How To Safely Unload a Crossbow – Bows Hunting

When you’re done shooting your crossbow, that’s when the most important question arises: How to unload a crossbow? There are various ways for decocking a crossbow, however, there are pros and cons that come with each and every one of them.

Loading, aiming and shooting is not all there is to using a crossbow, you also have to learn how to decock a crossbow once you’re done shooting for the day.

In this blog, we will discuss various ways to unload a crossbow with detailed tutorials for each method. Let’s get started!

Importance of Unloading a Crossbow

It is extremely important to understand how to unload a crossbow in order to prevent any accidental misfires while you are not using it. You want to ensure that your crossbow is in a safe condition.

A loaded crossbow has a lot of stored energy in its limbs just like a loaded gun. There is a chance that you could accidentally push the trigger.

It’s not like the crossbow has a bolt in it. What is the worse thing that could happen?

We know that you are not carrying a crossbow with a loaded bolt but even without the bolt, a loaded crossbow can be dry fired which could cause damage to your crossbow or even break it.

If you carry a loaded crossbow, it can also result in injury to your arms and legs if the strings suddenly snap. Therefore, unloading a crossbow carries immense significance and you should only practice shooting when you have learned to unload properly.

How Do you Uncock a Crossbow?


Let’s finally come to the most important question: How should a hunter safely unload a crossbow? In the modern world, hunters have discovered many new ways to safely unload a crossbow.
All the methods mentioned below require some kind of firing, so make sure that you know where you are pointing your crossbow and fire it in a controlled manner. Make sure you unload your crossbow before you enter a no firing zone.

1. Firing into a Discharge Target

Discharge targets are basically small firing targets that are made up of thick material in order to catch a bolt. They are compact and small in size making them portable and easy to carry around.

They are manufactured such that they can stop a bolt from penetrating when fired from close range. For this, you need to use a bolt with a field point. This isn’t a very complex method. All you need to do is to place the discharge target at a close distance and fire at it with a crossbow decocking arrow.

It is also quite easy to take out the bolt from the discharge target as most of them are designed such that they release field points quite easily. However, you will need to carry them around the whole day until the end of your shooting.


  • Easy to use
  • Easy to recover arrow
  • Portable


  • Needs to be carried around while shooting

2. Crossbow Decocking Bolt

Another way to unload your crossbow is to use a crossbow decocking bolt. This is also known as a crossbow discharge arrow. This arrow is built such that it can easily bear the impact of being fired directly into the ground numerous times.

All you need to do is take out your arrow or bolt from the crossbow and replace it with the decocking bolt. After that you aim at the ground about ten feet away and fire the decocking bolt into the ground.

Make sure that you are firing at soft ground and not at anything rocky. You can also use biodegradable decocking bolts but they can be used only once. These bolts might sometimes get buried very deep into the ground. There is also a possibility that they might skip off the ground. They will also take up extra space in your quiver.


  • Easy to use
  • Can be used more than once
  • Does not break easily


  • May get buried into the ground
  • Will take up extra space

3. Crossbow Defuser


You can also use a crossbow defuser in order to safely decock your crossbow. A crossbow defuser completely fits into the crossbow and holds its limbs while you slowly release the built-up tension in a quiet and safe manner.

You have to fit a crossbow defuser into the crossbow and then dry fire it. After that you have to slowly crank its limbs allowing them to return to their original position.

If you properly follow all the instructions mentioned on the user’s manual, you will be able to learn how to use them in no time.

Just like all other decocking tools, these will also take up same extra space in your bag. Different defusers work differently, therefore, it is extremely important to read the instructions beforehand.


  • Easy to use
  • Decocks quickly


  • Takes up space

4. Using a Crank

A crank is usually used for loading or cocking a crossbow but it can also be used to unload the crossbow. Now the question is, how to unload the crossbow using a crank? For this, you need to first point the crossbow at the ground.

Put your foot inside the crossbow’s stirrup and ensure a firm hold. Now, disengage the trigger’s safety. After that you have to attach the crank to the crossbow. Now, gradually release the spool away from the crank.

Hold the hooks in your hand and latch them right around the string of the crossbow. Both the hooks should be at an equal distance from the flight deck. After that, you need to engage the crank handle.

Now create tension in the crank such that it firmly holds on to the string. Use one hand to fire the crossbow and use the other hand to hold the crank. Finally, begin cranking backwards to return the string to its unloaded position.


  •  Safe
  •  Does not damage the crossbow


  • Takes longer to decock

How to unload a crossbow without shooting?

Not all crossbows can be unloaded without shooting so you will have to read the user manual to check whether it is possible to unload your crossbow without shooting or by using a dryfire. If it is permissible, you can use a cocking rope to unload your crossbow.

In order to use a cocking rope, first disengage the safety of the crossbow’s trigger. This will allow you to pull back the crossbow string completely. Next, angle the crossbow such that the foot stirrup is touching the ground. Now you can put your foot into the foot claw. Hold the cocking rope and put one of its clamps into the crossbow’s handle.

Put the other clamp on the handle’s other side. At this point, it is important to ensure that you are able to firmly hold on to the rope with one hand. If not, loosen the rope a little. Pull the cocking rope to produce some tension in it.

Now, slowly pull the trigger. Loosen the grip on the cocking rope as the crossbow unloads. This will help you easily unload the crossbow.

P.S: Learn how to load the crossbows – detailed method

How to Unload a Barnett Crossbow?

A Barnett crossbow is very easy to use and unloading it is not a difficult task either. You can easily unload a Barnett crossbow using a cocking rope and following all the steps mentioned for using a cocking rope above.

Safety measures

A crossbow is a dangerous weapon so it is extremely important that you take all safety measures while using a crossbow. Following are the important safety measures that you need to take while unloading a crossbow.

1. Safety gear

Keep wearing all the safety gear even when you are unloading the crossbow. Gloves, safety googles, proper clothes and shoes are all very important for your safety while you are handling a crossbow.

2. Keep a check on your surroundings

Make sure you unload your crossbow in a safe environment where you are not a danger to anything or anyone else. Make sure there is no extra object in your way. Even a small rock can result in a bad accident when decocking.

3. Unload in large spaces

Crossbows should be used in large open spaces. Follow the limb clearance practice properly to prevent any damage to your gear or to your own self when decocking your crossbow.

Final word

We hope that this tutorial helped you learn how to unload a crossbow properly and safely. You can choose any one of all the methods mentioned above based on your convenience. Make sure you begin with an easier method if you are a beginner and get a hold on it before moving on to the more complex ways. Also, make sure you get help from an expert shooter before you try to practice shooting or unloading on your own. If you still have any queries, please send them to us so that our experts can help you find solutions. We wish you the best of luck for your shooting session! 

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Frequently Asked Question

How do I safely unload a crossbow with a cocked string

To safely unload a crossbow with a cocked string, follow these steps:
a. Keep the crossbow pointed in a safe direction at all times.
b. Engage the safety if your crossbow has one.
c. Use a discharge bolt or a de-cocking device specifically designed for your crossbow model. These tools allow you to release the tension on the string without firing a live arrow. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for your specific device.

Can I simply fire a crossbow into the ground to unload it?

No, firing a crossbow into the ground to unload it is not a safe practice. The arrow could bounce back or deflect, causing unintended harm or damage. It’s essential to use a discharge bolt or de-cocking device, as mentioned in the previous question, to safely and effectively release the tension without shooting a live arrow.

Is it necessary to wear any protective gear while unloading a crossbow?

While unloading a crossbow using a discharge bolt or de-cocking device is generally safe, it’s always a good idea to wear safety glasses or goggles during the process. This extra precaution can protect your eyes from any potential debris or splinters that may occur while releasing the tension on the crossbow string. Additionally, always ensure that there are no obstructions or people in the immediate vicinity to avoid any accidents. Safety should always be a top priority when handling a crossbow.

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