Crossbow Building Wiki


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General considerations Edit

All good backstops have a couple of things in common:

  • Stops the arrow or the bolt in a controlled fashion and slowly, so that it does not break
  • Overpenetration should not destroy the vanes
  • Arrows and bolts are easy to extract
  • Can withstand lots of punishment

Plastic backstops Edit

The yellow plastic furniture foam sheets Edit

NOTE: If somebody knows the proper technical term for this material, please rename the silly header above.

This is a very convenient material for making archery backstops. This soft, yellow plastic foam is used in sofas and mattresses. Usually the sheets are 5-10cm (2-4") thick and very flexible.

Making the backstop is very simple, you just need some frame to which you pile these, either vertically or horizontally. To make extracting bolts easier, make the frame L-shaped, with open sides and top. That way you don't have to struggle extracting the bolt if it penetrates the topmost layer entirely. For this reason attaching the sheets together is not a good idea, either.


  • Stops the bolts without any damage to them (provided the vanes are well attached)
  • Bolts are very easy to extract


  • The backstop needs to be fairly thick (even 50cm), especially if the crossbow is powerful and bolts are thin.

Polyethylene foam Edit

Polyethylene foam is usually a fairly soft plastic foam used for multiple purposes. The foam is softer than polyurethane, but harder than the soft foam described above.

The backstop can be made in the same fashion as the one described above.


  • Add your experiences here


  • Add your experiences here

Polyurethane sheets Edit

Polyurethane sheets work reasonably well as archery/crossbow backstops. These are often used in constructions for insulation and are often ~5cm (2") thick. These sheets are much harder than the yellow plastic foam sheets (FIXME: what are these really called?) described above.

The backstop can be made in the same fashion as the one described above.


  • Stops the bolts without any damage to them
  • Fairly thin layer (15cm), 6") is enough to stop most bolts


  • Bolts may be fairly difficult to extract, depending on the shape of the bolt
  • If the bolt penetrates the sheet(s), vanes may get damaged. Metal vanes are not affected by this disadvantage as they cut through the foam.

Polyurethane piece backstop Edit

Instead of using polyurethane sheet you can use the small polyurethane pieces often used as packaging material. The frame could be a very large cardboard box. You'd simply pack the cardboard box tightly with these polyurethane pieces and you're done. Once the front of the box starts to wear out, tape another piece of cardboard on top of it. The top of the box could be left open, so that if the bolt overpenetrates, it would still be easy to recover.

NOTE: I have not actually tried this, but it should work.

Newspapers Edit

In the countries where recycling paper waste is a standard practice you won't run out of newspapers.

Piled-up news paper Edit

A simple backstop can be made by piling newspapers horizontally on top of each other until you've reached the desired height. A simple L-shaped frame + sides should be adequate.

Optionally, the newspapers can be placed between two wide and thick planks, and the whole package squeezed together using long bolts going through the ends of the planks.


  • Readily available material
  • Stops bolts very quickly
  • Probably lasts very, very long without repairs


  • Bolts have a tendendy to rotate sideways during impact, which in some cases results in a broken bolt
  • Backstop will be very heavy
  • Bolt may get stuck

Potential improvements:

  • Add a homogenous top layer (e.g. plastic foam) as a "guide" to prevent bolts from rotating sideways and breaking.

Vertically-laid newspapers Edit

This is the same as above, but the newspapers are placed vertically. Unlike with the previous approach you also need to bind and/or squeeze the newspapers together so that the backstop does not fall apart.


  • Readily available material
  • Stops bolts very quickly


  • Probably requires frequent repairs as the topmost layers are prone to tearing
  • May stop the bolt too quickly and damage it, if the newspapers are packed too tightly
  • Backstop will be very heavy

Potential improvements:

  • Add a top layer from strong canvas: this should help prevent topmost layers from tearing

Newspaper balls Edit

Take a page from a newspaper. Crunch it into a tight ball. Repeat 1000 times. Use as polyurethane pieces, above.

NOTE: I have not tested this, but again, it should work. Recovering the bolts might be more difficult than in the case of the (smaller) polyurethane pieces.

Bad backstop ideas Edit

All of us have tried backstops that in retrospect make no sense. Try these at your own risk.

Plywood Edit


  • Stops the bolt really well
  • Holds together quite long


  • Bolts are very difficult to extract
  • Vanes are destroyed if the bolt penetrates a plywood sheet (with possibly the exception of metal vanes)

Thin steel Edit

Shooting holes in steel plate is fun, right? Maybe I could use it as a backstop, too...


  • Same as with plywood


  • Same as with plywood + destroyes the bolthead

Wood stump Edit

If it's a good backstop for your axe, why not try it with your crossbow?


  • Well, stops the bolt. No fear of overpenetration.
  • No need to worry about extracting the shaft, as it has shattered already.


  • Extracting boltheads will be very, very, very painful.

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