Bolts and Arrows - A look on the lighter side of projectile name-calling

Master hunter and crossbow expert Dan Hendricks Takes A Look at Bolts vs Arrows- What does a cross bow shoot?

“Da, well the crossbow ain’t archery `quipment cause it shoots bolts, not arrows!” claims the anti-crossbow expert.

Modern Crossbow ArrowsJeez, I hate it when I hear that statement! I would like to put forward some simple information to clear up this murky subject, once and for all. The modern hunting crossbow does not shoot bolts, it shoots ARROWS!
If a projectile has a guidance system in the form of feathers or vanes on the end of it, it is an ARROW!

Can we say the word “ARROW” boys and girls? Crossbows shoot ARROWS! You can argue, rationalize and fantasize, but the fact remains – IT IS AN ARROW!

Images of different Bolts

The crossbow bolt is a short dowel-type projectile that was once used for indoor and outdoor target shooting. It is seldom, if ever used in the twenty-eighth (or so) century of crossbow shooting. Now is time for crossbow shooters, arrow and crossbow manufacturers and even those opposed to the existence of crossbows to all crawl onto the very same page and come to the realization that the crossbow shoots arrows, not bolts.

A Target Bolt with notched string end

Target bolt shot during International Match competition resembles a mechanic’s bolt in some ways, including light treading on the tip. The string end of the bolt, above is notched to insure exact bolt alignment.

Those who scorn our weapon of choice claim that we shoot bolts because they are shorter than those shot from vertical archery equipment. Okay, let me get this straight, if that is the definition of a bolt in their superior little minds, then archers that shoot short arrows from an over-draw are shooting bolts, right?
I dare say that if you walked up to a vertical archer who is using short arrows with an over-draw system and say, “Hey Dude, really good looking bolts you are shooting there!” there would be hell to pay.

How about going to a junior archery league where youngsters are using 18-inch youth arrows? Give those kids on the shooting line the all clear and then tell them they can go pull their bolts out of the targets. Even a newbie child knows that they are shooting arrows and not bolts and they will, in no uncertain terms, let you know that you do not have a clue as to what you are talking about.

Crossbow Quiver With ArrowsWhy then, do some of us as mature adults insist on calling our arrows, bolts? I understand that a lot of folks just do not know any better. It is a simple matter of knowledge washing away the ignorance. Well, if you are reading this article, then you can no longer plead ignorance! Start calling your projectiles what they are, ARROWS!

If you are shooting something similar to the photographs included with this article, you are shooting bolts. If you are hunting with this type of projectile, you should seriously consider taking up another sport, because “you ain’t right”!

However, if you are hunting with a 20 to 24 inch projectile with feathers or vanes at the nock end, you are shooting an arrow. Get used to the fact and call them what they are.

If you are an arrow manufacturer and you are manufacturing and selling projectiles for crossbows, please take note. If those projectiles look like the photographs in this article, you are indeed manufacturing and marketing bolts. In that case, please feel free to call them bolts. However, if you are manufacturing projectiles that look like arrows, complete with vanes or feathers on the nock end, then you are manufacturing ARROWS. For Heaven's sake, please call them ARROWS, because that is what they are.

It is time to end the arrow/bolt confusion, people. Crossbow hunters shoot arrows, not bolts. I have heard it said that it doesn’t really make any difference what you call them. Excuse me?

  • I have also heard it said that a whitetail buck has nice horns, you know what I mean?
    NO! A buck has ANTLERS; cows and automobiles have horns. 
  • I got a bunch of polecats under my barn, you know what I mean?
    NO! You have a bunch of SKUNKS under your barn! Polecats live in Europe and Asia.
  • Boy there sure is a good crop of akerns, this year, you know what I mean?
    NO! There is a good crop of ACORNS this year! There is no such thing as an akern!
  • My crossbow sure does shoot a bolt fast, you know what I mean?
    NO! Your crossbow shoots an ARROW fast, not a bolt. A bolt is a short featherless dowel like projectile once used for target practice at indoor and outdoor ranges.

Successful Crossbow hunt

Just because a lot of folks choose, for whatever reason, to mislabel something, it doesn’t make it right, you know what I mean? So….Let’s all, shooters AND manufacturers, get in the practice of properly addressing our projectiles for what the really are – ARROWS! NOW SAY AMEN!

Meet Daniel J Hendricks Minimize

Crossbow and hunting professional Daniel HendricksDaniel James Hendricks is 60 years old and has been hunting small game since the age of six when he took his first gray squirrel with a Red Ryder B-B gun. He has been hunting big game, including whitetails, black bear, caribou, antelope, mule deer, turkeys, wild hogs and a wide assortment of exotic species since 1952. He picked up a recurve bow in 1973 and moved to a compound in 1987. He began hunting with the crossbow in Ohio during the 1994 whitetail season.

In 1993, Daniel founded North American Bowhunter, Inc. For the next four years, He produced the North American Bowhunter television show and started the North American Bowhunting Magazine.  Learn More About Daniel James Hendricks-