How to Shoot a Crossbow (Beginner’s Guide)

I’ve got to admit; the crossbow gets a bump rap. Of every primitive weapon, crossbows are the least understood ones — especially by the public and sometimes even hunters.

And to be honest, there’s a lot of prejudice against them in many bow-hunting circles. That said, crossbows are like a rifle, and it’s amusing to shoot with them.

Though crossbows or sometimes referred to as X-bows, seem like they are a new invention, but in actuality, this weapon has been around the world for thousands of years. And it’s origin can be traced back to ancient China.

It has been used in countless wars around the globe, including Europe and Asia. Yeah, I know this is a bit of digression, but it’s exciting to know about it.

Coming to the pertinent point, shooting a crossbow is different from bows and arrows, and it’s a whole new level of experience. There are many ways you can shoot a crossbow, but I’ve shared just the easy ones.

However, one of the biggest fallacies new folks makes when shooting with a crossbow is — they think that’s an easy-peasy task. But I am here to tell you; you’re only half right.

You see, though shooting with a crossbow is far more accurate and manageable than a traditional bow and arrow, but not every crossbow can hit the bull’s eye straight out of the box.

To achieve pinpoint accuracy, you’ll need to be fine-tuned with some details, and that’s what we are going to learn today.

So get ready with your crossbow, and stay tuned as this is going to be exhilarating.

A little bit about Crossbows


Before we plunge deeper into the shooting mechanics of crossbows, it is best to understand what they are in the first place.

Basically, a crossbow is kind of a mechanical bow that utilizes moving parts to shoot an arrow instead of manually pulling down the string and shooting an arrow, like in a traditional recurve bow.

At the most superficial level, you can think of a crossbow that looks and feels like a rife, but you have to place a bow on the top side to shoot.

Therefore, the only discerning difference between a crossbow and a traditional bow is shooting the arrow. Here you don’t use strength, rather a trigger mechanism, just like in a rifle.

Many modern crossbows come with a scope that can be considered as sights for hunting terminology. These scopes can significantly improve your accuracy and provide you a pinpoint precision.

A crossbow generally weighs between six to eight pounds, which is heavier than a bow but lighter than a rifle.

How to Shoot a Crossbow

As I said, shooting with a crossbow is a totally different experience, and instead of relying on your personal strength, you’ve to learn some mechanical features.

However, I would recommend learning the user’s manual first before doing anything — especially if you are a tyro who’s just starting out.

On the manual, you’ll find the safety features with some crucial steps that should be finished before shooting the bolt (the arrow).

Once you’ve read and understood all the safety features, you can start to prepare your first shot. This step involves cocking your crossbow.

Somewhat, shooting a crossbow is not that much of a deal, and you will find that soon by just abiding by the following steps.

Let’s Get Started by Cocking the Bow

Now there are typically two methods for cocking the bow: Manual and Crank.

If you own a manual bow, you will need a stirrup that you’ll use with your leg to stabilize the bow. You’ll need your leg’s strength so that you can evenly pull the string back to cock the bow.

In case your crossbow has a heavy draw weight, to make it easier, you can make use of a rope cocking device. Therefore, by using a pull system, the cocking device will provide relief from draw weight over 100 pounds by centering the string.

If you happen to have a crossbow without this device, I’d recommend getting one; it’s worth it.

On the other hand, if your crossbow has a crank, you will like it as it is way more manageable than above. With that being said, though the crank is easier than the manual one, it sure as hell takes some time.

Therefore, you cannot use any sort of quick-fire with this type; sadly, that’s a trade-off you’ll have to live with. You’ll find that some of them are separate or integrated into the bow.

And all you have to do is just set the crank and simply turn it. That’s it; once you are finished, the crank returns to the first spot, and you can securely shoot the bolt.

Let’s Prepare to Shoot by, Of Course, First Loading the Bow

Let’s Prepare to Shoot by, Of Course, First Loading the Bow

Once you are done with cocking the bolt, now’s the time to load your bow. For sure, this is one of the most straightforward steps as it does not require any strength.

Therefore, all you have to do here is just place the bolt inside the barrel, ensuring that it gets aligned in the channel, and then simply nock the string by placing it on.

However, that said, you should ensure that the fletching point is correctly pointed in the right direction; you can even check the manual for further information.

Now’s the Time to Get Ready with The Sights and Aim

When you are finished loading the bow, and you’ve safely nocked, now you have to aim. Sounds simple, right? Because it is!

Indeed, if you have a scope, this step is way much easier, but you can aim without a scope, so don’t worry.

Generally, most of the crossbows have a sight pin or a scope. So it doesn’t matter; if you have a scope or sight pin, get ready with it.

It’s worth paying attention to that when you are aiming, ensure there is nothing in the way of your bow or your target — which means especially your body parts like hand, thumb, and fingers.

Trust me, when the bolt releases, it can give you one hell of a time dealing with that excruciating pain.

So prepare with your crossbow, stand consistently, and place your non-prevailing hand on the focal point of the foregrip.

Make sure that you are keeping your thumbs as well as fingers relaxed and below the crossbow rails.

Now, place your hands on the trigger and keep your finger away from the trigger. The following stage is to put the buttstock before your shoulder and align your dominant eye with the sight.

Now get ready to shoot!

Shoot the Bolt

Shoot the Bolt

When you have checked everything, and it seems good to go. Plus, your target is in your sigh; it is time to fire by pressing the trigger button.

And this is the best part about the crossbow to shoot by simply squeezing the trigger.

However, while doing so, make sure not to jerk the crossbow, and it can decrease the accuracy.


Keep practicing and shooting again, as well as observing your shots and make adjustments accordingly. For instance, if you feel like your scope was off, try adjusting it first and shooting again.

Maintaining the Bow

Keep a bowstring wax read with you always, and apply it after every few shots to ensure that your string does not dry out.

This way, you are not only reducing the chance of string fraying out or breaking down but also adding longevity to your crossbow’s life—a classic one-stone two birds situation.

Keep Practicing

Well, our mentioned tips won’t guarantee pinpoint accuracy the first time, but I know one thing that will — PRACTICE!

Just keep practicing till you get there, and trust me, you will — eventually.

Still, Stuck?

It is expected to not understand things simply by reading them online, so if you are not progressing or stuck at a part. I’d recommend watching this video, as a video speaks more than a thousand words.

Wrapping Things Up

You see, shooting a crossbow is not so tricky after all, right? Though shooting accurately with a crossbow is a long journey, it takes some time and skill to reach that state, but it sure is enjoyable.

Practice will make you perfect, but ensure that you are doing the right kind of practice, and which is by following the steps I’ve mentioned!

Shooting a crossbow is a fun task; I’ve always loved it — especially when I started out.

Anyhow, if you have troubling qualms, I’ve got plenty of free time on my hand to help you with them. So don’t forget to shoot them — you know where!