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The Crossbow Expert feat (PHB, p. 165) says:

When you use the Attack action and attack with a one-handed weapon you can use a bonus action to attack with a loaded hand crossbow you are holding.

Consider a level 5 Ranger with the Crossbow Expert feat. This means she has the Extra Attack feature and can also fire multiple shots from crossbows, avoiding their "loading" aspect. If she takes the Attack option, she is then able to attack twice (via Extra Attack), and also use a bonus action to attack with a hand crossbow she is holding, if she attacks with a single-handed weapon.

The answer to this question indicates that the hand crossbow itself can count as that single handed weapon. So one option she has is to shoot the hand-crossbow three times, via her action (Attack), bonus action and Extra Attack, provided she has one hand free with which to reload. So far so good.

Furthermore, the answer to this question shows that the Extra Attack can be made by a different weapon to her attack, and the answer to this one says that she can drop one weapon (for free) and pick one up via her object interaction. So another option she has is:

  1. Start with a hand crossbow in one hand, and nothing in the other (so she has a free hand to reload)
  2. Attack with a hand crossbow, enabling both the Extra Attack and Crossbow Expert bonus action features
  3. Use her bonus action to shoot the hand crossbow
  4. Drop the hand crossbow (free) and pick up / pull out a heavy crossbow
  5. Fire the heavy crossbow via Extra Attack.

I think this is within RAW and RAI, but it does mean she drops, rather than stows her hand crossbow. Let's say she's happy to do this. On her next turn she:

  1. Starts with a heavy crossbow in her hand(s)
  2. Attacks with it, enabling the Extra Attack feature
  3. Drops the heavy crossbow (free) and picks up the hand crossbow (object interaction)
  4. Fires the hand crossbow via Extra Attack.

Having used the Attack action (albeit with a two-handed weapon), and also having attacked with a one-handed weapon (via her Extra Attack) while holding a hand-crossbow, can she now fire the hand crossbow a second time via the Crossbow Expert bonus action?

The idea is she would repeat these two turn patterns, getting in extra damage via the use of a heavy crossbow one one of her three shots, at the cost of having to leave one of her weapons on the ground between turns.

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Yes, for the second round

As @Rykara's answer shows, the first round here is a bit iffy at best, so it's questionable if you can repeat this throughout multiple turns, but the second scenario definitely works: One of your attacks from your Attack action was with a one handed weapon (the hand crossbow), so Crossbow Expert applies (it doesn't specify anywhere that you can't have attacked with a two handed weapon in the same turn).

It's worth noting that even if your DM allows the first round to take place as described this may not work as well as you're hoping; one of your weapons always being on the ground means you'll lose access to it if you ever need to move away for any reason, and not moving at all means you'll likely quickly lose your range advantage in combat situations.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This is a similar interpretation to this Q/A on dual wielding \$\endgroup\$ – Sdjz Jun 13 at 17:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ The issue of one of the weapons being on the ground is the price paid for using this trick to get extra damage over three hand crossbow shots. So far in our campaign, the ranger hasn't had that problem very often due to our paladin and fighter forming an effective blockade. She might find she does if she tries this trick too often though <evil DM grin> \$\endgroup\$ – Stewart Becker Jun 14 at 7:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ RAW explicitly allows her to use her object interaction to draw a weapon as part of the action used to attack (note lowercase on "action" and "attack"). I am the DM and I am going to rule the second trick is allowable but the first is not, as it uses a bonus action before the whole Action (Attack + Extra Attack) has completed. This stops her using it too frequently in an encounter. \$\endgroup\$ – Stewart Becker Jun 14 at 7:24
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Rules as written: It's vague.

Rules as Intended: No

See this answer about using bonus actions in between the attacks of an attack action. In short: The rules don't explicitly forbid using a bonus action in between the attack actions attacks (unless the bonus action specifies a particular time/trigger for it to be used), but nor do they allow it.

However, according to lead rules designer Jeremy Crawford, only movement can be used in between attacks of an attack action:

No general rule allows you to insert a bonus action between attacks in a single action. You can interrupt a multiple-attack action with a bonus action/reaction only if the trigger of the bonus action/reaction is an attack, rather than the action. #DnD Source

Check with the DM on how flexible s/he wants to be with the rules.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The issue of taking a bonus action between attacks addresses the first trick, but not the second. The sticking point in my mind is that of using her object interaction to draw/pick up the alternate weapon between attacks. \$\endgroup\$ – Stewart Becker Jun 14 at 7:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ @stew According to the rules (see the "Interacting with Objects Around You" box), both drawing a weapon and picking one up from the ground is a "free" action that may be done as part of movement (which is allowed between attacks of an attack action). I think that part is fairly straightforward. \$\endgroup\$ – Rykara Jun 14 at 16:48

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