How to (Safely) Load a Crossbow

Est. Reading: 4 minutes

So you've got your first crossbow, have it assembled and now you're wondering how to load it without getting injured in the process? Because, let's face it - crossbow are a dangerous hunting equipment, just like a firearm. Maybe even more dangerous as loading a rifle doesn't carry the risk of getting your fingers cut off!

You've most likely already tried pulling the string back and felt the tension in the limbs and the effort that is (usually) needed to get it all the way back. And it get's scary, doesn't it? Random thoughts and hesitations start crossing your mind - "What if that string snaps?", "Are the limbs attached securely?", "What is the chance of a limb breaking and slamming me in the face?".

The truth is, you shouldn't be worried about those particular things. If you're using the correct technique for cocking , neither string snapping nor limb breaking should possess the risk of an injury.

The first thing you should do before attempting to load the weapon is:

Read the manual

Take your time and go through the user manual that came with your crossbow in its entirety. It won't take too long and it contains valuable information that is crucial for the safe and effective usage of the item.

Pay special attention to the section about the built-in safety features that are relevant to the process of loading the weapon. That may, and is likely, to differ from model to model and from manufacturer to manufacturer.

Lubricate the shooting rail

After you've exhausted the manual and before cocking the crossbow, it is a good idea to apply some lubrication to the rail before the first shot. Make sure to have a suitable product ready.

The idea behind lubricating this part of the crossbow is to reduce the friction between the serving (the central part of the bow string) and the rail when the arrow is being launched forward. This would help prolong the life of the serving so you won't have to replace it sooner that usual. And on top of that, less friction means faster string/arrow movement and higher arrow velocity.

Simply tap some of the lubricant on both sides of the flight groove and then smudge it with your finger.

Next step: Make sure the crossbow is in the "fire" position (not "safe")! Otherwise the string will not engage the string latch properly when you pull it into the trigger box

Now you are ready to...

Pull the crossbow string

In most cases you would use cocking rope (usually included in the package), which reduces the effort by 50%. If you've got a newer and/or a more "premium" model, it probably came with a crank device which makes the task much much easier - you'd only need to apply around 5% of the required draw weight.

Using a cocking rope

  1. Rest the front of the crossbow on the ground.
  2. Most models have a stirrup where you can insert your foot in order to keep the weapon immovable and secure against the ground. Some of the newer and especially the more expensive models might not have a separate stirrup but there should be a visible designated place somewhere on the limbs where you can put your foot.
  3. Find the groove on the crossbow stock - somewhere around the back of the trigger box. Place the center of the rope into it and let the two hooks hang on both sides of the rail
  4. Attach the hooks to the string and make sure they are at the center, touching the rail.
  5. Grab the two handles and pull the string up, all the way to the trigger box and until you hear a "click", indicating that it has been locked in place by the string latch.
  6. Remove the rope.

Note: If pulling feels too hard, this probably means you have to adjust the rope length. Most of the time you'd need to shorten it - that would make the movement shorter and more manageable.

Tip: stiffen your waist and utilize the strength of your legs to pull the string - it is much more effective compared to just using your arm and back muscles.

Using a crank

Refer to the manual for instructions on how to use the crank device. Different manufacturers offer cranks that are made specifically for their own models. It may be sold as an accessory that you attach to the crossbow, or built into the weapon.

In general, you'd need to hook the string and then rotate the device handle to draw it back until it "clicks". Slowly, but easily.

cocking crossbow with crank

After hearing the "click", make sure the safety mechanism is "on". In most modern crossbow models it is engaged automatically when you cock the string. Make sure to switch it manually if that's not the case with yours.

Keep your fingers away from the cocked string!

Once cocked, beware the string! Do not place your fingers or anything else between the string and the limbs.

Load an arrow

Take an arrow and make sure to hold it by the front end, near the tip. This way your hand would be safe (remember the string?)

Note the vanes at the opposite end of the arrow. One of them should be a different color than the other two. That vane should go into the flight groove.

Lay the rest of the arrow onto the groove and then push it toward the trigger box until it is secured by the arrow latch.

Once done, your crossbow is loaded are ready to shoot. After moving the safety knob from "Safe" to "Fire", of course.

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