A Crossbow is a weapon that functions similar to a bow but has some additional features. It can be enchanted with Multi-Shot (1-3), Quick Charge (1-3), and Piercing (1-3), and when it's loaded, it stays loaded until ready to shoot.
A crossbow is a ranged weapon item that can be used to attack mobs and players at a range, differing from the traditional bow by having increased damage, decreased fire rate, and the inability to fire less than fully drawn. The projectile's damage and range are consistent, as a crossbow cannot be fired half-drawn for fractional damage, as a bow can. To load a crossbow, the player must have arrows in their inventory or firework rockets in their offhand. Firing is done in two steps: Charging then firing. The player holds right-click for a time then releases to load the crossbow. It is fully loaded when its drawstring appears taut. A loaded crossbow may be moved around in inventory as an item, staying loaded until it is fired. It appears with an arrow ready to be fired.
Crossbows have their own unique enchantments and cannot use bow-specific enchantments. These enchantments encourage fighting large groups of enemies, such as pillager raids.
- See Enchantments below for details.
Use in Combat
The unenchanted crossbow is best used to take on monsters either at a great distance or with significant backpedaling/fleeing, as it cannot keep targets back. A fighter with a crossbow has no choice but to fire fully drawn. Firing down from ledges is often an effective way to kill monsters and players, but the fighter should, of course, take care not to fall. The crossbow and the bow are the best weapons for a swimming fighter to use against ranged mobs on land or in water, as they can often maintain their distance (unless the fighter has the Depth Strider enchantment on their boots).
The enchantments available to crossbows heavily gear them towards fighting large groups of enemies (likely hence their addition to the game in the Village & Pillage update). The Multishot enchantment increases its spread to release 3 arrows at once, while the Piercing enchantment allows one arrow to pierce several in-line targets, hitting up to nine entities.
In single-target combat, the traditional bow out-plays any crossbow not enchanted with Quick Shot III, both in terms of damage per second and more importantly maintaining target distance. A rapid-fire bow can fend off two vindicators in close quarters, yet a crossbow cannot stop a vindicator at any range within his threat. Given a group of targets, however, a crossbow with enchantments has a steeply increasing damage curve compared to that of an enchanted bow.
While the Piercing enchantment is good for clusters of targets, the Multishot enchantment is better for wide spreads of targets. The Quick Shot enchantment simply reduces its draw time and makes it more effective in any situation.
The best the crossbow can do in single-target combat is either initiate a melee on level ground or pick off fleeing/out-of-reach targets. The crossbow is stronger than the traditional bow in terms of single-shot damage, but it draws about 1.5x more slowly and can't be released half drawn. As such, the crossbow lacks the knockback rate of a bow, and thus there's little that can be done to stop an opponent from quickly closing the distance. Continuing to wield the crossbow within melee range of a sword would be a futile endeavor.
As with the bow, a defender equipped with a shield can completely negate any shots taken upon him. Against a crossbow, the defender can close a frightening amount of distance due to the predictability of the weapon's firing rate.
Nevertheless, an enchanted crossbow can excel in many fights against multiple opponents, having several times the potential of an enchanted depending on the situation and enchantments, of course! A bow enchanted with Power V has a flat maximum of around 20 overall damage per second. An enchanted Quick Charge III crossbow consistently landing 2 hits surpasses this, as do Quick Charge I or II crossbows consistently landing 3 hits, and any Piercing crossbow consistently landing 4.
There's also the case where a fighter chooses to wield a Hotbar filled with loaded crossbows, allowing them to fire up to 9 shots as fast as they can. This enables a total of around 80 damage from an unenchanted crossbow. That being said, the time to reload such a set-up makes it impractical as a fighter's sole means of defense, unless they know they can successfully take out their target within those shots and be prepared for the next fight. Regardless, a fighter should consider the potential of having several loaded crossbows at the ready, perhaps at least for initiating combat.
Firework rockets can be loaded and fired by using the crossbow while holding rockets in the offhand. Firework rockets with higher flight duration will fire further and explode later. Launching rockets loaded with multiple firework stars can produce enough particles to obscure another player's vision. Firework rockets also work with the Multishot enchantment, enabling a crossbow to shoot 3 rockets at once.
As of 1.14, the crossbow has three unique enchantments: Multishot, Quick Charge, and Piercing.
- Quick Charge (I–III): Decreases the reloading time by level * 0.25 seconds. At level III it is slightly faster than a bow. Can be cheated in to up to Level V, will take 69 years to load if cheated to Level VI due to a bug, though.
- Multishot (I): Shoots 3 arrows at once, but only consumes 1. It also works with firework rockets. The additional projectiles cannot be retrieved.
- Piercing (I–IV): Arrows pass through level + 1 entities and shields, with no damage fall-off. Cannot pierce armor stands or Ender crystals.
- Note that the bottom two Enchantments are mutually exclusive and can only be enchanted with an Anvil.
- Unbreaking (I-III): The Crossbow has a chance to not use up durability.
- Mending (I): The Crossbow repairs itself when gaining Experience Points.
- Pillagers have a small chance (8.5%) of dropping a crossbow when killed, and this rate increases per level of Looting. Crossbows can also be looted from loot chests in pillager outposts.
- The crossbow is the third ranged weapon in the game, the second being the trident, and the first being the bow. (This is discounting eggs & snowballs as weaponry.)