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There are a variety of different bows that are used for hunting and target practices. Some of the most common types used include recurve, compound, and crossbows, and these are the types used even in modern archery by archers worldwide. You will see many differences, advantages, and disadvantages between each of these available bows. One of the salient advantages of a crossbow is staying loaded or cocked. 

A crossbow should not be kept cocked or loaded for more than 4 hours. However, some experts suggest that it can be kept in a cocked position for up to 24 hours without damaging the crossbow. A crossbow is kept cocked or loaded when a person goes hunting with it

In this article, we look at how long a crossbow can stay loaded and the reasons for it. We also look at other different aspects of the crossbow that you should know about before beginning to use one. 

What Is A Crossbow, And What Advantages Does It Have? 

A crossbow is a type of bow typically used by hunters, and these are relatively silent when compared to firearms. A crossbow is also capable of big game hunting for a trophy and recreational hunters. A specific body position or stance is not necessary to shoot it.

The advantages do not end there, and it can be kept loaded for long periods, allowing the hunter or archer to shoot without any delay. Moreover, there is no recoil when shooting with a crossbow. Since it is silent, you can hunt without scaring an animal off.

In case you miss your target while hunting, the animal is not likely to be startled, and it allows the archer to take a second shot at the target. A crossbow is also tiny in size compared to a longbow, and these advantages make the crossbow one of the preferred choices for hunters.

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How Long Can A Crossbow Stay Loaded?

Although it is not safe to keep a crossbow loaded, it is possible to do so. This feature makes it stand out from the other bow types. It is also one of the primary reasons hunters prefer to use crossbows, apart from them being silent when shot.

However, each piece of equipment has its limitations, and so does a crossbow. Experts and manufacturers advise against keeping it loaded or cocked for extended periods, and it is due to the wear it may cause to the string, bow, and other mechanisms involved. 

The wear and tear would eventually cause a crossbow to lose its performance factor. Moreover, as we mentioned earlier, it is not safe either, especially if a crossbow is kept indoors. Accidents, injuries, and fatalities are a reality for them. 

Therefore, keeping a crossbow loaded or cocked indoors or in a storage area is not recommended. You can keep them loaded when you are outdoors. The duration recommended is usually 4 hours and not more, and a cooling-off period of 30 minutes is needed. 

Once you are done, you can keep them aside for 30 minutes before loading them again. Some crossbows are said to perform the same even after being kept loaded for 24 hours. Although not immediate, the effects would show up eventually on your crossbow. 

Read the manufacturer’s user manual carefully. It will clearly suggest specific durations until the crossbow can be kept cocked or loaded. Following the manufacturer’s specifications can be beneficial to retain the originality of the crossbow for a longer time. 

Why Should A Crossbow Not Be Kept Loaded For Longer? 

Modern crossbows come with relatively good safety standards. Therefore, the likelihood of them discharging automatically is very slim. However, minor interferences can lead to mishaps. So, in an ideal world, you might not want to keep it stored while it is loaded.

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Some primary disadvantages to keeping a crossbow loaded are as follows:

  • Wear and Tear: One common problem with keeping them loaded is the wear and tear caused by the tension. To avoid it, you should keep it unloaded to ensure longevity and prevent unnecessary wear and tear.
  • Damage to Property: A crossbow that is loaded with worn strings can go off at any time the strings break, and it can cause severe damage to items in the crossbow range, and it can be property or other things in the potential path of a released arrow.
  • Accidents: An accident involving a crossbow’s arrow hitting someone can cause serious injury and be fatal at times. It can happen at any time, and no one can predict if it will or not. Despite the safety mechanisms involved, keeping them locked is not a relatively brilliant idea.

What Are The Reasons For Keeping A Crossbow Loaded Or Cocked? 

There are various reasons for crossbow archers or hunters to keep them cocked or loaded, and these reasons are the ones that make a crossbow user leave one loaded or cocked. We will look at the primary reasons so you can get clarity on this specific topic.

  • Hunting Preparedness: When using a crossbow for hunting, being prepared is crucial. A shot that is taken without any delay has a higher success rate. Since the crossbow allows it to be kept loaded, a hunter can wait and camouflage himself until his target is in range. 
  • Lack of Awareness: It is something that usually happens to novice crossbow hunters, and they do not understand the risks involved. Sometimes, they are not even aware that a crossbow is not supposed to be kept loaded or cocked, which can pose serious risks.

What To Do At The End Of Your Hunting Trip With A Loaded Crossbow?

A loaded crossbow should be appropriately decocked before being stored. There are a few things to discharge the arrow in the crossbow safely and securely. So, here are some elements that you can consider to avoid taking any undue risks with your crossbow.

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Using a Soft Target

It can be one of the safest methods you can use to decock a loaded crossbow. Use a portable soft target that you can carry around on your hunting trip. It can be left behind in the trunk of your car if you do not intend to carry it around.

Shoot from close range at the soft target. It would mean that you are not missing it or damaging the arrow in the process. You can retrieve it and keep it for use on a later trip without any problems.

Using a Discharge Arrow 

The second viable option for crossbow hunters is to use a discharge arrow. Specially designed, it can be used to shoot at the ground, and the process would safely decock the crossbow without risking anything at all.

Using a Discharge Spring Device 

The discharge spring devices are designed for this purpose. You can safely use this device and decock the loaded crossbow with ease, and this method is also considered a very safe option for crossbows.


To conclude, an archer must take up the responsibility of ensuring that the crossbow is decocked properly. While outdoors and hunting, they can leave it loaded for up to 4 hours before decocking it.

Leaving it for the crossbow to relax for 30 minutes before cocking or loading it is considered ideal. To avoid accidents, wear, and tear on the crossbow, it should not be kept loaded for more than the manufacturer’s recommendations or 4 hours.

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