Crossbows and pistol crossbows are popular hunting and target-shooting weapons in the United States. Crossbows fire bolts which may be used to take game animals, but because crossbows share some characteristics with both firearms and traditional archery weapons, regulations vary widely by state. Some factors that different states use to regulate all crossbows (pistol or full-size) include draw weight, bolt size, whether the hunter is disabled and whether the crossbow is used during archery-only or general hunting seasons.
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According to Hunter's Friend, different states regulate the minimum and maximum draw weights of crossbows used for hunting. For example, in Arkansas a crossbow must have a minimum draw weight of 56.7 Kilogram and mechanical safety to be legally used for hunting. In New Jersey, minimum draw weight for a crossbow is 34 Kilogram and in Illinois the maximum draw weight is 90.7 Kilogram. According to Crossbow Men: "Pistol crossbow draw weights vary greatly, with the average between 50 pound draw weight up to 80 pound draw weight which even still coupled with lightweight bolts will not generate enough energy to be used for anything but target practice.
According to Hunter's Friend, bolt size is also a point of regulation for crossbows. In Wyoming, a 16-inch bolt is the smallest legal bolt for hunting with a crossbow. This may be too large for some pistol crossbows. Illinois requires a minimum 14-inch bolt (not including the bolt's tip).
Hunter's With Disabilities, Age and Archery/General Hunting Seasons
Young hunters and disabled hunters may also need to be aware of certain regulations regarding their use of crossbows. According to Hunter's Friend, many states have provisions allowing disabled hunters to use crossbows to hunt during the archery-only season. It is important to note that even with these provisions crossbows used by disabled hunters may still be subject to other types of regulations as mentioned above. Other states, like Alaska, do not allow crossbows to be used in areas designated "bow only" but do allow them where both guns and traditional bows may be used. Also, according to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment, hunters must be at least 12 years old to use a crossbow of any kind for hunting.
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