chairman of the Archery Australia Crossbow Committee, edits this publication which is usually posted "snail mail" to interested people. If there is anyone interested in receiving this publication electronically (or by other means) or who has useful suggestions regarding making this information available more widely (maybe World Wide Web?), please email me at medcc@lure.latrobe.edu.au.


>From Roy Nielsen:

I should mention that I found these files quite sometime ago.

------------------Start of quoted files------------------

I made a crossbow about six years ago with reasonable success and learnt a bit in the process. I'll discuss what I know of these parts of the crossbow.

Prod:- I made mine from annealed spring steel that was 6mm thick. Following a plan that I had I tapered it linearly using an angle grinder. This required a lot of metal to be removed and took a long time. It was bent to shape approximately like a recurve and then hardened and tempered at the place I originally bought the steel from. It was fairly large, being 36 inches across, but it turned out to be about the weight that I desired.

Since then, I've put some more thought into it and probably the easiest way of making a bow prod is to get an old leaf spring from a car wrecker. A leaf spring consists of a number of leaves, all but one of which should have their taper already formed. They are already hardened and tempered, so all that would be required would be to angle grind the grooves in the ends for attaching the string.

Bolts:- I bought these from a shop. Obviously there is no knock. The other big difference was that they had large vanes with a higher twist rate than normal arrows.

General construction:- Make it out of a good solid seasoned hardwood. I used high density softwood but in the end it cracked behind the prod. The slot for the bolt vane should be wide enough to accomodate the high twist of the vane. I glued laminex to the body to provide a smooth (low-friction was the idea) surface for the string to move over. The most important thing to consider is the design of the release mechanism. This should have as low a moment of inertia as possible. My own bow had a relatively high moment of inertia, so what tended to happen was, when fired, the string would jump over the top of the release mechanism and also over the top of the bolt. It would take me a moment to realise that I hadn't lost sight of the bolt in flight, but that it was still sitting in the crossbow. The one thing that saved the bow from being a total disaster was that the release mechanism had two prongs to hold the string (rather than just a single post), and the bolt fit between them so that it could rest directly against the string. Whenever I pushed the bolt back properly against the string it didn't misfire.

That crossbow was quite powerful and accurate. It was fun to make and also fun to use. Since its demise I bought an old compound bow and enjoy that probably more because it requires a bit more skill in aiming and releasing.

--
Mal Goris
mgoris@rp.csiro.au

------------------End of quoted files------------------


>From Matthew J. Rapaport:

To get yourself subscribed, send a message to crossbow-request@dfw.net

The subject of the message doesn't matter, but the body should read:

subscribe crossbow

and nothing more...

Once you are subscribed you will receive a short introductory message that will confirm your subscription. You can then communicate with the list using the address crossbow@dfw.net

I still have a few things to put into place like files specific to this list. There are already a number of files in place you can get associated with the first list running under my account (thrower, about throwing weapons), you can get those too, and of course you can also subscribe to thrower with a similar message to thrower-request@dfw.net, etc.

Remember to subscribe from the same address as the one you wish to use to read and write to the list (that's your address, not the list's). There is a way to subscribe from one place and write/read from another, but it is better if you don't need to do that for now...

Otherwise, just subscribe yourself and send a message (you will see your own message sent back to you after a while) after you get your subscription confirmation. Just to introduce ourselves to one another.

If you have any problems, contact me directly.

matthew rapaport Philosopher/Programmer at large KD6KVH
CIS: 70371,255 Internet: mjr@crl.com / quine@dfw.net


>From David R. Watson

Regarding effective range of 150 lb. non compound crossbow. To some degree this depends on length of draw, but assuming something like those in current production, with 7 to 9 in. of draw, these bows will generally cast about 200 yards. Anything over about 1/3 of maximum range begins to require real archery skills, as the velocity is pretty slow, comparable to a hand bow of one third to one half your crossbow weight. (Say 50 to 70 lb.) The crossbow projectiles are slightly lighter, they may be a bit faster. I think you can safely say the 150 lb. crossbow will shoot pretty accurately and easily to about 70 yards. After that you will need carefully balanced and flatched bolts and a lot of practice.

The effective range is also to some degree dependent on design. My personal bow is 162 lb. at 8 in. of draw. Its point blank is 50 meters. I can hit precisely what I want at 50 meters by aiming right down the bolt. If I remove my bolt keeper clip, it's on at 40 yards. I can aim right down the bolt. At ranges over about 70 yards, I start having to actually elevate the bow substantially. Then it gets to be tougher.

Generally speaking, you will find bows with fiberglass, rather than steel prods and longer draws will give you better performance than steel bows and shorter draws, but those steel bows will last almost forever, whereas the fiberglass prods wear out in a few years, and have to be replaced. Compound crossbows should give you better performance than the non compound models, but they are more complex, hence more trouble to keep tuned and working right.


>From Barbara Stephen

I don't know whether you are familiar with an important series published by the Cambridge University Press, called <Science and Civilisation in China>.

The principal author is Joseph Needham, but individual volumes dealing with aspects of the subject have co-authors. The most recent volume out - they don't appear in sequence - is Vol. 5 Part VI: <Military Technology: Missiles and Sieges>, Cambridge University Press, 1994; we received it very recently.

It is co-authored by Robin D.S. Yates and has several other collaborators including Edward McEwen, a well-known British authority on archery. It deals exhaustively with bows, crossbows, arcuballista, etc. I am reluctant to recommend it because, like other volumes in the series in which I am interested (I focus on bronze technology, horse-drawn vehicles, and bows) it appears to be notably weak on the archaeological basis for study of ancient Chinese technology, repeating with great authority information that is sometimes seriously out of date. But it is certainly rich in references to literary sources, classics on military thought, etc. and would interest anyone willing to deal with a 600-page tome.

It looks to be quite strong on later periods, especially after 1000 A.D., when the material record and the literature support one another more clearly. If you have a chance to look at a copy you should find it of considerable interest. I'll send you photocopies of a few pages dealing with crossbow sighting devices since this is a current thread on the list.

(Incidentally, the romanization is not pinyin, the current international standard, probably a reflection of a decision dating back to the inception of the series in 1948.)


This is a section of the FAQ for alt.archery. It is maintained by Lyn Clark (Lyn@ausbow.com.au). Comments, flames, etc. on the FAQ are welcome and should be directed to Lyn.

(The other FAQs are orphaned, so if you want to take charge of them, e-mail Simon Oosthoek


HomeArticlesFAQ index*


Last modified on Friday December 19, 1997