On a blustery, chilly November afternoon, dh and I were invited to a friend’s remote property for food, friends and some shooting. We took our cowboy guns, of course, but our host had a surprise: A crossbow.
I’d seen pictures of a crossbow, and knew the basic concept of its function, but I’d never had an opportunity to pull the trigger on one. You know I was first in line to give it a try.
The trigger pull was much easier than I expected, and there wasn’t the recoil you expect of a weapon that can hurl a bolt (an arrow) an impressive distance. Of course, this was a modern crossbow, made of space age materials and mechanisms, in many ways far superior to its Medieval predecessors. Research beckoned.
“The earliest definitive evidence for Chinese crossbow use comes from manuscripts dating to the 4th and 3rd centuries BC in China, associated with the followers of Chinese philosophy Mohism, developed by a man named Mozi. This philosophy, although it asserted a belief in universal love, also called for the development of a political structure within which there was no central authority other than Mozi’s writings. The Mohists developed many ideas on fortification, statecraft, as well as agricultural theories, and were soon hired as advisors for the leaders of warring states.”
Am I the only one who finds it “interesting” that a society expounding universal love became advisors on how to prepare for—and win–wars?
Beyond the writings of the Mohists, Sun Tzu’s book The Art of War, from approximately 400 BC, also refers to the use of crossbows. And Alexander the Great is known to have used crossbows for the siege of Tyre in 332 BC.
By the 1100s, the crossbow was considered by many to be a weapon of mass destruction. Not only was it was remarkably accurate and particularly deadly, worse, it allowed any lowly peasant to kill a high-born mounted knight with the simple squeeze of a trigger.
Though it took longer to reload than a longbow—a crossbow could manage only two volleys per minute while a bow could fire as many as 10—any soldier could be proficient with crossbow in a matter of days.
I had to dig, too, on whether this weapon, so commonly used across the pond, was brought here. According to Reginald and Gladys Laubin in AMERICAN INDIAN ARCHERY, VOLUME 4, there is some evidence of crossbows among the Cherokee & Potawatomi tribes.
“In 1927 a statement was obtained from Chief Simon Ka-qua-dos of the Wisconsin Potawatomis that as a young man he and his companions had made and used crossbows in hunting during the perod from about 1862 to 1867. He described the weapon as having a gun-shaped stock with an ordinary hunting bow mounted at a right angle across the stock at its forward end. The stock was grooved, and an ordinary arrow was laid in the groove. The bow was pulled back with both hands, and the string caught in a notch on the barrel from which it was released with a simple trigger device.
“It is almost certain that the Indians got the idea of a crossbow from the Whites, but how long ago is a difficult question. The Spanish and French explorers were armed with crossbows, and it is possible that the idea came to the Indians at that early time. Whether they used crossbows for the intervening three hundred years is anyone’s guess, but they certainly were not reported in any of the early writings.”
History aside, while I enjoyed my “shot,” I think I’ll stick to my Cowboy Action Shooting for fun. The bang is a lot louder.
Happy 2016, Everyone!