Daryl Dixon’s Crossbow vs. A Real Crossbow User

Daryl Dixon's (Norman Reedus) crossbow in AMC's The Walking Dead

Now I LOVE The Walking Dead – you all know that.

My husband doesn’t – he HATES the show. And there is only one reason for that:

Daryl Dixon’s Crossbow.

While we all think it’s cool to be shooting bolts into zombie heads, whipping them out, reloading, and firing again, my husband sees nothing but technical errors.

Yep, he is a real crossbow user. He even uses the same brand Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) does: a Horton. And that, apparently, is where the similarities end.

So, here I am, attempting to set a few things straight…

The crossbow Daryl Dixon uses in The Walking Dead:

Horton Scout HD 125 Red Dot Package

I hate to break it to you folks, this is an entry level children’s crossbow. Although it does have some advantages (and this is apparently the reason AMC picked this particular Horton model):

  • LightweightThe Horton Scout is Daryl Dixon's (Norman Reedus) crossbow of choice during the zombie apocalypse
  • Small
  • Great at close range

The full specifics of the Horton Scout can be found here. But if you are looking for a really great crossbow, my husband would suggest the Horton Hunter Express SL. At least this one can shoot from a long distance. It also is relatively light weight (only a pound heavier) and compact (an inch or so bigger) when moving through the bush. My husband found this out the hard way when he got lost in thick scrub. Not only was he able to travel with his crossbow for hours without it getting too heavy to carry, but it rarely got caught on things. (Something to think about AMC if you want to upgrade Daryl’s crossbow to a grown-up model.)

There is also the advantage of being able to bring down larger animals with this model. The inherent problem with the Horton Scout is the very reason it was picked as Daryl’s crossbow: it’s size. The Scout really is only good for squirrels.

Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) shoots a squirrel in AMC's The Walking Dead

Squirrel – the new white meat of the zombie apocalypse

Shooting from a distance:

The Horton Scout is great when shooting zombies at close range. However, for every step back you take from your target there is a loss in velocity when firing. This is not such an issue with bigger, heavier crossbows, but with Daryl’s kiddie-bow, the likelihood of fatally wounding an animal or zombie from a long distance becomes fairly slim.

Which brings me to another bug bear…

Head shots with a light weight crossbow:

Head shots by Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) in AMC's The Walking DeadThese are the ones fans love the most! Nothing like seeing that bolt (yeah, they’re called bolts, not arrows) pierce a zombie’s skull and protrude from the other side. Now, while technically, this isn’t possible with a Horton Scout, in The Walking Dead’s version of the zombie apocalypse, it just may work.

Take episode 15 of Season 3, entitled This Sorrowful Life, for example. We find Michonne (Danai Gurira) strapped to a post with a zombie attacking her. What does she do? Knock that bugger down and stomp it’s head in with her foot. In the real world, the bone density in the human skull is a bit tougher than this. While a strong person may get lucky and crush a skull, it’s highly unlikely that it would squelch in quite the same manner as it did under Michonne’s foot. Another fine example is the effect of Martinez (Jose Pablo Cantillo) and a baseball bat on the head of a zombie in Episode 13 of Season 3, Arrow on the Doorstep. So we need to assume that the zombies in The Walking Dead have a softer bone density than a living human.

Martinez uses a baseball bat creatively in AMC's The Walking DeadIf this is the case, then yes, a Horton Scout would very likely pierce a zombie skull with enough force to exit out the other side of the head. In the real world, however, a Horton Scout has enough force to penetrate (from a short distance), but certainly not to protrude from the other side.

This leads me to the next item on the agenda…

Get some decent bolts Daryl:

Remember in Episode 5 of Season 2 (and there will be more on this incident later), when Daryl shot himself? He was VERY lucky he was using target tips then. These tips are designed to be shot (during practise) at a padded target. The tip is rounded to allow penetration, but there are no other attachments to create complications when pulling the bolt from the target.

Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) shoots himself with a bolt in AMC's The Walking DeadIf he was using any other kind of tip, not only would he have caused himself more damage internally, but it would have been EXTREMELY hard to pull some of those tips out. You see, some of them are designed to get stuck in an animal – and stay stuck. In the real world, Daryl would be using anything BUT a target tip and most likely would have been up shit creek without a paddle after shooting himself. It’s highly unlikely for most crossbow users to use target tips when hunting animals as, once again, the penetration with these tips are not optimal.

*On a side note though, my husband is very impressed that AMC have given Daryl Dixon genuine Horton bolts made in the US rather than the newer ones that are made en mass in China*

The limp-limbs-when-loaded dilemma:

When Daryl is pointing his loaded crossbow at something, what you are looking at, realistically, is a partially cocked crossbow. While the string is pulled back and the bow can be shot when needed, this is not actually what a crossbow looks like in real life when it’s being all deadly. When loading a crossbow, one must pull the string right back and cock it correctly. This will result in a mushroom-like appearance rather than the more T-shaped crossbow we see Daryl Dixon hold (see the image below). Then, when the bolt is fired, it will shoot forward with enough strength to kill your target while taking it back to it’s resting shape: the T-shape we recognise on The Walking Dead as Daryl’s cocked crossbow. This drives my husband wild.

AMC have a very good reason for this though.

The limp-limbed crossbow dilemma in AMC's The Walking Dead

The limp-limbed crossbow dilemma in AMC’s The Walking Dead

If Daryl’s crossbow was properly loaded and it accidentally went off, someone would be dead. For real. So, to keep the Occ. Health & Safety reps happy, the crossbow has these limp limbs. And this is what happens when Norman Reedus shoots his crossbow:

The problem with the crossbow though is you can’t fire an arrow on camera – it’s a digital arrow. On set, there’s sort of a dummy crossbow with loose tension and it only shoots about five feet. It looks like the arrow’s flying out but it literally just goes like this far [casts his hand a short distance]. ~Norman Reedus

So yeah, while it’s technically incorrect, it’s probably a good thing!

Correct thumb placement:

Now, as I was getting my husband to proofread this, another error has come to our attention. Take a look at Daryl’s thumb placement in the above image (entitled: The limp-limbed crossbow dilemma in AMC’s The Walking Dead). Someone needs to let him know that if he shot his crossbow now, he would, quite literally, tear his own thumb off!

Season 2, Episode 5: Chupacabra

Daryl Dixon Meme for Season 2, Episode 5 in AMC's The Walking Dead

You know the one. Poor Daryl is out hunting for Sophia (Madison Lintz) and his horse spooks. This causes him to roll down an embankment, shoot himself in his side with his crossbow and land in a creek. Later in this episode, he pulls the bolt free.

What is wrong about this scenario:

  • It is virtually impossible to roll down a hill with a crossbow on your back. While you may somersault once, the flat surface of the bow will stop you. Alternatively, the front end will lodge in the ground. Sliding the entire distance down the hill (rather than just the rocky bit) would have been a more realistic option AMC.
  • So Daryl then looses his crossbow which slides down ahead before turning on him and shooting him. Who shot the crossbow? It must have been a perfectly placed tree branch or oddly shaped rock that reached in and shot it for him…Maybe another idea for the conspiracy theories page?
  • A bolt is not that securely attached to the crossbow. One upturn and that bolt would fall right out. Even if a branch managed to get in and release the trigger, there would be no bolt left there to fire.
  • So, after all this, Daryl gets shot with his own crossbow. The bow is facing towards him when it fires. Daryl is facing his crossbow as he slides. Yet the bolt enters via his back. Whoops!
  • A lesson on how to pull out a bolt: Daryl Dixon uses practise tips on his bolts. This means that there is nothing attached to the end of the bolt that would catch in the flesh when pulling against the entry point. Pulling the bolt through his body would have caused more injury with the fletches (the feathery things at the end) than pushing the bolt back through the entry point.
Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) accidentally shoots himself in AMC's The Walking Dead

I just thought it was a stitch…

Now for my personal bug bear:

Is it a squirrel or a zombie? Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) takes aim in AMC's The Walking Dead

Is it a squirrel or a zombie? Brings a whole new meaning to Potluck Pie…

Daryl shoots both animals (for food) and zombies with his crossbow. While I can understand he cleans his bolts (although, hopefully more thoroughly than just wiping them on his pants), would he also clean his crossbow every single time he goes to hunt for food to prevent cross-contamination? Even if he used different bolts for food and zombies, there would still be some sort of nasty germ-swapping going on.

Would you really want to eat food that has been caught with the same weapon that killed zombies?

With so long to wait until the Season 4 return of AMC’s The Walking Dead, why not check out Emeline and the Mutants? At only 99 cents, on Amazon Kindle (or $12.99 in paperback) it’s an absolute steal!

Prefer graphic novels or comics?  Why not check out my Zombie Apocalypse Now! serial? Part 1 is only 99 cents on Amazon Kindle.

Sources:

The Examiner – ‘The Walking Dead’ Norman Reedus talks real life crossbow skills

ZombieApocalypseAcademy.org – Daryl Dixon’s Crossbow

FearNet.com – The Walking Dead/Just Sayin’. . .

Home.Comcast.net – Hunter Express SL 175™ CB130 Advantage® Camo

(Photo Credits: AMC/DIYLol.com)

About mrszoomby

Rachel Tsoumbakos is a stay home mother of two whose passions are writing, reading and organic gardening. She lives with her husband, two kids, three cats and seven chickens in suburban Melbourne, Australia. While she has had several articles published through mainstream magazines, she has also written extensively for Suite 101 and True Blood Net. Emeline and the Mutants is her first published novel and available on Amazon: http://amzn.to/EATMUP. A new novel, The Ring of Lost Souls, set in an abandoned mental institute on the outskirts of Melbourne, is her second novel and also available on Amazon: http://amzn.to/TROLSRT. Her current WIP is entitled Unremembered Things and is the first in her edgy Wood Nymphs trilogy.
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343 Responses to Daryl Dixon’s Crossbow vs. A Real Crossbow User

  1. kev says:

    I have been a gun enthusiast for years now so it is really easy to notice the silly things like the sound of a shell casing hitting the ground after a revolver is fired. I just don’t let it bother me because I understand that it is just a show and they’re probably doing the best they can to make things as realistic as possible while maintaining a safe environment for the cast. Not to mention I would assume that the majority of people wouldn’t notice things like this. And the hell with questioning whether crossbow bolts or arrows would actually penetrate a skull. If I was going to nitpick anything at all, it would be people stabbing through the top and front of a skull with a KNIFE. Even a slightly decomposed skull would be nearly impossible to penetrate with a knife by even the strongest of people. But regardless of these minor discrepancies, my wife and I still enjoy the show ;)

  2. Love the show and of course there are plenty of errors and opinions, but that makes for fun too. Pulling the bolt through along with the fletching was a poor choice if Daryl was savvy survivor he’s made out to be. I like spotting the erros such as the mis-placed bolt on his crossbow when he aims at the young kid in the alley when Rick escapes from the tank. Bolt is an inch above string. Pull the trigger and one might be looking for another crossbow after implosion. Yes the limp limbs are a hoot too.

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