They date back as early as 600 BC in China. Historically, crossbows played significant roles in warfare in early Asia, Europe and the Mediterranean. In the beginning days they were made of wood, as man progressed he learned to use metals such as iron and steel, which made these weapons much more powerful, accurate and deadly crossbow with scope.
Early crossbow strings were made of hemp as it was one of the strongest and least elastic fibers available. In ancient times the bolts for the stronger crossbows were several times heavier than arrows. An early advantage of the crossbow was that it was an ideal weapon for young boys, old men or a sick soldier. One of the disadvantages of the crossbow was that it could only shoot two bolts per minute, versus a skilled longbow user that could release between 10-12 arrows per minute. The crossbow was very popular with the ancient Greek and Roman armies.
Many conflicts were determined through the use of this weapon. As things progressed the crossbow was introduced to medieval Europe in the 11th century. Fashioning the bows themselves also required great technical skills. As crossbows evolved the early ones could be cocked by hand, but as man improved them and made them stronger, they became harder to cock. The Europeans also improved the crossbow’s strength around 1370 AD. They too began replacing wooden bows with metals. The crossbow was quite capable of penetrating the full armor of a knight.
The increased power required a force greater than human muscle strength to cock. The foot stirrup evolved allowing humans to cock even stronger crossbows. One of the greatest developments in crossbow history was the “cocking rope” devise with two handles, which reduced pulling effort by 50%. Hand cranking devises were installed on crossbows, allowing the most powerful of all bows to be cocked. They were simply a hand crank that when turned pulled the string back. These improved crossbows were very accurate out to 360-400 meters. The crossbow remained a principle item in the arsenals of European armies until their gradual displacement by gunpowder throughout the 14th and15th centuries.
In modern times the crossbow remains popular. In Peru, they equip their soldiers with crossbows and ropes to establish zip lines in difficult terrain. Brazil’s Jungle Warfare Training Center also trains their soldiers in the use of crossbows. The US has been known to use Horton, Excalibur & TenPoint crossbows in the Middle East theater. In Cambodia they have been successfully used to detonate trip wires for land mines and booby traps. In Serbia, Barnett crossbows are used as counter sniper weapons.
Today is a totally different ballgame. The ancients would roll over in their graves if they knew of the the high tech crossbows of today. With materials like fiberglass, carbon, high grade aluminum, etc, not available in ancient times, the crossbow has been refined into a modern day, state of the art, lethal weapon. Today’s bolts, with razor blade broadheads, and aluminum / carbon materials for shafts have really made the crossbow a force to recon with.
TenPoint, Excalibur, Horton, and Barnett are among some of the most popular crossbows used today. These fine instruments are a huge market for hunters.
Excalibur – They aren’t big business cashing in on crossbow hunting, they are crossbow hunters making crossbows. Their priority is to make the most efficient, reliable, and accurate crossbows that money can buy. Excalibur has won the US National Crossbow Championship for the last 8 years and the Canadian 3-D Championship for the past 6 years, Excalibur guarantees that every bow is capable of shooting groups of less than 3 inches at 25 yards with broadheads or target tips. The lightning fast recurved limbs turn out more speed than other compound systems. The trigger mechanism has a pull that would make your rifle jealous. Many consider Excalibur to be the “Cadillac” of crossbows.
Barnett – From their beginning 40 years ago Barnett started as one man’s dream. Barnett crossbows were designed by hunters that incorporate comfort and style into high performance, precision hunting equipment. Barnett engineers were pioneers in developing the most desired features in a hunting weapon. Lightweight, adjustable, and powerful, Barnett is a leading manufacturer of crossbows and other archery equipment.