Normally speaking, a Hand Crossbow has the Ammunition and Loading properties. Respectively, these properties mean that
- A free hand is required to use the crossbow and load it with its ammunition,
- When making an attack, only one attack may be made per action, irrespective of any features like Extra Attack.
The Repeating Shot infusion, available to Artificers with the 2019 Artificer Unearthed Arcana, lessens both of these restrictions:
This magic weapon grants a +1 bonus to attack and damage rolls made with it when it's used to make a ranged attack, and it ignores the loading property if it has it.
The weapon requires no ammunition; it magically produces one piece of ammunition each time you make a ranged attack with it, unless you manually load it. The ammunition produced by the weapon vanishes the instant after the it [sic] hits or misses a target.
—Repeating Shot, Unearthed Arcana: the Artificer Returns, 2019-05-14
Conversely, the description of the Ammunition property strongly suggests that the free hand required is necessary only because of the requirement to load the weapon with ammunition:
Ammunition. You can use a weapon that has the ammunition property to make a ranged attack only if you have ammunition to fire from the weapon. Each time you attack with the weapon, you expend one piece of ammunition. Drawing the ammunition from a quiver, case, or other container is part of the attack (you need a free hand to load a one-handed weapon).
—Weapon Properties, Player's Handbook, pg. 146
Now, knowing that this is considered playtesting material, I'd like to ask relative only to this specific revision of the material: does this mean that the user of such a weapon no longer requires a free hand to load the weapon, since the weapon no longer requires ammunition? Would the user of this weapon be able to put something like a Shield in their off-hand when using this weapon?