A hand crossbow is a one-handed weapon that ordinarily takes two hands to fire, due to the loading portion of the Ammunition property.


Drawing the ammunition from a quiver, case, or other container is part of the attack. Loading a one-handed weapon requires a free hand.

The Artificer's 'Repeating Shot' infusion removes the need to load the weapon entirely, making the hand crossbow a truly one handed weapon. Source

Does the Dragon Wing Hand Crossbow function similarly?
The relevant portion of the rule for all Dragon Wing bow-type weapons states:

If you load no ammunition in the weapon, it produces its own, automatically creating one piece of magic ammunition when you pull back the string. The ammunition created by the bow vanishes the instant after it hits or misses a target.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Can anyone explain how a one-handed weapon ever takes two hands to fire? If it needs two hands to operate, because loading requires two hands, why not make that clear in the first place? \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 11, 2022 at 20:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ @RobbieGoodwin it is made clear via its weapon properties. Part of the ammunition property says, Loading a one-handed weapon requires a free hand. \$\endgroup\$
    – Adeptus
    Commented May 12, 2022 at 3:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ Sorry; I was trying to suggest there's a huge difference between "firing" in the Question and "operating" in general and failed to realise that matters only for repeating weapons, which crossbows ain't. Almost separately, I'm no longer sure I can follow what over-rides which enough to explain this, and to me that 'Repeating Shot' link doesn't seem sure whether loading magic ammo still needs the string to be pulled back… \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 12, 2022 at 14:27

3 Answers 3


It requires two hands

The Dragon Wing Bow can be any type of bow, but its description states (FToD, p. 23; emphasis mine):

If you load no ammunition in the weapon, it produces its own, automatically creating one piece of magic ammunition when you pull back the string.

How are you pulling back the string with one hand? A bow requires two hands, not just for loading but also for drawing the string and shooting. So even if the bow can produce its own ammunition, it will still require both hands to shoot.1

You do not need a second hand for that with a crossbow that has the Repeating Shot artificer infusion.

If your DM rules that you can have a Dragon Wing Hand Crossbow, then you still would need to a second hand to pull back the crossbow string, since the crossbow would not do that for you as a Repeating Shot crossbow would.

1 I personally do not think that crossbows should be a subcategory of bows, as they handle extremely differently, but based on the D&D Beyond eligible weapons for this feat, in D&D 5e, they seem to be.


This is a place where the rules aren't quite saying what they seem to say, and there's an ambiguity.

A hand crossbow has the Ammunition and Loading properties. The Ammunition property says, among other things:

Loading a one-handed weapon requires a free hand.

The Loading property says,

...you can fire only one piece of ammunition from it when you use an action, bonus action, or reaction to fire it, regardless of the number of attacks you can normally make.

The Repeating Shot infusion waives both requirements, by directly removing the Loading quality and creating ammunition in situ when necessary, and makes your crossbow a repeater. Cool.

But split up the two changes and suddenly it gets weird. Loading makes you shoot slow, but doesn't require a spare hand, and Ammunition requires a spare hand even if you don't technically need to draw and position the ammo.

But of course that's stupid.

The Loading quality is clearly meant to represent the extra time and effort necessary to reset certain weapons from "fired" to "ready to fire": cranking a crossbow's string back, muzzle-loading a pistol, whatever -- things that require extensive manipulation of the weapon, and thus two hands. Repeating Shot removes that quality, so presumably it magically does all those things.

Meanwhile the Ammunition quality is all about getting the projectile in the projectile weapon, which requires a second hand if you're pulling an item from a container and manipulating it to put it in place. If the weapon produces its own magic ammo, you logically shouldn't need to mess with all that. But ammo that comes into existence when you pull the string back should obviously not remove the need to pull back the string.

If we go by the rules as written, then Repeating Shot doesn't remove the need to load ammo by hand even though it obviously does exactly that, and Dragon Crossbows don't need to be manually reset even though they obviously ought to.

The best argument I can make is that the Dragon Bow creates ammo when the string is pulled back, which on a crossbow obviously requires a second hand, whatever the rules have to say if you pick apart the language.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ The dragon wing item says "when you pull back the string". That happens as part of loading for a crossbow, not as part of firing. (It's called "cocking" the crossbow). There's a very solid argument to be made that the rules do imply what you're already saying. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 11, 2022 at 9:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think it might be plausible for a crossbow to have its string pulled back with one hand if you're holding the front of it with your foot in a stirrup mounted on the front of the crossbow. \$\endgroup\$
    – nick012000
    Commented May 11, 2022 at 9:53
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @nick012000 Seems plausible; with a maximum range of only 40 yards, the draw weight couldn’t be much more than 60 pounds, well within the one-arm row capability of any reasonably fit individual. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 11, 2022 at 11:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ @nick012000 Historically, what D&D calls a light crossbow could be cocked by hand, usually by putting a foot on the arms of the bow or in a stirrup, to engage the back muscles. Heavy military crossbows generally required laying down on the ground and using the legs with a belt-mounted hook to reset the string. Ballistas would usually have a separate ratchet-and-pulley device for the job. But the only historical weapon kinda close to a hand crossbow is the chinese repeating crossbow, which had a lever action loader with a gravity fed box magazine, and were so weak you had to poison the bolts. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 11, 2022 at 12:45
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Which is to say, I think you still need two hands to cock a crossbow almost regardless of size or design, just for different reasons. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 11, 2022 at 15:30

By RAW, loading requires two hands.

The reason that you need a second hand free to reload a hand crossbow is because of the Ammunition property, which specifically states "you need a free hand to load a one-handed weapon".

The description of the Dragon Wing Bow states:

If you load no ammunition in the weapon, it produces its own, automatically creating one piece of magic ammunition when you pull back the string.

Notably, the description does not say that it removes or ignores the Ammunition property from the weapon, in the way that the Repeating Shot infusion mentions ignoring the Reloading property1, so relevant portions of the general rule still apply unless contradicted by the specific rules of the description.

Rules As Written, the wording of the description does not say that the weapon may be fired without being loaded, but that the weapon creates its own ammunition if you "load no ammunition". Loading no ammunition would still require a free hand to prime the weapon, as it would in any weapon with the Ammunition properly.

The explicit mention of pulling back the string in the item's description further supports the view that the weapon must still be loaded, even if you do not provide any physical ammunition while doing so.

1 Because the description of the Repeating Shot infusion uses the same language and does not ignore the Ammunition property, weapons with this infusion would also require a free hand by RAW.


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