Build a Hunter’s Crossbow (Dec, 1953)

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Hunter’s Crossbow

This old-time weapon has the hitting power and accuracy of a modern rifle.

By E. Milton Grassell

THIS crossbow, with all the romance and charm of a medieval weapon, is so powerful and accurate that it is used extensively for hunting and precision target shooting. It’s a deadly weapon, not a toy, exceptionally fine for hunting rabbits, pheasants, squirrels, and even capable of killing big game like deer, elk, antelope, and cougar when used by one skilled in its handling. Therefore it is most imperative that the crossbow be handled carefully. Never hold it in a position where it might endanger anyone if fired accidently, and always reckon with the area beyond the target or game in the event you should miss hitting the object aimed at.

A similar crossbow would cost from $50 up commercially, but the total cost, if you make it, should not exceed $7.50, providing there are a few scrap hardwood pieces, a dab of lacquer, welding rod and some other common materials around your workshop.

Sold on making one? Okay, here’s how Mr. Chester Stevenson of Eugene, Ore., makes his most popularly demanded crossbow, and how you, too, can become a jet-age Robin Hood with this powerful weapon.

On crossbows, the “barrel” is included in the stock piece. If you don’t have a hardwood board about 1-1/2x8x36-in., glue scrap pieces together. This works just as well. In fact, the whole design can be modified, providing the draw (14-in. from the back of the bow to the trigger release latch) and the trigger unit are not altered. Follow the drawings and you’ll have no trouble making any parts of the crossbow.

After cutting the general contour, a recess is chiseled in the stock for the trigger assembly. Between this and the end of the barrel, make a kerf (a bolt groove) approximately 3/16×1/2-in. deep down the center. Sandpaper is used to make the 1/8in. chamfer on both edges of the bolt groove.

The unique trigger, modified by Mr. Stevenson, will fire the bolt with approximately the same finger pressure used to shoot an ordinary rifle, when the release latch is cocked with a 75-pound pressure.

The trigger guard, made from No. 16 gauge brass, 1/2×6-in., is bent and fastened with three No. 6 half-inch roundhead brass screws.

When hunting, you will probably aim along the bolt, but sights are preferable for target shooting. The peep sight shown in the photos, made from 1/2xlxl-in. brass scrap, is extremely precise, yet it can be made with three drills (1/64, 1/8 and 5/8-in.), a hacksaw and a file. It has both vertical and horizontal adjustments which are held with lock screws (see drawing).

The bow attachment assembly is the weakest part of the stock assembly. Therefore, two 3/8-in. thick strips are used to reinforce this area. You can machine the required combination screw-bolts, and the fancy knurled lock nuts, but it’s simpler to buy two closet screws from the neighborhood plumber.

There are two other parts to this unit—a wedge-shaped block, and the bow lock plate, used to hold the bow securely in place.

The bow has two unusual features: (1) the 1/4x2x36-in. solid stave (either yew wood or osage orange), and the Fiberglas, when cut according to plan, requires no tillering, and’ (2) the reverse curve gives added speed. That’s the reason this crossbow has jet-like power.

Don’t let the steaming and reverse curve bending worry you. It’s really simple, as the photos show. You can make a steam pot from old brake drums and a piece of pipe, as shown in drawing. The strap metal bending jig is also easy to make.

Take the measurement of the finished bow from nock to nock and order a bow string from an archery supply firm. Today, archery supply houses also sell arrow shafts, piles (points), ground feathers, and other accessories that practically reduce bolt making to an assembling arid finishing job.

Order several 5/16-in. straight 30-in. shafts. Since bolts are shorter than long bow arrows, these can be cut so as to make two bolts from each shaft.

If you purchase slip-over type points, no tenon is necessary on the shaft. This further simplifies bolt making.

Before fletching the shaft, finish it with dipping or brushing lacquer. Never use varnish on target bolts. Friction causes the shaft to heat when it penetrates straw targets and the varnish blisters.

Either right or left wing turkey feathers can be used, providing they are the same on any one arrow. The feathers can be trimmed with scissors. Place them in a fletching jig (these sell from $1.50 up with directions included) and glue them on the shaft with household cement. When fletching shafts with broadhead points, be sure the cock feather and the vertical surface of the broad-head are in the same plane. (See drawing.) The nock, customarily found on arrows, is not used on bolts. Nothing is done to the rear of the shaft. Before you load the crossbow with a bolt, try cocking it a few times, as shown in photo, until you have developed a real feel for the job.

  1. Premnath Kudva says: August 8, 20063:28 am

    This reminds of some of the wonderful projects I saw in some old DIY american book in my school library. Pretty nifty and detailed toys like a paddle steamer, an old wild west steam locomotive and others. All our of wood. I don’t even remember the name of the books now.

  2. Dick Corliss says: August 20, 200611:51 am


  3. ralplh says: September 14, 200710:22 pm

    we need these things, as the new holocost is coming. God bless…

  4. cup says: December 19, 20076:53 am

    Sounds great, love to bring it to my website.


  5. Raoul Duke says: December 22, 20076:51 pm

    muchas gracias. Much appreciated.

  6. Shareazu says: June 20, 20081:06 pm

    great job! let me translate it and get the materials, then i shall make one.

  7. […] An the crossbow. With some plans. Build a Hunter’s Crossbow […]

  8. Musdar Effy Djinis says: March 19, 20092:23 am

    Dear Mr. Grassell, I like your cross bow, and in recent time I hope will be built it for shooting monkeis in my cacao plantation. I think it is a sophisticated yet cheap weapon which suitable to developing countries for hunting vertebrate pest especially wild pigs, monky etc. Thanks.

  9. Ra says: April 8, 200910:58 pm

    Why do I love crossbows?

    Well, for a start, they don’t make a huge noise like a rifle or shotgun does when in close proximity to your prey.

    All prey animals get ‘gun shy’. It’s a fact of life. They become so used to the ‘bang’ of a powder weapon that it becomes near impossible to go back to the same spot and hunt again.

    But with a bow or crossbow, you get in so close you can ‘smell’ the target animal. Then you draw a bead on the animal. Then you depress the trigger. Thump! And your prey is dead, it just hasn’t had time to assimilate that fact, plus, it has no idea where the shot came from. No noise, get it?

    An animal will, after the herd member has been shot, will go back to eating or grazing, not sure why one of it’s kind has fallen down and died. So, you get another shot, which doesn’t happen if you have a noisy cannon with you.

  10. yeoelkang says: May 19, 20095:17 am

    this site tells nothing!!!

  11. Firebrand38 says: May 19, 200912:58 pm

    Tells nothing yeoelkang? Looks like something to me.

    And you gotta love Musdar Effy Djinis. Mussy old chap, you have to work on that whole abstract concept of 1953.

    These are the guys that see a map in a shopping mall that says “You Are Here” and then spend ten minutes wondering “How do they know that?”

  12. Ra says: May 30, 20095:17 pm

    Ever wonder why the ladies back in the day had such wonderful butts and thighs? (Legs!)

    That’s because they generally WALKED everywhere.

    I’m sure there’s a lesson in there somewhere, ladies.

  13. Rod says: January 11, 20108:57 pm

    I built this crossbow. I have the barrell done. I made the first bow out of red oak. It did not last long. I am now making a bow out of cherry. I ripped the 2 inches of cherry form a 3/4 board. I then stood the cherry up and ripped 1/8 inch. I ripped 2 1/8 inch pieces. I am just waiting on the Bow Grip 100, to glue the pieces together and glue fiberglass to it, to finish this project.

  14. Rahotep says: January 12, 201010:38 pm

    Hey, Rod! Got any pics of it? I’d love to see it, preferably in action. Cheers!

  15. Rod says: January 14, 20106:17 pm

    The bow Grip is on order. When I finish the bow I will try to submit some pics.

  16. […] can find the article right here, in case you actually want to build your own […]

  17. Rod says: January 30, 20106:38 pm


    I have made 5 bows for this project. They all have broken. I have used Red Oak, Cherry, Hickory, Black Locast, and now Red Elm. The Red Elm is still working but it is cracked. I think I only have about 30 lbs draw weight. I am not happy with it. I started making the Bows 38 inches long. I quit fiberglassing them, cause they keep breaking. I will let you know if I come up with a solution to this problem.

  18. Jeff says: February 25, 20107:57 pm

    Where can you buy yew or osage orange wood?

  19. Rainmaker says: May 5, 20102:11 am

    Hi, I have been looking for drawings such as this for a long time now. So thnx…

    Anyways, for those of you that have a broken bow I would recomend using Common Juniper as a material (dont know the english name for this but hers a link for wikipedia:…) the can handle a lot of presure and is very flexible. I only recomend them because it is a widely common tree in Norway (where i live) and if you can get some common juniper wood it would work grat as bow material. If not you could also use some wood from the “rubber tree” (…).

  20. Jay says: July 7, 20109:07 pm

    Anyone know the FPS of this?

  21. Jonathan says: July 20, 201012:56 pm

    I was looking into this project idea a year or so ago, and copied this article off, but also another one that uses a tapered piece of automotive leaf spring as the bow material. But I made an under-powered one (1) just to do it, and (2) to get some string over some rafters some 30 feet up to hang some kites at school. I used a kiddie-sized bow of red fiberglass turned sideways and the rolling-nut catch you sometimes see for the trigger in these web-based projects — a rotating flat circle with a notch for the string and a ledge for the trigger at about opposite sides. Aluminum for that. This one here uses the stick that shoves the string up and over a ledge in the back of the “barrel”, I think, extending up from the rear of the trigger itself. After doodling countless triggers for a home-made .22, something I’ll never do legally, the simple mechanics of the rolling nut release were so elegant and it works everytime! Then I went and bought a .22 properly, so I got that out of my system. then, last week I found a bit of leaf spring in the garage…hmmmmmmm…!!!

  22. Jonathan says: July 20, 20101:05 pm

    Oops! Nope, this is the rolling block as well…like a lot of gun triggers it releases something by moving a blocking mechanism forward out of the way by rolling out from under it…that other guy making medieval looking ones tied together uses the stick up the middle to push the string off. Sorry .. it’s all in my fuzzy brain. Maybe it was my own idea to have the nut/block roll all the way around in a circle; and now I think of it, I used a bakelite microscope focusing knob, since it was in my parts box and already round and with a center hole. The trigger was aluminum. Here’s my seldom used blog site: in a few days I’ll have a drawing up, and you can tell me if it’s unique. Then you can copy it if you want. Give me a day or two. Talk amongst yourselves.…

  23. Jonathan says: July 20, 20101:07 pm

    Finally, I would NOT want to be in the bush facing a feral pig armed with a homemade crossbow. Those guys are scary even on TV. (No, the pig isn’t armed, you know what I mean).

  24. Jonathan says: July 21, 20103:23 pm

    Duh. Of course I didn’t think this up…here it is in another form. Or maybe great minds come up with similar solutions to the same problems.

  25. […] The crossbow, could be made, with afew modifications to the above, but it does give a decent idea. Build a Hunter’s Crossbow How to Make Crossbows: The Classic Crossbow __________________ heilig ist mein kempf in diesem […]

  26. CharryChuCinder12 says: September 11, 201011:11 am

    now if i could just convince my grandpa to let me use it that would be great

  27. Jonathan says: September 11, 201012:23 pm

    I took the old “parts” Mossberg .22 apart, so now I have a good piece of walnut for the crossbow. And I found hack saw blades for the reciprocal saw in the garage, although the project is now third in line and everything’s lower in priority below the college stuff.

  28. jake-diy says: December 9, 201010:29 am

    Anyone who thinks that a home made crossbow isn’t worthy of hunting should never build one. In europe many crossbow hunters use home built bows. Before the industrial age ALL crossbows were “home made” and that didn’t stop them from being the longest running military and hunting tool in recorded history.

    My home made xbow shoots at 220fps and can certainly take big game. I would not want to face a charging animal with a big bore rifle but that’s not what hunting is about.

  29. M Durand says: April 17, 201112:18 am

    Wow!!!! exactly what i’m looking for. Many thanks

  30. Iwbalsfjk says: October 25, 20118:05 am


  31. JMyint says: October 25, 20118:26 am

    Iwbalsfjk, I’m not sure what is meant by your comment. The article is real and if you followed the instruction you could build a real crossbow.

  32. ch1zra says: January 6, 20124:25 pm

    Just what I need for upcoming zombie apocalypse.

  33. lmb1982 says: May 31, 20128:36 am

    check out this awesome crossbow built on youtube…

    this guys just kill it they build a crossbow with leafsprings how cool is that? hope you like it like i did

  34. […] Build a Hunter’s Crossbow | Modern Mechanix – Aug 01, 2006  · Take the measurement of the finished bow from nock to nock and order a bow string from an archery supply firm. Today, archery supply houses also sell … […]

  35. Hunter Modern Design Houses says: October 30, 20151:58 pm

    […] Build a Hunter’s Crossbow | Modern Mechanix – Aug 01, 2006  · Hunter’s Crossbow. This old-time weapon has the hitting power and accuracy of a modern rifle. By E. Milton Grassell. THIS crossbow, with all the … […]

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