Most people think that they’ll never dry-fire a crossbow, but if you spend enough time shooting one it will probably happen.
A dry-fire can be as blatantly obvious as having forgotten to load an arrow onto the bow, or as subtle as having a nock failure, which can cause the string to go over or under the arrow. Either way the resulting damage to the crossbow can range from catastrophic to minor.
Recurve crossbows are much more prone to survive a dry-fire with little to no damage than their compound counterparts. This is due largely in part to their simplistic design and their lack of cams and cables. However, there are certain precautions one must take after a dry-fire regardless of the type of crossbow.
If you have experienced a dry-fire, it’s imperative that the crossbow be immediately and thoroughly inspected before it is shot again. You MUST assume that damage has occurred. The first thing that you want to inspect is the limb tips or cams depending upon your model. If it is a recurve-type bow make sure that the string loops are still securely slotted on the limb tips. If it’s a compound model, visually inspect the cams thoroughly ensuring that no damage has occurred and that the string and cables are still slotted properly. If everything looks to be intact, the next step is to inspect the strings and cables. Gently run your fingers along each asserting a moderate amount of pressure to make certain that there is still tension on the string and that no strands have been damaged.
Next a complete limb inspection should be performed. Visually inspect the limbs for splinters, cracks or chips. If none are noted, rub a cotton ball over the complete surface and edges of the limbs. If any limb flaws are encountered they will pull small fibers from the cotton ball and be revealed immediately. If no damage has been found to this point, slowly cock the crossbow listening for any unusual sounds. If nothing has been detected again visually inspect the entire crossbow and perform the cotton ball test on the limbs one more time.
If any problems are detected during the entire inspection process, take the crossbow to your local pro shop or contact the manufacturer immediately. Rare is the instance that a crossbow can withstand a dry-fire without some type of damage.
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