Crossbow Danger Zones
Hunting with and shooting crossbows can be a very rewarding experience. There isn’t a greater feeling then watching your arrow hit the center of a bulls eye or disappearing behind the shoulder of a big buck. A crossbow can bring great enjoyment even during a practice session. However, if safety precautions are ignored, a crossbow can be a very dangerous weapon, both to the crossbow shooter or to whatever is in the line of fire. Serious bodily harm can be prevented as long as you know what areas to keep an eye on and avoid. I like to call these areas crossbow danger zones or hot spots. And in this segment of the crossbow safety and education series, we’ll learn what and where they are, so that you’ll be able to experience years of safe crossbow hunting and shooting.
The first area of concern is the front of the bow. Just like any firearm, you never want to point a loaded crossbow in the direction of anything you aren’t ok with shooting an arrow into. Now this sounds like common sense, but even with the safety on you should never point your crossbow in a direction other than a target or the animal you’re hunting when it’s loaded.
The trigger is the next danger zone. Not all crossbows are created equally. Some crossbows have auto engaging safeties and some don’t. If your crossbow isn’t equipped with an auto engaging safety, then the first thing you’ll want to do after you cock your crossbow and before you even think about loading an arrow into it is to put the safety on. And if your crossbow does have an auto engaging safety, don’t take for granted that it will work every time. Chances are it will, but it still a good idea to always do a visual check before loading an arrow in your bow.
The string path is the next area of concern. After a crossbow is cocked, you never want to stick your hand in the path of the string. One of the most common crossbow injuries is when a hunter gets ready to take a shot and his or her finger is above the barrel and they pull the trigger. A crossbow string can have so much force that it can remove fingers and or thumbs that get in it’s way. The good news is that manufacturers are taking safety as serious as ever and many of them are incorporating safety features either into their stocks fore grip or the barrel itself to make it nearly impossible to get your fingers above the rail and into the path of the string.
Another time you may inadvertently place your hand in the path of the string is when you are carrying or reaching for your crossbow from the top. Because the barrel is in the center of the crossbow, from a balance perspective, it just makes sense to grab your crossbow in the center. This isn’t a problem if the crossbow is uncocked, but on a cocked crossbow you run the risk of serious injury of the bow should fire or fail while holding it in that location. So just remember, anytime your crossbow is cocked, whether it’s from the bottom of the crossbow or the top, you never want your hand or fingers to be in the path of the string.
The last area of concern would be with your arrows. Most manufacturers will specify a certain type of nock that they recommend shooting from their crossbows. You should always follow the manufactures guidelines when it comes to the nock you shoot. Not doing so can result in the string not fully making contact with the back of the arrow when released by the latch. As a result it can pass underneath or over top of the arrow leaving you with what is known as a partial dry fire. This can cause damage to the crossbow or injury to the shooter. Another way you can experience a partial dry fire is when using an arrow lighter in weight than what the manufacturer recommends. So always use an arrow with the correct nock and the correct recommend weight.
The last thing you can do that can cause yourself injury or damage your crossbow is a full dry fire. This is when you cock your crossbow and forget to load an arrow and then fire the bow. Unlike a gun where the firing pin is the only thing that is moving, the crossbow has a great deal of stored energy in the limbs that transfers to the string the moment the trigger is pulled. If there is no arrow to absorb that energy, the bow and it’s components are left to absorb the energy usually resulting in broken strings and cables and or cracked limbs. Now many crossbows have an anti dry fire mechanism that helps prevent this from happening, but the best way to prevent a dry fire is to always double check that you have an arrow loaded in your bow before firing it.
Well hopefully I didn’t scare you too bad. As long as you double check to make sure you aren’t doing any of the previous mentioned safety hazards, shooting your crossbow will provide you with years of safe enjoyment. Making a conscious effort to learn what not to do when you first learn to shoot a crossbow will soon turn into second nature safety habits that will save both you and your crossbow from harm.