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The traditional bow and arrow had long been a specialized weapon which required a considerable degree of lifetime training, physical strength, and expertise to operate with any degree of efficiency.

In many cultures, bowmen were considered a separate and superior caste, despite being usually drawn from the common class, as their archery skill-set was essentially developed from birth (similar to many horseman cultures) and was impossible to reproduce outside a pre-established cultural tradition, which many nations lacked.

In contrast, the crossbow was the first projectile weapon to be simple, cheap, and physically undemanding enough to be operated by large numbers of conscript soldiers, thus enabling virtually any nation to field a potent force of ranged crossbowmen with little expense beyond the cost of the weapons themselves.

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This rod is usually attached perpendicular to a rear-facing lever called a trigger or "tickler".

A later design implemented a rolling cylindrical pawl called a "nut" to retain the string.

Whipcord was very common; however linen, hemp, and sinew were used as well.

In wet conditions, twisted mulberry root was occasionally used.

A crossbow, also known as horizontal bow is a type of weapon based on the bow and consisting of a horizontal bow-like assembly mounted on a stock. The medieval crossbow was called by many names, most of which were derived from the word ballista, a torsion siege engine resembling a crossbow.

The invention of the crossbow in ancient China caused a major shift in the role of projectile weaponry.

The bow (called the "prod" or "lath" on a crossbow) of early crossbows was made of a single piece of wood, usually ash or yew.

Composite bows are made from layers of different material, often wood, horn, and sinew glued together and bound with animal tendon.

The crossbow prod is very short compared to ordinary bows, resulting in a short draw length.

This leads to a higher draw weight in order to store the same amount of energy.

Very light crossbows can be drawn by hand, but heavier types need the help of mechanical devices.

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