A Look at Crossbow History

A Look at Crossbow History
Detail from The Martyrdom of St. Sebastian. Circa 1475.


6th Century B.C.

The earliest known handheld crossbows are unearthed in two tombs found in East China.

5th Century B.C.

The earliest reasonably reliable date for the crossbow in the Greek world.

500-300 B.C.

Sun Tzu's influential book, The Art of War, refers to the use of crossbows.

341 B.C.

Earliest reliable record of the use of the crossbow in warfare at the Battle of Ma-ling in China, also famous for first use of the illusion of retreat-and-ambush to gain the upper hand in battle.

228 B.C.

Earliest factual evidence in the form of a bronze lock mechanism from the tomb of Yu Wang.

400 A.D.

Evidence of use as war instrument in the Mediterranean.

4th-7th Centuries A.D.

Reliefs on structures in Roman Gaul show crossbows used for hunting.


Belgian attack on Senlis near Paris driven off by crossbowmen.


Lock bows are used in the Battle of Hjorungsvag, Norway.


The crossbow comes into wide use in pageantry, crossbow clubs and among royalty.

11th Century

The rail or tiller is grooved to hold a bolt.


Crossbows are likely used in the Battle of Hastings, and may have been the weapon that killed English King Harold, a pivotal point in the battle with the Normans.


Pope Innocent II condemns and forbids the use of the crossbow by Christians against Christians by saying they are "deathly and hateful to God and unfit to be used among Christians."


Mardi bin Ali al-Tarsusi of the Middle Eastern Ayyubid Dynasty records the different types of crossbow and the use of the belt and claw for spanning, also called cocking.


English King Richard I The Lion Heart, who had found a loophole in the Pope's decree against the crossbow, is killed by a crossbow in a battle at Chalus, France.

1st Half of 13th Century

Matthew Paris, English chronicler and monk, illustrates crossbows.

13th Century

The stirrup is introduced for cocking crossbows.


200,000 bolts are ordered by the English for use in campaigns in Wales.


English longbowmen defeat a force of 6,000 Genoese crossbowmen at the Battle of Crecy in Northern France during the Hundred Years' War.

Mid-14th Century

Crossbows now can cast bolts approximately 200 yards.


Book of the Hunt, a treatise on hunting by Gaston Phoebus, includes crossbow technique.


Record of the cranequin, a rack-and-pinion device for cocking, is used by the English army in Rouen, France.


In England, crossbow prices are set at no more than 3 shillings, 4 pence.


Leonardo DaVinci designs a giant crossbow that would have been more than 80 feet across.

16th Century

Stonebows, two-stringed crossbows to shot stones or baked clay, become popular, especially for bird hunting.

16th Century

Record of first crossbows made specifically for target shooting.


First of many laws in English restricting use and possession of crossbows.

Mid-16th Century

Highly decorated, heavy-draw-weight crossbows are used widely for deer and boar hunting in Europe.

18th Century

The Chinese develop a self-loading, repeating crossbow.


Sir Ralph Payne-Gallwey, military author and engineer, shoots a 16th century crossbow 450 yards.


The International Armbrust Union, now called the International Crossbow Shooting Union, is formed as the governing body for crossbow target competition.


Alpine Crossbows, founded by Bernard Barnett, begins production in England's West Midlands. The company, now known as Barnett Crossbows, later moved to the United States.


A very young Bernard Horton appears on Welsh national television showing off his latest creation.


Holless Wilbur Allen is granted a patent for the compound bow.


Arkansas makes crossbows legal during bow seasons. Wyoming had always allowed crossbows during archery season.


Ohio legalizes crossbow hunting in bow seasons.


Crossbow hunting pioneers, like Ottie Snyder of Ohio, Bill Hilts Sr. of New York, Bill Troubridge of Ontario, Canada, and David Barnett of Florida, champion crossbow hunting in archery seasons.


Barnett International opens a factory in Odessa, Florida.


PSE introduces the popular Crossfire compound crossbow.


Barnett International introduces the Thunderbolt compound crossbow.


Proline introduces the ZX-7 compound bow.


Tom Jennings, pioneering developer of the compound bow, releases the Jennings Devestator crossbow.

September 1998

Bobby L. Beeman takes the Safari Club world record non-typical Northwestern whitetail deer with a crossbow. It scores 281 4/8 inches.


Barnett sells more than a million crossbows.

January 2010

PSE unveils the TAC-15 crossbow, which uses an AR-15 lower as its trigger group and stock.

November 2011

Jerry Bryant takes the world record crossbow deer, a 304 3/8-inch, 37-point Illinois buck called the Bryant Giant. Bryant was allowed to use a crossbow in Illinois thanks to a medically disabled-hunter permit.

November 2004

Brad Jerman takes the Safari Club International world record typical whitetail deer with a crossbow. It scores 206 1/8 inches and is also the Ohio state record for any weapon.

November 2004

The Bryant Buck is accepted as the second largest whitetail deer ever taken by a hunter, according to the Boone & Crockett Club.


Seven U.S. states allow crossbow hunting archery seasons.

September 2005

William Brown takes the world record pronghorn antelope with a crossbow. It scores 77 2/8 inches Safari Club International.

April 2005

Amid support and criticism, archery's Pope and Young Club rejects crossbows as a legitimate hunting bow.

May 2006

Gordon Scott takes the world record North American bison with a crossbow. It scores 65 7/8 inches SCI.

September 2006

Jake Carter takes the world record typical Rocky Mountain elk with a crossbow. It scores 362 7/8 inches SCI.

March 2007

State Rep. Cy Thao, with crossbow proponent Daniel James Hendricks as spokesman, introduces a bill in the Minnesota Legislature to allow crossbows in firearm, bear and turkey season. It passes, and also allows physically disabled hunters to use them.

October 2007

Ken Loya Jr. takes the world record black bear with a crossbow. The bear scores 20 13/16 inches SCI.

April 2008

Stan E. Christianson takes the world record Eastern wild turkey with a crossbow. The turkey scores 49 2/16 inches SCI.

June 2008

The Archery Trade Association adopts a policy that states, "Crossbows are viable shooting and hunting equipment."


Inventor James Kempf receives a patent on a Reverse Draw Technology crossbow.

August 2010

Then-chancellor Vladmir Putin uses a crossbow to shoot an endangered gray whale for research purposes.

March 2011

The Illinois General Assembly fails to pass a bill to allow crossbow hunting for people younger than 62 and those without a handicap.

August 2011

Nebraska, Indiana and parts of New York allow crossbows in archery seasons, bringing the number of pro-crossbow states to 18.


Crossbows sales rise 70 to 80 percent in five years, according to the ATA.

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