How to Decock/Uncock a Crossbow Using a Rope Cocking Aid

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Decocking your crossbow rather than firing it saves much wear and tear on your bow, string(s), and/or cables. It also saves the hassle of keeping a target around for shooting an arrow into, or possibly ruining an arrow and/or point by shooting it into the ground.

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Get a Rope Cocking Aid for Your Crossbow

Barnett rope-style crossbow cocking device.
Barnett rope-style crossbow cocking device. Photo copyright Barnett Outdoors, LLC.

The first thing you need (other than a crossbow) is a rope cocking aid. It's a simple tool, and a number of crossbow companies sell them, pretty much all of the same design - and about the same price (too much).

Price varies somewhat, but average price with shipping and/or tax is $20-$25, which feels a bit steep for four small pieces of plastic, two small pins, two small pulleys, and a length of rope. But that's the going rate at press time, and it's about what I paid.

Pictured above is Barnett's offering in the cocking rope arena. I chose to picture it for this article simply because it's the one I bought, and I like it. The rope is extra long, which makes it more universal. I tied a knot to shorten it up to fit my crossbow, and it's easy to untie it and adjust again, should I get a different crossbow in the future or the rope becomes frayed, etc.

If your rope is too long, don't cut it off - you might need that length later on. If so, you'll find that Dad's old adage is very true: "It's easy to cut some off, but it's hard to cut some on."


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Hook The Cocking Rope to Your Crossbow's String

Rope cocking device in place on string for decocking.
Rope cocking device in place on string for decocking. Photo copyright Russ Chastain

If your crossbow has an arrow in it, take it out.

Your next step is simply to place the cocking device's hooks on your crossbow string and place it into its groove or notch on the crossbow stock - the same place as if you were going to cock the crossbow.

You will want to pull all the slack out of one side and let the other handle rest against one of the hooks, as shown in the photograph.

The slack rope that's to the right of the handle in the photo is the extra length I mentioned on the previous page - just some leftover rope since Barnett sells them long.


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Put the Safety in the Fire Position

Releasing the safety prior to decocking the crossbow.
Releasing the safety prior to decocking the crossbow. Photo copyright Russ Chastain
The next step is to simply switch the safety to the fire position. The photo illustrates that on some models, access to the safety can be blocked by the cocking/decocking device.

This seems like a good place to mention that this decocking method won't work on every crossbow. Some crossbows won't release the string unless an arrow is detected. This helps prevent that scourge of crossbow shooters, dry firing, but it also prevents you from decocking your crossbow in the way I'm describing.

In such cases, you should follow the manufacturer's instructions for decocking your crossbow. Some folks have used dowels to "trick" their anti-dry-firing devices, but of course if you try that you must do so at your own risk.


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Decock Your Crossbow!

Ready to pull the trigger to decock the crossbow.
Ready to pull the trigger to decock the crossbow. Photo copyright Russ Chastain

I'm right-handed, and this photo shows how I decock my crossbow. Some folks might want to reverse the hands. It all depends on which is your strong hand.

Place your foot in the stirrup of the crossbow! Do not forget that important step.

I hold the rope handle in my left hand and pull it snug but not super-tight, and hold it there, with my hand close to my body. With my right hand, I reach down and pull the crossbow's trigger. It goes "click" and the weight of the string is transferred to the hooks of the cocking device, which I am restraining with my left hand.

Then I slowly lower my left hand, still gripping the rope handle of course, allowing the crossbow string to move forward into the uncocked position.


You might expect there to be a lot of force pulling on your rope hand when decocking your crossbow, but it's really not bad. Decocking my crossbow takes less strength than cocking it.

-Russ Chastain