"The original sniper rifle."
--David Coretti, Knight expert
The Crossbow was a projectile weapon of the Middle Ages, with the ability to pierce armor from 200 feet away. It was the Long-Range weapon of the Knight.
The crossbow consisted of a bow mounted onto a wooden stock. When spanned, the bowstring is held in place by a notch. When the trigger is lifted up, it pushes the bowstring from the notch. Because of the forward motion of the bowstring, there is no recoil.
- Long Range
- Bow span: 3 feet
- 9 lbs
- Wood frame, steel string.
The crossbow was widely used due to its accuracy, its ease of use, and penetration power. The main drawback of the crossbow was the long time it took to reload, with Heavy Crossbows requiring the use of a windlass device known as a Crannequin.
The first crossbows were created in East Asia and were commonly used by the Chinese. The technology traveled westward, allowing the Greeks and Romans to develop their own variations of the weapon.
Medieval Europe preferred the crossbow to the normal bow and arrow because of how easy it was to master (most archers requiring significant strength and experience to be effective), and many crossbows could fire their projectiles with more force than a bow: allowing superior armor penetration. The English were one of the few nations in Europe to prefer the longbow over the crossbow. Many bows and archers were seen as cowardly and inferior to the common foot soldier, discouraging bow archers. Because of this, most mainland European armies lacked skillful archers and were dependent on the crossbow.
It is generally agreed that Crossbows are superior to Bows in sieges as Crossbows did not require the archer to strain himself while aiming for enemy units to appear. However the English Longbows showed superior range on open battlefields; as seen in the Battle of Crecy in 1346.
Portuguese explorers indirectly introduced the crossbow as sailors navigated across the coast of Africa during the early Renaissance. The Fang and Mpongwe peoples of Gabon created lighter crossbows inspired by Portugese design. These crossbows relied on using poison, similar to the Botto & Pima, to compensate for the small size of the bolts.
Muskets were just as easy to use as crossbows but had superior armor penetration and smaller ammunition. During the mid Renaissance the crossbow was considered outdated technology and its use slowly faded from battle and into hunting.
Some armies today do have modern crossbows for their special forces; primarily for special operations that involve silence. However gun suppressors, while not silent, are more relevant as they can be used on guns that can easily outperform crossbows. The Viet Cong did create booby-traps involving crossbows that were triggered by trip-wires.
In the Battle of Crecy (1346), a rainstorm made the French crossbowmen unable to fire their bolts accurately as the wet strings weakened the strings. English archers did not have this issue with their longbows, and thus were able to dominate the battle. Also most crossbows take several minutes to reload, which could leave the warrior vulnerable to enemy fire.
- The Second Lateran Council under Pope Innocent II in 1139 banned the use of crossbows against Christians as they deemed it to be too powerful and lethal (though Muslims and other non-Christians were allowed to be killed by crossbows). However the crossbow was so effective as a weapon that the ban was ignored.
- Unlike muskets or rifles; a Crossbow does not need to be resting against the shoulder while aiming; as there is little to no recoil unlike a musket.
- Noticeable victims of the Crossbow include; Harald Hardrada and Richard I of England (dying from Gangrene resulting from his wound). Joan of Arc was struck in the neck by a crossbow in the Siege of Orleans: but managed to recover. Joan was also struck in the thigh or leg during the Siege of Paris, which forced her to retreat from the battle to heal.
- The English army during The Hundred Years War used crossbows more frequently during the later years of the war, primarily since the elite English Longbowmen were costly due to how long it took to train the archers.