Crossbow Anatomy

Here is the crossbow detailed in Chapter XVIII Payne-Gallwey’s book. He describes the design as the high point of the millitary and sporting crossbow as reached in the fifteenth century. This design remained essentially unchanged until the extinction of the crossbow as a millitary weapon in the early sixteenth century. The design persisted for deer hunting. The steel prod had such tremendous pull that it could only be bent by means of a windlass. Thus, it is variously referred as a Grosse Arbaleste, Arbaleste a Moulinet, Rolling Purchase Crossbow, or Windlass Crossbow. The Windlass Crossbow
  1. Prod: Also known as a lathe (when made of steel). Early prods were probably made from a single piece of yew or ash, which tends to warp, crack or fail under strain. For this reason, such prods were replaced by composite bows, which were made of laminae of whalebone, yew and tendon. This transition occurred during the twelfth century and originated in the Middle East (Turkish bows are an excellent example). With the later adoption of steel lathes, the crossbow regained its dominance for several centuries.
  2. Bow-String: Historically made from hemp or flax twine in essentially the same fashion as bows strings today.
  3. Nut and Socket: Early locking mechanisms were made from horn or bone (or walrus tusk in the case of Scandinavian crossbows). Early chinese locking mechanisms, even those of 2000 years ago, were quite complex, involving several interconnected bronze castings, and even included a rudimentary safety lock.
  4. Stock: The stock was fashioned from a single piece of hardwood, such as oak. In some cases two pieces were joined latterally.
  5. Groove: A groove runs down the top of the stock to guide the bolt. The grooves of later bows were made of brass to protect the stock from ware. The addition of the groove greatly improved the accuracy of the bow and was a significant step in its evolution.
  6. Sight: The arbalist used his fingers to pull the trigger and his thumb to grasp the handle of the crossbow. He would then sight by lining up the first joint of the thumb with the upper edge of the bolt. Target crossbows developed much later used sites similar to those used in recurve archery today.
  7. Trigger: These were often beautiful examples of blacksmithing.
  8. Stirrup: The arbalist held the business end of the bow down and placed his foot through the stirrup to steady the bow while he worked the windlass.
  9. Bow-Irons: These were generally made of steel, although less commonly they were made of brass.
sayeth as follows:

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