Late medieval crossbow, cranequin and bolt

Crossbows

Crossbows are believed to have been invented by the Chinese in the 4th century BC, and they require less skill to use than a longbow, which was only deadly in the hands of a skilled archer.

A crossbow is a projectile weapon which, depending on its type, shoots arrows, bolts, quarrels, stones or bullets. It consists of a bow attached crosswise to a stock called a tiller. The crossbow is used horizontally unlike a longbow.

The tiller is fitted with a trigger mechanism for the release of the bowstring. Early bows were spanned by hand, but as they got more powerful mechanical devices were invented to do this. The result was that projectiles could be shot with greater force.

Smaller animals and birds were frequently hunted with balls of lead or clay, not arrows, as the arrow would likely pass through their bodies and they might escape the hunter.

While the longbow remained plain throughout its entire life, highly decorated crossbows became quite common on the 15th century.


Did you know?

Going off half-cocked

Many older guns have a form of safety that prevents the gun from being fired when the hammer is pulled halfway back. Sometimes a fault develops which allows the gun to fire when the hammer is in the half-cocked position, before a proper aim can be taken.