Technical Stuff: Crossbow Types


There are a limited number of manufactures who produce Target crossbows. All those commercially available are “Tracked”: that is to say that the bolt rests on the edges of a groove. The cock vane is in the groove and a flat ended nock hard against the drawn string.

The bow shown below is a Contender bow made by Ausbow.

Contender bow made by Ausbow

Individuals do make their own bows. Some make the limbs while others use proprietary prods (the bit you recognise as bow shaped). Some make Trackless bows as shown below.

On a Trackless bow the bolt is supported on an arrow rest and an “Archery” style nock fitted to the string.

In each case the bows are assembled by hand and constructed to achieve optimum performance. These are the most efficient of the crossbows.

Note that this crossbow has a “D” loop on the string – as used by some compound Archers, and a sight rail connecting the fore and rear sight components.


  • Bows are limited to a maximum draw weight of 95lbs (41kg) and a maximum free draw of 300mm.

  • The trigger must be purely mechanical.

  • A bolt retainer must be fitted.

  • There must be two sighting elements – fore sight and rear sight. No corrective lenses are permitted. The rear sight may incorporate filters. The two elements must be no more that 720mm apart. You may connect the two elements with a sight rail that will maintain the alignment of the elements.

  • Palm rests, butt hooks and stirrups are permitted.

  • Anyone reading Archery UK rules on crossbow will also recognise the above.

  • For more details visit the World Crossbow Shooting Association web site.


The Sporting Crossbow category is intended to provide competition for those using commercially produced equipment intended primarily for hunting. A high proportion of these are made in USA, or for that market, where hunting is legal in most states.

The three bows shown here are available from UK suppliers. The first is a recurve bow, the second a compound and the third a reverse compound. The last one is not recommended as a bow for beginners.

Bows are segregated into “Standard” and “Freestyle on the basis of momentum (Bolt mass x Speed).

All bows must have a telescopic sight and may be also fitted with an Optimiser, or similar device, that allows the scope to be tilted to change the sight alignment for changes in shooting distance. The bow must also be a bolt retainer fitted. The trigger must have a safety catch.


A “Standard” bow must be as it was supplied by the maker. If it does not have a stirrup one may be fitted. Any telescopic sight may be fitted, as noted above. All other additions/modifications are prohibited.

The “Standard” sporting crossbow division is limited to a maximum calculated momentum of 0.55 lb f/s (2.43 N s). The rules provide a formula for working this out. However, you will find a table on the World Crossbow Shooting Association web site that list all of the bows that WCSA know of.


A “Freestyle” bow is also a mass produced bow. However, modifications and additions including non-proprietary triggers, a palm rest, butt hook, cheek plates and auxiliary weights etc. are permitted with no restriction, except as otherwise specified in WCSA rules.

All hybrid / handmade sporting crossbows compete in the Freestyle division and are subject to the same rules.

The “Freestyle” sporting crossbow division has a limit of a maximum calculated momentum of 0.75 lb f/s (3.32 N s). For more information look at the WCSA web site.


Sighting systems using laser and/ or parallax range setting/measuring devices are not permitted on any Sport bow.


The Medieval Crossbow category provides competition for those shooters using a medieval style crossbow.

Medieval Crossbows should be of a design for the period 1100 to 1500. The bow material can be wood, horn, fibreglass, steel or Dural aluminium. Fibreglass, Dural Aluminium and any other modern materials on the bow must be covered in authentic natural materials such as hemp, leather etc, leather etc.

The prod (bow limbs) may be made of any material but must be of one piece construction. In the case of metallic prods, the limbs must be bound with a suitable tape to prevent personal injury in the case of failure. Most people use leather as a binding for this purpose.

Medieval Crossbow

The trigger must be of a simple mechanical device. There is more information in World Crossbow Shooting Association rules.

 As an option, for safety, Medieval Crossbows may be fitted with a safety catch, or pin, which can be manually or automatically set when the crossbow is spanned.

Sights systems and bolt retainers are NOT permitted

A foot stirrup is allowed and recommended for safety, even if it is not part of the original equipment or design.

The use of a spanning (cocking) aid is permitted.


Match Crossbow disciplines are akin to small bore rifle shooting.

Neither the National Crossbow Federation of Great Britain nor the World crossbow Shooting Association has rules covering Match Crossbow. Their use is not permitted on NCF shooting ranges.

Match Crossbows


Pistol Crossbows are not permitted.

Pistol Crossbow


Flight shooting is the process of attempting to shoot a bolt as far as is possible.

Neither the WCSA nor the NCF have rules governing “Flight” shooting.

It is not permitted.