Shooting a 15th century crossbow

Today an archer at my local archery club gave me the opportunity to try his reconstruction of a 15th century crossbow. He reported that the weapon was 95#, and was loaded using a hip draw.

I shot at a foxed-shaped target 22-25 yards away. The first shot struck the body of the fox exactly where I had aimed. Amazed, and more confident on my second shot, I aimed at the fox’s head, and hit the eye.

I am extremely impressed. The crossbow was actually easier to aim and shoot than a rifle, despite having no sights except the tip of the bolt. A problem with firearms is that the shooter may anticipate the recoil, jerking their body and throwing off their aim just as they squeeze the trigger. This crossbow had no recoil to anticipate. I also found the lever-style trigger easier to squeeze without changing my aiming point, as I could press it with the strength of my whole hand rather than with one finger. Granted, the crossbow is fairly light by 15th century standards and a heavier one may not have been so pleasant.

I have been practicing archery intensely for three months now, but at the same distance, I could probably hit the fox’s head at the same distance with my 60# recurve only on maybe one in three or four shots. With my matchlock I can achieve similar accuracy to the crossbow, but I have to work harder for it, splitting my mental processes between aiming, not anticipating the significant recoil, keeping track of the match, and squeezing the trigger smoothly.

Next time I’ll try to remember to take pictures.