Technical Stuff: Crossbows And The Law

There are a number of laws that would cover incidents of misuse of a crossbow, either as a bow or simply as a blunt instrument. The following points concern things specifically to do with the ownership and limitations of use of crossbows. Please note that for a precise interpretation you should refer to the appropriate acts. The basic document is The Crossbow Act 1987. However, there other pieces of legislation that have effects – particularly for Scotland. What follows should be taken as a layman’s interpretation. We have not included any information as to penalties that may be incurred for infringements of the law.

  1. It is illegal in Great Britain to use a bow, of any description, for hunting.
  2. The use of broad heads is illegal. Only target style points may be used on bolts.
  3. A crossbow must be transported, including in a public place, in a condition in which it cannot be used. Either the prod assembly or the string should be removed. The use of a proper carrying case is also advisable. Where it is not possible to remove the string or prod assembly, as with some compound bows, a carrying case of some sort must be used. It is advisable in the latter situation not to keep bolts in the case with the bow.
  4. It is illegal for a person under 18 to own or purchase a crossbow, or components of a crossbow.
  5. It is illegal to sell a crossbow, or parts of a crossbow, to a person under 18.
  6. It is illegal for a person under 18 to have in their possession a crossbow, or components that could be assembled into a crossbow, unless they are under the supervision of a person with suitable knowledge and training and who is over the age of 21.
  7. It is illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to shoot a crossbow unless supervised by a suitable (as above) person over the age of 21.
  8. It is illegal to hire or lend a crossbow to someone to take away and use under their own cognisance. If you own a bow then you are responsible for ensuring that it is used in a safe and legal manner.
  9. It is illegal to discharge a crossbow in a public place or on land where you do not have permission to shoot – so don’t try your bow out in the local woods, or a farmer’s field. Nor should you shoot your bow in your garden, unless it’s very, very big. As soon as the bolt leaves your property, or someone thinks that that may be possible, you are committing an offence.
  10. In Scotland it is a specific offence to be drunk in charge of a crossbow in a public place. It is reasonable to assume that it is also likely to cause you problems in the rest of the UK.