How Does Crossbow Work?

Get a complete understanding of how a crossbow works, from the mechanics to the different parts and their functions. Learn about recurve and compound crossbows, as well as safety measures to follow.
By Rebecca Rios | Updated On January 1, 2023
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How Does Crossbow Work?

A crossbow is now a popular weapon. Due to its unique properties and power, many bow hunters prefer crossbows over regular bows. Certified hunters are using this weapon to shoot their targets during the firearms season. For a beginner, it might be a question how does the crossbow work? Any specific course is not needed to understand the complete procedure. All you have to do is understand the concept of crossbows and practice from different angles. Then, you are good to go to the hunting field.

This guide will answer all your questions related to the working of the crossbow. Different parts of the crossbow make a successful shot possible. So, it is important to understand the function of each part. Let’s explore the working of a crossbow.

How Does Crossbow Work?

The crossbows have some features of rifle and bow. They are equipped with stock and trigger, similar to a riffle, but like a regular bow, crossbow uses a string for projectiles. The crossbow’s working principle is similar to other bows but differs in power and speed.


Crossbows store energy in their limbs. The energy is transferred to the crossbow’s arrow when the string is released. The first step is to cock the crossbow. The crossbow string draws the limbs close together as a result of cocking. In this way, elastic potential energy is generated in the limbs. The moment when you release the string, elastic potential energy converts into kinetic energy. Hence, energy is transferred to the arrow.

Variations in modern crossbows have been happening over the years, but the basic concept of a crossbow remains the same; to convert elastic potential energy into kinetic energy. Just like other bows, crossbows do have limited range. So, for a lethal shot, careful estimation and precision of distance are required.

Let’s go through the common parts of the crossbow with their functions.

Main crossbow parts and their functions:

Understanding the working of the main parts is crucial to maintain the crossbow. After getting familiar with the important parts, it will be easier for you to handle and work with your crossbow.

There are two styles of crossbows; recurve and compound crossbows. Recurve bows are slightly heavier and longer than compound bows. Also, compound bows are considered a more sophisticated and modern version of crossbows; hence, they are easier to use. Both types of crossbows have some common parts. An overview of these parts is discussed in this guide.

Crossbow bolts

Bolts are just like standard arrows but are a little heavier and shorter in size. It would be best if you used a bolt according to the crossbow’s weight, length, and stiffness. Shooting with a mismatched bolt is dangerous for you and the people around you. Crossbow bolts conserve maximum kinetic energy for the launch.


Limbs are made up of flexible wood, carbon fiber, and aluminum. When you release the string, the limbs move forward, and the energy in the limbs launches the bolt at high speed. Limbs are present in the compound and recurve crossbows. Recurve crossbows have longer limbs than compound ones.  


While holding a crossbow, one hand is the trigger hand; the other hand will grip a point called a foregrip that is present beneath the rail. The foregrip provides sturdy control of the shot. It is necessary to aim at the target; otherwise, a poor shot can wound the animal.

The working of the crossbow

Although crossbows resemble conventional bows and other weapons, the mechanics of a crossbow is distinctive. In crossbows, we cock and load the weapon. So, ensure the safety of the crossbow right after the cocking procedure. Although some crossbows have automatic safety options, in mechanical devices, automatic safety can fail at any time. So, keep checking the safety of the cocked crossbow.

Once you are done with the shooting, crossbows must be decocked. Dry firing is not a good option for decocking the crossbow. Shoot the loaded bow into a backstop.

a compound crossbow:

Unlike recurve crossbow, a compound crossbow works on the principle of block and tackle. A crossbow’s draw weight is reduced by using the draw weight system. The let-off function makes the compound crossbow different from the other bows. The cables and the strings combination work for the let-off function.


The cam starts to rotate when we draw back the string. The mod also rotates when the cam rotates as the mods are attached to the cams. The rotating mod will pull the cable. Cable and mod are the only requirements to bend the crossbow’s limbs. As the cable and limb are in the attachment, the limb will bend. This bending of limb creates the draw weight in a compound crossbow. The pulleys allow the string to increase the speed and power of the shot.

a self-cocking crossbow:

A self-cocking crossbow is easier to handle and lightweight, but it does have some cons, as you have to check safety while cocking the bow. When you cock the crossbow, the weapon does not always engage the safety. So, ensure safety before each shot.


In the first step, assemble the crossbow. The cocking mechanism of a pistol or self-cocking crossbow is very quick and easy. It will take less than 30 seconds to load the weapon. Then, the string is attached to the latch. Afterward, the next bolt is loaded, cocked, and fired again.

working of a repeating crossbow:

A repeating crossbow is a crossbow in which actions like bolt placing, stringing the bow, and shooting can be done instantly in one motion. As all the major actions happen simultaneously with just one hand, the fire rate of repeating crossbows is higher than other standard crossbows. Repeating crossbows hold only five bolts at a time.


One of the ecstatic parts of using a crossbow is learning how does crossbow work. Awareness of each part is necessary to learn the working of a crossbow. Proper knowledge about the crossbow’s working allows you to enjoy your weapon fully. Also, as a responsible arbalist, it is your responsibility to understand the working and mechanics of your crossbow. Now, you know the working procedure of a crossbow; all you have to do is to get ready for the hunting season.

For more information regarding crossbows and hunting, stay connected with Wide Hunt.


A crossbow is made up of many vital components, and the working of the bow entirely depends upon those parts. But when the question arises, what is the heart of a crossbow? The answer is trigger. Nothing is as important as a trigger mechanism in a crossbow. The trigger mechanism is easy and understandable.

The trigger finger attaches to a safety slide and string catch that moves when the trigger is pulled. Many crossbows with high-end trigger systems open up. This opening upward feature allows keeping the string in place. Moreover, when the trigger is pulled, it gives a consistent, smooth, and precise release. Practice is the key, even if the trigger mechanism is understandable. In this way, you will maintain accuracy. Hopefully, how does a crossbow trigger works will no longer be a question.

A new powerful weapon, the crossbow, was invented before 400 BCE. The exact date of the invention still needs to be clarified. This weapon was first seen in the states of China or neighboring areas of central Asia.

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