Ask LH: Is It Legal To Make My Own Crossbow?

Ask LH: Is It Legal To Make My Own Crossbow?

Dear LH, I have been recently watching YouTube videos on how to make homemade crossbows and dart guns and stuff like that. My question is: is it legal to make homemade crossbows and dart guns in Australia? Thanks, Aussie Rambo

Image: Torsten Mangner

Dear AR,

Once again, I’ve got to kick things off by stating that I’m not a lawyer to speak of, and as such, seeking expert legal advice is always an option.

That being said, I can’t find any particular bit of law that specifically prohibits building a crossbow or similar projectile weapon from raw parts, but it’s quite clear that the right to build ends the exact second you’ve actually finished your crossbow, because there’s a variety of laws relating to this kind of weapon when it comes to possession.

Again, I’m not a lawyer, but I suspect you’d get very short shrift indeed arguing that because you hadn’t, say, painted your crossbow that it wasn’t finished. The moment it’s operational, you’ll fall under the variety of laws that govern this kind of weapon ownership across Australia.

There are also laws that may apply depending on the parts you need to have delivered to start building your crossbow or dart gun, so I’d strongly advise getting strict legal advice relating to the state in which you live before making any plans at all.

Weapons of this type are usually referred to as “prohibited” weapons, which might at first glance suggest that you’re not allowed to own them at all. This isn’t entirely the case, however, with the prohibition in some cases relating to either holding a licence for their use or where you intend to use them.

You haven’t stated your location in Australia, and this is quite important. Here’s an overview of the laws as they apply in each state and territory:

Western Australia: In WA, it’s illegal to possess a crossbow unless you’re an exempt collector or arbalest, a process which involves both seeking permission from the minister of police and having owned the weapon prior to the 1st of July 2011. As you’re looking to build, that’s not going to be you, and outside of dramatic presentation purposes (where again, you need approval) they’re not permitted at all in WA.

Northern Territory: In the NT, crossbows and similar weapons are permitted for hunting purposes with a licence, but it is illegal to receive crossbow parts across the state’s border, which could scupper your crossbow building plans.

South Australia: South Australians are required to acquire a prohibited weapons exemption for pretty much every type of weapon you’re thinking of making, although the list of exemptions is a little wider than most other states. I’m struggling to think of how you’d qualify a crossbow under religious grounds, or for astronomical use.

Queensland: If you’re a Queenslander, you can apply for a Miscellaneous Weapons Licence to own a crossbow, although you’ll have to supply a “genuine” reason (recreational, club membership, or military re-enactment) to hold the licence and the crossbow itself.

NSW: As with other states, New South Wales views crossbows as prohibited weapons that require a specific permit.

Victoria: Victoria differentiates between prohibited and controlled weapons, but crossbows are specifically listed as prohibited. To own a crossbow in Victoria, you’d either have to apply for and gain a Governor In Council (GIC) exemption, or be a member of a club or organisation that has a GIC, typically a sporting club.

Tasmania: You can use a crossbow for sports purposes with a club in Tasmania, but not for the purposes of hunting.

Which brings up a further important point. Most states have sporting club exemptions, but not every sporting club that includes archery is entirely happy with crossbow usage. As such, no matter the state you’re in, you may find it hard to gain an exemption under club grounds.


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  • If it is just for the actual build experience? You could probably get away with that in your own shed/garage.

    But be very careful about who you show it to and whatever you do, don’t post it on social media!

  • HA! This reminds me of my Grandpa who made me a crossbow for a year 8 (15 years ago) school project. Even after the blunt arrows got confiscated guys in the class managed to get it to fire wooden rulers! haha!

  • I’d also find out what classes a crossbow as a crossbow.

    Because you can buy nerf crossbows. But they don’t fall under the weapon category, I assume this is because of how low powered they are.

    • In NSW it would depend on a definition of a arrow/bolt which is not defined:
      Weapons Prohibition Act 1998 (NSW) Schedule 1 (5) A crossbow (or any similar device) consisting of a bow fitted transversely on a stock that has a groove or barrel designed to direct an arrow or bolt.

  • In NSW it’s prohibited to manufacture a prohibited weapon without an appropriate licence under the Weapons Prohibition Act 1998 (NSW) Section 25A-1

    Incidentally when someone in the NSW police or media gets on their high-horse about 3d Printing of guns and “the law hasn’t caught up” that particular act is very clear and 1998 was well before the advent of “modern” 3d printed guns.

    • I just found this clause:
      A dart projector

      “known as the Darchery dartslinger, or any other similar device that is designed to
      project a dart by means of an elasticised band.”

      so a bolt/arrow could be defined as a really big dart i guess, they cover their bases pretty well.
      So a modified spear gun mostly out of the question, unless you just put a wooden spear in it instead of a metal one for more range?
      Would like to hear other peoples thoughts on this.

  • spearguns are legal and don’t require a permit you can buy them over the counter,they don’t have “a bow fitted transversely on a stock” and all the new ones have grooves or enclosed track/barrel to direct a spear instead of a bolt/arrow.
    You could use this legal loophole I’m sure.
    Just modify a speargun to take bolts, some speargun rubbers are over 200 pounds.
    Also as long as you don’t leave a arrow/bolt in it and keep it next to some snorkeling gear if you got raided buy the cops they would assume it was a speargun.
    If you did get busted with it(as long as you weren’t doing anything stupid/dangerous or illegal with it at the time) if you had a good lawyer you could probably get away with it, after all you can also buy a compound bow over the counter without any paper work.
    But the law would probably redefine the definition later on and bust you haha.

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