Follow TV Tropes


Automatic Crossbows

Go To
Some vampire hunters put a lot on the stake. Others use more stakes.

"Now, this isn't really a problem, but something else I noticed is that in the world of Dungeon Siege, bows fire more slowly and do more damage than crossbows, which fire faster, but do less damage. I honestly have to wonder if the programmers misread the design documents or something, since this is the exact opposite of reality."

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 take 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.

In real life, it is much more difficult to create such a weapon than many works assume. Automatic firearms work by using excess energy from the detonation of the propellant to reload and recock the weapon. In a bow powered by elasticity, there is no such simple source of excess energy. This is no fun, as you still want said automatic weapon. There are several ways this might be accomplished. The most realistic options use various types of hand-powered mechanical device to produce repeating bows that are similar to Real Life historical examples but dialed up to the max. 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.

Subtrope of Bows and Errors and Fantastic Firearms. Compare with Multishot when one gets similar results with a regular bow.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • A character in Afro Samurai has one of these. It also comes with an underslung Grenade Launcher. And the arrows are poisoned.
  • In Berserk, Guts' primary ranged weapon is a wrist-mounted repeating crossbow operated by turning a crank, 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. Later in the series, Rickert invents a machinegun-sized repeating crossbow to protect his refugee group against monsters.
  • In Creature Girls: A Hands-On Field Journal in Another World, Daisuke invents a mechanical crossbow-based machine gun/gatling gun for the Spider People, because he literally can't invent gunpowder. Certain technologies, namely gunpowder, electricity, and the internal combustion engine, are banned by societal convention in the fantasy world he ended up in, due to monsters irrationally attacking any settlement that develops them.
  • Pajiramon of Digimon Tamers wields one. 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
  • The Knight Gundam/Lacroa version of Gundam Heavyarms wields a bizarre weapons that's a combination of his traditional Gat' & a crossbow.
  • Favaro's crossbow in Rage of Bahamut: Genesis has multiple arrows loaded in it.
  • 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.
  • Hild from Vinland Saga is a former teenage inventor/engineer who became an apprentice to a hunter after her village and family were wiped out by a viking raid. After some experience with the heavy crossbow her teacher uses and learning both the pros and cons of it, she has a blacksmith make her a highly customized bow which needs far less strength for drawing back the string and can reload very rapidly.

    Comic Books 
  • 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 the Argentine comic Gilgamesh The Immortal, a story is set after a nuclear war has returned mankind to the technological level of the Middle Ages. A man, using old and worn construction plans, is building a steam engine, but a priest considers this an abomination and a heresy. The priest leads a mob that seeks to destroy the machine, but the builder casually says that over the years he has acquired some practice, and shows them his latest invention: a crossbow equipped with a rotating drum with 12 arrows. And the mob decides to leave him alone.
  • In one issue of The Mask, The Mask pulled out a repeating crossbow with an ammo belt like a machine gun.
  • In Scare Tactics (DC Comics), 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.
  • In ValĂ©rian, one book Land with no Stars is set on a primitive alien world where warriors use crossbows as part of their arsenal, including exotic arm-mounted versions that can rapid-fire dragonflies or scorpions.

    Fan Works 
  • During Manehattan's Lone Guardian, Glintlock makes extensive use of repeating crossbows throughout his career, which are noted to be highly illegal in the setting. The one he utilizes against Leviathan in their fight is enchanted to the gills, granting it a bottomless magazine and metal-piercing bolts.

    Film - Animated 
  • In 9, 5's weapon of choice is a crossbow made of a clock key and a spring. He uses it to crack the Seamstresses eye, which is a Crowning Moment of Awesome for a previously timid character.
  • 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.
  • 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.

    Film - Live Action 
  • Daybreakers. Pump-action crossbows (with flick-out bow section) are used by the humans against the vampire military.
  • In D.E.B.S. 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.
  • 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. Also the stirrup, which would normally be used to cock the weapon manually, can be pulled out revealing a large machete for melee combat.
  • Ranulf's handy piece of villain-slaying hardware in 1980's camp sword and sorcery classic, Hawk the Slayer. Unfortunately close-up shots of the crossbow in action make the Stop Trick photography rather obvious.
  • In the 2010 movie Jonah Hex, he uses a a pair of magazine-fed pistol crossbows that fire lit sticks of dynamite.
  • Captain Navarre (played by Rutger Hauer) in the movie Ladyhawke has a double crossbow as one of his two signature weapons.
  • In the movie adaptation of The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Uruk-hai marksmen use quick-reloading, lever-action crossbows during the siege of Helm's Deep. It's a detail that doesn't really come up in the film itself, but the design team at Weta Workshop included it because it's cool and establishes the advanced technology used by Saruman's forces.
  • A historically accurate model is seen in use by Sun Quan's army in Red Cliff.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In Van Helsing, its titular hero is given a pressurized gas-operated, drum magazine-fed, fully automatic crossbow (pictured above) upon his return to the Vatican after the opening fight with Mr Hyde. The Knights of The Holy Order (a multi-faith Ancient Order of Protectors that resides beneath the Vatican and protects mankind from evil) gives it to him (among other fantastical weapons and gadgets) to help him in his fight against Dracula and his minions. Sadly though, this weapon is only used in one scene out of the entire film before he switches to regular firearms. Given how many bolts he fired in that scene he probably ran out of ammo.

  • Discworld novels 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 originally fired six-foot-long iron arrows, which he converted into the biggest handheld weapon on the Disc and uses to fire bundles of arrows. Although it and the not-gun 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 magazine 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.
    • Jingo contains probably the only explicit reference to a weapon being truly automatic (or called such at least), but rather than a crossbow, it's a "throwing star hurler." Apparently it fires the little blades fast enough to reliably decapitate at 20 paces. The book also introduces the "Great Leveller," apparently an automatic ballista, and the "Viper Mk 3," which is not elaborated upon besides the tag line "kills people but leaves buildings standing."
  • In David Gemmell's Drenai novels, the 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.
  • Dungeon Crawler Carl: A magical crossbow was awarded to Hekla early in the crawl, and forms the basis of her party, "Brynhild's Daughters". It comes with just one bolt, but that bolt can be fired unlimited times, and the more women join her party, the faster and stronger it gets, until it's almost a continuous stream of bolts. Unfortunately, the Daughters relied too heavily on it, and when Hekla is killed and the crossbow looted, the party falls apart.
  • Downplayed in the Kane Series, Kane's favoured crossbow is a bit more advanced for its time due to Kane's eons of scientific/engineering study. However it's cocking mechanism is only quick because Kane's superhuman strength lets him crank it faster than normal and he still needs to place a new bolt each time its used.
  • In Eric Cox's The Relic Guild series - Namji, an Aelfir noblewoman and allied magic-user to the Relic Guild, owns a stolen Aelfir pistol crossbow. This item is a master-crafted, Magitek weapon that uses power stones. While there's charge in the stones, the weapons will automatically reload and cock after each trigger pull. The weapon carries a magazine of pencil-sized crossbolts that are all enchanted with a single-use offensive spell cast by Namji. In a world where Magitek guns are commonplace, her crossbow gives her firepower that often outclasses enemy firearms.
  • 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.

    Live Action TV 
  • Deadliest Warrior demonstrated the concept during the show pitting Sun-Tzu against Vlad the Impaler. It worked better than they expected.
  • 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.
  • 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 that 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In D20 rpg Dark Legacies, there are standard automatic crossbows out of Dungeons and Dragons, but also there are even more advanced assault crossbows, which are automatic crossbows with an ammo belt to create a constant rate of fire. And a certain class can further mount these assault crossbows on a steam-powered armour and then improve the crossbow with things such as flywheels, high-tension strings and etc. Note that in most fantasy worlds, these assault crossbows would be the highest level of technology. But in Dark Legacies, it's set in our world in the post-apocalypse, demon-haunted far future, so the assault crossbows and other tech is a big step down.
  • Dungeons & Dragons
    • The repeating crossbow, which can fire 5 bolts before needing a reload. The next shot is readied by pulling a lever.
    • A spoof article in Dragon, "Gangsters of the Underdark", featured an automatic crossbow powered by a handcrank, known as the Torque-Operated Mauling Machine, or T.O.M.M.Y.
    • In fifth edition the "loading" property means that a crossbow can "only" be fired every 6 seconds, while the character is still freely moving and potentially taking other actions as well. The Crossbow Expert feat exaggerates it, allowing a character to ignore the "loading" trait. As a result a high level fighter could loose a total of 9 bolts in that same 6 second span. Rangers can do even better with their ability to attack every enemy within 10 ft of a point, so the only limit to how many bolts they can theoretically fire off in a turn is how many enemies are packed into the space (and ammo, of course)
    • In this article on Keith Baker's website, he proposes that in the Eberron setting, which uses magic to recreate many technological advances, the D&D crossbow's superior reload speed compared to medieval modelsnote  isn't just mechanical convenience to allow crossbows to be consistently useful on a D&D combat time scale, but could represent an integrated quiver of bolts, allowing it to fire faster than the standard but still taking enough time to reload that it's noticeably longer than a bow and arrow.
    • According to the Dragon Mystara series Voyages of the Princess Ark, in Cimmeron County a dwarven blacksmith named Smithy and a halfling jeweller named Westron developed a repeating pistol crossbow, with an intricate mechanism that let it hold six darts, giving the Fantasy Counterpart Culture Wild West a six-shooter without abandoning Fantasy Gun Control. (Later resources regarding the area said Smithy and Westron had eventually invented an actual pistol.)
    • Artificers in the fifth edition - originating from the aforementioned Eberron setting and ported into the base game in the 2020 sourcebook "Tasha's Cauldron of Everything" - can turn any base crossbow into this with the Repeating Shot infusion (a weapon with this infusion ignores the loading property and creates its own ammunition). Note that it doesn't have to be the artificer who uses that crossbow. And it doesn't have to be a crossbow if the DM allows guns...
  • The dwarves in the Swedish RPG Eon invented the Krell-Spaz, a semi-automatic, pump-action crossbow, as well as its derivatives, the Krell-Hon, the Krell-Hon-Spaz, and the Krell-Khan-Hon-Spaz, the last of which is sadly not a viable option in regular combat as it's actually a siege weapon weighing in at almost 130 lbs.
  • These are commonly used by the Haslanti League and the Mountain Folk in 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.
    • The Discworld Roleplaying Game also has a repeating crossbow that is unreliable but still popular in the Brown Islands, if only for the impressive noise it makes in use.
  • Steamlogic's Mechanical Dream has repeating crossbows. The most basic versions can store 3 bolts while the best quality ones can hold 12. Then there's the Arrow Rotary, this is a drum-fed automatic crossbow that can hold 100 arrows and will continuously shoot so long as the trigger is pressed.
  • Munchkin Fu has a repeating crossbow. Called—what else would Munchkin call it—the Repeating Crossbow Crossbow Crossbow.
  • The Pathfinder gunslinger archetype, the Bolt Ace, is used for settings where the early firearms of Golarion are not commonplace. It allows the normally slow-to-reload crossbows to act as firearms from an action movie. One class ability, Inexplicable Reload, acknowledges the absurdity of a crossbow reloading as quickly as it does — as many as six shots or more in six seconds for a sufficiently advanced character.
  • Dark Elves in Warhammer use repeating crossbows as their standard ranged weapon. On the tabletop, their attacks are only Strength 3 to the regular crossbow's Strength 4, but they roll twice for two attacks instead of the one of the regular crossbow. On top of that, both the Dark Elves and the High Elves have repeating Bolt Throwers (ballistae) as their primary war machines; the multi-shot variants trade power and range for rate of fire, compared to regular ballistae.
  • Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay second edition has repeater crossbows used by both the Dark Elves and some particularly rich and eccentric Imperials. They deal on average about 4 damage to a regular crossbow's 6note  and only have a range of 30 yards against man-sized targets, half of a regular crossbow's. However the repeater's magazine can hold 10 shots and takes 20 seconds to reload once exhausted, the same time as it takes to load a single bolt into a regular crossbow, so it averages about eight bolts per minute to the regular crossbow's two (as it takes five seconds for a character aim and loose a single bolt with either version).
  • In the Rogue Trader era of Warhammer 40,000, the shuriken catapult actually used a crossbow design for its body and the gravity impellers on it was the bow.

    Video Games 
  • Age of Empires:
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • Baldur's Gate: Most crossbows hit hard but have a low rate of fire. Coupled with the relative scarcity of their ammunition note  this makes them inferior to handbows. Not so with "The Army Scythe", a magical crossbow that fires faster than most handbows and has according to the Flavor Text been used to carve out a small kingdom in the past. The only drawback is that you go though bolts even faster than before.
  • Bloons Tower Defense 6: The third path of the Dart Monkey uses a crossbow without a quiver to pull arrows from, which becomes especially apparent with the Crossbow Master upgrade, which shoots out bolts at machine gun speeds. Doesn't stop it from being awesome, however.
  • Brigandine: Emperor Zemeckis of Esgares Empire wields a big crossbow called 'Tempest Bow', where he can call out lightning to enhance its bolts. In the vanilla game, he can shoot while moving, but in Grand Edition, he cannot move and shoot.
  • 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 the 1980s, light-gun shooter Crossbow an arcade game from Exidy had you protect a hapless group of adventurers from incoming monsters with a rapid-fire crossbow.
  • Daemon Summoner grants you an automatic crossbow as your first ranged weapon, capable of firing multiple bolts without reloading. It works surprisingly well even against the last boss, a Big Red Devil akin to Satan.
  • 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.
    • The Repeater Crossbow created by Transposing Slave Knight Gael's soul in Dark Souls III is a drum-fed crossbow.
  • One of the weapons that the protagonist in Dark Watch can use is a crossbow that can hold several bolts in a clip. Also, each bolt is tipped with explosives - even if Jericho misses, he could still kill the target.
  • 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.
  • Dead Cells has several examples. The handheld Repeating Crossbow and Ice Crossbow are both two-handed weapons where one button while fire bolts as long as it's held down. The Double Crossbow-Matic and Heavy Turret are deployable versions that fire autonomously. The Great War Owl is a side case in that it fires identically to the Repeating Crossbow but doesn't specifically represent itself as such.
  • Dead Target from VNG Studio has a modernized/futurized crossbow where besides self-cocking, it houses an underside cylindrical magazine so you can shoot 10 times with the basic model before needing to swap out the magazine.
  • Deceive Inc.: Madame Xiu's weapon of choice is a crossbow with a revolving chamber.
  • Deus Ex has miniature automatic crossbows that are loaded with box-shaped magazines of darts, and strapped to the back of the wrist.
  • 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, even from an old-fashioned bow and arrow.
  • 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 the Dragon Age universe, there currently exists exactly one repeating crossbow — namely, Varric's Bianca, first seen in Dragon Age II. It is unique because it is actually a product of two genius engineers who worked on it at different times, and because Varric had to kill one of them later, while publicly giving him full credit for its creation to protect the other one's (his Old Flame after whom the crossbow is named) identity from the underworld powers that really want to obtain the secret of its manufacture. Officially its creation was a fluke that couldn't be reproduced; in reality, they just don't want to. note 
  • In Dragon's Crown, the common Crossbow weapon your characters could pick has a firing rate as fast as the player's trigger finger. There's also the semi-rare Cranequin crossbow, which has a slightly slower rate of fire but comes with a Spread Shot.
  • In Dragon Nest, the Archer's crossbow acts for all intents and purposes like a three-round burst submachine gun.
  • 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.
  • Dungeon Defenders has several examples, most of which can be upgraded to fire even faster.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Dungeons & Dragons Online has a repeating crossbow, like the tabletop version, but it only fires three shots between reloads.
    • Artificers in the game have access to a power called "Endless Fusillade". For 18 seconds, any crossbow you wield will fire repeatedly without stopping for a reload. (Especially useful if you're using the extra-powerful Great Crossbow, which is normally extra slow.)
  • 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 lose 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.
  • Maybe with a little nod 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.
    • Similarly, the third Samurai Warriors game introduces Motonari Mori, who uses a wrist-mounted version of this that he can even stab people with.
    • Considering the above examples, it is notable that Bladestorm The Hundred Years War - also by KOEI - completely AVERTS this. Crossbow-units have to reload after each shot, taking several seconds - and Heavy Crossbows take even longer since they have to use a hand-crank to do so. Of course, this makes them rather less than practical to actually USE, especially if you don't have some allied units around to run interference while you're busy reloading...
  • In Endless Legend, the comparatively high-tech Vaulters use magazine-fed crossbows as their standard infantry weapon. Amusingly, the Vaulters flee the planet Auriga on a spaceship before they even invent firearms.
    • When Vaulters reappear in Endless Space, they upgrade to ballistics and directed energy weapons.
  • Everything or Nothing: Favored weapon of New Orleans assassin Jean LeRouge. He can fire three arrows at a time, as well as incendiary and exploding arrows.
  • 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.
  • A modern automatic crossbow, built out of a PP-19 Bizon submachine gun and as such feeding from a large helical magazine, is Ajay Ghale's go-to stealth weapon in Far Cry 4. The standard bow from the last game is still available as well, so it really comes down to player preference (the auto-cross can be used one-handed and is much faster, removing much of the skill necessary to use it to its full potential, but non-headshots are slightly weaker and it can't use fire or explosive bolts).
  • The Auto Crossbow in Fell Seal: Arbiter's Mark can hit up to four enemies with a single attack.
  • 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. The Auto Crossbow has since become a Machinist ability Final Fantasy XIV and a weapon in Final Fantasy XV.
  • 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 reloaded in roughly two seconds. They also become much more lethal when used in Signature Moves.
  • Fox N Forests: Rick's crossbow can fire bolts one after the other in unrealistically quick precision for a crossbow.
  • Gauntlet-clone, Demon Stalkers: The Raid on Doomfane had your heroes rip into the forces of evil with rapid-fire crossbows.
  • Gemstone Warrior and its sequel Gemstone Healer from SSI had its hero fight his way through demons to the magical Gemstone with a rapid-fire crossbow that was weak but had a large ammo supply and fireballs which One-Hit Kill but your ammo supply was very limited.
  • Imani from Gigantic uses a giant crossbow which can fire rapid bursts of bolts.
  • 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 fed via magazines, 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.
  • 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.
  • Kai's primary weapon from Heavenly Sword is a repeating crossbow that shoots bolts whose flight path the player can control.
  • 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.
  • Horizon Forbidden West: One of the new weapon classes in the game is the Boltblaster, an enormous contraption nearly as big as Aloy that consists of multiple crossbows set together. It fires a burst of bolts and has to be manually reloaded once it depletes its clip. With the right weapon technique, you can fire sixty bolts in a single volley.
  • Hype: The Time Quest has some quick crossbows, one of which could rapid fire three arrows.
  • Joe Dever's Lone Wolf Leandra's crossbow. It's also her invention.
  • 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 Kingdom Hearts: 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!"
  • Zael's crossbow in The Last Story has an infinite magazine and can keep on shooting one-handed until he runs out of ammo.
  • 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.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • The official light gun attachment for the Nintendo Wii, known as the Wii Zapper, comes packaged with Link's Crossbow Training, a Gaiden Game for Twilight Princess. Link's Crossbow never needs to be reloaded, and can be charged to fire Bomb Arrows; hitting the right target for a powerup will turn it into fully-automatic crossbow for 100 bolts.
    • Hyrule Warriors would later introduce Linkle, a young girl who thinks she's the legendary hero but is really just a heroine in her own right. To accentuate this, her primary weapon loadout is a pair of crossbows that take a lot of hints from the aforementioned Crossbow Training, complete with temporary full-auto in her strong attack.
  • Queen Mercedes in MapleStory 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. There's also the Wild Hunter class who is from a very Steampunk inspired faction and thus can use mechanisms to fire their crossbow at a rate comparable to Mercedes, without magic.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Metro Exodus has the Hellsing crossbow, which can be modified to be a rapid-fire gas-powered Automatic Crossbow.
  • 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. Some Minecraft griefing clients not only restore the fully automatic nature of the bow but can make it fire even faster.
    • Crossbows in the game normally take 1.25 seconds to reload. However, a crossbow with a Quick Charge V enchantment reloads instantly, being effectively this trope. That enchantment, however, is only available through the console, the maximal enchantment available without cheating is Quick Charge III, reducing the loading time to 0.5 seconds which is borderline this trope.
  • Minecraft Dungeons:
    • The rapid crossbow has a low damage output, but makes up for it by having high speed, a large ammo supply and can be shot repeatedly if the ranged attack button is held down. Its unique variants also count as they have the same stats, with the auto crossbow in particular being the closest the game can get to a machine gun (that can chew up ammo very quickly) because it naturally has an enchantment that allows you to shoot faster with each consecutive shot.
    • Piglin hunters downplay this. Despite using the same crossbows as pillagers, piglin hunters shoot noticeably faster than them, but they only fire in short bursts and their arrows are weaker than arrows fired by pillagers.
  • 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. World introduces a special ammo known as the Wyvernheart, which basically turns your Heavy Bowgun into a minigun and fires repeatedly.
  • Fujin in Mortal Kombat 11 adds a krossbow to his arsenal. Normally it works like a normal one, firing one arrow when you use the correct move (or two if you use some of your attack gauge to amplify the move) but it plays it straight during his Fatal Blow, where he proceeds to shoot a veritable volley of arrows at the oponent's body. It can be justified as Fujin is the God of wind.
  • In NetHack, any sufficiently capable crossbow(wo)man turns their weapon into this. Advancing to Skilled level in Crossbow lets the user fire two arrows per turn, while Experts fire three. Gnomish Rangers get a bonus from the start, and so they can fire up to four. On the other hand, the same thing happens with both bows and even thrown weapons like knives and daggers. Considering that crossbows weigh a lot heavier than bows, lack any artefact versions, and are harder to get ammunition for in late game, pretty much the only reason you would want to use them over the alternatives is Self-Imposed Challenge.
  • NightFire: A pump-action crossbow features once or twice. Absolutely silent and a One-Hit Kill no matter where its arrows end up.
  • Nocturne (1999), Spookhouse has designed a rapid-fire crossbow for use against vampires. Spookhouse's main agent, The Stranger, finds it also effective against ghouls when loaded with blessed bolts.
  • In Nosgoth the Hunter -class is equipped with these, several variants actually - repeaters (the straightest example of the trope), multi-bow that shoots in three arrow bursts, slower but powerful siege bows... Each have a magazine from 16 to 36 arrows.
  • Nuclear Throne has an automatic crossbow, as well as splinter guns, which are basically mini shotgun-crossbows. Exaggerated with the Heavy Auto-Crossbow, which rapid-fires bolts capable of taking down walking tanks in one hit.
  • Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath has the main character use an arm-mounted double-barrel crossbow that fires bees at a machine gun-like rate, as well as various other critters.
  • 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.
  • Orcs Must Die! has a magical crossbow which can fire indefinitely, and is capable of automatic fire with the use of macros.
  • In Party Animals, the two crossbows can fire arrows indefinitely without reloading.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In Poptropica, you get a crossbow on Vampire's Curse Island. You use it to scale walls by jumping off the arrows, and eventually inject the vampire-curing serum into the vampires with it.
  • The Desert Striker Crossbow from Rage (2011), is a future semi-automatic, reverse-draw crossbow that functions as a scope-less sniper weapon with varied ammo in early game.
  • 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.
  • 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 bolt at a time semi-auto. Later games feature very powerful crossbows (usually with explosive bolts), usually in Ada Wong's hands, but those require a full nock-and-cock reload per bolt. Enemies in Resident Evil 4 and 5 use crossbows that are sort of automatic: they can shoot two bolts in rapid succession but need a reload after that.
  • Karil's Crossbow, the ancient sniper's equipment of Runescape, is a Chinese-style repeating crossbow. Compared to its more widely available hand crossbows, it boasts a faster firing rate, on par with a shortbow, but can only fire from fully-loaded magazines, which are only found in the same burial chest you found the bow in, or purchased from an Eastern trader, who sells nothing else.
  • In Six-Guns: Gang Showdown from Gameloft, the game is set in a Weird West Arizona and Oregon, so you'll have some mundane equipment to buy from but mostly it'll be an assortment of Clock Punk mechanisms, Steampunk contraptions, Magitek mojo and Weird Science gizmos. As such there's a number of odd rapid-fire crossbows that'll put a revolver to shame. The deadliest of these is the Contagion Crossbow, an arm-mounted Clock Punk crossbow from Pestilence that will quickly fire disease-ridden bolts which are strong enough to kill most things in one hit.
  • In Strife, the crossbow automatically loads the next shot. Despite this, the fire rate isn't faster than other FPS crossbows.
  • Lu in Suikoden V has an Auto Crossbow styled vaguely like a Tommy Gun, which is actually four crossbows in one.
  • 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.
  • The Guardians in Uncharted 2: Among Thieves wield crossbows that can fire several bolts in quick succession. A full volley from one of these can easily kill the player. You can pick up one of these crossbows to use yourself, but they need to be reloaded after every shot when in a player's hands.
  • In Unworthy, the elite version of normal Crossbowmen fires their bolts in bursts of two or three. Given the difficulty of the game, this is enough of a game-changer that they appear much later than the regular Crossbowmen (who are encountered in the very first area), and each provides you with more Sin than the early-game bosses.
  • Vagrant Story has Ashley's crossbows function as this even though only a few of his crossbows have improved firing rate for their in-game descriptions. All his crossbows can fire as many bolts in Combos as you want provided you have the timing and are willing to accept the risk increase.
  • 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.
  • Warframe has the Attica, a Tenno made crossbow that fires high-damage bolts at a 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. A later update introduced the Zhuge, which is more of a crit-based weapon.
  • Warhammer The End Times Vermintide: Victor Saltzpyre can acquire a Repeater Crossbow in Drachenfels, which has a burst-fire mode that shoots out three bolts in rapid succession. It's a bitch to reload, but the rapid artillery is more than worth it.
  • 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.
  • The Delta 900 Mag from The World Is Not Enough is a pump-action crossbow. It can hold up to 5 bolts in the magazine, it has a telescopic sight attached to it and it has a pretty fast rate of fire. It takes very long to reload it however, meaning it is probably best to switch to a backup weapon when close to an empty magazine.
  • XIII has two scoped crossbows that act as this game's silent sniper weapons. The normal one must be reloaded after every shot, but the improved semiautomatic version holds three quarrels in what looks like an underslung tubular magazine. It shoots considerably fasternote  without needing longer to reload, which by the time you get it is often sorely needed to silently neutralize multiple guards before one of them can trigger an alarm. The downside is that most of said guards also wield this weapon, and the thing hurts.

  • Drowtales features several instances of automatic, semi-automatic, wrist-mounted, and sniper-scoped crossbow weapons. Some are entirely mechanical, others may have magical cores to help the motions. Generally speaking, the Drow in the setting are both adept at magitek-anything and are excellent craftsmen.
  • 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. He also has the strength to insert them one-handed into their reloading mechanism, cocking all eight strings apiece by sheer arm strength.

    Web Video 

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • An artillery version was developed by the Roman Empire (the cheiroballistra), while some Roman auxiliaries carried bullet-firing crossbows. While some of the repeating variants were much weaker than the regular crossbows and used poison-tipped bolts, a body recovered from the site of a Roman siege in south-western Britain 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 Polybolos described by Philo of Byzantium (but more often attributed originally to Dionysius of Alexandria) also counts.
  • Though most often associated with Zhuge Liang and bearing the name Zhuge nu, the Chinese repeating crossbow actually predates him by a considerable margin, first appearing during the Warring States era. Historically, this type of crossbow originates from the Kingdom of Chu, approximately 400 BC, but the mechanisms are similar; the user holds the crossbow grip in one hand and pumps the repeater handle with the other, which automates the drawing, loading, and firing process. Each individual bolt was actually fairly weak, but poisoned bolt tips made even minor wounds into a medical crisis.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Automatic Crossbow, Repeating Crossbow



Xigbar wields twin crossbows that fire arrows of energy.

How well does it match the trope?

3.8 (5 votes)

Example of:

Main / AutomaticCrossbows

Media sources: