Archery Crossbow - Iris Bingham

We all have an idea about crossbow shooting either from history or folklore. The idea of William Tell shooting an apple off his son’s head is almost ingrained in people’s minds. If you look at the stories the act was frowned on then. William had two bolts. One for the apple on his son’s head and one, should he hit his son, to shoot the lord who was forcing him to take the risk. It is a story that has reflected badly on the sport. Today the National Crossbow Federation of Great Britain (NCF) is dedicated solely to encourage, promote and develop the practice of Target crossbow shooting in Great Britain using the rules set out by the World Crossbow Shooting Association (WCSA) which is our governing body.

The sport is open to people from all age groups and people with disabilities.

The NCF organises local and National events both indoor and outdoor, usually in the midlands. Members have entered International Championships and returned with many Gold medals, and World Championship, World and European Records.

WCSA recognises 4 classes of crossbow:

 The Target bow is hand built to order, or by the shooter. It is highly efficient, limited to 95lb draw weight, and both front and rear sights must be “open”; i.e. no magnification is permitted, although filters are allowed. The bow is limited to a physical weight of 10kg (22lbs). The string must be drawn into the trigger by hand without any aid – this includes the wearing of gloves. The picture above shows Iris shooting in the Forest round.


Sport crossbows are mass produced. Under WCSA rules they must have a telescopic sight. Draw weight and physical weight are not limited. The string may be drawn using a loading aid. 

The picture to the left shows a bow with a recurve prod. To the right is a compound bow. WCSA make no distinction between recurve and compound bows.  Both are simply designated Sport Crossbows.

Sport bows are separated into two groups – Standard and Freestyle.

A Standard bow must be used in the state in which the manufacturer supplied it to be used. You are allowed to fit a foot stirrup, if the bow does not have one, and any telescopic sight you like provided it does not have a range finder.  In addition, you may fit a device that allows you to tilt the sight to allow for changes in shooting distance. There is one additional proviso. The bolt momentum (bolt mass times speed of travel when it leaves the bow) must be less than 0.55lbft/sec.

Momentum is a method of assessing the impact conditions when the bolt strikes the target and the performance of the bow. The more momentum a bolt has the more difficult it is to stop. Better bows in general give more momentum to the bolt.

  A Freestyle bow may be modified more or less in any way you see fit provided that it is safe to shoot and mechanically sound. Range finders in the sight are not permitted, neither are electronic trigger mechanisms. Just about anything else is permitted. The momentum limit is over 0.55lbft/sec up to a maximum of 0.75lbft/sec.

 Bows that develop bolt momentum above 0.75lbft/sec are not permitted. It is simply too difficult to slow and stop bolts so that scores can be registered.



A Medieval bow is usually made by the shooter. They are made to a general design from between 11th and 15th centuries. Modern materials are permitted, but if used they must be covered by a binding, preferably of leather. Metal prods must also be bound for safety – the bow shown is not in a safe shooting condition as the prod is not bound.

OUTDOOR rounds use a single 60cm face with 30 scoring shots at each distance.

Target                    65m/55m/45m

Sport bows            55m/45m/35m

Medieval                40m/30m/20m

For Individual Matchplay and Team Matchplay the middle distance is used.

INDOOR rounds, all classes, use a vegas face and have 60 scoring shots.

18m with a 40cm or 18m with a 25cm or 25m with a 40cm target.

At World Championships there may be Forest, 3D or Bushland rounds, too.

An Assisted (disabled) shooter must use a spring mounted on a tripod and an assistant to load the bow. Over the years at Rugby Sport for the disabled (RSDA) we have had 8 arbalists who have held World Records.

I took up the sport 25 years ago at RSDA when I married John as it was boring to watch. My training outdoors is at Rugby Bowmen or Nuneaton Archers. I am a WCSA International Judge, National coach and the Recorder for the WCSA.

Unfortunately, few archery clubs allow crossbow shooting although, in Archery GB rules a bow up to 95lb with no scope is permitted. With two 60cm faces on the boss, there is no wear to the centre. The speed (220fps) of my 95lb Target crossbow bolts is less than that of a compound archery bow.

In 2003 when the WCSA was formed, ‘assisted’ shooters were included and I no longer had to shoot as a guest with the IAU. I have won every event in the ‘assisted’ female division (I shoot from a wheelchair due to a spinal condition) and am delighted to hold 43 World Championship Records, 49 World Records and 42 European Records. 

Last year I was recovering from an operation to remove a growth from my right deltoid muscle. This meant that I was unable to handle the weight of my Target bow. I did go to the World Championships at Ennigerloh in Germany but had to shoot a physically lighter Sport Standard bow. We shot in blistering heat at the beginning of June. I understand that it was pouring with rain in the UK. I shot in the main two-day competition. I won the competition for Assisted Standard bows, and set three distance records, the single day record, and the two-day record. These were World Championship, World, and European records.

Graeme Mooney (a right arm amputee) and I, pictured right, won the Assisted Team competition. We also set 5 World Championship, World and European Records.

For the third day I joined the Judging team for the individual and team Match Play competitions. The NCF entered a team of novices for the Match Play to give them the experience. In the first round they met the favourites (Germany) and thrashed them. In the final against Sweden the teams were tied after three ends. The match was decided on a single end shoot off. The NCF team won the Gold.

In 2021 the next World Championship is due to take place in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in USA and I hope that we shall take a team there.

The assistance of the Worshipful Company of Fletchers has helped to make all of this possible, for which I and members of RSDA are extremely grateful. I thoroughly enjoy my shooting and hope to continue for years to come.

                     Iris Bingham



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