The crossbow has long been associated with medieval warfare. Because it was an easy weapon to learn how to use and required little or no military training, the crossbow was often the weapon of choice for feudal peasants in the Middle Ages. Used properly, the crossbow could be an effective short range projectile weapon. It was often used to defend castles during sieges. The crossbow is still popular today, although it is used primarily for recreational purposes.
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The Crossbow In History
The ancient Chinese were the first to invent crossbows and use them in warfare. Chinese crossbows were compact and fired rapidly. The Romans used oversized crossbows called Ballista as siege weapons. The velocity of these and later crossbows could be very great. The crossbow of medieval Europe was instrumental in the Crusader victory at Jaffa in 1192 and in many later battles. However, the rapid fire and long-distance ability of the English longbow, particularly at Crecy in 1346, soon overshadowed the crossbow's effectiveness. The widespread advent of firearms in warfare relegated the bow's military use to the pages of history.
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Ideal Wood for Crossbows
Most crossbows, both medieval and modern, are made of composites, meaning many different materials are used in their manufacture. The best woods to use are hardwoods. The stock and prod (the bow part of a crossbow) are typically made from hardwoods that can take punishment and last over time, such as maple or oak. Any hardwood is considered superior to lighter woods like bamboo. Woods that are typically used in the production of longbows such as yew and ash can also be used for the prod of a crossbow.
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Other Types of Crossbow Material
Crossbows from the Middle Ages were made of both metal and wood. Many modern crossbows are often made from wood, plastic and aluminium. Fibreglass is also often used in manufacturing crossbows. Carbon materials are the newest addition to crossbow production. They are lightweight like fibreglass and aluminium but also incredibly strong like hardwood.
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Modern Crossbow Usage
The modern crossbow has very limited military application. It has sometimes been used by special forces around the world. The vast majority of crossbows made today are designed for hunting. Most states have special hunting regulations for crossbows. Some archery enthusiasts also enjoy range and field target practice with crossbows. Crossbows are even occasionally used as darting weapons for wildlife management.