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A crossbow is a bow with a rifle-like stock that shoots bolts or short arrows.

Crossbow with optical sight

Safe use of a crossbow requires following the safety rules for both firearms and bows.

  • Many states have laws which limit the use of crossbows.
  • Never travel with a loaded, cocked crossbow.
  • Like conventional bows, the crossbow is limited to short-range shooting.

As the bow is shot, the string on a conventional compound bow pushes the arrow more than twice the distance as when a crossbow is shot. Therefore, to produce the same arrow speeds, a crossbow must have more than twice the draw weight of a compound bow.

Because of this much shorter “power stroke” (draw) on the crossbow it must have much heavier limbs. The powerful limbs move a short distance and stop quickly when an arrow is shot. Therefore, the crossbow must have more physical mass than a compound bow to absorb the shock, which otherwise would be transferred to the shooter. This short, heavy power stroke means the crossbow will create more noise when discharged than the conventional compound bow.

range crossbow
In range and power, a crossbow is equivalent to a longbow or compound bow that is about half the crossbow’s draw weight.