Inspecting Your Crossbow Limbs

Inspecting your crossbow limbs is quite an easy task. A thorough visual inspection under good lighting will reveal defects such as chips, cracks and splintering. Please note that the level of damage must be substantial for a relaxed limb to reveal problems at this phase of inspection.

Once you have given the limbs a good thorough inspection, cock the crossbow (being sure to set the safety) and perform the same inspection, taking care not to get any body parts in the way of the limbs and string’s travel path in case it would accidentally fire. This part of the inspection should be performed without any distractions whatsoever. It is best to do this when you are not in the company of anyone and can concentrate exclusively on the task at hand.

Upon completion of the second visual inspection with the limbs under tension, it’s time for the final phase of the inspection. This is the “acid” test, which will usually reveal any limb structure problems without fault, no matter how minor they may be. You will need a couple of cotton balls. Simply rub the surfaces and edges of the limbs lightly with one or two cotton balls. If any cracks, splinters, or chips are encountered, they will pull the small fibers from the cotton ball, revealing the problem immediately. You will more than likely feel the flaw as the cotton fibers are trapped or pulled from the wad of cotton.

A thorough visual inspection under good lighting will reveal defects such as chips, cracks and splintering.
A thorough visual inspection under good lighting will reveal defects such as chips, cracks and splintering.

Oftentimes, you may have reason to perform this inspection for reasons besides normal maintenance. It should always be performed if the crossbow has been accidentally dry-fired or semi-dry fired. Semi-dry-firing is a condition where the arrow is not in full contact with the string at the moment of release, or if the string somehow jumped above or below the arrow. You will know when this occurs by the sound of the shot, and the actions of the arrow upon release.

Always remember that when inspecting the limbs immediately after one of these conditions occurs, you must assume that there is damage. Therefore, take your time performing the inspection, and as you begin to cock the crossbow for the first time after a dry-fire or semi-dry-fire, be sure to keep all bystanders a reasonably safe distance behind you. Cock the crossbow slowly, making several pauses as you inch toward the fully-cocked position. Look and listen carefully. Visual defects may or may not be obvious; if you have reached the fully cocked position without any indications of a problem, it is again time to perform the cotton ball inspection.

If any damage is detected, there are three immediate options available to the shooter. The first and safest is to de-cock your crossbow without firing an arrow, which immediately removes tension from the limbs. This can only be done with bows that do not have an anti-dry-fire device. Most bows require the bow to be shot to unload it, which presents an unsafe condition if the limbs are compromised. If you choose to take this approach, it is best to shield yourself as much as possible from the limbs when the bow is shot.

The third option is to leave the bow cocked and cover it with a heavy blanket. In all three cases, the bow will have to be returned to a service center for repair. If you chose to leave the bow cocked and covered with a blanket, make sure that you alert the bow technician. They are trained to best handle these situations and will take care of the de-cocking procedure in a safe environment.

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