Introduction: Making Field Tip and Broadhead Hunting Bolts for the Pistol Crossbow

There are several different models of 50 lb. and 80 lb.-pull pistol crossbows available, but the only bolts sold are molded plastic or aluminum tubes with molded plastic fletches, both of which have target tips, and these are about 6-3/4 in. (17 cm) long. Not that these are not formidable, but you really can't get any decent distance, there is not enough knock-down power for hunting after 10 meters, and there are no field point or broad head bolts available for the serious pistol crossbow archer for competitive target
shooting, or small game hunting.

After analyzing the commercially available bolt's overall length-to-fletch size ratio, balance point, fletch length, etc. I have come up with plans to make a decent field point bolt for competitive shooting, and a decent broad head for hunting.  I have tested them, and find that they are sufficiently accurate for me to document this process so that others may benefit from my effort.

NOTE -  Crossbow hunting is not allowed in many locations - check your local laws first.  Pistol crossbows are
not allowed for hunting anywhere!  This document is for educational purposes only.  The author neither approves of,
nor advises using these in opposition to any jurisdiction's regulations!  Use these at your own risk.

Step 1:

Preface -

People buy Pistol Crossbows mainly as a novelty item, and because of the low price, but do not respect it as a weapon.  It is treated as a toy.  This should NOT be the case.  This is a weapon, fully capable of killing a person, pet, or game animal.  It should be handled
the same as any other weapon.

In order to fully comprehend its use and potential as a weapon, it is necessary to provide accurate device nomenclature so that it can be referenced to any serious crossbow archer in terms that they can understand.

Because of the extremely short power stroke (6-3/8 in.) on these weapons, and the additional weight of the wooden bolts and their tips (double to triple the weight of the commercial bolts), it is advised to limit the effective accuracy range to a distance of no more than 10 meters (11 yards).

Step 2:

Supplies needed: 

1 dozen - 1/4 in. x 12 in. (80  mm diam x 30.5 cm) hardwood dowels (for shaft of field point bolts)
1 dozen - 5/16 in. x 12 in. (1 cm diam x 30.5 cm) hardwood dowels (for shaft of broadhead bolts)
5  -  2 ft long 3/8 in. wide x 1/8 in. thick (approx) strips of balsa wood (for vanes)
1 dozen - glue-on 1/4 in. archery field point tips (usually sold as youth size)
1 dozen - glue-on 5/16 in. flat broadhead archery tips (2 vanes)
1 tube cyanoacrylate ("crazy" or "super") glue
wood glue (waterproof exterior grade)
paint to your preferences - see pictures
a rectangular piece of paper
masking tape
a piece of scrap 2x4 (I use the corner wood supports from the citrus fruit, clementines, boxes)
2 rubber bands

Tools needed:

1 manual pencil sharpener
knife or woodworking tool, or various grades of sandpaper
artist paintbrush

*NOTE:  the products shown are what was available to me at the time of construction.  I do not recommend any one product over another brand.

Step 3:


The process for both types of bolts is the same -

1. Make a paper template for the bolt shaft tips -

Make a cone with the paper, fit it into the field tip or broadhead tip.  Release the cone, so it expands to fill the inside of the tip.  Once it is in place, tape the paper cone to hold it in place at the back end of the archery point, and cut the paper above the tape.

Use a pencil to scribe a line on the paper at the back end of the point to mark the exact depth which the bolt needs to be, to fill the point and seat properly inside of it.

Step 4:

2. Form one end of the hardwood dowels to fit properly into the field or broad head point -

For the initial work, use a manual pencil sharpener to get the basic shape.  For the field point tips, use the 1/4 in. dowels. Once done,
compare it to the paper template.  Scribe a line around the sharpened dowel to match where the template pencil mark starts. This will be the true length that is to be inserted into the point.

Use the knife to rough out the new bevel, and finish it using at first coarse, then eventually finer grades of sandpaper, until the desired angle is achieved.

Use the  arrowhead point to test the fit during the process to ensure a proper fit.  It should slide in with minimal effort, but not be too loose.  Repeat this process for all the dowels.

Step 5:

3. Cut the vanes -

First cut the length - into rectangles (3-3/4 in. (9.5 cm) overall).  Cut two vanes per bolt shaft.  24 vanes each for both field bolts and hunting bolts - 48 vanes total.

Next, cut the angles for the front and rear edges of the vanes - a 45 degree angle for the tail (butt) end of the vane (1/2 in. shorter on one side).  Next cut the front (leading edge) angle to 60 degrees (1 in. shorter on the same side as the butt-end cut)  Repeat this for all 48 vanes.  One edge will be 3-3/4 in long, the other edge will be 2.5 in. long.  Refer to the pictures.

Step 6:

4.  Attach the vanes to the butt end of the shaft -

Make a gluing block from a piece of scrap wood by gouging out a V-shaped groove 1/4 in deep x 1/2 in. wide about 4 in. long.  (See picture) Tightly wrap two rubber bands around the block, one at each end. Scribe a mark around the diameter of the butt end of the vane, at 1/2 in from the end.  This is the mark that the rear of the vanes will be aligned to.

Slide the butt end of the sharpened shaft into the groove, under the rubber bands.  Leave about 1/4 in. overlap outside the gluing block.  Check the grain of the dowel's butt end.  Make sure that it is nearly perpendicular to the bottom of the block. (The end grain will be at 90 degrees to the bowstring so that the bowstring will not split the wood after repeated shots.)

Apply a light coat of wood glue to the long edge of one vane.  Carefully slip the vane under the rubber bands, pressing it so that the back of the vane is at the pencil mark.  Push the vane against the shaft, checking from the back end, that it is centered along the shaft from top to bottom of the diameter.

(This is critical for a proper flight.)  Allow this to dry, repeat with the second shaft.  Once both shafts are attached and dry, remove the rubber bands.  Check for gaps on the top side and bottom side of the shaft where the vane is attached.  Using the tip of your finger, apply additional wood glue as needed to form an airtight seal. This will help in the aerodynamics of the bolt.

Repeat this process for all 48 bolts in both sizes.

Step 7:

5.  Make the vanes into airfoils -

After the vanes are all dry, lightly sand the joints of the vanes and the beutt end of the vanes to make them smooth. Next, sand the top and bottom outside edge of the vanes, to slightly taper them to a point, being careful to keep that point centered top to bottom.  Finally, sand the leading edge of one vane, tapering it like the front edge of an airplane wing. 

Once done, rotate the bolt, and repeat the process with the bottom of the other vane.  When you look at the vans from the front, the top of the right vane will be tapered, and the bottom of the left ane will be tapered.  The tapered front edge will act as an airfoil and provide lift, keeping the bolt in flight for a longer time.  Tapering on the opposite sides of the vanes will provide a rotation to the flight, much like the rifling of a firearm barrel, and keep the bolt on a truer trajectory.  See illustration.

Repeat this process for all 48 bolts.

Step 8:

6.  Paint the bolts to your choice of colors, allow to dry.

Step 9:

7. Attach the points to the tapered tips using the cyanoacrylate glue.  Allow to dry. (Be careful NOT to glue your fingers together.)

You are now ready to use your pistol crossbow for competition target shooting or hunting.

Note - to be extra safe, buy some machine screw plastic tip protectors, glue them on to the butt end of the bolt using the cyanoacrylate glue.  Be very careful not to glue your fingers together. Slide the protectors up to the vane.  Let the glue dry overnight, then trim the excess to the tip of the dowel.  This will serve to keep the wood from shattering longer, and has minimal impact on the flight of the bolt.

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