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Archery And The Crossbow

By Expert Author: Allan Archer

One of the more interesting pieces of archery equipment is the crossbow. While a crossbow is not common with most archers, it has a fascinating history.

Have you ever tried shooting a crossbow? While this basic archery piece is usually only shown in movies as a 16th century weapon, the crossbow is still used today by avid archers and is an fascinating piece of equipment.
While it is impossible to determine who first used a crossbow, there are some records that show a type of crossbow was being us in certain parts of Asia as early as 2,000 BC. Early crossbows were made of a single piece of wood with vines or animal intestines used as the draw string. Around 200BC the crossbow was well developed and quite widely used in China for hunting and as an effective weapon. Some very basic crossbows were found among the soldiers of the Terracotta Army in the tomb of Emperor Qin Shi Huang and can be seen in museums in China. The Crusades saw major advancements in the construction of crossbows, including the use of composites made from layers of different material, often wood, horn and sinew, glued together and bound with animal tendon. These advanced composite bows were much more powerful than previous bows and were soon adopted by armies all across Europe and Asia. The 14th century saw the use of steel become more common and spring steel crossbows came into use.
A crossbow’s prod (the actual bow) is very short compared to traditional bows, resulting in a shorter draw length. This design makes a crossbow inefficient at storing energy (which is used to propel the arrow) and to compensate the bow must have very heavy draw weights. While basic crossbows are drawn using only the unassisted arm strength of the archer, more powerful crossbows required some type of mechanical assistance to draw the string. Most of these mechanical drawing devices use systems of levers, ratchets and pulleys to assist the archer and allow the crossbow to create the necessary energy. It is these devices that allowed soldiers to use and fire weapons with a draw force far in excess of what they could have created with traditional crossbow and even with a standard archery bow. Some of the better designed crossbows reached a draw force of nearly 350 pounds, compared to the 60-180 pound draw force for a longbow. As an added benefit for soldiers, crossbows could be kept cocked and ready to shoot for some time, allowing the archer to aim more carefully and to "cover" a target area. Even the strongest archer could not keep their powerful bows pulled for long periods of time. Despite its accuracy and range, the crossbow was replaced by rifles with the introduction of gunpowder. It continued to be used for hunting also became popular for tournament shooting, but some countries outlawed there use due to the stealth properties of a crossbow. Crossbows are still used for hunting in some parts of the world, especially Africa and Southeast Asia, but the practice has been outlawed or restricted in many countries, including the United States until recently. There has been a marked increase in the interest in crossbows and many archery clubs are now having tournaments featuring the use of this unique archery bow.

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