How To Decock A Crossbow

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As most hunters are aware, not every hunt ends in success, and many times, no shot is taken. This presents crossbow hunters with a unique situation, as safe hunting practices dictate that it is essential to unload any weapon before transport. This leaves a large number of new crossbow users every year to wonder how to decock a crossbow.

Most hunters use one of two methods to safely decock their crossbow. These methods include discharging your bolt into a target or using a decocking bolt to fire your crossbow, thereby bringing its string and limbs back to the rest position.

However, the development of crossbow defuser products in recent years have made it possible to decock a crossbow without ever firing a bolt.

In any event, it is imperative to decock a crossbow before transport. This keeps you, as well as any bystanders safe, and also prevents damage to a crossbow’s limbs.

How To Safely Decock A Crossbow

Much of the choice between the following three decocking methods comes down to a matter of personal preference/convenience.

It is also wise to consult a manufacturer-specific crossbow operators manual, to reference preferred means of decocking for your particular crossbow.

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Using A Discharge Target

Perhaps the most commonly used method of decocking a crossbow is to fire a bolt into a purpose-built target. This method of decocking is quick, simple, and effective, working universally across the board for any model.

While any standard crossbow target can be used for this purpose, several small, lightweight decocking targets are available that can easily be stored in a vehicle.

Steps For Decocking With Target

  1. Position Target– This method of decocking begins with positioning your target in a suitable location. Always be aware of your surroundings. Never place your target in a location that will require a shot to be taken in the direction of houses, vehicles, or other individuals.
  2. Take Aim and Fire– You will now position yourself in front of the target at a minimal distance, ensuring that the target will be easy to hit. Raise your crossbow and aim as you would during practice. After a final check of your surroundings, disengage your crossbow’s safety and fire your bolt into the target.
  3. Retrieve Target and Bolt– With your crossbow safely decocked, remove your bolt from the target. You will now be ready to load your crossbow, bolts, and target for transport. 

Use an Unloading Bolt

Another popular method of decocking a crossbow is to use an unloading bolt. These are purpose-specific bolts that are made to withstand the abuse of being shot into the ground.

There are two main types of unloading bolts, reusable and one-time use.

  • Reusable- These unloading bolts can be used on an ongoing basis to decock a crossbow. However, they should be carefully inspected for damage after every use.
  • One-Time Use- These unloading bolts are to be disposed of after a single use. They can be purchased at a relatively low price, but cannot stand up to continual use. Several biodegradable bolts are now produced to offset the negative environmental impact of bolts that become lost during the decocking process.

Steps For Decocking Using Unloading Bolt

  1. Remove Standard Bolt– Begin by carefully removing your standard hunting bolt from your crossbow. Before doing so, ensure that the crossbow’s safety is engaged.
  2. Position Unloading Bolt– You will now position your unloading bolt into place, as your hunting bolt previously was. Ensure that the bolt is slid securely into place against the bowstring.
  3. Assess Your Surroundings- Before ever aiming, assess your surroundings to ensure that no bystanders are nearby. Although you will be firing this bolt into the ground directly in front of you, bolts do occasionally ricochet and can cause injury to those close by, if you have not made sure that everyone else is clear of the immediate area.
  4. Fire and Retrieve Bolt– You will now aim for the ground directly in front of you, at a distance of approximately 3-5 yards. After doing so, disengage your crossbow’s safety, pull the trigger, and retrieve your bolt.

Use A Crossbow Defuser

The use of crossbow defuser device has become increasingly popular in recent years, which allows a crossbow to be decocked without being fired.

This eliminates the need to carry a target in your vehicle or to purchase and inspect unloading bolts.

This device uses a mechanical force to gently disengage a crossbow’s string until it reaches the rest position. To see the crossbow defuser in action, check out this quick video.

Steps For Decocking Using A Defuser

  1. Remove Bolt– Begin by removing your bolt from your crossbow’s flight groove. The defuser cannot be used with a bolt in place.
  2. Loosen Defuser Head Screws- There are a total of six screws present on the head of the defuser. Loosen these screws as needed to allow the adjustment fingers to move freely. 
  3. Install Defuser- Now position the defuser so that it rests on top of, and parallel to the crossbow’s flight barrel. Ensure that the end opposite the T-handle engages the retention brush.
  4. Tighten Defuser Fingers- With the defuser in place, you will now adjust the fingers that were loosened in step #2. Ensure that these fingers are equally adjusted to make contact with the crossbow’s finger holes at the riser. Once proper fitment is achieved, tighten down all screws.
  5. Safely Decock– Double check that all adjustments are tight and that the defuser is securely in place. Next, release the crossbow’s safety, and pull the trigger. The device itself will prevent the unintended forward movement of the bowstring. Now, turn the T-handle in a counterclockwise fashion to gently let the string down into its rest position.

Decocking Simplified

The exact method you use to decock your crossbow is a choice rooted in personal preference. Whether you use a target, an unloading bolt, or a defuser, the most important concern is that you know how to decock your crossbow safely and efficiently.

Feel free to also check out our review of one of our favorite bear crossbows here.

Please feel free to leave us a comment, as we always appreciate feedback from our readers.

I am the founder and chief editor here at BowAddicted. I love my kids, archery, and the outdoors! It's been an amazing journey so far with some ups and downs, but it's worth it to spend time outside with friends and family.

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