Automatic Crossbows are crossbows that allow the user to shoot several times before having to reload, just like modern guns do.note
Many works of fiction are set in a time period when firearms are not available, and crossbows are the nearest equivalent. This is especially true in the fantasy genre, where Fantasy Gun Control
is the default. However, crossbows tend to take a long time to reload, which can be frustrating for people used to the rapid action of modern gunfights. And to those who are used to modern sporting crossbows, which are much faster to reload but also much shorter-ranged and less powerful than the typical medieval version. Sometimes in a work the urge to use some Guns and Gunplay Tropes
is just too powerful. So the obvious solution to this dilemma is to give crossbows the ability to shoot an entire magazine of ammunition without having to reload. Not only do they add instant awesome
, but they allow having More Dakka
This weapon would not actually work in real life.
Automatic firearms work only by using excess energy from the detonation of propellant. Mechanical parts like a crossbow will always lose energy, making it impossible for them to reload on their own. This is no fun, as you still want said automatic weapon.
There are several ways this might be accomplished. The most realistic options use mechanical means to produce repeating bows that are similar to Real Life historical examples
but dialed up to eleven
. Others might use Schizo Tech
or magic to accomplish this purposes. If it is the latter, the use of magically justified Bottomless Magazines
might make the Automatic Crossbow even more powerful.
Compare with Multishot
when one gets similar results with a regular bow.
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Anime & Manga
- The Knight Gundam/Lacroa version of Gundam Heavyarms weilds a bizarre weapons that's a combination of his traditional Gat' & a crossbow.
- In Berserk, Guts's primary ranged weapon is a wrist-mounted repeating crossbow, which he primarily uses against humans. His other ranged weapon is a steampunk gunpowder cannon built into the replacement for his left arm, which he uses to turn the tide against demons.
- Pajiramon of Digimon Tamers. When one arrow is fired, the next immediately slides into place. It's only seen to hold three, but anytime it's offscreen for an instant, it's fully reloaded when we see it again.
- In Fist of the North Star the apocalypse seems to have wiped out all the bullets but few of the guns, so the guns have naturally been retooled to shoot pointed sticks.
- A character in Afro Samurai has one of these. It also comes with an underslung grenade launcher. And the arrows are poisoned.
- A character in Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust fires quarrels at a rate of roughly seven billion per second out of a hand-loaded crossbow. No explanation is offered as to how, although it looks like he's pulling a Detritus-loading a bundle of them and letting them diffuse mid-flight.
- Most of that family were not normal humans. In the book, they're even worse, especially what they do with their sister.
- Favaro's crossbow in Rage of Bahamut: Genesis has multiple arrows loaded in it.
- In one issue of The Mask, The Mask pulled out a repeating crossbow with an ammo belt like a machine gun.
- In Cerebus the Aardvark, The Roach (in his Punisherroach identity) wields two "pearl handled semi-automatic" belt-fed crossbows that shoot explosive-tipped bolts and have a firing rate similar to a machine gun.
- In Scare Tactics, members of the vampire hunting Graveyard Shift tote multi-shot, stake firing crossbows.
- Amy in Sonic the Comic has one of these as her main weapon that she built herself.
Film - Animated
- Shrek 2 features crossbows which can be loaded with multiple arrows and fired one by one in a manner similar to a revolver and held like a Tommy Gun. Probably done partly because of Rule of Cool and mostly because the shooting would be very slow and less dramatic if they had to keep stopping to reload. They prove wildly inaccurate.
- In the original Heavy Metal movie, the land where the Tarna segment was set did have guns. But automatic bolt-shooters were in exclusive use by those mounted on giant featherless birds. Well, giant featherless birds that also didn't exist in the medieval age.
- In 9, 5's weapon of choice is a crossbow made of a clock key and a spring. He used it to crack the Seamstresses eye, which was a Crowning Moment of Awesome for a previously timid character.
Film - Live Action
- Ranulf's handy piece of villain-slaying hardware in 1980's camp sword and sorcery classic, Hawk the Slayer.
- Van Helsing gives its hero a steam powered, gatling gun crossbow.
- Captain Navarre (played by Rutger Hauer) in the movie Ladyhawke has a double crossbow as one of his two signature weapons.
- In DEBS Amy keeps a crossbow with a large magazine in her room.
- In Gladiator, when Maximus and his fellow gladiators are fighting the re-enactment of the Battle of Zama, one of the enemy fighters is shown using a repeating crossbow.
- An historically accurate model is seen in use by Sun Quan's army in Red Cliff.
- Daybreakers. Pump-action crossbows (with flick-out bow section) are used by the humans against the vampire military.
- The vampire soldiers use three-stringed crossbows in Underworld Rise Of The Lycans. Sensible, since the Lycans typically show up in numbers and might be able to shrug off a single bolt.
- Gretel from Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, carries an over-and-under version of this, which uses its own recoil to cock itself. It can also rotate to shoot bolts in opposite directions.
- In Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi Chewbacca fires his bowcaster twice in a second without reloading at a fleeing scout trooper. EU materials such as The Essential Guide to Weapons and Technology explain that Chewie's in particular has been modified with an automatic re-cocking system, rendering it semiautomatic.
- In Sin City: A Dame to Kill for, Nancy uses one in the "Nancy's Last Dance" story when she and Marv attack Senator Roark's home.
- Discworld novels, particularly the City Watch books, use this quite a bit. The Truth and The Fifth Elephant even feature a small spring-powered crossbow that's been so heavily modified that it's a gun in everything but the most technical sense. There's also Sergeant Detritus's "Piecemaker," a giant siege weapon that fires six foot long arrows, which he converted into biggest handheld weapon on the Disc. Although both are described, most emphatically, as being slow to reload.
- The issue with the Piecemaker is that it doesn't need to be fired more than once. Or even ever. In its latest incarnation/modification it's practically the equivalent of waving a rocket-launcher in somebody's face, in proportion to the technology level of the Disc.
- The Piecemaker is exemplary of Vimes' philosophy on weapon use, as no one would dare antagonise Detritus while he has the thing ready to go (not that many would want to anyway, him being a troll). Vimes even mentions that he got holed-up criminals to surrender on multiple occasions simply by ordering one of the other Watch members to fetch Detritus. Thus far, it's only been used to destroy non-living targets, like buildings. But it's not strictly automatic, less because of reload time than that it uses all of its ammo in one shot.
- The Piecemaker has actually been fired, it applies so much force that the arrows instantly shatter. The target is then hit with a spray of fast moving wood and metal chips of what used to be arrows. It has the same effect as a shotgun, dialed up to 11. Often being used to vaporize pesky obstacles that block their path.
- Automatic or multi-shot crossbows are alluded in at least Men at Arms and The Last Continent. The Last Continent even used a crossbow to parody Army of Darkness' famous This Is My Boomstick scene.
- Crossbows in Night Watch carry a clip of several bolts, but the string still has to be pulled back.
- Lampshaded a bit in the end of Guards! Guards!!. The protagonists storm the palace to catch the villain, and when the gate is locked, Captain Vimes, drunk on authority and briefly forgetting he's only acting like Dirty Harry, orders Sergeant Colon to "shoot it open!" Colon is not sure how he's supposed to accomplish that with a bow and arrow.
- In Going Postal, Moist, on several occasions, finds himself staring down the barrel of Miss Dearheart's... automatic crossbow, taking the place of the shotgun that a shopkeeper would normally have.
- David Gemmell's anti-heroic assassin Waylander the Slayer used a weapon normally referred to as a "double crossbow" — effectively two small crossbows stuck one on top of the other, allowing two shots without reloading. The second shot often takes people by surprise, which is handy because he's a mediocre swordsman.
- In Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Zhuge Liang is credited with inventing these, although they aren't used until after his death because of problems of implementation.
- The introduction of this type of crossbow gives Mat a serious advantage in The Wheel of Time series. They are used realistically, noting how they lack the range, accuracy, and power of longbows and traditional crossbows, but make up for it through sheer numbers. It also points out that anyone can use them with minimal training, making them ideal for irregular forces.
- Dark Elves in Warhammer use repeating crossbows as their standard ranged weapon. On top of that, both they and the High Elves have repeating Bolt Throwers (ballistas) as their primary war machines.
- Dungeons & Dragons features a repeating crossbow, which can fire 5 bolts before needing a reload.
- They do require a free hand to use the lever, though.
- They're closer to semi-automatic crossbows, really.
- A spoof article in Dragon, "Gangsters of the Underdark" featured the an automatic crossbow powered by a handcrank, known as the Torque-Operated Mauling Machine, or T.O.M.M.Y.
- Due to badly designed rules, repeating crossbows are worthless in D&D. A regular crossbow is considered a simple weapon, usable by anyone. A repeating crossbow is an exotic weapon which nobody knows how to use by default. Thus anyone who wants to use a repeating crossbow must spend a feat on the appropriate weapon proficiency. That feat slot is better spent on rapid reload which reduces the loading time of light crossbows from a move action to a free action. This makes them actually fire faster than a repeating crossbow which you need to spend a whole round reloading every 5 shots.
- These are commonly used by the Haslanti League and the Mountain Folk in the tabletop RPG Exalted. The Mountain Folk have a version that can fire crystalline bolts with such speed that it's basically an assault rifle. For bonus points, it can fire flechette rounds.
- GURPS Martial Arts has a repeating crossbow that gets ten shots before reloading, but doesn't fire any faster than a normal crossbow.
- The Dungeon Fantasy setting has a spring-loaded artifact that works almost exactly like an SMG.
- GURPS Discworld Also has a repeating crossbow that is unreliable but still popular in the Brown Islands, mostly for the impressive noise it makes when a bolt is loaded.
- Munchkin Fu has a repeating crossbow. Called—what else would Munchkin call it—the Repeating Crossbow Crossbow Crossbow.
- The Bowguns in the Monster Hunter series are functionally guns except that they have a self-drawing bow mechanism (the actual 'Bow' weapon type has to be drawn in a separate action before firing) and firing rate that is affected by ammo type.
- Edgar's Auto Crossbow tool in Final Fantasy VI. It's available less than an hour into the game, and remains useful for a long time.
- Warframe has the Attica, a Tenno made crossbow that fires high-damage bolts at decent rate. A later patch doubles its firing rate and allows it to equip the Thunderbolt mod, essentially turning it into a fast-firing automatic rocket launcher.
- Varric's crossbow Bianca in Dragon Age II has a much, much faster rate of fire than any real crossbow, plus its double bow arms. However, it doesn't become truly automatic until Varric's attack speed is upgraded, though at that point Bianca is devastating.
- The PC RPG Albion tells the story of an Earth astronaut who crash lands on an alien planet that's part alien jungle and part fantasy land. The local civilization hasn't developed guns, but later in the game repeating Automatic Crossbows (referred to as bolt guns) become available as weapons.
- Interestingly, the official lightgun attachment for the Nintendo Wii, known as the Wii Zapper, comes with Link's Crossbow Training. It remains to be seen whether the next Zelda game will feature one of these. Link's Crossbow never needs to be reloaded, and can be powered up with 100 bolts of automatic rapid-fire.
- Kai's primary weapon from Heavenly Sword is a repeating crossbow that shoots bolts whose flight path the player can control.
- Dwarf Fortress used to have bows and crossbows that fired absurdly fast; a dwarf who really leveled up the relevant skill could fire off seven or eight bolts before the first one hit. This was extremely Cool, but Inefficient, as ranged weapons were also somewhat overpowered at the time and the odds were good that the first arrow or bolt had scored a One-Hit Kill, so the remainder were wasted. The problem has since been fixed by not allowing units to loose a second shot until the first has landed.
- All that being said however, actual rates of fire are slightly difficult to determine, as Dwarf Fortress is a rather extreme example of Video Game Time.
- Fable II features repeating crossbows, which fire much faster than a normal crossbow, but are inferior in terms of speed to pistols, and in terms of power to rifles. And nothing beats a good clockwork or turret rifle.
- In the Kingdom Hearts series, the character Xigbar dual wields an Energy Bow variant of the concept: Arrowguns, crossbows that shoot magical spatial darts and can combine to form a sniper rifle, the Arrowguns from Birth by Sleep are even shaped like crossbows.
- In Kingdom of Loathing, most of the 1-handed Crossbows describe themselves as automatic. All the other crossbows are typically two-handed. It also has a Gatling Good version called the Repeating Crossbow, which is advertised as "Firing up to ONE ROUND PER SECOND! Devastating!"
- Trying to be funny, or referencing the RL slow fire rate? Yes.
- In Half-Life, the player can use a five-round crossbow that fires almost as quickly as a shotgun. Swapping out the crossbow's magazine is painfully slow, unfortunately.
- The crossbow in Half-Life 2 is no longer automatic, and you can only carry twelve shots, but becomes the most damaging non-explosive weapon in the game. While it's no longer magazine-fed, it still has some automatic parts, allowing it to rearm itself while the user reaches for a new projectile.
- Sven-Coop remedies this by making the fire rate longer between each shot
- Badrach and Janus from Valkyrie Profile both use "crossbows" that seem to have more in common with guns from Contra than actual medieval weaponry. Badrach's in particularly is clearly a gun based on the game's art. It's likely they just gave him the crossbow weapon set so they wouldn't have to make entirely new equipment for just one character.
- Fairy queen Mercedes from Odin Sphere wields a magic crossbow called Tasla (later reforged into Riblam). Being a magical weapon it rapid-fires bolts of flaming energy rather than arrows and can charge up and release a powerful homing spread shot. Despite this, she still needs to reload it when she runs out of energy (the point where other characters would run out of breath) although she can absorb phozons instead to recharge it.
- Coincidentally there's another Queen Mercedes (this one an elf) in the MMORPG Maplestory, who dual-wields a pair of 'bowguns', which can be best described as this trope with a dash of Gatling Good. In her case, she never has to reload because her arrows are made of magic. Given her rate of fire, conventional ammunition would probably be impossible to reload quick enough unless it was belt-fed.
- The Crossbow in Medievil actually has rapid fire listed as one of its abilities by its original owner. Justified since every weapon you get in the Hall of Heroes is at least somewhat magical in nature.
- Civilization IV has the Chinese Cho-Ku-Nu specialty unit. While not stronger then a normal crossbow, it has the added advantage of causing collateral damage to a stack of units.
- They return in V. Here, the Cho-Ku-Nu is actually weaker than the normal crossbow, but can fire two times per turn.
- In Age of Empires II, the Chinese use Chu-Ko-Nus as their special unit. Despite having shorter range, it could fire several bolts at once.
- Age of Empires III has them too. Again, they're weaker than European crossbows, but they fire three times in rapid succession, they're cheap, and when you build them, you also get melee units to protect them. Even a small group of Chu-Ko-Nus is more than capable of More Dakka, spraying the enemy with a constant hail of Annoying Arrows.
- Deus Ex has miniature automatic crossbows that are loaded with box-shaped magazines of darts, and strapped to the back of the wrist.
- The Orc monsters in Castlevania: Curse of Darkness have these.
- Dungeon Fighter Online features the Gunner class, who can use this type of weapon. Like all the other gun types, he holds one in each hand.
- The Princess from the "Princess 30" game in Half-Minute Hero inherits a crossbow from her dying father (the King), and it can shoot hundreds of arrows per second.
- In Dungeon Siege Throne of Agony, crossbows are all automatic, and only slightly slower than regular bows. They are apparently fired by yarding on a firing crank.
- In "Strife", the crossbow automatically loads the next shot. Despite this, the fire rate isn't faster than other FPS crossbows.
- Perfect Dark has a crossbow with five bolts and a fairly fast rate of fire. The reload animation did take a while, but luckily it could be interrupted in a pinch, which left you with fewer bolts but allowed you to keep firing. It also doubled as a tranquilizer gun, and it has a useful instant kill function.
- Hype The Time Quest has some quick crossbows, one of which actually could rapid fire three arrows!
- The Ethereal Crossbow from Heretic fires faster than a round per second. With a Tome of Power active, it fires even faster. Justified in that it's magical.
- Similarly, the Assassin class in Hexen II has a magical crossbow that gets its ammo from the player's blue mana pool.
- Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath has the main character use an arm-mounted double-barrel crossbow that fire bees like machine-gun as well as various other critters.
- In Rappelz the only class to use a crossbow as its primary weapon, the Shadow Hunter, can reach attack speeds high enough to fire an arrow or, with proper buffs, two every second.
- The Sniper Crossbow in Will Rock can shot up to 6 Arrows on Fire in a row. The fire rate however is slightly slower than the usual Automatic Crossbow.
- Maybe with a little nod tuned Up to Eleven to the Chinese chu-ko-nu in the Real Life section below, Dynasty Warriors 7 players have access to highly-accurate ballistas in some missions. Its gatling goodness and never-miss accuracy make for some easy army leveling.
- In the same game Lianshi has a normal crossbow as her signature weapon. It functions more like a shotgun than a machine gun, though she never really has to worry about reloading it.
- The eighth game takes this to a ludicrous extent with the Downloadable Content "Revolving Crossbow", which is basically a portable gatling cannon that fires arrows.
- Simliarly, the third Samurai Warriors games introduces Motonari Mori, who uses a wrist-mounted version of this that he can even stab people with.
- A rapid-fire crossbow in one of Vaan's (many) BRV attacks in Duodecim 012.
- Resident Evil 2 features a bowgun which can fire in three-round bursts, and can hold 18 arrows at a time. Code: Veronica features a bowgun that can hold every arrow in your inventory at once, and fires one (homing!) bolt at a time semi-auto. Later games feature more highly damaging crossbow weapons, but require each bolt to be nocked individually.
- In Dragon Nest, the Archer's crossbow acts for all intents and purposes like a three-round burst submachine gun.
- Minecraft, for most of the pre-release period, took this even further by having a fully-automatic longbow. If you had enough arrows stored up, you could just point at a horde of enemies, hold down the right mouse button, and mow them down like you're wielding an assault rifle. And as an added bonus, missed shots didn't waste arrows because they could (and still can) be gathered up and reused later. Beta 1.8 finally retooled the bow to behave more like a traditional video game longbow (i.e. hold the button in to pull back slowly, release to... well, release; damage and accuracy increases based on how far back the bowstring was drawn) but also do more damage if used properly.
- Dragon Saga implements this trope in an odd way. The crossbows of the Ranger classes fire slower than the huge bows used by their Hunter counterparts but deal more damage. They have the same firing rate in shared skills but discard the crossbow in their class-specific skills and switch to a ridiculous array of firearms and explosives.
- In Diablo III, the Demon Hunter class can Dual Wield single shot hand crossbows like a pair of semi-auto pistols without ever apparently reloading. The Rapid Fire skill lets them fire like fully automatic machine guns.
- Dungeon Defenders has several examples, most of which can be upgraded to fire even faster.
- Orcs Must Die has a magical crossbow which can fire indefinitely, and is capable of automatic fire with the use of macros.
- In League of Legends Twitch has an extremely high base attack speed, and usually gets items to increase it, so that he fires crossbow bolts at a rate greater than one a second.
- Lu in Suikoden V has an Auto Crossbow styled vaguely like a Tommy Gun, which is actually four crossbows in one.
- In Dishonored, you can purchase a fast reloading device, which takes only a fraction of a second to reload your crossbow. (However, even without this device, it still takes only about a second and a half to reload it; and you can reload one-handed.)
- In Dawn of War II: Retribution's Imperial Guard campaign, one possible upgrade for Inquisitor Adrastia is a hand crossbow that can fire explosive-tipped, armor-piercing quarrels either singly or in spreads.
- Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage gives Mamiya (and later Bat and Lin) automatic crossbows as weapons. All three of them can deal a barrage of rapid-fire shots as part of their moveset, but given the setting, these are downgraded to Annoying Arrows individually—it usually takes the better part of its bolt magazine to kill a squad of generic Mooks that a dedicated fighter like Kenshiro or Rei could annihilate without a second thought, but these crossbows carry around 50 shots and can be reload in roughly two seconds. They also become much more lethal when used in Signature Moves.
- PlanetSide 2 features the "Hunter" quad-armed crossbow. It can silently fire up to 4 bolts (or 3 explosive bolts) from an internal magazine, though it must be pumped (like a shotgun) after each shot to cycle in a new bolt from the magazine. The crossbow is reloaded via break-action. It's particularly useful for an Infiltrator with the Stalker cloaking device, as the Hunter is one of the most powerful secondary weapons and makes almost no noise.
- The Avelyn in Dark Souls fires three crossbow bolts in rapid succession, and is reloaded all at once. Unlike many other depictions of automatic crossbows, the Avelyn has three separate bowstrings instead of a single string with a magazine of bolts, but how exactly it is loaded is unclear.
- Joe Dever's Lone Wolf Leandra's crossbow. It's also her invention.
- Invoked with the Helsing in Metro 2033 and the sequel, a 6-shot pneumatic rifle that fires crossbow bolts at lethal speed, which is reloaded like a revolver, and pumped-up to pressure by hand. Killing a mutant with it grants the "Van Helsing" achievement.
- Terraria has repeating crossbows that are crafted from Cobalt, Palladium, Mythril, Orichalcum, Adamantite, Titanium and Hallowed metal that fire automatically compared to previous bows that had to be fired with each click of the mouse. When you get access to Chlorophyte, you can craft a Chlorophyte Shotbow that fires three arrows for the cost of one (or zero if you have a chance not to consume ammo). There's also a Halloween themed Stake Launcher that fires wooden stakes automatically like the repeaters and, as expected, it's a One-Hit Kill against vampires in the Solar Eclipse event.
- In Goblins, the pitiless Dwarf paladin Kore is equipped with ferocious multi-strung pistol crossbows each capable of firing eight bolts before needing to be reloaded.
- Romance of the Three Kingdoms (the novel) attributes the original creation of an automatic crossbow to Zhuge Liang, circa 200 AD. While this is not exactly historical fact, the existence of the weapon in that time frame is confirmed. While certainly weaker and less accurate than a typical bow, it was much quicker and used effectively in mass combat against lightly armored foes. Also in his fantasy short story "Dragon's Teeth," in the mid-fourth century AD.
- An artillery version was developed by the Roman Empire (the cheiroballistra), while some Roman auxiliaries carried bullet-firing crossbows. However, the repeating variants were much weaker than the regular crossbows and it was necessary to tip the bolts with poison to make them more lethal.
- However, a body recovered from the site of a Roman siege in south-western England showed that a bolt-head typical of a Roman repeating crossbow had enough force to go right through a human body from the front and lodge in the luckless target's spine, with the point penetrating out of his back. Ref. Adam Hart-Davis, below.
- Those make a showing in David Drake's Ranks of Bronze, used by the defenders during a siege since they had the height advantage on their walls.
- The MythBusters actually made one. It tended to jam often, but it worked.
- A large problem with the jamming turned out to be just how it was fired. With the right cranking technique it worked fairly well.
- Adam Hart-Davies, eccentric presenter of the 2000 British history reconstruction show What The Romans Did For Us? reconstructed a Roman automatic crossbow design. It fired repeatedly, quickly, penetrated an impressive assortment of materials, and didn't jam or fail once.
- This crossbow was one of the weapons improved upon on the Military Channel show Weapon Masters. Chad made a pneumatic steel-framed crossbow that was deadly accurate and powerful at all ranges tested, and could quickly reload itself in seconds from a top-mounted magazine.
- When Scrapheap Challenge did an episode on repeater bows, they showed a full-size but down-powered model of an original Chinese design dating to 200 AD. It essentially had an ammo hopper on top which was gravity-fed, and a wheel on the side which pulled the string back once with each rotation. It could fire pretty much as fast as you could turn the wheel, getting through maybe 40 shots per minute.
- Historic repeating crossbows all had the same problem, they lacked the range and penetrating power of their slower firing brethren. Great for volume of fire, less then spectacular when it comes to precision marksmanship, long range target shooting, and armor penetration. Which is why the bolts were often poisoned.
- But they were still powerful enough for a corpse, dating from the Roman siege of a Celtic fort in England, to have a crossbow bolt protruding through his spine. Which had penetrated through his stomach.
- The Polybolos described by Philo of Byzantium (but more often attributed originally to Dionysius of Alexandria) also counts.
- Wikipedia article on Repeating crossbows
- This particular weapon was demonstrated in real life on Deadliest Warrior, during the show pitting Sun-Tzu against Vlad the Impaler. It worked better than they expected.
- This guy made an auto-electric crossbow
- While this guy built a Gatling slingshot crossbow!
- A few other folks on Youtube have made pump-action repeating crossbows.