Crossbow Mishaps and Mistakes

Crossbow Treestand BlindCrossbows can be a great deal of fun to shoot and to hunt with. But they can also be dangerous if certain safety precautions aren’t followed. Sometimes, we can get distracted and forgot to do simple steps that can cause great damage to our crossbows, or worse, cause injury to ourselves or others around us. These mishaps can often times be prevented. It is our lack of concentrated and focus that often is the culprit when we do have an accident. Or sometimes, our lack of knowledge. If you’ve ever experience one of these mishaps, you know you don’t want it to happen again. If you never have, you might not even be aware of what they are. So in this article we’ll take a look at some common crossbow mishaps that often happen while practicing, and talk about ways to prevent them form happening in the first place.

The first and most damaging to the crossbow would be the dry fire. A dry fire occurs when a crossbow if fired without an arrow loaded into it. Thankfully with the advancement in technology, almost every crossbow manufacturer is now offering an anti dry fire mechanism of one type or another. So the dry fire is not as common as it used to be. But if your bow isn’t equipped, it can a very serious event you do not want to experience. Most times resulting in broken strings or limbs. Dry fires mostly occur when trying to rush a shot or when getting distracted while going through your shot sequence. Always double checking to make sure there is an arrow loaded before pulling the trigger will prevent a dry fire. Seems simple enough, but they happen all the time.

The partial dry fire can happen in one of three common ways. The first way is when an arrow is loaded into the crossbow and is not pushed all of the way back against the string. This gives the string time to “jump” over the back of the arrow nock when the crossbow is fired. Because some of the string make contact with the arrow, sometimes your arrow can fly still fly down range. Other times your arrow will stay put and the string will ride over top of your arrow.

The second way a partial dry fire can happen is if your crossbow requires a moon nock or a capture style nock and it isn’t indexed correctly. There are two ways in which this can happen. The first is that the arrow was simply loaded in to the bow with the wrong vane or fletch point downward. The second way is when a nock, that is not glued in rotates without the shooter knowing and they do load an arrow correctly but the nock is not indexed right. With both scenarios, the nock does not run parallel to the crossbow string. When fired, the string can jump or go under the back of the arrow resulting in a partial dry fire, or worse, the misaligned nock can cut the string. As a result breaking your crossbow when it explodes.

And yet a third way is when you have a broken or cracked nock and you don’t realize it. A cracked nock often times looks perfectly normal, but when you fire your crossbow, the force of the string on the back of the nock makes it break all the way through resulting in a partial dry fire.

So how can we prevent these partial dry fires from happening? The first is to make sure your cock vane (or odd colored vane) is always pointed down. If you shoot all of the same color vanes on your arrows, make sure to mark the cock vane with a marker. The second way is to always inspect your nocks after shooting each round. This holds true especially if you are shooting groups. Sometimes, the force of another arrow hitting the back of an arrow already in your target can rotate your nock without you knowing it. Even if you’re aiming at individual aiming points, always inspect your nocks for misalignment, or cracks. Sometimes a crack may not be so obvious because the wall of the arrow shaft does a good job holding the nock together. Sometimes just pressing on your nock in a sideway manner will reveal a crack if there is one. If you do find a broken or cracked nock, it must be replaced. Do not continue to shoot that arrow until doing so.

Another common mishap, especially for the new crossbow hunter or shooter is hitting their thumb or finger with the string when the bow is fired. This can happen when a person holds the fore grip of a crossbow and has either their thumb or one of their fingers is sticking up higher than the barrel in the path of the string. Let me tell you this is no joke. At the very minimum you will suffer major pain and bruising and at worse case, people have been known to loose a digit. It is seems like common sense to those of us that have been around crossbows for awhile, but for those of you that haven’t, the threat is there. The good news is that in just a couple of recent years many of the manufacturers have taken this into account by adding some sort of protective wing or flared out section of the stock or barrel to help prevent you from creeping up too high on the barrel. But there are hundred of thousands of crossbows out there today that do not have these features. So be very careful when you first start out shooting a crossbow not to get your fingers into the path of the string.

The last mishap I want to discuss isn’t necessarily a safety concern like the others discussed in this article, but it does happen more than it should while hunting. Some newbie crossbow hunters make the mistake of thinking that the arrows they shoot with a broadhead will hit in the exact same spot as their practice tip did. If you’re a vertical bowhunter switching to crossbows, you most likely know this isn’t the case. But if you’ve never bowhunter before in your life, you may not be aware of this. With the right combination of crossbow, arrow, and broadhead, sometimes you can get your broaheads to hit in the same point of impact as your practice heads. But often times they won’t. It should not be assumed that they will. Even with mechanical type broadheads that claim that they “fly like a filed ponit”, you should always practice with a couple of your broadheads to make sure where they are hitting. Especially before heading out to the woods. If they do not hit in the same spot as your practice arrows do, a quick scope adjustment will get you back to shooting bullseye’s again. So how is this a mishap? I hear about it all the time from hunters that assumed, and then go hunting. They shoot at a deer and the arrow doesn’t go where it supposed to. Seems like it’s always on a buck of a lifetime too. The deer most times ends up wounded because of a poorly placed shot. This isn’t fair to the animals we hunt or to us as hunters. We spend too much time afield in order to get an opportunity at an animal. So let’s make sure if something does go wrong, it isn’t because we didn’t take the time to shoot out broadheads.

The good news is that today, many of the crossbow manufacturers are trying to find ways to prevent these mishaps from happening before they even have a chance too. They are developing new and safer features that not only protect us while shooting crossbows, but they protect the crossbows from being damaged by us being humans and making errors. If you’re new to the sport, you might have purchased a new crossbow that has some of these features. But many new crossbow hunters that aren’t sure if hunting horizontally is for them, will buy a used crossbow that doesn’t have these extra safety features. So hopefully, I’ve pointed some things out in this article that will help you be more educated so you can prevent them from happening. It’s often said, “You don’t know, what you don’t know.” Well, now you know. The rest is up to you. Hunt safe!!!


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