Crossbows are known for their elegant design and powerful ability to shoot arrows at a distance. They are mostly used for hunting and in sports. One amazing thing is that the original motive of developing the crossbow is very different from how it is used at the moment. Here is a look the history of the crossbow and how they have developed over time.
The First Crossbow
The first ever crossbow to be made was initially invented in the Ancient China. This was in the era of the Zhou dynasty. It was around 700BC when the first crossbow was invented. It is believed that Mr. Ch’in of Ch’u was the person who invented the crossbow.
The Design and Mechanism
The first crossbow had a unique design, which consisted of a bow that was mounted horizontally. The bow was then linked to a stock and trigger, which helped to shoot the arrow. The design of this crossbow was borrowed from a bow-trap that was mounted horizontally. This trap was used by other communities within the same period of time.
The trigger of the initial crossbow was able to shoot an arrow at a maximum range of 650 feet. It had a firing system that was somewhat complicated. It was intentionally made to be complicated, in order to confuse an enemy how it worked. This was also meant to sever as a copyright. It helped to prevent the enemies and other competitors from copying it.
The Motive of the Invention
Originally, the crossbow was not meant to serve as a weapon of war. Rather, it was invented to act as a tool of peace. That might sound weird, but actually, it actually helped to maintain some peace. How did this happen? It was meant to calm the fighting and war among the states, especially towards the end of the Zhou era.
The concept of peacemaking was somewhat weird. When someone came with a weapon that was more advanced and powerful, everyone else would retreat. As a result, people would stop fighting and they would follow the commands of those armed with the crossbows.
This weapon was very much advanced during that era, till the law in China was passed to prohibit the export of the crossbow from China. It was feared that other enemy nations would copy the mechanism and it would lead to more fighting. So technically, the crossbow was originally invented to be used in a war, but not for fighting. It was basically used to scare away the enemies and control them.
The Spread Across Other Nations
Around the Middle Age, the crossbow had spread across Europe and it was not used as a weapon in a war. The commoners in Europe were trained on how to operate the crossbow, which were commonly known as the arbalests. During this era, the knights were the ones that commonly used the crossbows. The crossbow was a must-have weapon in the armor of the knights.
The Advanced Weapon
Even though the crossbow had a slower ability to reload, many armies were more successful when they went to the battlefield with a crossbow. Technically, a normal longbow (bow and arrow) could shoot around 10 volleys in a minute. Conversely, the crossbow was able to shoot only two volleys in a minute.
With the ordinary bows, it would need a lot of strength and skill to operate them, but the crossbow was very much effective and needed less effort. The bolts of the crossbow were able to pass through the armor plate and chains. This was made possible from a distance of around 300 yards, which was a disadvantage to an army with bows and arrows. These crossbows were terrifying to the ruling class. They had the ability to take down a strong army in a short time.
Since it was an abomination to kill a member of a ruling class, the crossbow was prohibited by the Pope Urban II and Pope Innocent II in 1096 and 1139. The church of this era was against the use of the crossbow among fellow Christians. Nonetheless, other religious authorities had no issue with the use of the crossbows against the non-believers, heathens, and heretics. Regardless of the ban, many rulers used the crossbows in their armies as a way of winning faster in a war.
Drawback of the Previous Crossbows
The ancient crossbows were highly valued, due to the ability to take down an army in the shortest time possible. Nonetheless, it did have some negatives and one of them is that it loaded slowly. Even though it could throw a heavier bolt through the armor plate, it took a while to release the bolt.
Another drawback is that the weapon was open to moisture, which made it vulnerable to rust. This made it wear faster since they had no storage.
The Modern Crossbow
Over the years, the crossbows remained as a lethal weapon in many countries. However, people used it in a different way. They mostly used it for target shooting, which is the archery in the modern day. It was also used for hunting in some countries. Most states in the US, some countries in Asia, Europe, Africa and Australia. Check out this post for most information on the crossbow regulations in each US State.
Currently, the marine Wild Care use the advanced crossbows to carry out the whale research. These special crossbows are used to collect the blubber biopsy samples, devoid of hurting the whale.
There is also some paramilitary and military usage in the contemporary world. There are many militaries that are employing the use of crossbows. The difference with these ones is that they are handheld and they do not need to reload. They are instant shooters and can shoot at a further distance, compared to the ancient crossbow. The Chinese Police Forces use the crossbows and also, some militaries around the world are using these weapons. The militaries use the crossbows as a silent weapon, especially in crucial battlefields. There are some are used for the psychological effect, while others are believed to contain poisonous arrows.
They are also used in anti-sniper and ambush and can be used along with ropes to develop a zip-line, especially in complicated terrains.