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Volunteering at Scouts is changing to help us reach more young people

Volunteering is changing to help us reach more young people

Volunteering is changing at Scouts. Read more

Discover what this means

Crossbow shooting

Draw back the bowstring, set the bolt in place, and watch it fly through the air. Will you hit the target?

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What to expect

Crossbow shooting combines skills from archery and pistol shooting. You shoot bolts, which are like shorter versions of the arrows used in archery. Crossbows use a trigger to shoot the bolts, a bit like in rifle or pistol shooting.

You shoot at a target, usually from 8 to 20 metres away. You’ll have to keep an eye on the target as you pull back the bowstring and set the bolt in place. Don’t worry if you don’t get it right first time – take a deep breath, set another bolt in the crossbow, and adjust your aim for your next try.

Anyone under the age of 18 needs consent from their parents or carers before they take part.

What you’ll learn

Not many people will hit the middle of the target first time. The best crossbow shooters have to stick at it, learning from each attempt until they perfect their aim. There’s no rush – and it doesn’t matter if you don’t hit the middle in your first session. Notice what you’ve learned, then make a plan for next time.

Handy hints

  • Grab some extra hair bobbles. People with long hair will probably need to tie it back. Take a few extra hair ties, just in case anyone forgets.
  • Keep it interesting. If people are taking it in turns to shoot, why not prepare something to keep everyone entertained when it isn’t their turn? Make sure whatever you choose is easy to dip in and out of, and that it’s not distracting for the people who are shooting.


You must always:
Be safe outdoors:
  • Check the weather forecast
  • Shooting is defined in POR 9.11.5
  • Shooting at targets representing humans or animals is not permitted.
  • Consider local feelings on shooting prior to planning your activity, provide parents with detailed information about the activity and parental permission is required for members under 18 taking part.
  • Transportation, storage and use of shooting equipment is detailed in POR 9.11.5
This activity can be led by you or someone else in Scouts:
  • Acceptable instructor qualifications
    • Range conducting officer - as outlined in FS120004 Shooting
You can go to a centre or use an activity leader who is not part of Scouting:
You must find a suitable provider who meets the following requirements:
  • The centre/instructor should hold one of these:
    • Range conducting officer - as outlined in FS120004 Shooting
  • The provider must have public liability insurance.




Successful crossbow shooters need to stick at it and stay focussed, even when things get tricky. Did everyone’s first bolts hit the centre of the target? Probably not! It’s likely that plenty of people missed the target altogether. It takes time and practise to be able to aim on target. Did anyone’s aim improve by the end of the session? How did it feel to hit the target, especially if it was tricky at first? People might’ve felt proud or excited. How did the feeling encourage them to keep trying their best?

For some people, crossbow shooting may have been a chance to try something new. Was it like any activities they’ve done before? What was different? People might think about using new equipment like a crossbow. Did anyone find it strange? A few people may have felt like naturals, but plenty of people probably needed a few goes to get used to it. Would anyone like to try it again to keep perfecting their newfound skills?

There are plenty of ways to keep crossbow shooting interesting, from playing games to using different targets. Let the person leading the session know how much experience your group has so they can plan. Don’t worry if you’ve got a mixture of beginners and people who’ve tried it before – if you let the instructor know, they’ll be able to create a session that works for everyone.

Crossbow shooting can often be adapted so more people can give it a go. Many outdoor centres have facilities that cater for people with additional needs and experienced instructors to help everyone achieve their goals. Get in touch with your local provider to chat through the needs of people in your group – make sure you give them plenty of notice.

All Scout activities should be inclusive and accessible.

People who enjoyed this adventure may want to put their coordination skills to good use by trying archery, air rifle shooting, or clay pigeon shooting.