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How to Cock a Crossbow

Posted by Patrick V on

How to cock a crossbow isn't only a technique to load your crossbow before firing, it can also help you to determine which crossbow you are looking for. In other words, selecting how much weight you are willing to cock, should lead you to a specific purchase. For instance, if you want the minimum cocking weight because of a back injury, you have to eliminate all crossbows without cranking devices compatibilities. This article will overview how to cock main brands and how to uncock a crossbow meanwhile giving good tips about how to choose your next crossbow. 

There are three main ways to cock a crossbow; bare hands, rope cocking devices or integrated rope cocking devices which take off more or less 50% of the cocking weight and finally cranking devices that take off up to 90% of the cocking weight. There is also another way, not really recommended, if you have to go there you might have the wrong crossbow for you. You can sit on your butt, put your feet on the riser and cock it the same way as using a rope cocker. The difference is you can lean on your back when you get to the difficult point of reaching the latch. 

These techniques apply to all types of crossbows. Either you choose a recurve crossbow, a compound crossbow or reverse limb crossbow, knowing what you are cocking can help you to select a perfect match for you. For instance, you can choose the reliability of a recurve but you must know that they are the toughest to cock on the market. In the middle, you have the compound crossbows which variate a lot toward their quality and their cocking weights. Finally, if you want the best of two worlds, not that I'm saying that reverse limb crossbows are better than two previous one, but simply because they combined low cocking weight with impressive velocities. 

Two things are universal with crossbows. You must be certain that your foot is perfectly seated in the foot stirrup before any action concerning cocking the string. This simple detail void many injuries or damage to the crossbow. Secondly, you must disengage safety before cocking your crossbow. Those two actions are necessary for any kind of crossbows.

Let's have a look on the different technique with their advantages and disadvantages.

 

Cocking Bare Hands

Pros

  • Fast operating technique

Cons

  • Can be hard on fingers
  • Chance to cock uneven
  • Chance to dry-fire
  • Acidity of fingers might damage the string

No doubt, the fastest technique, however, the most susceptible to generate mistakes of using. Consistency is key for precision and reliability. Cocking unevenly the string into the latch could lead to dry-firing and cause major damage to the limbs. The energy stored in the limbs must be transferred to the bolt. In dry-firing situations, the energy comes back to the limbs creating undesired vibrations causing possible little cracks that could lead to breaking the limbs. A good advice if you want to cock bare hands your crossbow is to mark the string with two lines along the flight track so when you are pulling the string you know exactly that the string is centered into the latch. You can release only when you hear a click into the trigger box. The purpose of cocking evenly the string is to make sure that you have the same amount of pressure in both limbs. The result of that consistency will lead to more consistent accuracy. 

Tip: Eliminate Reverse Draw Limbs Crossbows from cocking bare hands. Their specific design isn't meant to be draw bare hands. The risk of injuring (pinching) your fingers is too high considering the tight angle to reach the trigger box. 

     

    Cocking with Rope cocking devices

    Pros

    • Less expensive than cranking device
    • Easy to use and quiet
    • Take more than 50% off the weight
    • Helps greatly to keep consistent accuracy
    • Chance to dry-fire are minimal

    Cons

    • Rope cocker if wrongly adjusted might be hard to cock
    • Replacement would be necessary if retractable system fails

    As you saw in the first video, the rope cocking aids are the second and most popular system to cock a crossbow at an affordable price. There are many different rope cocking devices branded and patented by manufacturers.

    Rope cocking

    how to cock a crossbow - Barnett rope cocking device

    The first on the list is the rope cocking device. Every Brand offers their own rope cocker. Luckily, they all fit other brands, in general, no matter which crossbow you have. These rope cocking aids come in standard length which must be adjusted to your height to avoid you having both arms at maximum height and not be able to cock the crossbow. Using a system of a pulley, the rope takes off more than 50% of the cocking weight. This means a cocking weight of 165 pounds would be lower and under 82.5 pounds to cock it. The fact that you are leaning over the crossbow and pulling up allow you to use stronger muscles like abdominals, back muscles and leg muscles. These combined with your arm muscles create a lever to pull up the string. Make sure that the hooks are nicely next to the flight track by pushing them with your fingers and try to apply the same amount of force in both hands to bring evenly the string into the trigger box. 

    Probably the most reliable even if something breaks, the parts are more easy to change than other rope cockers.

    ACUrope

    The portable and retractable rope cocker. Like other rope cockers, it reduces by 50% the cocking weight of the crossbow. An easy to carry cocking device with an integrated retractable cord that allows you to quickly use it and put it back in its case. You can slide the two handles into one and other making a more compact setup to carry while hunting.

    how to cock a crossbow - Tenpoint ACUrope

    A setback for the ACUrope would be the lack of adjustments when you are pulling up. Standard rope cocking length is adjustable to be more efficient when you want to cock it as we saw above. The ACUrope is more complicated to adjust if the standard length doesn't suit you. In case it breaks, look for the warranty otherwise, you will need a new one.

     

    Dedd Sled 50, Sled or the Dedd Sled

    how to cock a crossbow - Bear cocking sled

    No matter which one, this rope cocking aid is built to increase consistency while cocking the string. The fact that the hooks are attached to each other by a bridge increase your consistency to pull evenly the string. This cocking device is more simple to use because you don't have to manipulate too many parts. 

    The Sled is an excellent rope cocker for reverse draw limbs crossbows.

    The following video shows exactly how to use the Dedd Sled 50. It can be used on other models than in the video and other brands produce their own. The way it works, you have to put the string into the grooves of the sled and pull until you reached the trigger box and hear the click sound or the safety is back on.

     

    The TenPoint Dedd Sled 50 has a slight difference in which it works with a pulley to ease a bit more the pulling of the string and you also have to put the cord in the back of the stock

    how to cock a crossbow - tenpoint dedd sled 50

    The structure is strong but in case it breaks, the Dedd Sled will need a replacement.

     

    ACUdraw 50 or 52

    This rope cocking device is a fully integrated cocking system that comes with some models or you can install on some of them. For the matter, I will show you a Tenpoint video showing perfectly how the system works. The system decreases the cocking weight by 50% for the ACUdraw 50 and 52% for the ACUdraw 52.

    how to cock a crossbow - tenpoint ACUdraw 50

    No need to search for it, it's an easy to use cocking system with a retractable cord. The magnets inside allow you to put the hooks and handles out of the way when you prepare yourself for firing. 

    However, a warning is really important to know. The magnets inside may interfere with the safe operation of pacemakers or other medical implants.

     

    Cocking with Cranking Devices

    Pros

    • Almost effortless by lowering cocking weight
    • Cocking consistency for more accuracy
    • Dry-firing virtually impossible
    • Fully integrated and easy to use
    • Made for any hunters but excellent for disabled or back injured people.

    Cons

    • For some, not fast enough
    • Clicking sounds can be noisy for some 
    • More expensive 

    Cranking devices are usually integrated with a removable handle. That handle works with a cranking mechanism lowering the weight up to 5 pounds in some cases. The handle in most models is removable from the shooter sight for firing. Each brand introduces their crank cocking mechanism for each of their models. Here are some models to let you know what is on the market.

    ACUdraw

    how to cock a crossbow - tenpoint ACUdraw

    A fully integrated cocking system without the annoyance of adjusting the length of your cords. Remove the claw from its storage position (the claw is based on the Dedd Sled rope cocker for maximum consistency) and bring it to the string in a string slide position. Install the handle, engage the safety claw and start to crank clockwise until you reached the trigger box and hear a clicking sound telling you that the safety is now engaged.

    Don't forget to replace adequately the claw into its storage position as the video shows you.

    The mechanism inside the ACUdraw is pretty simple increasing its durability which is an important factor considering its price.

    An excellent device to allow the maximum of shooters enjoying the use of any crossbows. There is nothing worst when you desire to shoot and can't because the draw weights are too much to cock.

     

    Barnett cranking device

    how to cock a crossbow - Barnett cranking device

    Barnett offers a crank cocking device mounted on the buttstock of their crossbows. This is probably a negative aspect of the system. It means it's a removable cranking device and not fully integrated to the crossbow. However, the system is really simple and easy to use and install.

    They also offer a fully integrated version which, according to me, make more sense in a hunting situation. This version is specific to each model, this means that every model has its own way of installing the fully integrated cranking device.

    It goes to personal preferences concerning both cranking devices because both do their job perfectly.

     

    Mission removable silent draw cocking device

    Mission from Mathews offers something different toward cranking device. They are the only one offering a soundless mechanism when cranking the string. The sound produced by the crank mechanism in other cranking device is inhibited with the Mission RSD cranking device. This is a small detail but for some hunters, it's huge to keep their camouflage spotless. 

    It's an easily removable cranking device which decreases the annoyance of having it in your way when you prepare to shoot.

    Few actions are necessary to use the device properly which could slow you down while using it but the consistency brought by its efficiency and making almost effortless cocking your crossbow worth the time.

     

    Ravin cranking device

    Working in conjunction with the Trac-Trigger Firing System, the Versa-Draw cocking device is fully integrated into the sleek stock design. The main advantage is cocking and uncocking becomes really easy. While cocking you will have clicking sounds that could be annoying in hunting situations but you can lift the cocking lever at the rear of the crossbow to cut the clicking but be careful, by doing so, you are transferring draw weight directly into the cocking handle. So be aware of holding the handle with the appropriate strength if you push the cocking lever. Otherwise, the Versa-draw cocking device features about 10 pounds of cocking force needed.

     

    How to Uncock a Crossbow

    All manufacturers offer their technique but how to uncock a crossbow is pretty universal except for few models. The principal way to uncock your crossbow is shooting a bolt into the soil in a safe area.

    Another method is using discharge bolts. This bolt is specially made for uncocking the crossbow safely. The technique is the same though, you have to shoot in a safe area (target or soil) and finally, some cranking mechanism offer

    Finally, the safest method is to uncock the string by reversing the cranking mechanism of crank cocking device that allows you to do it. For instance, like seen in the video above, the Versa-draw system from Ravin crossbows allow you to uncock the crossbow without shooting any bolts.

    Tip: DO NOT dry-fire to uncock a crossbow, this may result in damaging the crossbow or even worst, your own self.

     

    Conclusion

    How to cock a crossbow has no more mystery to you. The different techniques are easy to perform and can easily suit any needs.

    Draw weights are not anymore a problem when you are looking to purchase a crossbow. It is more your personal preferences and your physical condition that should determine what kind of cocking device you should choose to go with your crossbow. Once done, it should narrow down few models and facilitate the selection.

    Thank you for reading me. Do not hesitate to ask questions or leave any comments below. Have a nice Hunt!

     

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