Jun 4, 2012
Medieval Mondays: Chinese repeating crossbow
The mechanism was brilliant in its simplicity. A single lever pulled back the string while a bolt from the magazine dropped into place. Once fired, the lever simply had to be pulled back again to drop another bolt into place. A more detailed description of its construction can be read here.
The repeating crossbow was held at the hip or on a stand and was generally used to defend fortified areas. A second person could stand to the side feeding bolts into the magazine, allowing the crossbowman to fire continuously at a rate of about a shot every second to a range of perhaps 80 yards. Accuracy would have been poor since it wasn't fired from the shoulder like other crossbows, and it was somewhat weaker than regular crossbows. Still, a few dozen of these on a rampart firing at a mass of charging enemy soldiers must have had an incredible effect.
Such a useful weapon had a long life. They saw service as late as the 1894-1895 war with Japan. By then, however, their worth was somewhat limited. The Japanese had modern repeating rifles that were far deadlier at a longer range. The Japanese won that war.
Photo courtesy Wikipedia.