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Anatomy of a Crossbow

Bolt clip: This holds the rear of the bolt firmly in place so that it cannot be dislodged when moving the crossbow

Bolt rest: This centers the bolt at the front of the tiller, aiding in accuracy.  In our Rusting and Schnepper models, the bolt rest is adjustable for windage.

Bow irons: On many Western European crossbows, bow irons were used to secure the prod to the tiller.

Bridle: Used primarily in Central Europe and Scandinavia, this is the cord which secures the prod to the tiller, and is typically made from hemp cord that has been waxed with beeswax.  

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Bridle block: A wooden block that makes for a more secure anchor for the bridle, as the prod vibrates significantly when shooting, which can place lots of stress on the bridle.


Cheek rest: While not a universally employed feature in European crossbows, the cheek rest is ergonomically designed to increase comfort - and therefore accuracy - in shooting.

Lock plates: These are plates - usually made from horn or steel - that are set into either side of the tiller at the nut in order to add strength to the tiller.

Nussfaden: Literally "nut thread", this cord keeps the nut firmly located in the tiller when shooting.  In some bows, this function was fulfilled by an iron pin, and in some cases, rotating nuts of this kind had no anchor and were retained by the dimensions of the slot in the tiller.

Nut: This cylindrical piece is locked into place by the locking mechanism, and retains the string when the bow is drawn.

Prod: The bow of the crossbow, which stores the tension energy and then transmits it to the bolt upon release.

Safety cord: Secured to the prod, this cord traditionally helped to retain any flying debris produced if the prod broke under strain.

Stirrup: A metal hoop used to assist with spanning the crossbow.  The arbalist steps in the stirrup and can then span the bow with both hands, or using a spanning aid such as a windlass.

String: The string imparts the stored energy in the prod to the bolt.

Suspension ring: A ring for hanging the crossbow when stored, it can also be used as an anchor point for a spanning device such as a gaffe lever.

Tiller: The main body, or stock,  of the crossbow

Trigger: The lever which the arbalist depresses in order to release the nut and thus the string, discharging the bow.

Trigger guard: While not universal in European crossbows, the trigger guard in late Medieval and Renaissance German crossbows was a simple design adaptation of the earlier trigger lever ubiquitous in Medieval crossbows.

Explore a Modern Armbruster medieval crossbow
reproduction in this virtual model:

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