How to Load and Shoot A Crossbow Proficiently

A crossbow can look intimidating to use. Especially for beginners who only know what a crossbow does by sight. Using it is a whole new ball game. The only way to beat the scare away of using a crossbow, you need to do this one thing. Learn how to use it and it won’t look so scary anymore!

A crossbow, by design, is a complicated weapon. If you look at it just right, it looks like a tricky mousetrap, right? But for humans. The thing is that crossbows are only dangerous when you use them.

So if you use them correctly, they’re not so dangerous anymore. It’s the same thing with any other machinery you use. A power caw, a chainsaw, or heck, even a car. You’re bound to meet with accidents and put your life at risk were you to not use these things proficiently.

So that’s what we’re here to do. Learn about how to load and shoot a crossbow proficiently. Because you deserve it and it’s the only correct way to use a crossbow.

Before You Start

There is something I’d like to call a “pre-shot checklist.” Okay, I didn’t make the term up but that doesn’t take away its due importance. It’s for beginners to stay in good shape and prevent any mishaps before loading and shooting a crossbow.

If someone as busy as a Navy officer can have a checklist, why can’t you? It keeps your head in the right place.

Your pre-shot checklist has everything. Write this down and go over it every time you plan on using the crossbow.

1.   Check the Crossbow

Make sure it’s in working shape. Is it stocked? Are the necessary parts waxed? Are there any signs of wear or tear that would probably worsen with more use?

2.   Check the Arrows

Do you see a dent or crack in the arrows? Make sure you sharpen the arrows before using them. And are the arrows compatible with the crossbow you’re currently using?

3.   Be Prepared

Medical supplies, especially for beginners, is a must. A simple cut or bruise can get infected outdoors if you’re not careful. So always keep a first aid kit with you. It’s a handy thing. You don’t need a giant pouch or box for it.

Also, know where you are and how to get to a hospital or a pharmacy or a store in case of emergencies. If you’ve forgotten some essentials or supplies are almost over. Being aware of your location always helps.

4.   Eliminate Distractions

If you’re not taking this hunting trip alone, be very particular. You don’t want your hunting companion to “borrow” any of your equipment during the hunt. Make sure each person brings with them their own supplies and equipment.

What’s also important is that they know how to load and shoot a crossbow. This avoids running into any problems along the way. And avoids the risk of somebody getting hurt while getting out.

5.   Test, Test, Test

This is the last but crucial step. You have to make sure the limbs, bolts, strings, and cables of the crossbow are in working order. And not just in working order but in great working order. You don’t want to walk into trouble halfway through your crossbow hunting expedition.

Besides, a cracked limb or a loose bolt can mess up your entire fun. The crossbow is of no use to anyone if it isn’t conditioned to perfection. Always remember that.

How to Load and Shoot A Crossbow Proficiently

The first step is to load the crossbow correctly. This involves two stages: cocking and loading.

There’s no one universal way to cock a crossbow. That is because of the versatility of crossbow models. But you can keep these things in mind when cocking a crossbow:

Always keep the crossbow pointed away from you or any other person. It needs to point toward a safe direction i.e. open space.

While cocking and loading the crossbow, keep your fingers away from the trigger. I’m sure you’re aware of the danger triangle in a crossbow. So keep your fingertips and hands away from that area.

You must never keep the crossbow loaded when you’re not using it. Even if it’s a minute’s break, it’s safer to uncock and unload the crossbow.

How to Cock A Crossbow?


You need to pull the string of the crossbow back. You do this to trigger the fire control mechanism. So until you do not pull on the trigger, you keep the string pulled back.

There are many different types of crossbows. Some allow you to use your foot to adjust and engage the crossbow. Pulling back the string with one hand while holding the crossbow in the other is tough. So having a foot stirrup saves time and is less tiring for beginners.

The last thing you need to keep in mind about cocking is to not do it slowly. Slowing pulling the string back can only mean you haven’t cocked the crossbow correctly. It’s not all the way back and still, you’ve kept the automatic safety triggered. This won’t necessarily hurt anyone but it’s a waste of time.

How to Load A Crossbow?


You need to place an arrow on the engaged barrel that you cocked a few seconds ago. The nock or the backside of the arrow has to touch the string once it’s on the flight deck.

If it’s the right arrow and crossbow, it should sit perfectly on the barrel. A beginner model has color-coding that shows you the correct spot for the arrow fletchings. So you know what goes where in the flight groove.

How to Aim and Shoot A Crossbow Proficiently?


Whether you’re aiming at an animal or at a tree, aim before shooting. Never shoot while aiming. There’s a world of difference between the two. As mentioned above, eliminate all distractions and focus on the job.

So when you do pull the trigger, it hits the target. Or if it misses, you don’t hurt anyone. If you’re new, keep checking the parts of the crossbow for any damages. You want your crossbow in a first-class condition each time you load and shoot.

Final Thoughts

This might seem like the briefest article for a skill that takes days and days to master. But by reading this and watching tutorials online can you avoid injuries.  Loading and shooting a crossbow proficiently is not an impossible task.

The first step is to believe, in yourself, that you can do it. You might be embarrassed or scared to start considering that you’re not going to hit your target the first time. But it’s still better than not trying at all, or worse yet, trying it incorrectly and hurting someone.

So stick to the correct technique of loading and shooting a crossbow proficiently. As they say, practice makes perfect.

About the Author

I'm Rodney Heaton and I love hunting in the wild. In the past, I was in the military for over 5 years. After that I became a licensed hunter and a mountain guide.