How to Load a Crossbow Correctly

A Guide to Loading Your Crossbow Correctly

Whatever your experience is in the sport of hunting, there’s always something more to learn. I’ve been hunting for quite a long time, but even I won’t pretend I know everything there is to learn about such a deep and varied hobby. When I set up this site it was because I wanted to share what I’ve learned with the rest of y’all. This article is focused on the aspiring crossbow hunter and will be a sort of “Load a Crossbow the Right Way Guide”. I’m confident that by the end of this short article you’ll have everything you need to know to load a crossbow correctly and move on to lining up that perfect shot. So without further ado, let’s get started!

Cock the Bow

Crossbows are definitely a little bit different from a compound bow or rifle, and one of the main things that sets it apart is the process of properly cocking the bow and preparing it to fire. In this section I’m gonna cover the steps behind properly cocking your crossbow. It’s a simple process, but screwing up just a little bit can result in some wildly inaccurate shots.

To cock a bow manually, simply follow the steps below.

  1. Point your crossbow down so that the foot claw touches the ground.
  1. Make sure the safety switch on your crossbow is in the firing position. This may seem a little counterintuitive since you’re not actually firing at this point, but with the safety locked you’re not gonna be able to pull that string back! Just be careful and put your safety first.
  1. Put your foot in the claw.
  1. Grab the string with both hands. In this step it’s important to make sure you’re grabbing with an even and steady grip to avoid pulling back one side faster or harder than the other.
  1. Pull the string back firmly and consistently. Don’t yank the string! Doing so is a surefire way to damage the bow and hurt yourself.
  1. Re-engage the safety switch. A lot of modern bows will do this automatically, but if they don’t you’re gonna want to make sure that the safety is back on once the bow is loaded. The last thing you want is an accidental firing.

Taking the extra time and attention to make sure you’re cocking the bow as straight and evenly as possible is gonna make a hell of a difference when you take the shot.

I’ll be honest and tell y’all that cocking a modern crossbow has actually gotten more challenging than it used to be. With many crossbows having a draw weight of over 150 pounds, it’s no longer as easy of a task as it used to be back in my glory days. There are some nifty items you can purchase, however, that might make the challenge of cocking your crossbow a little more manageable.

If y’all are having trouble cocking your bow, buying a good rope cocking tool can be a big help. It essentially adds a stirrup that you can connect to the string for better leverage when cocking your crossbow. To cock your crossbow using a rope cocking tool, simply follow the steps below. It’s pretty easy y’all, I promise!

  1. The first step is the same as if you’re manually cocking. Put the bow at the ground and put your foot in the claw.
  1. Hook the clamps of the rope tool on the string, making sure they’re evenly placed on both sides of the string.
  1. Pull the strings back until you hear the “click” of the crossbow cocking.
  1. Make sure the safety switch is on, and move on to loading the bow.

As you can see, the steps are pretty similar to the manual cocking method I gave y’all above. The main difference is that the addition of a rope will make it a lot easier to cock the crossbow. If you’re not strong enough to cock your bow easily, really give some thought to adding a rope cocking tool. Even if you can manage to cock your crossbow manually, if it’s a big struggle for you you’re going to save a lot of effort by using this simple device – not to mention how much safer it is!

Some crossbows either come with or are compatible with a crossbow crank. It will take a lot longer to cock a bow with a crank, but it’s generally a lot easier than pulling it back since all you have to do is spin a lever. If you’re lacking in the strength department and a rope cocking tool doesn’t work for you, consider looking into a crossbow crank.

Crossbow Cocking Tips

I’ve given y’all an overview on how to cock a crossbow, but I also wanted to write a short section on some tips and tricks to make cocking your bow a breeze. Take these pointers into account, and setting yourself up for a great shot should be a no-brainer! I’ll admit, a couple of these tips are intended for those who are using a cocking rope, but if you’re cocking just fine without a rope you probably don’t need more tips!

  • Shorten Your Cocking Rope. By default, the cocking rope for a crossbow is pretty darn long. Shortening it can make a big difference in ease of cocking, and you’ll be able to avoid injury too! Struggling to pull back a long rope can really hurt your shoulders over time, so taking these steps to make it a little bit easier should make loading your crossbow a whole lot easier. Through trial and error, just adjust the length of your rope so it matches your cocking stroke.
  • Mark Your String. I’ve talked about this tip before, but it can make a big difference when it comes to loading your bow accurately so I’m gonna tell y’all again. Taking a marker and making a quick mark on the string where it meets the trigger mechanism will make it easier to load your bow accurately each and every time. Cocking your bow even a fraction to the right or left of center can lead to some frustrating near misses, so give this a try!
  • Mark Your Rope. Just as marking your string can make a big difference, placing a mark on your cocking rope will help you line things up right when it’s time to pull back the string. Simply drawing a dot or line on the center of your cocking rope and then lining it up with the center seam in your stock will help you make sure you’re pulling back with even pressure each time you cock your bow. We talked a bit above about how important it is to pull the string back with consistency and care, and this little trick will help out with that.

Load the Arrow

Now that you’ve learned all about how to cock your bow, it’s time to learn more about how to load a crossbow. This part is pretty simple and requires less finesse than cocking, but you want to make sure you take the time to do it correctly so you get that great shot. Just take an arrow that’s designed for your bow and stick it in the barrel.

You wanna make sure the cock vane of the arrow is aligned in the barrel channel. Generally the cock vane is going to be at least slightly different colored than the rest of the vanes on the arrow, and you’re gonna want to make sure this differently colored vein is lined up nice and straight in the channel.

In most cases, the vane should be pointed down, but this will sometimes vary based on the bolts you’re using. If you’re unsure of which position to cock the arrow in you should take a look at the user manual or maybe do a quick web search. I’m still learning about the internet and I’m a bit of a slow learner, but there’s just so much information out there on so many different things. Take advantage of it and do some basic research! It’s really important to make sure you load the bolt in the orientation that’s correct for your bow, because you could seriously damage the equipment if you do that wrong.

Take Aim, and Fire!

I’ve done my best to teach y’all how to load a crossbow with this little “Load a Crossbow the Right Way Guide”, so it’s time for y’all to get out there and give it a try. Before your next hunting trip, consider setting up a target and practicing a bit. It’s important to understand how to load a crossbow correctly in a safe environment before you head out in the woods and take aim at your prey. If you’re reading this article, it’s likely that you care enough to do the research and set yourself up for success. With a few consistent shots under your belt, you can head out on your next expedition with some well-deserved confidence in your ability to cock a bow and take that perfect shot.

About Al Parsons

Al Parsons is originally from Alabama, but has had the pleasure of hunting all over the United States. Al is an expert on crossbow hunting, as well as traditional rifle hunting. His favorite time of year is the start of Archery Deer season in Alabama, so usually in October.