California Crossbow Law

Men crossbow shooting image by Igor Zhorov from

If you own or are planning to use a crossbow in the state of California, it is a good idea to know all the laws surrounding the weapon. Like many states, California has specific guidelines for when, where and how a crossbow can be used. Most of the state’s crossbow laws are dictated by the Department of Fish and Game, though some general statutes can be found through the Attorney General’s office.

Definition of a Crossbow

According to Fish and Game Commission Code 354, a crossbow is defined at “a bow or cured latex band or other flexible material (commonly referred to as a linear bow) affixed to a stock, or any bow that utilizes any device attached directly or indirectly to the bow for the purpose of keeping a crossbow bolt, an arrow or the string in a firing position.” The code makes specific mention of the fact that a crossbow is not considered archery equipment.

Acceptable Crossbow Hunting

A crossbow is an acceptable weapon for hunting all big game, provided that the bolt cannot pass through a hole that is seven-eighths of an inch in diameter. When using a crossbow to hunt migratory birds, resident small game, furbearers, or any non-game mammals and birds, arrows of any width are acceptable.

Unacceptable Crossbow Hunting

A crossbow is not considered archery equipment, and thus cannot be used to hunt deer, game mammals or game birds during archery season. Crossbow arrows that use an explosive head or make use of tranquilizers or poisons are prohibited from use. No bolts without flu-flu fletching can be used to hunt pheasants or migratory birds. Code 354 clearly prohibits the use of a crossbow anywhere near highways, roads and vehicular traffic. It also prohibits the use of a crossbow while inside a vehicle.

The Disabled Archer Permit

Disabled archers who cannot draw and hold a bow in firing position can apply for a Disabled Archer Permit through the Department of Fish and Game. This permit allows the use of crossbows during archery season. To apply for a permit, you must submit the following items to the DFC: Your name, address, date of birth, driver’s license number, hunting license number and a description of your condition. You also must submit your physician’s name, address, and state medical license number. Disabled Archer Permits are valid from July 1 to June 30 of the following year.

Crossbow Regulation Not Related To Hunting

According to California Penal Code 12600, a crossbow is considered a “less lethal weapon.” Under this designation, a crossbow can be used by a peace officer or custodial officer “for official use in the discharge of his or her duties.” Also, under Penal Code 12020, ballistic knives are listed as unlawful weapons, though the code makes it clear that crossbows are not considered ballistic knives.


About the Author

Patrick Bryant has worked as a writer for 10 years. His work has appeared on Fox, CBS, MTV, Comedy Central, AOL, National Public Radio, Global TV and at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. He holds a Bachelor of Arts from Emerson College.

Photo Credits

  • Men crossbow shooting image by Igor Zhorov from