What is Crossbow Archery?

Let us take a look at one of the most unique and eye-catching bows of archery— The Crossbow.

It is considered the marksman’s bow for its incredible accuracy and speed at long distances.

So what is crossbow archery and what makes it different from the other bows?

Basic Crossbow Facts

Unlike traditional bows, the limbs of a crossbow are placed flat on either sides mounted horizontally on the front of the frame.

Normal archery arrows are around 29 inches long while crossbows use “bolts” that are smaller, normally around 20 inches and have slightly thicker stems.

what is crossbow archery bolt

Just like with normal arrows, certain bolts allow you to remove the tip so you can add your own broadhead.

You would hold a crossbow like you hold a rifle, with proper stock placement and foregrip handling.  Following All Safety Procedures!

Similar to a rifle, you may find a front sight at the end of the barrel of your crossbow.

Unlike recoil on standard rifles, the unique thing about crossbows is you can experience a forward recoil motion.  This is due to the the physics of how the limbs pull the bowstring forward as the crossbow is fired.

Crossbows have a much heavier draw weight than standard compound or recurve bows.  For example, 70lbs is a heavy standard for traditional bows while crossbows can go up and above 200lbs!

What allows you to pull back(draw) a heavy bowstring, is the unique cocking mechanism that crossbows utilize.

archery crossbows cocking wheel.gif
Ravin Crossbow‘s cocking-wheel demonstration.

Standard crossbows use a cocking rope to pull the string while some have a crank mechanism to assist you in pulling the heaviest draw-weights!

Parts of a Crossbow

parts of archery crossbow

1. Cocking Stirrup
This is the rectangular attachment at the very front of some crossbows.  It assists the archer in cocking the crossbow by using the stirrup with your foot.

2. Riser and Limbs
Similar to compound bows and standard recurve bows, you will see limbs connecting to a heavy-duty riser at the front of most crossbows.

3. Quiver
On some models of crossbows you may see a quiver placed underneath the riser to hold arrows!

4. Barrel and Flight Groove
The barrel extends from the sights to the riser, usually made of strong metal.  A notch called the flight groove runs along the top of the barrel where the arrow is placed after cocking your crossbow.

5. Cam/Wheel
On compound crossbows, there will be cams attached to the the limbs.

6. Foregrip
Located underneath the barrel, the foregrip is where you properly place your hand safely under the finger flange line.

7. Arrow Retention Spring
This keeps the arrow steady on the flight groove.

8. Sights and Sight Bridge
The sight bridge is where you put your favorite sights!

9. Safety Trigger System
On some crossbows, after pulling back the bow string to the latch, the safety will automatically engage.  This keeps the bolt safely in place until you switch it to fire when you are ready to shoot.

10. Handle and Trigger
This is what makes a crossbow different from other archery bows and starts beginning to resemble more like a rifle.

11. Latch
This mechanism keeps the crossbow string in place until you are ready to fire by pulling the trigger.

12. Stock
This is placed properly against your shoulder to help you stabilize your aim before firing.

The Most Important Thing About Crossbow Archery


After firing your crossbow, it takes time to use the cocking mechanism before taking your next shot.

accuracy archery crossbow

Being consistently accurate is very important when you are competing in a team or out hunting.

The speed and power of your crossbow would be the next important things to consider.  Especially if you are shooting at 30 yards or 100 yards.

Crossbow Strength

The strength of your crossbow is determined by a combination of the draw-weight and power stroke.

The power stroke is the length of which the string must travel as it gets pulled back to the locking latch.  The higher the power stroke, the stronger the force of your crossbow bolt as it is fired.

The draw-weight determines how fast your bolt will travel.  Remember, you need to have the strength to be able to pull heavy draw-weights without a cocking crank!

Read our Archery Workout Guide if you need strength tips.

Crossbow Speed

If you want to be as precise as possible with how fast your bolts are traveling, use this handy arrow ballistics calculator.

Using the calculator, you will find that the difference between a 300 FPS(feet per second) crossbow and a 400 FPS crossbow is .05 seconds at 20 yards.  It’s almost identical at that distance so don’t worry if you don’t have the fastest crossbow!

Make sure to have high-quality crossbow strings and keep them waxed as this can also affect your flight speed.

The Different Types of Crossbows

Recurve Crossbows
recurve crossbow archery

boa crossbow archery

The traditional and most recognizable of crossbows.  With the limbs and barrel made of heavy duty metal attached to a wooden or polymer stock.

Compound Crossbows
compound crossbow archery

boa crossbow archery

The compound crossbow has the same frame and functionality as a standard recurve crossbow with the main difference being the unique compound risers.  The risers are more complex, with cams and wheels to shoot the bolt using incredibly heavy draw weights!

Some compound bows have their risers on backwards!  These are called reverse limb crossbows.

Pistol Crossbows
pistol crossbow archery

boa crossbow archery

A lighter, more tactical form of the crossbow.  Pistol crossbows usually don’t have a stock, but there are models that allow you to add one if you want.  It is recommended to fire these at closer range targets.

Also be very careful as most standard pistol crossbows use pressure sensitive safety on their triggers rather than a safety switch!

Crossbow Archery Safety

Always keep a loaded crossbow pointed away from you!

Always take a moment to inspect any arrows you are re-using by looking for dents or splinters.

no rope cocking around your neck!

It is very dangerous to rest a cocking rope around your shoulders as it can tangle in your crossbow string when you are leaning in to fire.

Never climb a tree or perch with an arrow loaded on your crossbow!

Modern day crossbows are made with heavy-duty material that allows you to keep the bow cocked and ready to fire all day long.  However, don’t leave it cocked overnight or whenever you put it back in storage!

safety finger flange line crossbow archery

It is VERY IMPORTANT to properly keep your hands underneath the safety finger flange line that is marked along the sides of the foregrip following the barrel.

Remember to wax your bow strings!  This is especially important for those who keep their crossbows cocked all day during hunting season.  Read our Bow String Waxing Guide!

Conclusion To:  What is Crossbow Archery?

We hope you are now more confident and prepared when it comes to the subject of crossbow archery.  Crossbows may seem a little more complex compared to the traditional bow and arrow, but the function is the same— Hitting the bullseye!

Knowing how to hit your mark better than any other bow is knowing what is crossbow archery.

Remember to be safe and to always have fun when you are out shooting!

Make sure to visit the Archery Shop if you plan on purchasing a new crossbow!

There is always more to learn and designers are working hard every year to make crossbows better and better!