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Free Online Version of The Book of The Crossbow

The Crossbow   >  Chapter 30   >   Crossbow with Steel Bow   >   Bent by a Cranequin   > .p.136

Table of Contents List of Illustrations Index Appendix

a trigger-guard, was also fitted to the stock of the cranequin crossbow, in place of the long unprotected lever which previously, and from time immemorial had acted as a trigger. The old-fashioned long trigger required considerable pressure, with a consequent unsteadiness of aim, to cause it to discharge the crossbow.

Fig. 88. - The Back-Sight of a Sixteenth Century Sporting Crossbow.

Fig. 88. - The Back-Sight of a Sixteenth Century Sporting Crossbow.

The crossbar of the back-sight could be moved up or down, or to the left or right, and then fixed by small screws, when its notch and the head of the bolt were in a correct line for aiming.

In a cranequin crossbow, the backsight was hinged to the stock, so that it might fold down flat when the cranequin was being used to bend the bow.

Besides the new style of trigger (suggested doubtless by that of the arquebus), the crossbow was fitted with a second or safety trigger.1 This safety trigger prevented accidents, especially on horseback, as the crossbow could not be shot off till the safety trigger was pulled back to allow the front trigger to act, Chapter XXXVI.

Finally a back-sight was added to the stock of the crossbow to complete the weapon, fig. 88. The upper edge of the head of the bolt (as it lay on the surface of the stock) being viewed through the notch in the crossbar of the back-sight, gave the sportsman his alignment when taking aim, fig. 88.

A curious feature in most of the improved sporting crossbows of the sixteenth century bent by cranequins, is the absence of a groove along the top of the stock in which to lay the bolt preparatory to its discharge.

In fig. 89, opposite page, we see how the bolt of this form of crossbow was placed on the stock of the weapon.

The crossbow, it will be noticed, is flat on its upper surface at the part where in the older weapons there was a groove for the bolt.

In this case, the bolt rested near its head on a small raised cross-piece of ivory, which was fixed across the stock of the crossbow close to its fore-

1 Nor was the hand-gunner above taking a hint from the crossbowman. In the earlier hand-gun, the bullet rattled loosely down the barrel ; hence the chief cause of its failure in regard to range and accuracy was 'windage,' or the escape of the charge of powder, when ignited, past the sides of the bullet. The hand-gunner then bethought him of the crossbow bolt instead of a bullet, and found that he could shoot with great force a heavy-headed featherless bolt which exactly fitted the barrel of his hand-gun. For some years, bolts like crossbow bolts, called musquet-arrows, but without, of course, feathers, were frequently fired from hand-guns in warfare, both on land and sea.

Chroniclers tell us that these bolts, as discharged from hand-guns, were propelled with such power that they pierced from side to side the bulwarks of ships.


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