Which safety guideline for using bows is unique to the crossbow?

Which safety guideline for using bows is unique to the crossbow? The crossbow is a modified version of the standard bow. The draw in a crossbow can be held back via a mechanical medium. This allows the crossbowman to save a significant amount of strength. For skilled shooters, this saved strength may potentially improve the precision and accuracy of the shots.

While the use of crossbows as standard weapons for warfare has been deprecated, they still remain widely popular as a sport and as hunting weapons. Crossbows carry with them the significant advantage of being silent when shooting.

Which safety guideline for using bows is unique to the crossbow?

Which safety guideline for using bows is unique to the crossbow?

As with all the weapons, crossbows should be handled with extra care. They are capable of storing incredible amounts of energy in them and a misfired bolt could prove to be fatal. We will look at some general safety guidelines that should be exercised while handling crossbows:

  • Always treat a crossbow as if it were loaded.
  • Keep the crossbow pointed in a safe direction at all times.
  • Do not point the crossbow at anything you are not willing to destroy.
  • Keep your finger off the trigger until you are on target and ready to fire.
  • Always positively identify the target before you fire.
  • Keep the crossbow out of reach of small children.

Now with those out of the way, we can look at some crossbow-specific safety guidelines. The safety tips apply to all types of crossbows.

Safety guidelines unique to crossbows

Let’s jump right in:

Maintenance is the key

Your crossbow is a machine. Like all machines, it needs regular maintenance and polishing for it to keep doing its job as intended. Accidents and injuries caused due to poorly maintained equipment are fairly common. They can be easily avoided by staying on top of your maintenance.

This step does not even require much thought. Get any worn-out or depreciated parts replaced as soon as possible. Keep the bowstring waxed and the arrow track and other movables properly lubricated. Some specific models might require extra steps, refer to the owner’s manual.

Avoid touching the rails when using the crossbow

The rail or arrow track is the groove on the mainframe of the crossbow. It is where the arrow sits and gains traction before being projected onto the target. Many shooters and this includes even the skilled shooters, tend to hold the crossbow from their non-dominant hand by the rail. Should your finger get caught between the stretched string and the rail, it will be a disaster.

To avoid this, try to keep your hand off the rail as much as possible and tuck the hand in your lap when shooting from the rest. This simple habit will save you from numerous injuries throughout your shooting or career.

Unload the crossbow before climbing tree stands

As your hunting game progresses, and you seek out newer ways to hunt, you’ll find yourself increasingly using tree stands. Tree stands provide a wider view of the area and have many other advantages which are beyond the scope of this article. A common mistake that relatively new hunters make is climbing the tree stand with a loaded crossbow.

There are a million things out there that could set off the trigger on your crossbow and cause it to shoot. It is therefore recommended that you always unload the crossbow before climbing a tree stand so that any such chances are misfires are eliminated.

Check and recheck the bolts

Check for two things. Firstly, that you’re using the correct bolts. The bolts should be designed for the make and model of the crossbow you are using. Absolutely never use bolts from someone else that were made for a different crossbow.

Secondly, make sure that the bolts you’re going to fire are in proper shape. Discard and safely get rid of any broken, cracked, or bent bolts. Using such bolts can cause damages and injuries in unknown ways. Crossbows are designed to shoot exactly one thing – proper bolts that befit it. If it’s anything else, you need to reevaluate.

Using the right nock will keep you safe

Using the right nock will keep you safe

This one is a no-brainer. When you buy the arrows, the maker will list out the nocks that are compatible with the product. Do not use nocks of any other type than listed in the maker’s description. Using the wrong kind of nock may cause a dry fire. This can cause either or both of these: Injure the crossbowman, damage the equipment.

A rough idea can be guessed by seeing if the nock stays in contact with the string upon firing. Nocks need to perform in hot and cold climates and under varying amounts of pressure depending on how you use the crossbow. Make sure you are using the right nock.

Strong backstops

Remember, backstops are there to protect the environment from missed targets. They are not there for aesthetic purposes. Your backstop should be able to stop bolts fired with full force. Never assume the backstop can do it.

Always check it by yourself. Also, have the house wall or some other strong objection to stop the bolts in their path in case you manage to fire the arrow in a completely different direction. Having at least 70m of the free area behind the target is also good to practice.

Save a discharge bolt

Crossbows need to be de-cocked. The best method is to actually fire the crossbow to decock it. The only exceptions to this rule are some specific models that use a rope-cocking device. Unless your crossbow has that, it is always recommended to keep a discharge bolt saved up.

It will help you safely and accurately de-cock the crossbow. Note that the bolt will have to be fired eventually, merely keeping the bolt in the track does not help.

Dry firing can cause damages

In case you don’t have the right idea – a dry fire is simply a fire without any bolt. While it sounds like a harmless activity on the surface, the complicated mechanics of the crossbow means that it can actually cause a significant amount of damage to your crossbow.

The crossbow might end up completely useless and never shoot again. Fortunately, many makers do incorporate anti-dry firing mechanisms in their bows. Be sure to check when buying the crossbow if it has this feature, besides saving cash, it can also save you from injuries.

Always treat a cocked crossbow as loaded

This has been stated before in this article. The safety guideline is so important that it is worth reiterating – in no case or scenario possible, treat your cocked crossbow as a loaded firearm.

The limbs can store an incredible amount of potential energy in them, and upon release, and not only damage the crossbow itself but also the shooter. Moreover, it can damage the fingers since fingers mostly do not have any special protective gear of their own.


Crossbows are a unique weapon. Their silence is one of their unique selling points. Exactly like other machines though, they too need proper care and maintenance. Be sure to keep the general guidelines in mind for a safe hunting or sporting session. No matter what you use the crossbow for, always follow the crossbow-specific safety guidelines.

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