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Crossbow shooting

Draw back the bowstring, set the bolt in place, and watch it fly through the air. Will you hit the target?
Plan a session with this activity

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.

We’re reworking our safety guidance for adventurous activities to make it easier to understand and follow.

In the meantime, before you try crossbow shooting, review the safety information here.


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?


All activities must be safely managed. Do a risk assessment and take appropriate steps to reduce risk. Always get approval for the activity and have suitable supervision and an InTouch process.