Technical Stuff: Crossbow Safety

Safe handling of your crossbow is paramount. We have set this out as a list of ten things that you should NEVER do and eleven that you must ALWAYS do.


  1. Point a Crossbow, loaded or unloaded, at any animal or person.
  2. Deliberately “dry fire” a crossbow; i.e. discharge without a bolt in the bow. This has the potential to break the prod as it is the only place for the energy to be dissipated. There is no telling where the bits will go.
  3. Walk about with a cocked or loaded crossbow.
  4. Leave a cocked or loaded crossbow unattended.
  5. Raise the bow to the shooting position unless you are on the shooting line, or at your shooting peg in the forest, and the bow is aligned with your target.
  6. Elevate the bow so that you are sighting above the buttress on which your target is mounted.
  7. Assume that the safety catch will prevent the bow from firing. It is a mechanical device and all such devices can fail.
  8. Assume that the trigger will hold the string and not fire without you operating the release lever – as 7 above.
  9. Use damaged bolts. There is a chance that a damaged bolt will shatter when the string is released from the trigger, or that it will not fly true.
  10. Step in front of your shooting position while others are still shooting.


  1. Use the correct bolt for the bow. Bolts of the wrong diameter will not sit correctly on the track and will therefore not make the correct contact with the string. This can result in bolts “dropping” off track or flipping when fired. Bolts that are too light may cause damage to the prod.
  2. Carry a crossbow pointing downwards.
  3. Keep your fingers below the track and out off the path of the string. Hitting your fingers with the string will be painful. It will cause bruising. Breaking a bone is unlikely but other tissues damage could be incurred.
  4. Know where your bolt will come to rest. It is essential to know that there is no chance of your bolt hitting a person or an animal. Pointing a bow in the air and pulling the trigger is at the very least irresponsible, and is quite likely to be criminal. If the bolt passes over a barrier past which you cannot see it could easily hit someone. You must ensure that the bolt will come to rest within the shooting field. Note also that the higher you elevate the bow the more effect that wind will have on where the bolt goes.
  5. Ensure that there is, where appropriate, adequate backstop.
  6. Take the correct stance on the shooting line.
  7. Have your cocked bow pointing down in the direction of the target when you load the bolt.
  8. Raise the loaded bow to the shooting position on a line between you and your target.
  9. Keep your bow and bolts maintained.
  10. Ensure that anyone using a crossbow is aware of the shooting rules.
  11. Ensure that you have the land owner or occupier’s permission to shoot.