How to Build a Pencil Crossbow [Books]

Take your spitball firepower to the next level with this guide for constructing a No. 2 Pencil Crossbow, one of many undersized armaments found in John Austin’s must-read new book Mini Weapons of Mass Destruction.

For those familiar with the classic Bic pen's true function—not as a lackluster writing implement but as the ideal barrel for a middle school-era rubber band shooter—Mini Weapons is the Holy Grail: a beautifully illustrated guide for making all manner of miniature munitions, from slingshots and catapults to mines and bazookas, with supplies that can be found in any household, office, or classroom. You can start turning implements of work into instruments of war by picking up John Austin’s Mini Weapons of Mass Destruction on Amazon and can find more information at


  • Pen – 1
  • Pencil – 4
  • Rubber Band – 7
  • Tape – 1
  • Wooden Skew (ammo) 1+

The #2 Crossbow is a larger variant of the other bows found in this book. With a structurally solid design and double elastic power, it is equipped to fire large realistic skew arrows. It sports a pen-housing barrel that helps with both accuracy and control.

Step 1:
Using four thin rubber bands, rubber bands, assemble two pairs of unsharpened wooden pencils. Both sets should be identical and tightly secured.

Step 2:
Crisscross the two sets of pencils. Center one of the pencils frames on top of the other towards a selected end. This end will ultimately be the front of your #2 Crossbow. While holding the pairs in place, use one or two rubber bands to fasten the frames into place.

Step 3:
Disassemble the plastic ballpoint pen. You may need a pocketknife or pliers when removing the rear pen cap. The hollowed-out pen housing will be used for your crossbow barrel. Discard all the other pen contents.

Step 4:
Position the pen housing on top of the pencils, as shown, then secure with tape. It is important that the pen housing sits on top of the rubber bands and that the barrel is not obstructed by them.

Step 5:
Slide two wide rubber bands between the tightly secured pencils ends. The pencils should lock the bands into place, but if they don’t add an additional thin rubber bands on the ends. The wider will ultimately provide you with your elastic firepower.

Step 6:
Bring both ends of the rubber bands together and attach them using strong tape. As you secure the bands, try to create a small ammunition pouch with the tape. It is possible you may need several pieces of tape to fasten the bands together securely. Pull the assembly back a few times with your fingers to test.

Step 7:
Your #2 Crossbow is now complete! Slide one wooden skewer (used for cooking) or a 3/16 dowel into the pen housing. Gripping the wood arrow and the rubber bands, pull back and aim your crossbow launcher. Release and watch it fly!

Always operate your crossbow safely. Watch out for spectators and never aim the shooter at anyone. Wooden skewers usually have pointed tips, which can make them very dangerous. Styrofoam targets are ideal; but you should never place them in front of a breakable backdrop just in case you miss your target. Do not use the #2 Crossbow if any of its rubber bands show signs of wear.

Start turning implements of work into instruments of war by picking up John Austin’s Mini Weapons of Mass Destruction on Amazon. Then, check out for printable zombie targets you can use to test out your mini weapons.

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