"I waste him with my crossbow!"
- – Bob Herzog, Knights Of The Dinner Table
The crossbow is named for its cross-shaped design, as it is basically a bow (in technical terms, called a prod) perpendicularly mounted on a stock (alternatively called a tiller) that uses a locking trigger mechanism to hold and fire either a specialized arrow (called a bolt or quarrel) or a small spherical stone or lead bullet (the latter usually being used for hunting). Bolts are arrows with a shorter shaft, and could range from being lighter than an average arrow to several times heavier. It operates on the same principle as the traditional bow in that a tough bowstring is pulled back to store potential energy in the bow which upon release of the string transfers it to a projectile.
While historians are unsure who first made the crossbow, the earliest known crossbows were found in China around 700 to 500 BCE. During the Warring States period, crossbows became a preferred ranged weapon of Chinese armies due to ease of use for conscripts and the use of crossbows certainly aided in the rise of the Qin Dynasty and the beginning of Imperial China. The Greeks and Romans experimented with hand-held crossbows, but they never made extensive use of them, opting instead to make extensive use of ballistae (basically a crossbow scaled up to the size of an artillery piece that usually shoots stones instead of arrows). The Chinese of these times, on the other hand, had crossbows of all types and shapes, from one-handed repeating crossbows that were capable of launching dozens of (fairly weak, but often poisoned) arrows per minute to absurdly heavy ones designed to be drawn by one's legs and launched arrows the size of small javelins which were tipped with gunpowder-filled bombs, having a destructive power comparable to siege engines. (To put that second variation in perspective, they were rendered obsolete by multiple rocket launchers. Yes, you read that right.) Crossbows began to see widespread use in Europe around 1000 CE, coinciding with the emergence of crossbows with steel bow sections, more commonly called arbalests.
The difference between a bow and a crossbow is that a bow's string needs to be pulled back and held by the user while aiming, while a crossbow has a mechanism that locks the bowstring in a readied state and only requires the user to operate the trigger to release the bolt upon sighting their target. The trigger mechanism evolved over time, as did aids for drawing the crossbow's string. The weight or size of the crossbow was the main determinant of the specific mechanisms it used, as light crossbows could be reset by hand, but heavier versions could end up needing levers or crank-operated windlasses to pull back and cock the string, and tended to use more robust release mechanisms due to the increased stress involved.
In fantasy settings, technologically advanced races like dwarves who don't (or only rarely) employ firearms as their go-to ranged weapon typically make heavy use of crossbows, as do richer and more experienced mercenaries. It would be aesthetically fitting for a culture known for their technical expertise to use a more complex device than a bow, but in the case of dwarves, there may be a practical reason as well: A bow's power depends on its draw length, and having shorter arms, dwarves can't get as much power out of a bow. They also need a weapon that can be used more easily in confined spaces, which disqualifies longbows right away. What they do have going for them, though, is great strength, making a crossbow's high draw weight less of an issue for them.
In a lot of fantasy and medieval fiction it also seems to be the favored ranged weapon of bad guys. Examples include A Song Of Ice and Fire (where it seems to be the preferred weapon of King Joffrey), The Lord of the Rings (Uruk-Hai marksmen use crossbows) and various D&D settings (Drow use poisoned repeater crossbows). This most likely owes to the fact that the crossbow requires less stamina, skill, and training to use effectively compared to a bow, and thus might be regarded as a "unfair" or “dishonorable” weapon.
Use in warfare
A major advantage of crossbows over regular bows is that because they're fired using a mechanism instead of depending on human strength to hold the bow in a ready-to-fire position, user fatigue is not such a huge factor. Additionally, the heavier crossbows could generate more force than most humans thanks to the pulley systems used to cock the string and shoot heavier bolts, resulting in greater penetration of the target. Possibly its biggest advantage is that it was easier to train the use of a crossbow than bows since the weapon's operation is much less taxing and they could have sights.
As relatively easy as they are to use, however, the main drawback with crossbows is that they require a wider range of resources and skills to manufacture due to the mechanisms involved. Crossbows also generally have a lower rate of fire than bows. At best, a crossbowman can get off about eight shots a minute. More powerful arbalest crossbows that used windlasses could manage about three shots a minute, but could store more energy than a human could physically pull back with bare hands. For these reasons crossbows excel in a siege situation where the ranges are long and you can duck into cover easily while you're reloading. And since sieges tended to be drawn-out affairs anyway, reload time wasn't as necessary.
That being said, despite crossbows being much more expensive than bows, they were much less demanding on the user's skill and physique. You can train as many crossbowmen as you have crossbows and replenish killed ones in just few months of training, while a bowman requires decades of training to be useful on a battlefield. So while a single bowman is much more effective than a single crossbowman, you can afford a half-dozen of crossbowmen for the cost of one bowman, and replace lost ones quickly as long as their weapon survives the battle. This is probably why they first took off in Warring States period China, where raising large conscript armies was the name of the game.
It should be noted that despite having much greater draw weights than contemporary bows (above 500 lbs in some cases), crossbows were not proportionally more powerful due to their very short draw length, translating into a much briefer energy transfer. More modern crossbows sometimes address this by using recurve bows, or even by using a bullpup configuration by turning the bow backwards and then pulling the string past the bow. Additionally, the reduced aerodynamic properties of crossbow bolts as compared to arrows mean that they very rapidly lose velocity after a relatively short distance, giving them great punch at short range but reduced effectiveness at longer ranges.
The fact that even relatively poorly trained men armed with crossbows could royally murder fully armored knights made the crossbow one of the most hated pre-firearm weapons in the Europe, even more than the infamous flamberge. At some point the Pope himself banned crossbows as an unholy weapon not to be used on fellow Christians, but even then they remained popular among mercenaries, rich lords and Protestants due to their usefulness. Proud knights could accept deaths from elite long/composite bowmen who trained from childhood like they did, but not from some hastily drilled dirty peasant levies whose lord could afford a few dozens of crossbows.
Finally, one of the most underrated uses of a crossbow was the psychological element. Those armies that weren't used to fighting against crossbowmen (and many who were) found themselves outranged, outgunned, outnumbered, and/or overpowered by crossbows. Sure, you could train longbowmen or mounted archers with potentially superior range or mobility, but if you had neither the right kind of wood, the horses, nor the time to train the archers from childhood, you risked being left behind in the dust during an arms race. Additionally, many medieval armours and early modern ones used by the rank-and-file men-at-arms were not capable of withstanding the sheer force that a crossbow shot could inflict, in comparison to many regular bows. So while your nobles and knights in custom fitted plate can arguably handle crossbows at range, their horses and foot levies in gambesons and brigandine with wooden shields can't risk being turned into pin cushions. This meant that the presence of crossbows on a battlefield could keep certain units away, due to them not being able to withstand that kind of shot. Indeed, we have medieval chronicles talking about the power of the crossbow:
This cross-bow is a bow of the barbarians quite unknown to the Greeks; and it is not stretched by the right hand pulling the string whilst the left pulls the bow in a contrary direction, but he who stretches this warlike and very far-shooting weapon must lie, one might say, almost on his back and apply both feet strongly against the semi-circle of the bow and with his two hands pull the string with all his might in the contrary direction. In the middle of the string is a socket, a cylindrical kind of cup fitted to the string itself, and about as long as an arrow of considerable size which reaches from the string to the very middle of the bow; and through this arrows of many sorts are shot out. The arrows used with this bow are very short in length, but very thick, fitted in front with a very heavy iron tip. And in discharging them the string shoots them out with enormous violence and force, and whatever these darts chance to hit, they do not fall back, but they pierce through a shield, then cut through a heavy iron corselet and wing their way through and out at the other side. So violent and ineluctable is the discharge of arrows of this kind. Such an arrow has been known to pierce a bronze statue, and if it hits the wall of a very large town, the point of the arrow either protrudes on the inner side or it buries itself in the middle of the wall and is lost. Such then is this monster of a crossbow, and verily a devilish invention. And the wretched man who is struck by it, dies without feeling anything, not even feeling the blow, however strong it be.
Anna Comnena, The Alexiad
Crossbows are still occasionally used for military purposes; while a crossbow's bolts lack the stopping power of modern firearms, it fires quieter than any "silenced" firearm and it can also be used for niche purposes such as launching grappling hooks or detonating tripwire-activated mines, and its lower projectile speed means it's much less likely to set off any worn explosives. And even its comparatively lower ability to kill outright can be compensated for by taking a page out of the Indian Navy's book and use cyanide-tipped bolts. Alternatively, you can take the Rambo route and use bolts with explosive tips.
See Also: Crossbows are Underpowered in d20
Because later crossbows were often too tough to simply pull back unaided, a number of devices were invented to allow the wielder rearm the crossbow via pulling back the string (in a process called spanning). The device used usually depended upon the draw weight of the bow, as heavier bows would require more advanced devices that required more time to pull back.
- Gloves and Stirrup: Generally leather or some other material, good quality gloves (or some tough callouses) can save one some finger or palm bleeding from trying to pull it by the old fashioned way. Talking from experience, if one is to do it this way, put your entire upper back, legs, and arms into it, and then pull. The user placed both feet on either the bow's span on each side of the stock or in the stirrup ring attached to the crossbow head. The most common loading mechanism in popular culture besides the cranequin and windlass. First appearance: 700 to 500's BCE. Mechanical advantage: 1 to 1. Maximum draw weight: 150-300 lbs.
- Stirrup and Belt Hook: Most crossbows you see have a stirrup ring towards the front end for putting your foot through to hold it steady. Combined with a belt worn around the waist with a hook attached to it, the wielder could use their whole body, rather than just their arms, to arm the crossbow. Could also use a belt-attached pulley configuration to lessen the strength to draw. First appearance: 1200's. Mechanical advantage: about 2 or 1 to 1 (depending on whether using pulley configuration). Maximum draw weight: 320-450 lbs.
- Goat's Foot Lever: This was a fairly simple detachable metal lever (colloquially known as gaffles) that gave the user more leverage when pulling back the string. Composed of a rod attached to two curved prongs and two hinged hooks, with a shape reminiscent of a goat's foot (hence the name). Mount on two metal lugs on the body's sides near the trigger, pull drawstring back in one motion via two hinged hooks, place folded lever back on belt via hooked handle or belt bag, load the bolt on the crossbow, and then shoot. This could arm the crossbow in a single smooth motion with the lever's curved prongs making the drawing force decrease as the spanning distance increases. Lighter versions can be spanned from horseback or while standing. The heavier ones would require you to put your foot in the stirrup while kneeling and bracing it against your shin as you pull the lever back. Very common for field portable bows and mounted crossbowmen. First appearance: Between 1300's to 1400's. Mechanical advantage: from 5 up to 30 to 1 (depending on how far the lever is pulled). Maximum draw weight: 550 lbs.
- Gaffe Lever: Another form of gaffle tool derived from the goat's foot lever, the gaffe lever consisted of a two piece wooden lever held by a hinge and attached to the stirrup ring via metal hook. The user pushed down on the lever to push the drawstring into the trigger before removing it. More associated with nobles' hunting or shooting clubs than with military arsenals after gunpowder weapons appeared in the 1500's during the Renaissance. First appearance: 1500's. Mechanical advantage: up to 30 to 1. Maximum draw weight: 400 lbs.
- Lever-Action: Alternatively called "Self-Cocking" or "Self-Spanning" crossbows. These generally use hinged or sliding levers embedded into the crossbow body. The user unlocks a catch holding the hinge firm before folding open the half of the crossbow body to catch the drawstring on a latch before pulling it back to the trigger to arm the crossbow. Unlike the Asian equivalent in the Chu-Ko-Nu, these did not have a top magazine. This enabled users to aim after loading and pulling a trigger to shoot at the cost of having to load the bolt by hand. Besides the Scottish Border Reivers' latchet crossbow in the 1600's, two noted examples are Martin Löffelholz's armbrust design in the Codex Löffelholz and Da Vinci's Rapid-fire Crossbow in the Codex Atlanticus (the Balestra Veloce). While impressive, lever-action crossbows were never mainstream or famous due to being weaker than regular crossbows and due to being invented during the transition to gunpowder weapons in the 1500's Renaissance. First appearance: 1500's. Mechanical advantage: up to 25 to 1. Maximum draw weight: 220 - 300 lbs.
- Windlass: Alternatively called the "Winch." Like the cranequin, this was a winding device, but it also came with a bulky pulley system that was mounted to the back of the crossbow. As a result, this was a tremendously powerful spanning system at the expense of needing a lot of time to arm. Along with the cranequin, this was one of the strongest crossbow loading methods. Contrary to popular culture, it was more often used on large, heavy crossbows for stationary battles like trench warfare or sieges like modern anti-tank guns. On the other hand, usage on open battlefields (behind pavise shields) for support artillery wasn't unheard of. First appearance: 1400’s. Mechanical advantage: ~160 to 1. Maximum draw weight: 1500 lbs+ (limited by time and bow strength).
- Cranequin: Also called the "Rack and Pinion," this device used gears and a crank to wind up the bowstring, requiring multiple turns to pull it all the way back. The device slid onto lugs mounted on the stock or a taunt noose that gripped the stock. After being used, it was removed before loading and firing. Along with the windlass, this was one of the strongest crossbow loading methods. Contrary to popular culture, it was more often used on large, heavy crossbows for stationary battles like trench warfare or sieges like modern anti-tank guns. Having said that, usage on mounted crossbowmen with lighter crossbows and by footmen on open battlefields (behind pavise shields) for artillery support wasn't unheard of. First appearance: 1500's. Mechanical advantage: ~600 or 840 to 1. Maximum draw weight: 2000 lbs+.
Types of Crossbows
As a general note, crossbows are not ballistas, despite their visual similarity. Unlike crossbows which store energy in a set of arms which are bent back, ballistas store energy in twisted rope that has a wooden beam pushed into it which is then twisted back farther before firing to store energy. That said, some ballistas are discussed here until a proper "siege" article is consolidated.
- Gastraphetes: An early Greek crossbow, the gastraphetes, or "belly bow", was cocked by resting the stomach on the bolt rest of the stock (which contained a sliding plank attached to the drawstring) and pushing down so that more energy can be stored then an archer could provide. The gastraphetes worked slightly different from the classic crossbow, in that its arrow slot was two-piece, with the sliding inner plank attached to the drawstring. Thus, rather than drawing back the crossbow, you readied it by slamming it into the ground until the trigger caught onto a latch. While impressive, it was restricted to hip fire, was fired with a button-like trigger, and was more of a man-portable siege weapon. A larger winch-spanned, tripod-mounted version, the oxybeles, was in use as a stationary artillery weapon before being replaced by the ballista (which used less fragile torsion rope rather than wooden prods).
- Polybolos: Roughly meaning “multi-bolt thrower” in Greek and also known as a "repeating ballista," the Polybolos more often resembles a big crossbow than a ballista since the arms are fixed to the "stock" and don't twist around to fire it, though some versions do use arms wedged into tense bundles of twisted ropes like regular ballista. The repeating ballista was fired by turning a wheel connected to a chain drive forward to cock it, then turning it the other way to load it again from a hopper on top of the stock and fire it. Assuming the operator is standing on the left side of the weapon, turning the wheel at the back of the crossbow counterclockwise pushed a sliding plank called the mensa (like that from the gastrophetes/oxybeles) forward. Once driven forward sufficiently, the latch claws at the back of the plank are triggered by a forward-placed lug into holding the drawstring in place. Then, turning the wheel clockwise drew the drawstring back as the plank slides backwards. At the same time, the motion of the plank drives a screw threaded pole (in contact with the plank by a block with a sliding nut) to rotate and load a bolt via a built-in notch on the rod) onto the body of the plank from the hopper on top. Pulling the wheel back to the very end will bump the latch against another lug that triggers the latch into releasing the drawstring and firing the bolt.
- Chinese "Nu" crossbow: the Chinese version of the crossbow is noticeably different from the European crossbow which had a power stroke (drawing span) of about 7 inches, used a rolling nut latch held in place by a sear pushed by a long horizontal lever-like trigger mounted in the middle of the stock, and used prods (bow pieces) made from simple wood, composite, and later with metal. In contrast, the Chinese crossbow had a power stroke of about 21 inches, used a complicated two-piece vertical trigger at the very back of the stock (held together by tension and two pins at the very end of the stock) inside a pistol grip mount, and used wood or composite prods (often salvaged from recurve bows and constructed for conscripts to use en masse instead of drilling archery skills into them). Due to the longer power stroke, the bolts fired by the Chinese bows (usually with draw weights of 380 lbs) were launched with comparable performance to an average European windlass crossbow (with a draw weight of 1,500 lbs), assuming all other factors are equal. However, the Chinese crossbows themselves were rather large, cumbersome, and had to be reloaded with just stirrup rings, belt hooks, and/or gloves.
- Chu-Ko-Nu: literally meaning “Zhuge’s Crossbow;" classical legend associated it with a Chinese noble named Zhuge Liang (2nd Century AD). Alternatively known as the "Lian Nu" (repeating crossbow), it's also known as the "Chinese repeating crossbow" and is one of the more common types of specialty crossbows seen in fiction. In reality, it was invented during the Warring States Period (4th Century BC) in the State of Chu. The term "repeating crossbow" brings to mind some bastard combination of Assault rifle and crossbow, which it kinda is and is not. Without doubt, this thing could fire quickly; trained soldiers could loose ten bolts in fifteen seconds before having to reload. Chu-ko-nus were limited to hip fire, giving you almost ork-tier accuracy in exchange for an appreciable volume of fire. In layman's terms, it's the same as being restricted to hip-firing a pump action shotgun with the trigger permanently welded in the fire position. Additionally because you were pulling the string back one-handed, the bolts had a lot less penetration power than those of a regular crossbow. However, the bolts (which fell down onto the stock from a hopper mounted on top) were often poisoned to make up for that (as seen with the Drow, who make use of the weapon extensively). Now, no matter how potent the poison on your bolt is, you're not gonna kill a man instantly with a scratch. On the battlefield, however, causing enough pain to make a person go into shock is as good as killing them outright, and poison can deliver pain in spades. The downside was you had next to no luck piercing good quality armor or even thick leather clothing. Historically there are two known designs for the repeating crossbow:
- The most common example is associated with the Chinese Ming Dynasty and their allies in Joseon Korea. Mechanically, it consisted of a stock, mounting the prods and the lever (which attaches to the moving box magazine), that the user secured on their hip with the bowstring sliding through a slit on each side of the sliding magazine/bolt rest. By pushing and then pulling the lever that secures the magazine to the stock, the user catches bowstring on a notch at the tail of the slits in the magazine’s back end while loading the bolt by gravity onto the bolt rest. Once the lever is fully compressed down, a sliding lug nut at the base of the magazine pushes the string up off the notches and propels the bolt out. However, because of the mechanism's design, the swinging action that pulled the string back also fired the bolt at the same time while the magazine is built on top of the bow. Due to that, you could not pull the string back and then aim.
- An earlier version from the State of Chu used a pumping lever (which had a handle loosely attached by chord) at the back and a pistol grip under the stock at the front where the prods are attached (held by the user in a manner similar to drawing a regular bow). On top of the stock was a fixed double magazine. Inside the stock, a sliding lever held a complicated trigger assembly composed of a metal sear and latch (the entire thing being shaped like a crab's claw arm). When pushed forward by the lever, the trigger locks after coming into contact with the taunt drawstring, with the lever's internal grooves and the sear holding it in place by friction and tension. Upon being almost fully pulled back, the double magazines drop two bolts onto two firing slits on either side of the trigger inside the crossbow. Upon the lever being fully pulled back, the metal sear comes into contact with a round bar holding the sliding lever in place and pushed the latch into releasing the drawstring to propel the loaded bolts. Compared to the Ming Dynasty & Joseon Dynasty's equivalent of an overhand lever action shotgun, the Chu State's version was more akin to a double shot pump-action shotgun. While somewhat more advanced than the Ming Dynasty's model, it was even weaker than the latter model while also using a complicated mechanism that couldn't be reproduced quickly for home defense or militias.
- Balestra Veloce/Löffelholz Armbrust crossbows: First mentioned in Leonardo Da Vinci's Codex Atlanticus (1478 to 1519) and Martin Löffelholz's Codex Löffelholz (1505), both versions of the said lever-action design (which differ mainly by the arrangement of the trigger, latch, and sear mechanism) used a stock consisting of two wood and metal pieces on top of each other and hinged at the head of the crossbow. By unlocking a catch on the stock, the user can then swing forward the bottom half of the stock to extend a latch housed in a sliding plank (like that on the gastraphetes) forward to catch the drawstring. Once the drawstring is caught, the stock is then closed, locking the stock back together and bringing the latch (which is held firm by a spring-loaded sear) back into contact with the trigger on the lower half of the stock. The user can then load the bolt and pull the trigger to compress the sear, letting the rolling nut release the crossbow string. Whether the German or Italian version came first is unclear, though the rapid fire crossbow pages in the Codex Atlanticus are dated back to 1485. Either codex's blueprints can be found online via an online archive created by "The Visual Agency" media company or a pdf scan hosted by Krakow's Jagiellonian Library respectively. While reconstructed models have been made firing and reloading more rapidly than the mainstream and historical goat's foot lever crossbows (to say nothing being much quicker than hand-spanning or using cranequins), there’s no proof that the designs were ever constructed or used in historic European arsenals and was never mass produced due to possibly three reasons.
- First, the amount of expert craftsmanship to theoretically make it and the extensive training to use it was cost prohibitive for a relatively complicated and delicately structured weapon. This meant that it was likely more of a special luxury weapon that only wealthy people could afford rather than a mass-produced weapon for conscripts (the same reason why breech loading rifles existed since the 16th Century for noble hunters but didn't replace muzzle-loading smoothbore muskets in mass use for militaries until the 1840's by which time the mechanical, chemical and material technology had become far in advance of the Renaissance).
- Second, while quicker than spanning a crossbow with a goat's foot or gaffe lever, the draw weight for the Löffelholz Armbrust and Balestra Veloce is reduced to a mere average of 220-300 lbs respectively. Being half of the maximum draw weight of gaffe and goat's foot lever crossbows, this meant weaker penetration and shorter ranges. In other words, the lever action crossbow achieves a speed slightly faster than a gaffe/goat's foot lever bow but its draw weight has been reduced to the same level used by their Glove-and-Stirrup ancestors over half a millennia before their invention. This was likely to make the lever-action crossbow more easily rearmed without being too strong to either break the trigger lock or prevent you from operating the levers with your hands.
- Third, the introduction of gunpowder weapons alongside the volley fire from massed pike and shot square formations occurred during the Renaissance. Since these crossbows were developed right when gunpowder took over, this meant these lever-action crossbows already went obsolete the same way that heavy plate-armored cavalry and longbow archers did. Hence, this is why these crossbow types (as well as other related combination specimens preserved at Vienna's Kunsthistorisches and New York City’s Metropolitan museums) were usually hunting or city militia pieces rather than military arsenal pieces. Only in the mid-2010’s were historians and arbalists able to build working reconstructions. Funny enough though, the Uruk-Hai crossbows from The Lord of the Rings films, constructed by visual designer John Howe, actually used the mechanism (but upsized and made spikier) designed in the Codex Löffelholz (as shown by the Weta Workshop behind-the-scenes clips in the extended edition of The Two Towers).
- Latch/Latchet Crossbow: A light lever-action crossbow popular with Scottish border raiders called Reivers in the 1600's to 1700's, it worked via swinging an internal metal lever forward from the top to push a sliding latch forward to secure the drawstring after unlocking the spring-loaded catch. The user then pushed the lever backwards into the body to arm the bow before loading and shooting. Popular to the Scottish in the region for home defense and raiding as they were small, easy to use, easy to make, very quiet compared to the more finicky wheel-lock pistol, had a decent draw weight of about 250 lbs, and took only 10 seconds to reload. Their downside was their short range, very short power stroke, and being restricted to hip firing due to the trigger being a button on the top (a trade off to enable horsemen to fire one-handed from the saddle, though you could tuck it into your armpit and adjust to aiming over your thumb). Similarly designed crossbows have been found elsewhere but tended to be ballester crossbows used to fire bullets at game animals.
- Bed Crossbow: A Chinese peculiarity, where multiple crossbows mounted on a static frame were combined to create an increased draw strength. A precursor to the compound crossbow.
- Bullet Crossbows: Also referred to as pelletbows, stonebows, and ballesters, these were essentially the same as regular crossbows or similar to a slingshot in crossbow form, except they fired stone or lead shot instead of bolts. Usually used for recreational shooting and hunting small game animals.
- Crossbow pistol: Small crossbows designed to be fired from one hand, with modernized versions commonly featuring a more modern pistol grip and trigger. While these did exist in the past, they were nowhere near as lethal as battlefield crossbows as the draw weights were far smaller.
- Arbalest: After European armor improved with the development of steel plate, crossbows with wooden bow sections were just not cutting the mustard anymore. As such they began making that part out of steel. This meant that the bow could store more energy and launch a projectile farther and faster, significantly improving armor penetration but also greatly increasing the draw weight, often requiring various levers and cranking mechanisms to reset it.
- Slurbow: A crossbow with a cover over its barrel and a small gap used to draw its string back. Arguably influenced by the pistol, the slurbow was mostly used for firing unfeathered quarrels or darts.
- Sauterelle: The last apparition of a crossbow-like weapon in a modern battlefield for frontline work. In WWI, soldiers had a problem: all the artillery that existed was big and unable to drop explosives accurately into a trench, especially at close range. And on the other hand, thrown hand grenades had the precision but too limited range. As an interim solution the French and British deployed a number of catapults that were designed to lob grenades. But the catapults had some draw backs in weight and portability, and the French were always just ITCHING to get out of the damn trenches and take the offensive. So while the mortars were still on the drawing board the French army invented the Arbalète sauterelle type A or just Sauterelle (grasshopper in French) to replace the Leach trench catapult and eventually the British started using it as well. In terms of design, it was basically a big crossbow built to lob grenades at around 150 yards distance. Worked decently enough but basically everybody knew it was an interim solution and later in the war they were replaced by small, two-man team infantry mortars that were just as easy to move around and use but had three or four time the range and a better rate of fire.
- Compound Crossbow: the modern version of the crossbow, which is basically a modern compound bow (complete with pulleys, springs, and synthetic elastic materials)on a rifle stock. Many of these also come equipped with telescopic sights modified with cross-hairs that compensate for the effects of gravity, wind, elevation, and other factors that might affect a bolt's accuracy. They are primarily used for hunting, sport and (unusually) home defense in Britain since everything else has been banned. Also finds military special forces, espionage and law enforcement use by firing ziplines or grappling hooks, explosive, incendiary, poisoned or gas-releasing projectiles, or simply well made darts for a relatively silent kill. Most use conventional spanning mechanisms but some more recent exotic ones combine various technological concepts from past and present such as the Balestra Veloce's lever action system and the Chu-Ko-Nu’s top magazine, alongside modern optics, grips, and compound composite bow-pieces.
|Battleaxe - Dagger - Lance - Mace - Club |
Pole-arm - Spear - Sword - Warhammer
|Blowgun - Bows and Arrows - Cannon |
Crossbow - Firearm - Rocket - Shuriken - Sling
|Armor:||Armor - Fantasy Armor - Helmet - Pauldron - Shield|