The UK survivalist love affair with the crossbow was inevitable as it’s not licensed, cheap, and seemingly all-powerful. Mainly because of this, myth, and a lack of other options, the UK survivalist has built these poorly performing weapons up into something they’ll never be i.e. good, hard-hitting, tactical weaponry.
There are two types. A simple recurve bow with a single “bow” or prod and the more complex pulley arrangement compound bows. I prefer a simple re-curve type as in the field it is easy to maintain.
Simply put never buy mail order or online, try before you buy.
Stock length, weight, balance, ease of use, recoil, sights, the SAFETY CATCH, are all important things to try out before parting with money.
A lot of people go for the maximum power typically 175lb 80-85kg.
They all think that power is best then find they can hardly load the thing.
A lot of backs get put out by people thinking they are strong and macho enough.
Consider this though.
Can you lift a 13 stone 85kg person lying on the ground by bending over ,grabbing their belt, and lifting?
That’s virtually what you are doing when reloading.
There are aids though.
Cable re-loaders, a cunning medieval device called a goats foot lever and winches /windlasses.
Listed them in order of ease of operation.
The cable re-loader reduces the pull required to load a bow by half. Useful on a 175# bow.
Even then you are still picking up a 6 ½ stone child (42-43 kg).
Without training you can still do a lot of damage to your back (and you only have one of those).
So lets look at some facts about power.
A 150 lb. Entry level recurve crossbow shooting a 10 inch bolt at 245 fps generates a useful:-
40 ft.lbs. with a 300 grain bolt , 53 ft.lbs with a 400 grain bolt.
Sounds impressive doesn’t it but it’s effective range is only 25 yards at the most.
With a 175 lb. bow shooting at 325 fps it’s effective range goes up to 40-44 yards.
That generates about 80 ft.lbs with a 300 grain bolt, 108 ft.lbs with a 400 grain bolt.
Both of which means exactly nothing if you don’t hit the target and forget about a quick reload with both powers.
Being a one shot device, reloading (especially for the slightly built person) takes 15 to 30 seconds with practice and most of that time with you being eyes off the target.
Tactically that is disastrous even if you are taking covert shots.
A second quick safety shot is not very practical. Or, to put it another way, DON’T MISS.
What about practical issues like fire with movement?
- With a crossbow that is 24-27″ wide, diving through a 30 inch doorway would be “interesting”.
- Drop and roll? Not likely. If you lose good string to back of bolt contact the effect can literally be explosive as the shock is way big enough to shatter wood or carbon fibre bolts. With alloy bolts the string can jump the bolt. Again this is disastrous as no load could mean string or prod failure.
- Shoot from behind cover? With difficulty as 13-14 inches of crossbow prod pokes out the corner. That’s not exactly covert.
- Audibility? It’s not silent with a clearly recognizable sound on discharge. It can’t be suppressed in any way.
- Recoil? Yes it does and if you have the wrong stock length, look out for “scope eye” or a smack on the lip. That’s a major consideration and why I said try before you buy.
So what affects accuracy?
Accuracy issues with crossbows are largely down to how you set the string.
Pull the bow-string back off centre by only a 1/16 of an inch (1.5mm) and the elevation will start to vary.
At 20 yards, that can be as much as 3 inch (75mm) of elevation error.
Simple fix (well 90% of the time) is to use a cocking aid.Takes the human element out.
Simple enough, cock the bow, latching the string securely if not automatic, apply the safety catch.
Slide the bolt onto the track and under the spring retainer.
Push the bolt HARD back against the string.
Note with a Moon Nock, you must place the single colour vane into the track.
If you want to use broad head tips, make sure the bolt has at least 5 inches (125mm) long flights on a 18-24″ bolt. Anything less and the bolt tends to fly erratically at long distances.
Care and maintenance of a Crossbow.
- NEVER DRY FIRE A CROSSBOW. You are literally taking your life into your hands as without the load of a correctly sized bolt, strings can break and prods literally explode..
- WATCH FOR FRAYING. If you ignore a fraying string, it could snap. Whilst this might not seem important, it curls round the opposite limb and you get one vicious whip across the face. Eyes have been lost this way.
- LUBRICATE THE STRING. Start of the day, wipe off any excess before shooting BUT AT NIGHT make sure you put it to bed waxed. You can leave the crossbow strung BUT all that load shortens the life and elastic qualities of the string. It can lead to premature failure the first signs being fraying.
- ALWAYS WEAR SHOOTING GLASSES. Wrap round types.
- BOLTS. Always use the manufacturers recommended length and weight, failure to do so could cause string and prod failure.
Although alloy is slow when compared to wood or carbon fiber, it is the least likely to fail, warp, or care about bad storage.
Only use bolts with long flights if you are considering using bladed broad head arrowheads.
Only use fixed head broad heads as the mechanical “spring open” aren’t so effective.
- MAKE SURE the bolt is correctly aligned, straight, and the point secure.
- ANY DAMAGE to a bolt you must reject it.
- SETTING THE STRING. Always use a cocking aid. Hand loading introduces inaccuracy.
- NEVER COCK AND LOAD before you are ready to shoot. You’re holding a lethal weapon.
- DON’T TRUST THE SAFETY CATCH.
Bow String care
I cannot stress enough how important looking after the bow string is.
You must be aware of any fraying and act IMMEDIATELY to change the string.
To change a string, use a cord at per the sketch below and your foot.
Always fit new end caps when fitting a new string.
Use plenty of string wax. It prevents wear and fraying but wipe the excess off BEFORE firing.
Concentrate on the latch point (aka sear). This 3/8″ (10mm) area GETS HAMMERED big time.
Don’t forget, put it to bed waxed and if you are NOT goingto use the bow for a while, unstring it.
Long term assembly eventually causes loss of elasticity of the string with fraying being a good indicator of this effect.
Finally my personal thoughts.
A crossbow may pack a punch but it is slow and cumbersome.
It requires a lot of training and body strength
It’s rate of fire is abysmal and should only be considered an ambush weapon.
Against multiple assailants it isn’t even useful as a good cosh.