top of page

Vintage Crossbow Plans - Popular Mechanics

Updated: Mar 17, 2021

" IF YOU can't hit the bull's-eye with a regular archer's bow and arrow, try one of these modern cross-bows and you'll find yourself hitting the "gold" almost every time from distances up to 60 yds. They are good for hunting, too; a 160-lb. steel bow will stop anything short of an elephant. "

- Popular Mechanics June, 1944

A few years before my grandpa passed, he gave me a crossbow. It sported a hand sanded wood stock, a twisted twine string and the limbs were crafted from an old leaf spring. Along with it was a clever lever device also made out of wood and a couple carriage bolts. You hooked one end to the limbs and rested the lumber on the string. A quick pull of the lever and your string was guided down the rail to the hand fashioned metal locking device. I was blown away by his craftsmanship and ability to create a functional, albeit dangerous looking, crossbow with some spare lumber and car parts. I hung the bow in my shop where it became a conversation piece for visitors. After several years of sitting I finally decided to try and shoot it. My lack of judgement led to a very dangerous situation. Modern crossbow bolts use a moon nock, with only a slight dish for the string to apply all of it's force. This bow didn't have the clip that holds a bolt in place to ensure the explosion of energy is directed straight into the shaft. It requires a deep throated nock. My lack of a attentiveness resulted in a partial dry fire, a major curse word to archers. The noise and explosion of the bolt into my shop door prompted me to place it back on the shelf and allow it to remain a reminder of my grandpa's craftmanship, rather than the weapon it was designed to be.

Fast forward a few years and I am writing an article on the increase in crossbow use in archery deer seasons. While doing some research I happened upon the exact plans of the crossbow that my grandfather had made many years before. I was shocked! I never knew if it was a one-off or from a plan in one of his many books, but here was an article explaining how to build the exact crossbow I had in my shop. The article was from Popular Mechanics magazine and was dated June, 1944!

Here is a link to the PDF -

Thanks for the cool info!

If you have the know-how, the time and the fortitude to try these plans out for yourself and build a steel crossbow, be sure to share the results with us here!

I haven't decided if I will load up another bolt (with a proper nock this time) and try out the steel crossbow again, but if I do I'll be sure to share the experience with all of you!

Here is a video of my successful deer hunt this past fall using a late 1970's compound

bottom of page