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A crossbow is a
ranged weapon A ranged weapon is any weapon A weapon, arm or armament is any implement or device that can be used with the intent to inflict physical damage or harm. Weapons are used to increase the efficacy and efficiency of activities such as hunting ...
using an elastic launching device consisting of a
bow Bow often refers to: * Bow and arrow The bow and arrow is a ranged weapon A ranged weapon is any weapon A weapon, arm or armament is any implement or device that can be used with the intent to inflict physical damage or harm. Weapons ar ...
-like assembly called a ''prod'', mounted horizontally on a main frame called a ''tiller'', which is hand-held in a similar fashion to the
stock In finance, stock (also capital stock) consists of all of the shares In financial markets A financial market is a market in which people trade financial securities and derivatives at low transaction costs. Some of the securities i ...
of a
long firearm
long firearm
. Crossbows shoot
arrow An arrow is a fin-stabilized projectile launched by a bow and arrow, bow. A typical arrow usually consists of a long, stiff, straight ''shaft'' with a weighty (and usually sharp and pointed) ''arrowhead'' attached to the front end, multiple fi ...

arrow
-like
projectile A projectile is a missile propelled by the exertion of a which is allowed to move free under the influence of and . Although any objects in motion through space are projectiles, they are commonly found in and s (for example, a thrown , kicked ...

projectile
s called '' bolts'' or ''quarrels''. A person who shoots crossbow is called a ''
crossbowman An arbalist, also spelled arbelist, is one who shoots a crossbow A crossbow is a ranged weapon using an elastic launching device similar to a bow; it consists of a bow-like assembly called a ''prod'', mounted horizontally on a main frame cal ...
'' or an '' arbalist'' (after the
arbalest The arbalest (also arblast) was a late variation of the crossbow coming into use in Europe during the 12th century. A large weapon, the arbalest had a steel prod ("bow"). Since the arbalest was much larger than earlier crossbows, and because of t ...
, a European crossbow variant used during the
12th century The 12th century is the period from to in accordance with the . In the history of European culture, this period is considered part of the and is sometimes called the Age of the s. The experienced a significant development, particularly ...
). Although crossbows and bows use the same launch principle, the difference is that an archer must maintain a bow's
draw Draw, drawing, draws, or drawn may refer to: Common uses * Draw (terrain), a terrain feature formed by two parallel ridges or spurs with low ground in between them * Drawing (manufacturing), a process where metal, glass, or plastic or anything e ...
manually by pitching the bowstring with fingers, pulling it back with arm and back muscles and then holding that same
form Form is the shape A shape or figure is the form of an object or its external boundary, outline, or external Surface (mathematics), surface, as opposed to other properties such as color, Surface texture, texture, or material type. A plane shape, ...
in order to aim (which distresses the body and demands significant
physical strength Physical strength is the measure of a human Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are the most populous and widespread species of primates, characterized by bipedality, opposable thumbs, hairlessness, and intelligence allowing the use of culture, langua ...
and
stamina
stamina
); while a crossbow utilizes a locking mechanism to maintain the draw, limiting the shooter's exertion to only pulling the string into lock and then releasing the shot via depressing a lever/
trigger Trigger may refer to: Notable animals and people * Trigger (horse), owned by cowboy star Roy Rogers * Trigger Alpert (1916–2013), American jazz bassist * Bruce Trigger (1937–2006), Canadian archaeologist * Damon Trigger (born 1972), New Zealand ...
. This not only enables a crossbowman to handle stronger draw weight, but also to hold for longer with significantly less physical strain, thus potentially achieving better precision. Historically, crossbows played a significant role in the warfare of
East Asia East Asia is the eastern region of Asia, which is defined in both Geography, geographical and culture, ethno-cultural terms. The modern State (polity), states of East Asia include China, Japan, Mongolia, North Korea, South Korea, and Taiwan. ...

East Asia
and
Europe Europe is a continent A continent is any of several large landmass A landmass, or land mass, is a large region In geography Geography (from Greek: , ''geographia'', literally "earth description") is a field of scienc ...

Europe
. The earliest known crossbows were invented in the first millennium BC, not later than the 7th century BC in
ancient China The earliest known written records of the history of China date from as early as 1250 BC, from the Shang dynasty The Shang dynasty (), also historically known as the Yin dynasty (), was a Chinese dynasty Dynasties in Chinese h ...
, not later than the 1st century AD in Greece (as the
gastraphetes The gastraphetes ( grc, γαστραφέτης, , belly-releaser) was a hand-held crossbow A crossbow is a ranged weapon using an elastic launching device similar to a bow; it consists of a bow-like assembly called a ''prod'', mounted horizon ...

gastraphetes
). Crossbows brought about a major shift in the role of projectile weaponry in wars, such as during Qin's unification wars and later the Han campaigns against northern nomads and western states. The medieval European crossbow was called by many names, including "crossbow" itself; most of these names derived from the word ''
ballista The ballista (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roma ...

ballista
'', an
ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language Greek ( el, label=Modern Greek Modern Greek (, , or , ''Kiní Neoellinikí Glóssa''), generally referred to by speakers simply as Greek (, ), refers collectively to the diale ...
torsion
siege engine A siege engine is a device that is designed to break or circumvent heavy castle doors, thick city wall A defensive wall is a fortification A fortification is a military construction or building designed for the defense of territories i ...
similar in appearance but different in design principle. The traditional
bow and arrow The bow and arrow is a ranged weapon A ranged weapon is any weapon A weapon, arm or armament is any implement or device that can be used with the intent to inflict physical damage or harm. Weapons are used to increase the efficacy and eff ...

bow and arrow
had long been a specialized
weapon A weapon, arm or armament is any implement or device that can be used with the intent to inflict physical damage or harm. Weapons are used to increase the efficacy and efficiency of activities such as hunting, crime, law enforcement, self-defe ...
that required considerable training, physical strength, and expertise to operate with any degree of practical efficiency. Many cultures treated
archer Archery is the art, sport, practice, or skill of using a bow to shoot arrows.Paterson ''Encyclopaedia of Archery'' p. 17 The word comes from the Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic ...

archer
s as a separate and superior warrior caste, despite usually being drawn from the
common Common may refer to: Places * Common, a townland in County Tyrone County Tyrone (; ) is one of the thirty-two counties of Ireland Ireland (; ga, Éire ; Ulster Scots dialect, Ulster-Scots: ) is an island in the North Atlantic Ocean, ...
class, as their
archery Archery is the art, sport, practice, or skill of using a bow Bow often refers to: * Bow and arrow, a weapon * Bowing, bending the upper body as a social gesture * An ornamental knot made of ribbon Bow may also refer to: Boats * Bow (sh ...

archery
skill-set was essentially trained and strengthened from early childhood (similar to many
cavalry Historically, cavalry (from the French word ''cavalerie'', itself derived from "cheval" meaning "horse") are soldier A soldier is a person who is a member of a professional army An army (from Latin ''arma'' "arms, weapons" via O ...

cavalry
-oriented cultures) and was impossible to reproduce outside a pre-established cultural tradition, which many cultures lacked. In contrast, the crossbow was the first ranged weapon to be simple, cheap and physically undemanding enough to be operated by large numbers of untrained
conscript Conscription, sometimes called the draft in the United States, is the mandatory enlistment of people in a national service, most often a military service. Conscription dates back to Ancient history, antiquity and it continues in some countries to ...
soldiers, thus enabling virtually any military body to field a potent force of crossbowmen with little expense beyond the cost of the weapons themselves. In modern times,
firearm A firearm is any type of gun A gun is a ranged weapon designed to use a shooting tube ( gun barrel) to launch typically solid projectiles, but can also project pressurized liquid (e.g. water guns/ cannons, spray guns for painting ...
s have largely supplanted bows and crossbows as weapons of warfare. However, crossbows still remain widely used for competitive
shooting sport Shooting sports is a group of competitive Competition arises whenever two or more parties strive for a common goal A goal is an idea of the future or desired result that a person or a group of people envision, Planning, plan and commit ...
s and hunting, or for relatively silent shooting. It is possible to turn at least some store-bought bows into a crossbow. It is done by marrying a stock-and-trigger system to a bow.


Terminology

A crossbowman or crossbow-maker is sometimes called an ''arbalista'', ''arbalist'' or ''arbalest''. The latter two are also used to refer to the crossbow. ''Arrow'', ''bolt'' and ''quarrel'' are all suitable terms for crossbow projectiles. The ''lath'', also called the ''prod'', is the bow of the crossbow. According to W.F. Peterson, the ''prod'' came into usage in the 19th century as a result of mistranslating ''rodd'' in a 16th-century list of crossbow effects. The ''stock'' is the wooden body on which the bow is mounted, although the medieval ''tiller'' is also used. The ''lock'' refers to the release mechanism, including the string, sears, trigger lever, and housing.


Construction

A crossbow is essentially a
bow Bow often refers to: * Bow and arrow The bow and arrow is a ranged weapon A ranged weapon is any weapon A weapon, arm or armament is any implement or device that can be used with the intent to inflict physical damage or harm. Weapons ar ...
mounted on an elongated frame (called a tiller or stock) with a built-in mechanism that holds the drawn
bow string A bowstring joins the two ends of the bow stave and launches the arrow s and nock. An arrow is a fin-stabilized projectile launched by a bow. A typical arrow usually consists of a long, stiff, straight ''shaft'' with a weighty (and usually ...
, as well as a
trigger Trigger may refer to: Notable animals and people * Trigger (horse), owned by cowboy star Roy Rogers * Trigger Alpert (1916–2013), American jazz bassist * Bruce Trigger (1937–2006), Canadian archaeologist * Damon Trigger (born 1972), New Zealand ...
mechanism that allows the string to be released.


Chinese vertical trigger lock

The Chinese trigger was a complex mechanism typically composed of three
cast Cast may refer to: Music * Cast (band) Cast are an English indie rock band formed in Liverpool Liverpool is a City status in the United Kingdom, city and metropolitan borough in Merseyside, England. Its population in 2019 was approxim ...
bronze Bronze is an alloy An alloy is an admixture of metal A metal (from Ancient Greek, Greek μέταλλον ''métallon'', "mine, quarry, metal") is a material that, when freshly prepared, polished, or fractured, shows a lustrous appear ...

bronze
pieces
house A house is a single-unit residential building A building, or edifice, is a structure with a roof and walls standing more or less permanently in one place, such as a house or factory. Buildings come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and functio ...
d inside a hollow bronze enclosure. The entire mechanism is then dropped into a carved slot within the tiller and secured together by two bronze rods. The string catch (nut) is shaped like a "J" because it usually have a tall erect rear spine that protrudes above the housing, which serves the function of both a cocking lever (by pushing the drawn string onto it) and a primitive rear sight. It is held stationary against tension by the second piece, which is shaped like a flattened "C" and acts as the sear. The sear cannot move as it is trapped by the third piece, i.e. the actual trigger blade, which hangs vertically below the enclosure and catches the sear via a notch. The two
bearing surfaceA bearing surface in mechanical engineering Mechanical engineering is an engineering Engineering is the use of scientific method, scientific principles to design and build machines, structures, and other items, including bridges, tunnels, ...
s between the three trigger pieces each offers a
mechanical advantage Mechanical advantage is a measure of the force In physics, a force is an influence that can change the motion (physics), motion of an Physical object, object. A force can cause an object with mass to change its velocity (e.g. moving from a N ...
, which allow for handling significant draw weights with a much smaller pull weight. During shooting, the user will hold the crossbow at eye level by a vertical handle and aim along the arrow using the sighting spine for
elevation The elevation of a geographic Geography (from Ancient Greek, Greek: , ''geographia'', literally "earth description") is a field of science devoted to the study of the lands, features, inhabitants, and phenomena of the Earth and Solar Sy ...
, similar to how a modern
rifleman A rifleman is an infantry soldier armed with a rifling, rifled long gun. Although the rifleman role had its origin with 16th century hand cannoneers and 17th century musketeers, the term originated in the 18th century with the introduction o ...

rifleman
shoots with
iron sights Iron sights are a system of physical alignment markers (usually made of metal A metal (from Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, ...
. When the trigger blade is pulled, its notch disengages from the sear and allows the latter to drop downwards, which in turn frees up the nuts to pivot forward and release the bowstring.


European rolling nut lock

The earliest European designs featured a transverse slot in the top surface of the frame, down into which the string was placed. To shoot this design, a vertical rod is thrust up through a hole in the bottom of the notch, forcing the string out. This rod is usually attached perpendicular to a rear-facing lever called a ''tickler''. A later design implemented a rolling cylindrical pawl called a ''nut'' to retain the string. This nut has a perpendicular centre slot for the bolt, and an intersecting axial slot for the string, along with a lower face or slot against which the internal trigger sits. They often also have some form of strengthening internal ''sear'' or trigger face, usually of metal. These ''roller nuts'' were either free-floating in their close-fitting hole across the stock, tied in with a binding of sinew or other strong cording; or mounted on a metal axle or pins. Removable or integral plates of wood, ivory, or metal on the sides of the stock kept the nut in place laterally. Nuts were made of antler, bone, or metal. Bows could be kept taut and ready to shoot for some time with little physical straining, allowing crossbowmen to aim better without fatiguing.


Bow

Chinese crossbow bows were made of composite material from the start. European crossbows from the 10th to 12th centuries used wood for the bow, also called the ''prod'' or ''lath'', which tended to be
ash Ash or ashes are the solid remnants of fire BBQ. Fire is the rapid oxidation of a material in the exothermic chemical process of combustion, releasing heat, light, and various reaction Product (chemistry), products. Fire is hot because th ...
or
yew Yew is a common name given to various species of trees. The name is most prominently given to any of various coniferous Conifers are a group of cone-bearing seed plants The spermatophytes (; ), also known as phanerogams (taxon Phanerogamae ...

yew
. Composite bows started appearing in Europe during the 13th century and could be made from layers of different material, often wood, horn, and sinew glued together and bound with animal tendon. These composite bows made of several layers are much stronger and more efficient in releasing energy than simple wooden bows. As steel became more widely available in Europe around the 14th century, steel prods came into use. Traditionally, the prod was often lashed to the stock with rope,
whipcordWhipcord is the name for either a fabric or a form of braided cord. Fabric The fabric whipcord is a strong worsted or cotton Cotton is a soft, fluffy staple fiber that grows in a boll, or protective case, around the seeds of the cotton pl ...
, or other strong cording. This cording is called the ''
bridle A bridle is a piece of equipment used to direct a horse. As defined in the ''Oxford English Dictionary'', the "bridle" includes both the that holds a Bit (horse), bit that goes in the mouth of a horse, and the reins that are attached to the bit. ...

bridle
''.


Spanning mechanism

The Chinese used
winch A winch is a mechanical device that is used to pull in (wind up) or let out (wind out) or otherwise adjust the tension (physics), tension of a rope or wire rope (also called "cable" or "wire cable"). In its simplest form, it consists of a Bobbi ...

winch
es for large crossbows mounted on
fortification A fortification is a military construction or building designed for the defense of territories in warfare, and is also used to establish rule in a region during peacetime. The term is derived from Latin ''fortis'' ("strong") and ''facere'' ( ...

fortification
s or
wagon A wagon or waggon is a heavy four-wheeled pulled by s or on occasion by humans, used for ing , commodities, agricultural materials, supplies and sometimes people. Wagons are immediately distinguished from s (which have two wheels) and from l ...

wagon
s, known as "bedded crossbows" (床弩). Winches may have been used for handheld crossbows during the
Han dynasty#REDIRECT Han dynasty The Han dynasty () was the second Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China (202 BC – 220 AD), established by the rebel leader Liu Bang and ruled by the House of Liu. Preceded by the short-lived Qin dynas ...

Han dynasty
, but there is only one known depiction of it. The ''
Wujing Zongyao The ''Wujing Zongyao'' (), sometimes rendered in English as the ''Complete Essentials for the Military Classics'', is a Chinese military compendium written from around 1040 to 1044. The book was compiled during the Northern Song dynasty by Zen ...
'' mentions types of crossbows using winch mechanisms, but it is not known if these were actually handheld crossbows or mounted crossbows. Another drawing method involved the shooters sitting on the ground, and using the combined strength of leg, waist, back and arm muscles to help span much heavier crossbows, which were aptly called "waist-spun crossbows" (腰張弩). During the
Medieval period In the history of Europe The history of Europe concerns itself with the discovery and collection, the study, organization and presentation and the interpretation of past events and affairs of the people of Europe since the beginning of ...
, both Chinese and European crossbows used
stirrup A stirrup is a light frame or ring that holds the foot of a rider, attached to the saddle The saddle is a supportive structure for a rider of an animal, fastened to an animal's back by a girth Girth may refer to: ;Mathematics * Girth ( ...

stirrup
s as well as
belt hook The belt hook is a device for fastening that predates the belt buckle. The earliest archaeological evidence of belt hooks date to the 7th century BCE, in East Asia. Belt hooks were made with bronze, iron, gold, and jade. Texts from Warring States ...
s. In the
13th century The 13th century was the which lasted from January 1, () through December 31, () in accordance with the . The term is often used to refer to the 1200s, the century between 1200 and 1299. The was founded by , which stretched from to . The ...
European crossbows started using winches, and from the 14th century an assortment of spanning mechanisms such as winch pulleys, cord pulleys, gaffles (such as gaffe levers, goat's foot levers, and rarer internal lever-action mechanisms), cranequins, and even screws. File:Eastern Han Battle Scene on Brick (9873154043).jpg, Battle scene depicting a man spanning a crossbow using a winch mechanism, possibly mounted on a frame,
Han dynasty#REDIRECT Han dynasty The Han dynasty () was the second Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China (202 BC – 220 AD), established by the rebel leader Liu Bang and ruled by the House of Liu. Preceded by the short-lived Qin dynas ...

Han dynasty
File:Northern song Cavalry.jpg,
Song dynasty The Song dynasty (; ; 960–1279) was an imperial dynasty of China that began in 960 and lasted until 1279. The dynasty was founded by Emperor Taizu of Song Emperor Taizu of Song (21 March 927 – 14 November 976), personal name Zhao Kua ...
cavalry wielding crossbows with stirrups File:The Martyrdom of St Sebastian (detail).jpg, Fifteenth century crossbowman using a stirrup along with a belt hook and pulley File:05-043.png, Detailed illustration of a goat's foot lever mounted on a crossbow that is half-spanned File:Armborst 2, Nordisk familjebok.png, Illustration of a gaffe lever mounted on a crossbow that is nearly at full-span. File:CAH 0153r.png, Illustrations of Leonardo da Vinci's rapid fire crossbow in the 15th Century
Codex Atlanticus The Codex Atlanticus (Atlantic Codex) is a 12-volume, bound set of drawings and writings (in Italian) by Leonardo da Vinci Leonardo da Vinci (15 April 14522 May 1519) was an Italian polymath of the High Renaissance In art history, th ...

Codex Atlanticus
. Note the internal lever mechanism is fully extended to catch the draw string. File:Balester 2.jpg, Internal mechanics illustration of a Balester hunting crossbow's self-spanning mechanism File:Armborst 4, Nordisk familjebok.png, Twentieth century depiction of a
windlass The windlass is an apparatus for moving heavy weights. Typically, a windlass consists of a horizontal cylinder (barrel), which is rotated by the turn of a crank or belt. A winch Front of a MAN SE, MAN-based fire engine with a built-in winch, ...
pulley File:Altarpiece of St Sebastian (detail).jpg, Fifteenth century crossbowman using a cranequin (rack & pinion) File:HJRK A 2269 - Crossbow windlass, late 15th century.jpg, Iron cranequin, South German, late 15th century


Variants

The smallest crossbows are pistol crossbows. Others are simple long stocks with the crossbow mounted on them. These could be shot from under the arm. The next step in development was stocks of the shape that would later be used for firearms, which allowed better aiming. The
arbalest The arbalest (also arblast) was a late variation of the crossbow coming into use in Europe during the 12th century. A large weapon, the arbalest had a steel prod ("bow"). Since the arbalest was much larger than earlier crossbows, and because of t ...
was a heavy crossbow that required special systems for pulling the sinew via windlasses. For
siege warfare A siege is a military A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force primarily intended for warfare War is an intense armed conflict between State (polity), states, government ...
, the size of crossbows was further increased to hurl large projectiles, such as rocks, at fortifications. The required crossbows needed a massive base frame and powerful windlass devices. File:Zhugenu-springautumn.jpg, Double shot repeating crossbow, also known as the Chu state
repeating crossbow The repeating crossbow () is a Chinese crossbow that was invented during the Warring States period, and remained in use until the late Qing dynasty The Qing dynasty, officially the Great Qing (), was the last History of China#Imperial Chi ...
(''chuguo nu'') File:Two-bow crossbow wjzy.jpg, Mounted double bow crossbow File:Chuangzi Nu1.jpg, Mounted triple bow crossbow File:Liannu.jpg, Multi-bolt crossbow without a visible nut or cocking aid File:Gastraphetes - catapult ancestor - antica catapulta.jpg, Cocking of a Greek ''
gastraphetes The gastraphetes ( grc, γαστραφέτης, , belly-releaser) was a hand-held crossbow A crossbow is a ranged weapon using an elastic launching device similar to a bow; it consists of a bow-like assembly called a ''prod'', mounted horizon ...

gastraphetes
'' File:Roman crossbow. Pic 02.jpg, Gallo-Roman crossbow File:B Osma 85v.jpg, Earliest European depiction of cavalry using crossbows, from the
Catalan Catalan may refer to: Catalonia From, or related to Catalonia: * Catalan language, a Romance language * Catalans, an ethnic group formed by the people from, or with origins in, Catalonia * Països Catalans, territories where Catalan is spoken * C ...

Catalan
manuscript ''Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse'', 1086. File:Martyrium of Saint Sebastian. Pic 03.jpg,
Late medieval The Late Middle Ages or Late Medieval Period was the period of European history lasting from AD 1250 to 1500. The Late Middle Ages followed the High Middle Ages The High Middle Ages, or High Medieval Period, was the periodization, period of ...
crossbowman from ca. 1480 File:FrenchCrossbowMan.JPG, 15th-century French soldier carrying an
arbalest The arbalest (also arblast) was a late variation of the crossbow coming into use in Europe during the 12th century. A large weapon, the arbalest had a steel prod ("bow"). Since the arbalest was much larger than earlier crossbows, and because of t ...
and a
pavise A (or ) was an oblong shield A shield is a piece of personal armour held in the hand, which may or may not be strapped to the wrist or forearm. Shields are used to intercept specific attacks, whether from melee weapon, close-ranged weaponry o ...

pavise
File:Balestra Veloce.jpg, A reconstruction of Leonardo da Vinci's rapid fire crossbow as shown at the World of Leonardo Exhibition in Milan. File:Ballista-quadrirotis.jpeg, Early modern four-wheeled
ballista The ballista (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roma ...

ballista
drawn by armored horses (1552) File:FrenchMountedCrossbowman.JPG, 16th-century French mounted crossbowman (''cranequinier''). His crossbow is drawn with a rack-and-pinion ''cranequin'', so it can be used while riding. File:Crossbow pistol IMG 3841.jpg, Pistol crossbow for home recreational shooting. Made by Frédéric Siber in Morges, early 19th century, on display at Morges military museum. File:French cross-bow grenade thrower Arbalète sauterelle type A d'Imphy circa 1915.jpg, French cross-bow grenade thrower Arbalète sauterelle type A d'Imphy, circa 1915


Projectiles

The arrow-like projectiles of a crossbow are called crossbow bolts. These are usually much shorter than arrows, but can be several times heavier. There is an optimum weight for bolts to achieve maximum kinetic energy, which varies depending on the strength and characteristics of the crossbow, but most could pass through common mail. Crossbow bolts can be fitted with a variety of heads, some with sickle-shaped heads to cut rope or rigging; but the most common today is a four-sided point called a quarrel. A highly specialized type of bolt is employed to collect blubber biopsy samples used in biology research. Even relatively small differences in arrow weight can have a considerable impact on its drop and, conversely, its flight trajectory.


Accessories

The ancient Chinese crossbow often included a metal (i.e. bronze or steel) grid serving as
iron sights Iron sights are a system of physical alignment markers (usually made of metal A metal (from Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, ...
. Modern crossbow sights often use similar technology to modern firearm sights, such as
red dot sight View through Tasco ProPoint ''red dot sight'' (model PDP2ST) on a Ruger 10/22. Made in Japan for Tasco, the ProPoint 2 was one of the first red dot sight models to become widely popular. A red dot sight is a common classification for a type of n ...
s and
telescopic sight A telescopic sight, commonly called a scope for short, is an optical Optics is the branch of physics Physics is the natural science that studies matter, its Elementary particle, fundamental constituents, its Motion (physics), moti ...
s. Many crossbow scopes feature multiple crosshairs to compensate for the significant effects of
gravity Gravity (), or gravitation, is a by which all things with or —including s, s, , and even —are attracted to (or ''gravitate'' toward) one another. , gravity gives to s, and the causes the s of the oceans. The gravitational attracti ...

gravity
over different ranges. In most cases, a newly bought crossbow will need to be sighted for accurate shooting. A major cause of the sound of shooting a crossbow is vibration of various components. Crossbow silencers are multiple components placed on high vibration parts, such as the string and limbs, to dampen vibration and suppress the sound of loosing the bolt.


History


China

In terms of archaeological evidence, crossbow locks made of cast bronze have been found in China dating to around 650 BC. They have also been found in Tombs 3 and 12 at
Qufu Qufu ( ; ) is a city in southwestern Shandong Shandong (; alternately romanized as Shantung) is a coastal province A province is almost always an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , ...
,
Shandong Shandong (; alternately romanized as Shantung) is a coastal province A province is almost always an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, administrative region, subn ...

Shandong
, previously the capital of Lu, and date to the 6th century BC. Bronze crossbow bolts dating from the mid-5th century BC have been found at a
Chu Chu or CHU may refer to: Chinese history * Chu (state) (c. 1030 BC–223 BC), a state during the Zhou dynasty * Western Chu (206 BC–202 BC), a state founded and ruled by Xiang Yu * Chu Kingdom (Han dynasty) (201 BC–70 AD), a kingdom of the Han ...
burial site in Yutaishan,
Jiangling County Jiangling () is a county in southern Hubei Hubei (; ; alternately Hupeh) is a landlocked province A province is almost always an administrative division within a country or state. The term derives from the ancient Roman '' provincia'', ...
,
Hubei Hubei (; ; alternately Hupeh) is a landlocked province A province is almost always an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, administrative region, subnational entity ...

Hubei
Province. Other early finds of crossbows were discovered in Tomb 138 at Saobatang,
Hunan Hunan (, ; ) is a landlocked province A province is almost always an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, administrative region, subnational entity, first-level subdi ...

Hunan
Province, and date to the mid-4th century BC. It is possible that these early crossbows used spherical pellets for ammunition. A Western-Han mathematician and music theorist,
Jing FangJing Fang (, 78–37 BC), born Li Fang (), courtesy name Junming (), was born in present-day 東郡頓丘 ( Puyang, Henan) during the Han Dynasty The Han dynasty () was the second Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China (2 ...
(78–37 BC), compared the moon to the shape of a round crossbow bullet.Needham, Joseph (1986). ''Science and Civilization in China: Volume 3, Mathematics and the Sciences of the Heavens and the Earth''. Taipei: Caves Books Ltd, p. 227. The ''
ZhuangziZhuangzi may refer to: *Zhuangzi (book), ''Zhuangzi'' (book) (莊子), an ancient Chinese collection of anecdotes and fables, one of the foundational texts of Daoism **Zhuang Zhou (莊周), the historical figure known as "Master Zhuang" ("Zhuangzi") ...
'' also mentions crossbow bullets. The earliest Chinese documents mentioning a crossbow were texts from the 4th to 3rd centuries BC attributed to the followers of
Mozi Mozi (; ; Latinized Latinisation or Latinization can refer to: * Latinisation of names, the practice of rendering a non-Latin name in a Latin style * Latinisation in the Soviet Union, the campaign in the USSR during the 1920s and 1930s to r ...

Mozi
. This source refers to the use of a giant crossbow between the 6th and 5th centuries BC, corresponding to the late
Spring and Autumn Period #REDIRECT Spring and Autumn period#REDIRECT Spring and Autumn period The Spring and Autumn period was a period in Chinese history The earliest known written records of the history of China date from as early as 1250 BC, from the Shang dyna ...
.
Sun Tzu Sun Tzu ( ; zh, t=孫子, p=Sūnzǐ) was a Chinese general, military strategist A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force primarily intended for warfare. It is typically officially a ...
's ''
The Art of War ''The Art of War'' () is an ancient List of Chinese military texts, Chinese military treatise dating from the Late Spring and Autumn Period (roughly 5th century BC). The work, which is attributed to the ancient Chinese military strategist Su ...
'' (first appearance dated between 500 BC to 300 BC) refers to the characteristics and use of crossbows in chapters 5 and 12 respectively, and compares a drawn crossbow to "might". The ''
Huainanzi The ''Huainanzi'' is an ancient Chinese text that consists of a collection of essays that resulted from a series of scholarly debates held at the court of Liu An, Prince of Huainan, sometime before 139. The ''Huainanzi'' blends Daoist, Confucia ...
'' advises its readers not to use crossbows in marshland where the surface is soft and it is hard to arm the crossbow with the foot. The ''
Records of the Grand Historian The ''Records of the Grand Historian'', also known by its Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dep ...

Records of the Grand Historian
'', completed in 94 BC, mentions that
Sun Bin Sun Bin (died 316 BC) was a Chinese general, Military strategy, military strategist, and writer who lived during the Warring States period of History of China, Chinese history. A supposed descendant of Sun Tzu, Sun was tutored in military stra ...

Sun Bin
defeated
Pang Juan Pang Juan (died 342 BC) was an ancient Chinese military general of the Wei state during the Warring States period The Warring States period () was an era in ancient Chinese history characterized by warfare, as well as bureaucratic and milita ...
by ambushing him with a body of crossbowmen at the
Battle of Maling The Battle of Maling () took place in Maling, currently Dazhangjia Town (), Shen County (), Henan Province Henan (; alternatively Honan) is a landlocked province of China, in the central part of the country. Henan is often referred to a ...

Battle of Maling
in 342 BC. The ''
Book of Han The ''Book of Han'' or ''History of the Former Han'' is a history of China The earliest known written records of the history of China date from as early as 1250 BC, from the Shang dynasty The Shang dynasty (), also historically ...
'', finished 111 AD, lists two military treatises on crossbows. Handheld crossbows with complex bronze trigger mechanisms have also been found with the
Terracotta Army The Terracotta Army is a collection of sculptures depicting the armies of , the first . It is a form of buried with the emperor in 210–209 BCE with the purpose of protecting the emperor in his afterlife. The figures, dating from approximat ...

Terracotta Army
in the tomb of
Qin Shihuang Qin Shi Huang (, ; 18 February 25910 September 210) was the founder of the Qin dynasty and the first emperor of a unified China. From 247 to 221 BC he was Zheng, King of Qin (, ''Qín Wáng Zhèng'', personal name 嬴政 ''Yíng Zhèng'' or ...
(r. 221–210 BC) that are similar to specimens from the subsequent
Han Dynasty#REDIRECT Han dynasty The Han dynasty () was the second Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China (202 BC – 220 AD), established by the rebel leader Liu Bang and ruled by the House of Liu. Preceded by the short-lived Qin dynas ...

Han Dynasty
(202 BC–220 AD), while crossbowmen described in the Qin and Han Dynasty learned drill formations, some were even mounted as charioteers and cavalry units, and Han Dynasty writers attributed the success of numerous battles against the Xiongnu and
Western Regions The Western Regions or Xiyu (Hsi-yu; ) was a historical name specified in the Chinese chronicles between the 3rd century BC to the 8th century AD that referred to the regions west of Yumen Pass, most often Central Asia or sometimes more speci ...
city-state A city-state is an independent sovereign Sovereign is a title which can be applied to the highest leader in various categories. The word is borrowed from Old French Old French (, , ; Modern French French ( or ) is a Romance la ...
s to massed crossbow volleys. The bronze triggers were designed in such a way that they were able to store a large amount of energy within the bow when drawn, but was easily shot with little resistance and recoil when the trigger were pulled. The trigger nut also had a long vertical spine that could be used like a primitive rear sight for
elevation The elevation of a geographic Geography (from Ancient Greek, Greek: , ''geographia'', literally "earth description") is a field of science devoted to the study of the lands, features, inhabitants, and phenomena of the Earth and Solar Sy ...
adjustment, which allowed precision shooting over longer distances. The Qin/Han-era crossbow was also an early example of
modular design Modular design, or modularity Broadly speaking, modularity is the degree to which a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, surr ...
, as the bronze trigger components were also mass-produced with relative precise tolerances so that the parts are interchangeable between different crossbows. The trigger mechanism from one crossbow can be installed into another simply by dropping into a tiller slot of the same specifications and secured with
dowel pin A dowel is a cylindrical wikt:rod, rod, usually made from wood, plastic, or metal. In its original manufactured form, a dowel is called a ''dowel rod''. Dowel rods are often cut into short lengths called ''dowel pins''. Dowels are commonly used as ...
s. Some crossbow designs were also found to be fitted with bronze buttplates and
trigger guard A trigger guard is a protective loop surrounding the trigger Trigger may refer to: Notable animals and people * Trigger (horse), owned by cowboy star Roy Rogers * Trigger Alpert (1916–2013), American jazz bassist * Bruce Trigger (1937–2006), C ...
. It is clear from surviving inventory lists in
Gansu Gansu (, ; alternately romanized as Kansu) is a landlocked province A province is almost always an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, administrative region, subnatio ...

Gansu
and
Xinjiang Xinjiang (),, SASM/GNC: ''Xinjang''; zh, c=, p=Xīnjiāng; alternately romanized as Sinkiang officially the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region (XUAR) and formerly romanized as Sinkiang, is a landlocked autonomous region An autonomous ...

Xinjiang
that the crossbow was greatly favored by the Han dynasty. For example, in one batch of slips there are only two mentions of bows, but thirty mentions of crossbows. Crossbows were mass-produced in state armories with designs improving as time went on, such as the use of a mulberry wood stock and brass; a crossbow in 1068 could pierce a tree at 140 paces. Crossbows were used in numbers as large as 50,000 starting from the Qin dynasty and upwards of several hundred thousand during the Han. According to one authority, the crossbow had become "nothing less than the standard weapon of the Han armies", by the second century BC. Han soldiers were required to pull a crossbow with a draw weight equivalent of to qualify as an entry level crossbowman, while it was claimed that a few elite troops were capable of bending crossbows by the hands-and-feet method, with a draw-weight in excess of 750lb. After the Han dynasty, the crossbow lost favor during the
Six Dynasties __NOTOC__ Six Dynasties (; 220–589 or 222–589) is a collective term for six Han Han may refer to: Ethnic groups * Han Chinese The Han Chinese,
until it experienced a mild resurgence during the
Tang dynasty The Tang dynasty (, ; ), or Tang Empire, was an imperial dynasty of China that ruled from 618 to 907, with an interregnum An interregnum (plural interregna or interregnums) is a period of discontinuity or "gap" in a government, organiza ...
, under which the ideal expeditionary army of 20,000 included 2,200 archers and 2,000 crossbowmen. Li Jing and Li Quan prescribed 20 percent of the infantry to be armed with crossbows. During the
Song dynasty The Song dynasty (; ; 960–1279) was an imperial dynasty of China that began in 960 and lasted until 1279. The dynasty was founded by Emperor Taizu of Song Emperor Taizu of Song (21 March 927 – 14 November 976), personal name Zhao Kua ...
, the crossbow received a huge upsurge in military usage, and often overshadowed the bow 2 to 1 in numbers. During this time period, a
stirrup A stirrup is a light frame or ring that holds the foot of a rider, attached to the saddle The saddle is a supportive structure for a rider of an animal, fastened to an animal's back by a girth Girth may refer to: ;Mathematics * Girth ( ...

stirrup
was added for ease of loading. The Song government attempted to restrict the public use of crossbows and sought ways to keep both
body armor Body armor, also known as body armour, personal armor/armour, or a suit/coat of armour, is protective clothing designed to absorb or deflect physical attacks. Historically used to protect military personnel Military personnel are members of the ...
s and crossbows out of civilian ownership. Despite the ban on certain types of crossbows, the weapon experienced an upsurge in civilian usage as both a hunting weapon and pastime. The "romantic young people from rich families, and others who had nothing particular to do" formed crossbow shooting clubs as a way to pass time. During the late
Ming dynasty The Ming dynasty (), officially the Great Ming, was the Dynasties in Chinese history, ruling dynasty of China from 1368 to 1644 following the collapse of the Mongol Empire, Mongol-led Yuan dynasty. The Ming dynasty was the last imperial dynas ...

Ming dynasty
, no crossbows were mentioned to have been produced in the three-year period from 1619 to 1622. With 21,188,366 taels, the Ming manufactured 25,134 cannons, 8,252 small guns, 6,425 muskets, 4,090 culverins, 98,547 polearms and swords, 26,214 great "horse decapitator" swords, 42,800 bows, 1,000 great axes, 2,284,000 arrows, 180,000 fire arrows, 64,000 bow strings, and hundreds of transport carts. Military crossbows were armed by treading, or basically placing the feet on the bow stave and drawing it using one's arms and back muscles. During the Song dynasty, stirrups were added for ease of drawing and to mitigate damage to the bow. Alternatively the bow could also be drawn by a belt claw attached to the waist, but this was done lying down, as was the case for all large crossbows. Winch-drawing was used for the large mounted crossbows as seen below, but evidence for its use in Chinese hand-crossbows is scant. Other sorts of crossbows also existed, such as the
repeating crossbow The repeating crossbow () is a Chinese crossbow that was invented during the Warring States period, and remained in use until the late Qing dynasty The Qing dynasty, officially the Great Qing (), was the last History of China#Imperial Chi ...
, multi-shot crossbow, larger field artillery crossbows, and repeating multi-shot crossbow.


Southeast Asia

In
Vietnam Vietnam ( vi, Việt Nam, ), officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam,, group="n" is a country in Southeast Asia Southeast Asia, also spelled South East Asia and South-East Asia, and also known as Southeastern Asia or SEA, is the ...

Vietnam
ese historical legend, general Thục Phán, who ruled over the ancient kingdom of
Âu Lạc Âu Lạc ( Hán tự: 甌貉/ 甌駱/ 甌雒; Chinese pinyin ''Hanyu Pinyin'' (), often abbreviated to pinyin, is the official romanization system for Standard Chinese, Standard Mandarin Chinese in mainland China, Taiwan (ROC), and Singap ...
from 257 to 207 BC, is said to have owed his power to a magic crossbow, capable of shooting thousands of bolts at once. The native Montagnards of Vietnam's Central Highlands were also known to have used crossbows, as both a tool for hunting, and later, an effective weapon against the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War. Montagnard fighters armed with crossbows proved a highly valuable asset to the US Special Forces operating in Vietnam, and it was not uncommon for the Green Berets to integrate Montagnard crossbowmen into their strike teams. Crossbow technology for crossbows with more than one prod was transferred from the Chinese to
Champa Champa (Cham Cham or CHAM may refer to: Ethnicities and languages *Chams The Chams or Cham people ( Cham: ''Urang Campa'' / ꨂꨣꩃ ꨌꩌꨛꨩ, vi, người Chăm or người Chàm, km, ជនជាតិចាម), are an ethni ...

Champa
, which Champa used in its invasion of the
Khmer Empire The Khmer Empire ( km, ចក្រភពខ្មែរ), or the Angkorian Empire ( km, ចក្រភពអង្គរ, link=no), are the terms that historians use to refer to Cambodia Cambodia (; also Kampuchea ; km, កម្ព ...

Khmer Empire
's
Angkor Angkor ( km, អង្គរ , ''capital city''), also known as Yasodharapura ( km, យសោធរបុរៈ; )Headly, Robert K.; Chhor, Kylin; Lim, Lam Kheng; Kheang, Lim Hak; Chun, Chen. 1977. ''Cambodian-English Dictionary''. Bureau of ...

Angkor
in 1177. When the Chams sacked Angkor they used the Chinese siege crossbow. Crossbows and archery while mounted were instructed to the Cham by a Chinese in 1171. The Khmer also had double bow crossbows mounted on elephants, which Michel Jacq-Hergoualc’h suggests were elements of Cham mercenaries in
Jayavarman VII Jayavarman VII, posthumous name of Mahaparamasaugata ( km, ជ័យវរ្ម័នទី៧, c. 1122–1218), was king of the Khmer Empire The Khmer Empire (; km, ចក្រភពខ្មែរ, ), or Angkor Empire ( km, ចក្ ...

Jayavarman VII
's army.


Ancient Greece

The earliest crossbow-like weapons in Europe probably emerged around the late 5th century BC when the ''
gastraphetes The gastraphetes ( grc, γαστραφέτης, , belly-releaser) was a hand-held crossbow A crossbow is a ranged weapon using an elastic launching device similar to a bow; it consists of a bow-like assembly called a ''prod'', mounted horizon ...

gastraphetes
'', an ancient Greek crossbow, appeared. The device was described by the Greek author
Heron of Alexandria The herons are long-legged, long-necked, freshwater and coastal bird Birds are a group of warm-blooded vertebrates constituting the class (biology), class Aves , characterised by feathers, toothless beaked jaws, the Oviparity, laying of ...

Heron of Alexandria
in his ''Belopoeica'' ("On Catapult-making"), which draws on an earlier account of his compatriot engineer
Ctesibius Ctesibius or Ktesibios or Tesibius ( grc-gre, Κτησίβιος; fl. 285–222 BC) was a Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic R ...
(
fl. ''Floruit'' (), abbreviated fl. (or occasionally flor.), Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communic ...
285–222 BC). According to Heron, the gastraphetes was the forerunner of the later
catapult A catapult is a ballistic device used to launch a projectile a great distance without the aid of gunpowder Gunpowder, also known as the retronym black powder to distinguish it from modern smokeless powder, is the earliest known chemical ...

catapult
, which places its invention some unknown time prior to 399 BC. The gastraphetes was a crossbow mounted on a stock divided into a lower and upper section. The lower was a case fixed to the bow while the upper was a slider which had the same dimensions as the case. Meaning "belly-bow", it was called as such because the concave withdrawal rest at one end of the stock was placed against the stomach of the operator, which he could press to withdraw the slider before attaching a string to the trigger and loading the bolt; this could thus store more energy than regular Greek bows. It was used in the Siege of Motya in 397 BC. This was a key Carthaginian stronghold in
Sicily (man) it, Siciliana (woman) , population_note = , population_blank1_title = , population_blank1 = , demographics_type1 = Ethnicity , demographics1_footnotes = , demographi ...

Sicily
, as described in the 1st century AD by
Heron of Alexandria The herons are long-legged, long-necked, freshwater and coastal bird Birds are a group of warm-blooded vertebrates constituting the class (biology), class Aves , characterised by feathers, toothless beaked jaws, the Oviparity, laying of ...
in his book ''Belopoeica''. Other arrow shooting machines such as the larger
ballista The ballista (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roma ...

ballista
and smaller ''Scorpio'' also existed starting from around 338 BC, but these are torsion
catapult A catapult is a ballistic device used to launch a projectile a great distance without the aid of gunpowder Gunpowder, also known as the retronym black powder to distinguish it from modern smokeless powder, is the earliest known chemical ...

catapult
s and not considered crossbows.Eric William Marsden: ''Greek and Roman Artillery: Historical Development'', The Clarendon Press, Oxford 1969, , p. 57 Arrow-shooting machines (''katapeltai'') are briefly mentioned by
Aeneas Tacticus Aeneas Tacticus ( grc-gre, Αἰνείας ὁ Τακτικός; fl. 4th century BC) was one of the earliest Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Re ...
in his treatise on siegecraft written around 350 BC. An Athenian inventory from 330–329 BC includes catapults bolts with heads and flights. Arrow-shooting machines in action are reported from
Philip IIPhilip II may refer to: * Philip II of Macedon (382–336 BC) * Philip II (emperor) (238–249), Roman emperor * Philip II, Prince of Taranto (1329–1374) * Philip II, Duke of Burgundy (1342–1404) * Philip II, Duke of Savoy (1438-1497) * Philip ...
's siege of Perinthos in
Thrace Thrace (; el, Θράκη, Thráki; bg, Тракия, Trakiya; tr, Trakya) or Thrake is a geographical and historical region in Southeast Europe, now split among Bulgaria, Greece, and Turkey, which is bounded by the Balkan Mountains to th ...
in 340 BC.Eric William Marsden: ''Greek and Roman Artillery: Historical Development'', The Clarendon Press, Oxford 1969, , p. 60 At the same time, Greek fortifications began to feature high towers with shuttered windows in the top, presumably to house anti-personnel arrow shooters, as in .


Ancient Rome

The late 4th century author
Vegetius Publius (or Flavius) Vegetius Renatus, known as Vegetius (), was a writer of the Fall of the Western Roman Empire, Later Roman Empire (late 4th century). Nothing is known of his life or station beyond what is contained in his two surviving works: ' ...
provides the only contemporary account of ancient Roman crossbows. In his ''De Re Militaris'', he describes ''arcubalistarii'' (crossbowmen) working together with archers and artillerymen. However it is disputed if arcuballistas were crossbows or torsion powered weapons. The idea that the arcuballista was a crossbow is based on the fact that Vegetius refers to it and the ''manuballista'', which was torsion powered, separately. Therefore, if the arcuballista was not like the manuballista, it may have been a crossbow. The etymology is not clear and their definitions obscure. According to Vegetius, these were well-known devices, and hence he did not describe them in depth.
Arrian Arrian of Nicomedia (; Ancient Greek, Greek: ''Arrianos''; la, Lucius Flavius Arrianus; ) was a Greek people, Greek historian, public servant, military commander and philosopher of the Roman Greece, Roman period. ''The Anabasis of Alex ...

Arrian
's earlier ''Ars Tactica'', written around 136 AD, does mention 'missiles shot not from a bow but from a machine' and that this machine was used on horseback while in full gallop. It is presumed that this was a crossbow. The only pictorial evidence of Roman arcuballistas comes from sculptural reliefs in
Roman Gaul Roman Gaul refers to Gaul Gaul ( la, Gallia) was a region of Western Europe Western Europe is the region of Europe Europe is a continent A continent is one of several large landmasses. Generally identified by convention (n ...

Roman Gaul
depicting them in hunting scenes. These are aesthetically similar to both the Greek and Chinese crossbows, but it's not clear what kind of release mechanism they used. Archaeological evidence suggests they were based on the rolling nut mechanism of medieval Europe.


Medieval Europe

References to the crossbow are basically nonexistent in Europe from the 5th century until the 10th century. There is however a depiction of a crossbow as a hunting weapon on four Pictish stones from
early medieval Scotland Scotland was divided into a series of kingdoms in the early Middle Ages In the history of Europe The history of Europe concerns itself with the discovery and collection, the study, organization and presentation and the interpretation ...
(6th to 9th centuries): St. Vigeans no. 1,
Glenferness Ferness ( gd, Feàrnais) is a settlement and rural area in Strathdearn, in the council area of Highland Council area, Highland. The settlement is situated in a forested area of the valley of the River Findhorn at the crossroads of the A939 road, ...
, Shandwick, and Meigle. The crossbow reappeared again in 947 as a French weapon during the siege of Senlis and again in 984 at the siege of Verdun. Crossbows were used at the battle of Hastings in 1066 and by the 12th century they had become common battlefield weapons.Sir Ralph Payne-Gallwey (1995). "The Book of the Crossbow". Dover. , p. 48 The earliest extant European crossbow remains to date were found at Lake Paladru and has been dated to the 11th century. The crossbow superseded hand bows in many European armies during the 12th century, except in England, where the longbow was more popular. Later crossbows (sometimes referred to as
arbalest The arbalest (also arblast) was a late variation of the crossbow coming into use in Europe during the 12th century. A large weapon, the arbalest had a steel prod ("bow"). Since the arbalest was much larger than earlier crossbows, and because of t ...
s), utilizing all-steel prods, were able to achieve power close (and sometime superior) to longbows, but were more expensive to produce and slower to reload because they required the aid of mechanical devices such as the cranequin or
windlass The windlass is an apparatus for moving heavy weights. Typically, a windlass consists of a horizontal cylinder (barrel), which is rotated by the turn of a crank or belt. A winch Front of a MAN SE, MAN-based fire engine with a built-in winch, ...
to draw back their extremely heavy bows. Usually these could only shoot two bolts per minute versus twelve or more with a skilled archer, often necessitating the use of a
pavise A (or ) was an oblong shield A shield is a piece of personal armour held in the hand, which may or may not be strapped to the wrist or forearm. Shields are used to intercept specific attacks, whether from melee weapon, close-ranged weaponry o ...

pavise
to protect the operator from enemy fire.Robert Hardy (1992). "Longbow: A Social and Military History". Lyons & Burford. , p. 75 Along with Pole weapon, polearm weapons made from farming equipment, the crossbow was also a weapon of choice for insurgent peasants such as the Taborites. Genoese crossbowmen were famous mercenaries hired throughout medieval Europe, while the crossbow also played an important role in anti-personnel defense of ships.Notes On West African Crossbow Technology
/ref> Crossbows were eventually replaced in warfare by gunpowder weapons. Early hand cannons had slower rates of fire and much worse accuracy than contemporary crossbows, but the arquebus (which proliferated in the mid to late 15th century) matched their rate of fire while being far more powerful. The Battle of Cerignola in 1503 was largely won by Spain through the use of matchlock arquebuses, marking the first time a major battle was won through the use of firearms. Later, similar competing tactics would feature arquebus, harquebusiers or musketeers in formation with pikemen, pitted against cavalry firing pistols or carbines. While the military crossbow had largely been supplanted by firearms on the battlefield by 1525, the sporting crossbow in various forms remained a popular hunting weapon in Europe until the eighteenth century. Crossbows saw irregular use throughout the rest of the 16th century; for example, Maria Pita's husband was killed by a crossbowman of the English Armada in 1589.


Islamic world

There are no references to crossbows in Islamic texts earlier than the 14th century. Arabs in general were averse to the crossbow and considered it a foreign weapon. They called it ''qaus al-rijl'' (foot-drawn bow), ''qaus al-zanbūrak'' (bolt bow) and ''qaus al-faranjīyah'' (Frankish bow). Although Muslims did have crossbows, there seems to be a split between eastern and western types. Muslims in Spain used the typical European trigger while eastern Muslim crossbows had a more complex trigger mechanism. Mamluk cavalry used crossbows.


Elsewhere

In Western Africa and Central Africa, crossbows served as a scouting weapon and for hunting, with African slaves bringing this technology to natives in America.Notes On West African Crossbow Technology
Diaspora.uiuc.edu. Retrieved on 24 June 2011.
In the US South, the crossbow was used for hunting and warfare when firearms or gunpowder were unavailable because of economic hardships or isolation. In the North of Northern America, light hunting crossbows were traditionally used by the Inuit. These are technologically similar to the African derived crossbows, but have a different route of influence. Spanish conquistadors continued to use crossbows in the Americas long after they were replaced in European battlefields by firearms. Only in the 1570s did firearms became completely dominant among the Spanish in the Americas. The French Army, French and the British Army, British used a Sauterelle (French for grasshopper) in World War I. It was lighter and more portable than the Leach Trench Catapult, but less powerful. It weighed and could throw an F1 grenade (France), F1 grenade or Mills bomb . The Sauterelle replaced the Leach Catapult in British service and was in turn replaced in 1916 by the 2-inch Medium Mortar, 2-inch Medium Trench Mortar and Stokes mortar.***Please note no wikilink is available to the article [Bombthrowers] in EB1922***


Modern use


Hunting, leisure and science

Crossbows are used for
shooting sport Shooting sports is a group of competitive Competition arises whenever two or more parties strive for a common goal A goal is an idea of the future or desired result that a person or a group of people envision, Planning, plan and commit ...
s and bowhunting in modern
archery Archery is the art, sport, practice, or skill of using a bow Bow often refers to: * Bow and arrow, a weapon * Bowing, bending the upper body as a social gesture * An ornamental knot made of ribbon Bow may also refer to: Boats * Bow (sh ...

archery
and for blubber biopsy samples in scientific research. In Laws on crossbows, some countries such as Canada or the United Kingdom, they may be less heavily regulated than firearms, and thus more popular for hunting; some jurisdictions have bow and/or crossbow only seasons. File:Crossbow Hunting.jpg, Modern hunting crossbow File:Fish0293 - Flickr - NOAA Photo Library.jpg, Fisheries scientist obtaining tissue samples from dolphins swimming in the bow wave of a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA ship File:Blubber biopsy sample.jpg, A whale shot by a modified crossbow bolt for a blubber biopsy sample


Modern military and paramilitary use

In modern times, crossbows are no longer used for war, but there are still some applications. For example, in the Americas, the Peruvian army (Ejército) equips some soldiers with crossbows and rope, to establish a zip-line in difficult terrain. In Brazil the CIGS (Jungle Warfare Training Center) also trains soldiers in the use of crossbows. In the United States of America, SAA International Ltd manufacture a crossbow-launched version of the U.S. Army type classified Launched Grappling hook, Grapnel Hook (LGH), among other mine countermeasure solutions designed for the middle-eastern theatre. It has been successfully evaluated in Cambodia and Bosnia. It is used to probe for and detonate tripwire initiated mines and booby traps at up to . The concept is similar to the LGH device originally only fired from a rifle, as a plastic retrieval line is attached. Reusable up to 20 times, the line can be reeled back in without exposing oneself. The device is of particular use in tactical situations where noise discipline is important. In Europe, Barnett International sold crossbows to Serbian Army, Serbian forces which according to ''The Guardian'' were later used "in ambushes and as a counter-sniper weapon" against the Kosovo Liberation Army during the Kosovo War in the areas of Pec and Djakovica, south west of Kosovo. Whitehall launched an investigation, though the Department of Trade and Industry (United Kingdom), Department of Trade and Industry established that not being "on the military list", crossbows were not covered by such export regulations. Paul Beaver of Jane's Defence Publications commented that, "They are not only a silent killer, they also have a psychological effect". On 15 February 2008, Serbian Minister of Defence Dragan Sutanovac was pictured testing a Barnett crossbow during a public exercise of the Serbian Army's Special Forces in Nis, south of capital Belgrade. Special forces in both Greece and Turkey also continue to employ the crossbow. Spain's Green Berets still use the crossbow as well. In Asia, some Chinese armed forces use crossbows, including the Special forces, special force Snow Leopard Commando Unit of the People's Armed Police and the People's Liberation Army. One justification for this comes in the crossbow's ability to stop persons carrying explosives without risk of causing detonation. During the July 2009 Ürümqi riots, Xinjiang riots of July 2009, crossbows were used alongside modern military hardware to quell protests. The Indian Navy's Marine Commando Force were equipped until the late 1980s with crossbows supplied with cyanide-tipped bolts, as an alternative to suppressor, suppressed handguns.


Comparison to conventional bows

With a crossbow, archers could release a draw force far in excess of what they could have handled with a bow. Furthermore, the crossbow could hold the tension for a long time, whereas even the strongest longbowman could only hold a drawn bow for a short period of time. The ease of use of a crossbow allows it to be used effectively with little training, while other types of bows take far more skill to shoot accurately. The disadvantage is the greater weight and clumsiness to reload compared to a bow, as well as the slower rate of shooting and the lower efficiency of the acceleration system, but there would be reduced Hysteresis#Elastic hysteresis, elastic hysteresis, making the crossbow a more accurate weapon. Crossbows have a much smaller draw length than bows. This means that for the same energy to be imparted to the arrow (or bolt), the crossbow has to have a much higher draw weight. A direct comparison between a fast hand-drawn replica crossbow and a longbow show a 6:10 rate of shooting or a 4:9 rate within 30 seconds and comparable weapons.longbow vs crossbow behind a pavese
Retrieved 16 September 2010


Legal issues

Today, the crossbow often has a complicated legal status due to the possibility of lethal use and its similarities to both firearms and archery weapons. While some jurisdictions regard crossbows the same as firearms, many others do not require any sort of license to own a crossbow. The legality of using a crossbow for hunting varies widely around the world, and even within different jurisdictions of some federal countries.


See also

*Arbalist (crossbowman) *Bow and arrow *History of crossbows *International Crossbow Shooting Union *Master of Crossbowmen *Modern competitive archery and target archery for
bow Bow often refers to: * Bow and arrow The bow and arrow is a ranged weapon A ranged weapon is any weapon A weapon, arm or armament is any implement or device that can be used with the intent to inflict physical damage or harm. Weapons ar ...
s *Sauterelle *Shooting sport


References


Citations


Sources

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * Payne-Gallwey, Ralph, Sir, ''The Crossbow: Mediaeval and Modern, Military and Sporting; its Construction, History & Management with a Treatise on the Balista and Catapult of the Ancients and An Appendix on the Catapult, Balista & the Turkish Bow'', New York : Bramhall House, 1958. * * * * * * *


External links


International Crossbow Shooting Union (IAU)

World Crossbow Shooting Association (WCSA)

The Crossbow by Sir Ralph Payne-Gallwey, BT
{{Authority control Ancient weapons Medieval weapons Chinese inventions Crossbows, Heraldic charges Bows (archery) Renaissance-era weapons Weapons of China