X-Bow Xtras

Here is a brief history of the tennis ball shooters I have made since the tennis ball was made the equivalent of a combat arrow in the Kingdom of An Tir.
Stone Bow Wamo tennis crossbow
Stone bow based on Payne-Gallwey designs in his Crossbow book. It originally had the lock attached to a built in cocking lever. The wood forward of the trigger was too weak and broke repeatedly. The power from the split limbs was not enough to need the cocking lever any way. Wamo crossbow fitted with a trough for the ball. The string rubbing against the top of the trough broke the string quickly. A single string against the ball does not work. Half the time the string will climb over the ball compressing it, causing the ball to go straight up.
Compound Tennis Bow Compound Tennis Bow. A Bear compound bow with the center removed and replaced with angle aluminum for ball clearance. A split string and a ball carrier made with a metal plate and string basket. Not shown is a wire and roller finger pull attached to the back of the plate. The return cables were also offset for clearance.

This is a powerful bow with a 50 yard range. Even with 50% fall off it has a 62lb. draw at mid point. I would need to practice daily for two weeks before an event to gain the needed strength. It was necessary to turn my wrist to avoid being struck by the wide split string. After release the ball carrier would spin making reloading slow.

Compound Tennis Crossbow
Compound Tennis Crossbow using four rails and a plastic ball carrier to guide the ball. The limbs are mounted on a fabricated aluminum frame. An archers wrist release is used for the lock. The walnut stock is in a" Bulldog" configuration with the trigger well forward of the lock. It has a folding rear sight and a bent wire front sight.

This has a 60 yard range when the bow is properly tuned. Keeping it tuned during the rigors of combat archery is a challenge. The compound bow is too complicated to reproduce easily. Weight 10 lbs.

TakeCourage manual cocking Take Courage crossbow with ratchet cocking. A cast aluminum frame supports 120 lb. fiberglass limbs. The plastic ball carrier slides on two metal rails. The rails also support the lock on the end of a tee handled cocking rod. The ratchet cocking was inspired by a calking gun. The power can be changed by varying the length of draw.

Pulling the cocking lever to full draw is difficult. I would pull the tee handle up with my elbows to get the length needed. Close tolerances on the ratchet assembly are difficult to manufacture and keep in tune.

crossbow side view
Take Courage Crossbow - Lever-action cocking. This design has a ball carrier and lock sliding on two stainless steel side rails. The lever brings the lock forward to pick up the string. It can be cocked with one hand, without touching the string. The ball shoots through the center of the aluminum casting at 114 fps. The folding rear sight and oak shoulder stock are designed to use while wearing a helmet. The fiberglass limbs supply 125 lb. of power, and a 50 yard range. I have shot four balls in thirty seconds during speed tests. Weighs 10 lb. The built in goatsfoot was expensive and time consuming to make.
The Blockhead retains the rail and ball cup design. It's based on a Taiwanese made crossbow. I tossed everything but the lock, limbs and hinged limb mounts. The folding limbs and rear sight makes this 25" long, 7.5 lb. crossbow easy to transport. An interrupted supply from Ebay of the Taiwan original, combined with an unreliable lock caused me to discontinue it.

This is a French stonebow from the 18th or 19th century, (the real thing) that I repaired for a client.
I made repairs to the release, the front sights, and made a new string. I used the Payne-Gallwey example for the split string with a leather pocket to hold the shot.

Care and use of the Blockhead Crossbow

The limbs are hinged to the open position and secured under the outer most nut on each side of the frame.
Use a 1/2" wrench to tighten the nuts.

Feed the string through the slots in the ball carrier. Hook one end of the string on one of the limb ends. Put that end on the ground, pull back the other limb while pushing the center forward with your body, hooking the free end of the string.

Swing rear sight into upright position. With your foot through the stirrup, put your fingers on the string on either side of the ball carrier and pull back until you hear the string click in the lock. The safety is automatically engaged. Load the ball so it's center is above the rails and tight to the ball carrier.
Push the safety switch on the right of the lock forward. Hold the crossbow by the front and rear vertical grips.


The lock will jam if you pull the trigger without pushing the safety forward.
With your foot through the stirrup, pull back the string on either side of the ball carrier, pushing the safety forward with your thumb at the same time.

Firing unloaded causes excessive wear on the carrier. If you need to release a cocked crossbow safely. Fire it straight down with the stirrup touching the ground. The ball will bounce back safely inside the frame.
Check for loose screws after heavy use. Keep a Phillips screwdriver handy.
If the rear site gets loose, Unscrew the jam nut and adjust the axle screw.

Store in a dry place to avoid rust. The rails are stainless steel, the other parts are not. Lubricate the side rails with oil or silicone spray. Store with the string off the limbs.

Your Blockhead Crossbow is warranted for one year for use under normal conditions. This warranty covers all parts and labor except the bow string.
Order bow strings from a sporting goods store or from me. The string is 20 strands and 32".

Cocking & Loading the Take Courage Crossbow

x-bow cocking 1
Lift the built in cocking lever until the lock closes on the bowstring.
x-bow cocking 2
Pull back the lever.
x-bow cocking 3
The lever handle catches under the retaining spring.
x-bow cocking 4
You are ready to load a ball.

Assembling the Take Courage crossbow

Remove 7/16" screws from the limbs slots. Slide limbs under the safety straps and tighten all screws snugly. DO NOT OVER TIGHTEN! Over tightening may strip the threads in the casting.

Feed the string through the slots in the ball carrier. Hook one end of the string on one of the limb ends. Put that end on the ground, pull back the other limb while pushing the center forward with your body, hooking the free end of the string.

Disengage the lever handle from the lever spring. Push forward until the open lock closes on the string. Pull back until lever handle hooks the lever spring. Load the ball into the ball carrier. Never put your hand in front of the string when the crossbow is loaded! Swing rear sight into position.

Keep both hands on the grip. Thumb around the pistol grip trigger finger in the trigger slot, off hand fingers in the groove in the grip
There is no safety. Don't put your finger on the trigger until the target is in your sites. Pull the trigger lightly until you feel the extra resistance of the trigger flap touching the lock release. A firm pull on the trigger will release the ball.

TO UNCOCK (release without firing)
Reverse the cocking procedure, pull the lock trigger to release the string. Dry firing causes excessive wear on the carrier.

Vibration during use will loosen some screws. Check all the screws after use. Keep a screwdriver and Allen wrench handy. Lubricate the side rails and lever joints with oil or silicone spray. Wipe dry and store in a dry place to avoid rust. Store with the string off the limbs.

The lock must be open to engage the string. Use a slow pull of the trigger when firing. If it does not remain open after firing, pull the release on the lock during cocking. The lock to string position is adjustable using its gimbal mount and o-ring. If the lock is below the string, the lock may be loosened from the mounting nut and rotated to center on the string. Pliers may be used to rotate the mounting nut in the sliding block. If the string pops off during firing, twist the string to shorten it.
If the lock fails after it may be returned directly to the manufacture for replacement:
Tru-Fire Corp. N7355 State Street North Fond du Lac, WI 54937-1572
Order bow strings from a sporting goods store or from Sir Blackhand. The string is 20 strands and 37" long.

Take Courage Crossbow Updates

June 2004 Serial # 200 and up

  1. Rails changed from CRS to Stainless steel
  2. Pistol grip added to stock
  3. Lock carrier increased in size
  4. Casting changed to eliminate ball carrier cracking
1. To eliminate rust the cold rolled steel rails were replaced with stainless steel.

2. The wood under the trigger was extended downward to make the grip better. Many of my clients have added to or replaced their own grip.

3. To reduce ware on the lock support block the size was increased from 3/4" to 1" thick. This will help keep the lock better aligned with the string. A new support block can be ordered from Sir Blackhand.

4. On crossbows with serial numbers below 200 the ball carrier has been striking the casting causing the carrier to crack or break. The new casting has a filler added to the string slot so the string will bounce off the casting. Older crossbows can be modified by adding 1/2" of filler (Bondo or stacks of leather) to the string slots. Be sure to smooth the fill so it doesn't fray the string, and don't fill in the hole that attaches the limbs to the casting. Replacement ball carrier can be ordered from Sir blackhand.

New casting with filler in the string slot.
November 2008 All Take Courage crossbows
Shortening the draw length by 1 1/4" will drop the crossbow to 1000 inch/lbs. This will conform to the new combat archery rules in the SCA.

A three part modification involves:
1. Shortening the secondary lever arms.
2. Changing the location of the trigger flap.
3. Changing the ball retainer spring.

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