Tag Archives: crossbow

Crossbows: just say no

11 May, 2019

The news this morning that the 74 year old pensioner shot with a crossbow bolt on Good Friday has died is the latest and most appalling in a long line of recent incidents with crossbows in the UK. Easy to buy on the internet, and popular with people looking for an no-training weapon in a country that has very strict gun legislation, crossbows have been the idiot’s choice for decades. Of course, there have been accidents with bows and arrows, but the learning curve puts off the very worst kind of idiot. Not so with crossbows, unfortunately. 

Usually, when something stupid happens with a crossbow, the press distinguish it from archery and bows. But not always. This idiot, for example, actually used a crossbow. Every time they do, the sport loses out. And in other countries, there have been broad-brush approaches to banning archery as a fellow traveller to other people’s idiocy.  

Crossbows are not ‘archery’. The narrow definition of archery is a bow and an arrow, whereas a crossbow fires a bolt. Taking a broader perspective, crossbow shooting shares elements with archery (especially historically), and some elements with gun/rifle shooting, but at the same time it is neither of those things. It sits awkwardly across the two.

There is a small but very dedicated target crossbow shooting sector in the UK, but only in a few tiny corners of the target archery world do bows and crossbows stand together. ArcheryGB covers crossbows in their rules of shooting, although they certainly don’t shout about it. They are banned on a very large number of archery ranges. 

In my capacity as an British archery journo, about a year ago I was asked to go on BBC Radio as part of a debate with a regional MP who wanted crossbows further restricted from sale, after a previous incident. It was entirely clear from the tone of the email that they wanted someone from the ‘archery’ world who could provide a pro-crossbow point-of-view, in the name of the essential ‘balance’ that these things invariably require. I was more annoyed that someone could conflate the two things, although I don’t blame the harassed researcher directly. (I politely declined). 

I’ve occasionally had messages from arbalists believing that we should all stand together as bow-shooting sports or what have you.  The problem with this is that archery as a sport has maintained, in the public’s eyes, a near spotless image recently, contributing to its rise in the last few years, and the associated TV exposure and so on. Crossbows remain associated with appalling news headlines and criminality, and subject to range bans and increasing legislation. Which is a shame. But not surprising. 

I am absolutely sure all the dedicated crossbow target shooters out there are committed to the sport, and to safety and to maintaining a safe image. Good luck out there.  

Sorry guys, but in 2019, you’re on your own. Archery has everything to lose and little to gain from having you in the fold. It’s not because of you, per se. Unfortunately, it’s because there are too many idiots in the world. 

girls with bows pt. 27

26 March, 2014

Hasbro bow

Interesting article in the New York Times this week entitled Today’s Girls Love Pink Bows as Playthings, but These Shoot, about the rise of weapon toys for girls in the brave new Katniss / Merida world. As the writer slightly wearily points out, “it’s the same type of toy that has been marketed to boys for years, except these are mostly purple and pink.” Several manufacturers have brought or are bringing out versions of their ‘boys’ toys for girls, including Hasbro and Zing with its Air Huntress line.

The Nerf Rebelle isn’t even really a bow, of course – it’s more like a vertical toy crossbow. There is also an actual crossbow and a multi-barrel sci-fi gun, all firing soft ‘nerf’ slugs. You can get an extensive, dissembling insight into how these things are actually marketed at the blog My Last Dart:



The Air Huntress is essentially a pink version of the same toy for boys. You can even see the two side by side here:

From the NYT:

Barbie, ever pretty in pink, has naturally gotten into the act with a Katniss doll that slings a bow and arrow in authentic brown. The action figure shelves at toy stores now display a Black Widow figure (modeled after Scarlett Johansson) alongside the new Captain America…. All of this is enough to make parents’ — particularly mothers’ — heads spin, even as they reach for their wallets. While the segregation of girls’ and boys’ toys in aisles divided between pink and camouflage remains an irritant, some also now wonder whether their daughters should adopt the same war games that they tolerate rather uneasily among their sons. The Rebelle line was introduced last summer, and a dozen more of the toys are on the way this year.

“Basically, I’m a total hypocrite because it’s a weapon and it’s pink, but they really enjoy it and it’s something they play together,” said Robin Chwatko, whose 3-year-old daughter got a Nerf Rebelle a few months ago after coveting her 5-year-old brother’s Zing bow.

Sharon Lamb, a child psychologist and play therapist who teaches counseling psychology at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, says toys that stimulate aggression are healthy for children.

“I don’t see this as making girls more aggressive, but instead as letting girls know that their aggressive impulses are acceptable and they should be able to play them out,” she said.

But, she added, “What I don’t like is the stereotyped girlifying of this. Do they have to be in pink? Why can’t they be rebels and have to be re-BELLES? Why do they need to look sexy when aggressing, defending the weak or fighting off bad guys?” … At Zing, which started out making toys marketed only to boys, the idea for its Air Huntress line bubbled up from customers on sites like Facebook and Amazon — as well as employees who had read “The Hunger Games”.

Clearly, not much has changed in the toy world, or the retail sector in general, where ‘shrink it and pink it‘ remains the mantra for selling to American women. The manufacturers are, of course, merely responding to the cultural changes and their focus groups, and they aren’t going to start challenging stereotypes anytime soon. The actual benefits of actual archery for kids – discipline, control, confidence, strength – remain elusive with these plastic weapons. The difficult made easy. Still, for someone somewhere this might be a gateway to the real thing, and that’s still good.