Daryl Dixon’s Crossbow vs. A Real Crossbow User

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

UPDATE: Just to clarify, this blog post deals specifically with Daryl Dixon’s FIRST crossbow, the Horton Scout, NOT the Stryker he gets later on in The Walking Dead. However, some of the characteristics such as how he holds it, and the limp limbs issue still remain to this day.

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.


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

When I'm not writing, I'm training for the zombie apocalypse.
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404 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.

  3. Sam Elliott says:

    That crossbow is rated at 250 FPS is weak for crossbows but comparable to a 60 pound compound bow, so “only suitable for squirrels” is not exactly correct. Not the best crossbow by a long shot but plenty power to penetrate a human skull out to 50 yards.

  4. Josh says:

    When he rolled down that hill one of the loose arrows (not in the crossbow) went into his back, but I agree with the other stuff.

  5. Kizza says:

    He would want to be able to pull bolts out easier for quick retrieval?! As there are thousands of zombies.. It’s a tv series, half the shit the sustain injuries would kill them. If you take movies literally then don’t watch any Hollywood movie, America isn’t going to save the world everytime and it’s actually not the centre of the universe.

    • Jupiter says:

      No, America isn’t – but it’s an American series with American actors. You want the Euro/Scando/African/Asian/Whatever equivalent? Then make it and quit being such a petty bitch…

      • Jupiter this is for your general knoledge, American Actors?????? Stop Saying Bullshits

        Rick – Andrew Lincoln British
        Andre -Lauire Holden Canadian
        Glen – Steven Yeun Corean
        Morgan – Leenie James British
        Maggie – Lauren Cohan British – American
        The governor – David Morrissey British

        And still moreeeeeeeee

  6. I see one real problem with the view on the crossbow. That is the bolts being used. In a walking dead situation you would NOT use hunting arrows because you want to retrieve them with minimum effort. A target tip would be the perfect arrow to use in this situation.

  7. Ok found another glaring problem. A lesson on how to pull out a bolt should be given to the writer. If you look at the picture of Daryl impaled with the bolt unless you’re a contortionist you are not going to reach behind you and pull that arrow out straight. Since you can’t pull it out straight how much extra damage are you doing as it flays around inside your vital organs trying to remove it. Pulling it though would do little if any extra damage since fletches are extremely pliable.

  8. Bob Sadtler says:

    If we are going to nitpick TWD, can we nitpick something more significant, like the fact that MODERN CARS ARE STILL RUNNING ON FOUR YEAR OLD STALE GAS! Let’s face it, Daryl’s crossbow is dead on accurate in comparison! lol

    ‘N’ when the prison fences were overrun, why didn’t someone whip up a quick n dirty, disposable flamethrower? D and his bow have never taken me out of the story, but those always pull me right out.

    Has anybody noticed that D changed bows somewhere along the line? i knew that the original was a Horton Scout 125, but I haven’t seen identifying marks on the later one. Anyone able to ID?

  9. Andy says:

    Who cares if it’s a child’s entry level crossbow. The show is meant to entertain which it does I love it, and for someone to sit there and pick fault with daryls crossbow is just pathetic. It’s not real zombies aren’t real. Get a grip and just sit back and enjoy

  10. Pauline says:

    I love the show and Daryl is of course, my favorite person on the show. I have been into archery for a while and never had much interest in crossbows until I started watching Daryl with his. But now I have one and I love it. They may not be technically correct on the show, they can’t be really. But it got me started in a whole new sport, crossbows are awesome, they are accurate, great for hunting and fun to shoot. I have a 175 lb. Wicked Ridge Warrior HL, and and shoot it much better than any of my traditional bows or compounds or my firearms. Thanks Daryl

  11. Wrong says:

    You went through a lot to prove a point we all already knew..it’s just a tv show. Does your husband watch no tv or movies? Or even the news at that matter. Oh, also you’re incorrect, in the episode CLEAR michonne takes a Stryker Strykezone 380 and he uses that up until the current shows. Which if I’m correct are/were around $870 and could out perform your husbands crossbow.

  12. Jason says:

    So if it was the end of the world and your husband found a crossbow it would have to be a particular model or he wouldn’t use it? He’s an idiot. Is he going to criticize The Simpson’s next? The chainsaw crossbow?
    Also, Daryl didn’t shoot himself. The bolt he landed on was in the quiver.
    Oh and the other thing is this never happened. Those people you see on TV, are called actors. They’re… pretending.

  13. carolyninjoy says:

    Interesting article.:)

  14. Mel says:

    What a wonderful article, thank you! It made me laugh quite hard and then feel immediately guilty for laughing at poor Daryl.

    I love shooting with bow and arrow, now I totally want to learn how to shoot a crossbow. A real one, not a kiddy one, of course.😉

  15. Yeah, but check this, they underestimated the crossbow (stryker 380) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PLckffHVQaM

  16. Bill jr says:

    Ya but he also cuts squirrels with a knife the same he stabs zombies with.

  17. Chris says:

    you ma’am, are pretentious as hell.

  18. Freakazoid89 says:

    Season 1 when Glenn and rick jump the fence after the gut camo is washed off in the rain the walkers jump the fence after them….but hundreds don’t at the prison….but it keeps the story going

  19. Chris says:

    This post is bull. I mean this in the nicest way possible. Yeah There’s some inconsistencies with real crossbow use its a show. However Daryl upgrades to a 125 Stryker solution. Later on as seen in the top image of this post. Making his kidde bow. Obsolete and target point are the only thing I would use in zombie hunting specifically because there are no obstructions in getting your arrows back. It’s a sturdy quite crossbow and is well up to the task of taking down small to big game. Now to address the rolling down the hill scene no I’m afraid it’s entirely possible to keep rolling. You don’t see a block of wood just stop do you? However it’s be far to easy to break a shity carbon arrow or holy whichever you want to call it I’ve heard seasond hunters call them both in crossbow use. All and all to be honest you don’t have much of a leg to stand on with much of your info and opinions given in this article.

  20. Jerry Andersch says:

    As far as “that can’t possibly happen” criticism of the show , I might point out there are millions of reanimated corpses wandering around eating the living! Maybe some cross bow operating errors are not the most glaring improbabilities presented in the series.

  21. Neil says:

    Here’s my belief –> As time goes on, those skulls simmer in the hot sun with all the Zombie inerds and soften up a bit allowing that Kid Cross Bow Arrow to penetrate the skulls.

  22. chris says:

    Your wrong
    Coz in season 3 he gets a Stryker Strykezone 380 which you didn’t mention in your drivvel.

  23. Robert tan says:

    I think Compact crossbow is not affective as a bow. More faster and more stronger and more lighter.

  24. Robert tan says:

    i personally think they should upgrade Daryl’s weapon to a regular bow (I know that’s his character but it won’t hurt) like the Obsession sniper bow. More efficient and more reach about 300 to 500 yards if I am not mistaken. Or now they have explosive bolts now. Just saying lol

  25. Alex says:

    I own a crossbow, recurve,and compound and yes some things are possible . but the f@#$ cares its a TV let me say it again TV , as in Fake. Just watch the damn show and stop being a critic gawd

  26. the real dayrl dixon says:

    Im a crossbow hunter and tradtional bow shooter also have a busse knife just like dayrls ive tried lots of techniqes in the walking dead shooting and knife both the best way to pierce zombie skull is thru the temple or eye big fan of the show but in reality im far better then dayrl and if a real zombie appoclypse happens dont use target points on blolts.

  27. Kenneth W. Billups says:

    Thank God someone has made these infractions known. My thing is he does not have front sights, nor a rear peep site, and no scope! There is no way he would be able to shoot with such accuracy. The last thing is how he walks around with a cocked crossbow on his back. Something I would never do. I prefer Barnett crossbows. They are accurate and super fast. They will also leave money in your pocket. Tenpoint may be good but to me they are too costly. I can place my bolts in the 10’s just as the Tenpoints.

  28. jam says:

    This was really informative. I now know that if I choose a crossbow as my primary weapon I should buy big and strong for best effect. Also a few good points on safety here. Thanks ones again, Jam x

  29. David Davidson says:

    They’re called arrows not bolts actually. Calling a crossbow _arrow_ a bolt is a misnomer taken from historical crossbows.
    This is an image of a modern crossbow bolt:


    Bolts do not have flights, arrows do.

  30. Anon says:

    Wow….. I hate when anal people like you guys pick apart TV shows… it’s not supposed to be realistic, that’s the whole point of television. It just looks cool, that’s all. Stop over analyzing everything… my god.

  31. Simone says:

    Hello everyone.
    I have had the Horton Scout 125 crossbow for about two years, and i loved it.
    I had to sell it one year ago, because of a bad period for my wallet.
    Now i’m looking for it again, new or used.
    If anyone can help me, please email me at losmemo86 @ yahoo . it
    Thank you. It is very important for me.

    Simone Vedovati

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