It looks easy at a first glance. You lift a crossbow, aim and shoot. But as you may suspect, reality is a bit different. And harder. If you are just getting started, read about the basics and get familiar with a pistol crossbow - an ideal beginner weapon.
Pistol crossbow basics
A crossbow is ranged weapon with a bow-like device mounted horizontally on a main frame called a tiller. The crossbow mechanism allows quick and accurate shooting of bolts.
Pistol crossbows areideal weapons for those who have no prior experience with the weapons. They are suitable for shooting at shorter distances (8-15 m), so you can use them both at a shooting range and in your yard.
Pistol crossbows are combinations of a pistol and a small bow. Compared to compound or recurve crossbows, pistol crossbows are much smaller, and lightweight. They are easy to use, easy to carry and suitable for beginners. The tiller is most often made of metal, while the bow part is made of fiberglass. One of the advantages of pistol crossbows is their easy maintenance.
The draw weight of a pistol crossbow is between 50 - 80 lb. The more expensive and better-quality crossbows have the draw weight of up to 150 lb. Shooting with a pistol crossbow is made easier by means of a quick-release device that helps with drawing of the string.
In some countries, pistol crossbow is used by fishermen, or by hunters for shooting game. Fishermen use steel balls or special fishing bolts with hooks instead of the usual crossbow bolts. In some other countries like the Czech Republic, both of those hunting activities are banned by law.
Pistol crossbows are also used for non-hunting purposes, for example by the military units in Peru, Serbia or America. Soldiers use special bolts with explosives (yes, exactly the type that Rambo used!). Pistol crossbows are also used for silent elimination of snipers.
Choosing the right pistol crossbow
First of all, you need to be clear about the purpose of your crossbow. Are you going to use the crossbow to shoot at a shooting range a few times per year? If so, then maybe you don't need the most expensive type. However, if you want to use the crossbow on a regular basis, it might be a good idea to get a high-quality weapon.
But don't let the price fool you. Even a cheap crossbow can be a quality weapon, and perfect for a beginner.
Things to consider when choosing a crossbow:
- the weight and size of the pistol crossbow - a big muscly man can handle a heavy and robust weapon, while a slender woman is more likely to appreciate a smaller, lightweight model
- the draw weight -force required to draw the bowstring
- type of crossbow bolts suitable for the given crossbow type
- material of the tiller and the bow part
- and the trigger mechanism.
Crossbow shooting essentials
- DO NOT aim at people or animals. You never know when the weapon fires by an accident.
- Always shoot in a safe area, ideally a shooting range or other places designed for using ranged weapons. Bolts can go as fast as 50 m/s (180 km/h) and can penetrate even very hard materials.
- Use the suitable bolts for your particular weapon type – do not try to use non-matching bolts, you could damage your weapon.
- If you need to put your crossbow down, always make sure it is not loaded or cocked.
- Avoid interfering with the string trajectory - keep your fingers away to prevent painful injuries.
- NEVER fire a crossbow without a loaded bolt! “Dry fire” can damage your weapon.
- Crossbows are not toys for children. Make sure to keep it safely away and out of reach of children.
Additional useful rules for using the crossbow
Stand still and steady when shooting. Stand sideways to the target and spread your legs about shoulder-width.
You will get a jerk when firing. With each shot. Don't be alarmed by this, try to stay calm and hit the target. You need to “get a feel” for the trigger because every trigger is unique.
Before you switch to a different crossbow type or model, master your current crossbow first. With some time and practice, you will get the hang of it. And then you will not be surprised by what the weapon does.
Drawing the crossbow string
First of all, check if the crossbow has a cocking device. If not, grasp the bowstring with your fingers and draw the string back until you hear it click firmly in place. If a cocking aid is available, follow the same procedure, using the cocking device.
Then insert a bolt into the crossbow - in the bolt guide groove, with the tip aiming forward. Now the crossbow is loaded, and you can fire it.
Two ways to change the string
Get the new string ready and ask another person to assist you. Because you cannot change the string alone, you need a partner. You want to do the whole process rather quickly.
Put the crossbow with the tiller on the ground so that a bolt (which is, however, not inserted now) would aim towards the ceiling if it were there. Using both hands, push the ends of the limbs down until the string is loose - at this point your partner will remove the string, from one limb and then from the other. Using the reversed process, you will put on the new string, slowly letting the limbs go while watching the string.
If you want to read more about changing the string, check out one of our older articles. We have described an alternative way of changing the crossbow string there. If you are interested in the history of crossbows, read more about its history.