shoot one's bolt

shoot (one's) bolt

To exhaust oneself doing some task and thus struggle to complete it. Try to pace yourself—if you shoot your bolt now, you'll never make it through all 18 holes.
See also: bolt, shoot
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

shoot one's bolt

Also, shoot one's wad. Do all within one's power; exhaust one's resources or capabilities. For example, They were asking for more ideas but Bob had shot his bolt and couldn't come up with any , or Don't shoot your wad with that article or you won't have any material for the sequels. The first expression comes from archery and referred to using up all of one's bolts (short, heavy arrows fired with a crossbow); it was a proverb by the 1200s. The colloquial variant, dating from about 1900, comes from gambling and refers to spending all of a wad of rolled-up banknotes. Also see shoot the works.
See also: bolt, shoot
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

shoot one's bolt, to

To have tried one’s utmost; to have spent all of one’s resources. This term comes from medieval archery and was a well-known proverb by the early thirteenth century: “A fool’s bolt is soon shot.” The bolt was a short, heavy, blunt-headed arrow fired with a crossbow, and the archer who used up all his bolts at once, leaving him with none, was regarded as a fool. The modern (twentieth-century) counterpart is to shoot one’s wad. This term comes from gambling, the “wad” in question being a roll of bank notes, but it has likewise been extended to mean spending all of one’s resources. Bernard Malamud used the expression (Tenants, 1971): “I want to be thought of as a going concern, not a freak who had published a good first novel and shot his wad.”
See also: shoot, to
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer
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