What the Heck is a Steambow?


Under the “things that make you go ‘Hmmmm'” department, today I find myself checking out Steambow. It’s not a steam-powered archery bow, but it is pretty cool, and it’s the first self-cocking crossbow I’ve ever seen.

This Steambow has an arrow strung and is ready to be cocked.
This Steambow has an arrow strung and is ready to be cocked.

Steambow is a crossbow with conventional limbs to propel the arrows — but it uses compressed air to cock itself. Essentially, you pin the limbs in position, hook the string where it belongs, and place an arrow (or bolt, if you prefer) in position. Then you simply push in on the valve knob, which activates a pair of pneumatic cylinders to place the limbs under tension. You are now ready to rock & roll.

Cocked, locked, and ready to rock.
Cocked, locked, and ready to rock.

To de-cock, pull the plunger out. The limbs will relax, and you can stow your arrow.

This guy is pointing at the red valve plunger used to cock and decock.
This guy is pointing at the red valve plunger used to cock and decock.

Perhaps best of all, the limbs fold up to make transport — in your vehicle or hiking through the woods — much less aggravating. My least-favorite part about hunting with a crossbow is actually carrying it around.

Steambow crossbow in the folded position.
Steambow crossbow in the folded position.

This short video shows how it works:

No more decocking by shooting an arrow… no more awkward maneuvers in a tree stand, trying to re-cock after taking a shot. And you don’t have to tote a cocked crossbow through the woods or haul it up & down your deer stand.

Pretty cool. And there are provisions for manual cocking of the crossbow if you run out of air.

How much air pressure is needed? A lot. The owner’s manual says you can use one of three different sources of compressed gas:

  • Paintball HPA systems (compressed air bottles) made of aluminum or carbon fiber with an output pressure of 850–950 psi or any original Steambow compressed air bottle using only compressed air or nitrogen.
  • Disposable 88 gram CO2 capsules (requires adapters sold separately)
  • Refillable CO2 tanks of any fill weight.

About the last option, they add this caveat:

Attention: We do not sell such tanks for safety reasons, as the refilling procedure is very dangerous. You can purchase such tanks and the associated filling station from specialist dealers. You fill and use any such tanks at your own risk.

How many cock/decock cycles can you expect from a tank? That apparently varies, depending on the size of the tank.

It looks pretty simple, but there are plenty of things to go wrong. For more info, check out the owner’s manual here (scroll about halfway down for English).

It’s an interesting concept and I like the result, but I’m not sure I’m up for the whole rigamarole of getting high-pressure tanks filled and toting them around — after shelling out a couple thousand bucks (yeah, that’s right) for a Steambow crossbow.

But it’s creative and cool anyhow. What do you think of it?

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