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The Crossbow

By Hugo Pecos

If you watch enough vampire movies, you've probably seen it: the cocky vampire hunter, besieged on all sides, calmly draws a bolt, puts it in a crossbow, aims and fires. The nearest vampire takes it in the chest and promptly bursts into flames and dies in writhing agony.

The frequent use of crossbows in vampire movies is an extension of the myth that vampires can be killed with a stake through the heart. The reasoning goes, why slide off a coffin lid and risk awakening a sleeping vamp when you can deliver the same wooden stake from a comfortable distance away? Unfortunately, wooden stakes are unlikely to do the job, whether hammered into the vampire's chest with a rock or shot from a crossbow, because vampires can shrug off chest wounds that would kill an ordinary human.

A crossbow consists of a bow mounted on a stock similar to that of a rifle's. The crossbow shelf is a flat section above the stock with a straight groove for the bolt to rest upon and travel along as it's propelled. The crossbow also includes a trigger, which was later incorporated into rifles, muskets and other firearms. A nut at the end of the shelf holds the bowstring in place when the bolt is loaded and the crossbow is engaged.

Despite its shortcomings, the crossbow has enjoyed a long history in undead warfare, as the bolts can be easily laced with poison and combustible or explosive materials. It was used frequently against the vampiric armies of the Dark Ages and came in handy defending a Medieval walled city from a zombic horde. The crossbow was relatively easy to learn, and through the use of winches, could be fired with more force than the longbow. The weapon eventually developed enough power to easily penetrate the armor of a knight.

Today, the crossbow continues to enjoy popularity among hunters and is indeed an excellent weapon. For deer hunting.

Vampires: The crossbow doesn't have much practical use in today's world of small vampire packs practicing lightning-quick attacks.

Zombies: The crossbow makes little sense for zombie hunting. If you're far enough away to shoot a zombie with a crossbow, then you're far enough away to leave the area and find some place safer.

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