How to Make a Crossbow: The Classic Crossbow

You can make a crossbow using walnut, aluminum, a few miscellaneous parts, and our instructions.

  • make a crossbow - four pics
    1) Our field piece looks and functions like many of the more expensive manufactured crossbows. 2) The front sight is a strap of aluminum fitted with a bead. 3) The steel cocking rod gives the cocking lever a forward mount when the string is being drawn. 4) This prototype has no trigger safety, but one can be added.
    Photos by MOTHER EARTH NEWS Staff
  • make a crossbow - two pics
    The takedown version is either a pistol or a long arm.

  • make a crossbow - four pics
  • make a crossbow - two pics

NOTE: Though we did build and test both of our crossbows, the potential for injury from any weapon is enough to compel us to say that whoever decides to make a crossbow does so at his or her own risk.

An archer might consider it kin to a firearm. A shooter, on the other hand, most likely would think it a stock-mounted bow. To the general public, you wouldn't need a poll to know their feeling: It looks sinister enough to be a lethal weapon!

In short, there's not much doubt that the modern crossbow suffers an "identity crisis," but regardless of the mystery that still surrounds this curious hybrid, it's been gaining in popularity among hunters and targeteers alike. That trend hasn't gone unnoticed here at MOTHER EARTH NEWS.

With several avid bowhunters on the staff, and a research department eager to take on such an interesting challenge, it wasn't too difficult to get the ball rolling on a project that we figured might be a first in the field: designing and building a quality crossbow from scratch; testing its range, accuracy, and overall effectiveness; and then comparing its performance to that of traditional recurve and compound bows.

Crossbow Basics

The contemporary crossbow shares little beyond a basic design with its forebear, the medieval arbalest. Though both launch arrows (bolts) by means of a short bow transversely fixed to a stock, the superiority of modern materials — along with the improved geometry made possible by the use of such lightweight plastics, alloys, and composites — has turned what was a crude but effective weapon of war into an admirable piece of fairly uncomplicated technology.

Over the past few years, crossbow design has received considerable attention from various manufacturers, with the result that the old standard has been modified to run the gamut from a paramilitary-looking assault piece to an artistic expression of classical physics. And although these developments represent improvement in most cases, they're beyond the ability of all but the best-equipped crafts people to duplicate.

11/1/2015 4:08:28 AM

I think you will find my website interesting as well. it's about how to make a crossbows in your own home

8/11/2014 7:58:26 PM

Where can I purchase the blueprints for this design? You used to be able to purchase the blueprints from the magazine. Oil leaked on my prints ruining them.

5/29/2013 8:33:20 AM

Crossbow is an incredibly old weapon, using much of the same technology that has been utilized for hundreds of years; technology and principles long before the gun and more compact and accessible than the stand-up bow and arrow. There are a wide variety of crossbow makes, manufacturers, styles, function, accessories and materials. It is a tool that can be used for various hobby interests, from simple target shooting to serious hunting.

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