A crossbow was sometimes made of horn, but was typically steel, and the bowstring was made of hemp or flax. Manchester Metro Map The crossbow would be attached to a stock, pivoting on an axle of iron or a heavy cord. The arrow, bolt, or quarrel would be placed in a groove on the top of the stock, which would be lined with brass, iron, or horn. Preparing this device to be fired was difficult because the bow would not easily bend.
Another tool, frequently called a crannequin, was then developed to allow the bow to be bent back into a cocked position by use of a gear and rack. A simple windlass was also used, as was a simple lever, which was called a goats foot, due to the appearance of the fork, which fitted over the stock. Once the bow was drawn into firing position, the bolt, arrow, or quarrel would be placed into the groove. The weapon was ready to be fired by pressing on a trigger release, which would, in turn, release the bowstring.
Crossbows such as this would be expected to fire effectively and accurately up to 350 yards. When fired, the power of the crossbow was truly incredible. In modern test firings, it has been found to be fully capable of penetrating wood planks threequarters of an inch thick at a range of 60 yards. Such a fearsome weapon fully suited the needs of combating men in heavy armor. But for use in the colonies against Native Countrys or for hunting, the power of the crossbow was ill suited because of its slow rate of fire (due to the long period of time required to reload) and its considerable weight.