A crystal plasticity model for body-centered-cubic (BCC) single crystals, taking into account the plastic anisotropy due to non-planar spreading of screw dislocation cores is presented. In view of the longstanding contradictory statements on the deformation of BCC single crystals and their macroscopic slip planes, recent insights and developments are reported and included in this model. The flow stress of BCC single crystals shows a pronounced dependence on the crystal orientation and the temperature, mostly due to non-planar spreading of a/2〈1 1 1〉 type screw dislocation cores. The main consequence here is the well-known violation of Schmid's law in these materials, resulting in an intrinsic anisotropic effect which is not observed in, for example, FCC materials. Experimental confrontations at the level of a single crystal are generally missing in the literature. To remedy this, uniaxial tension simulations are done at material point level for α-Fe, Mo and Nb single crystals and compared with reported experiments. Material parameters, including non-Schmid parameters, are calibrated from experimental results using a proper identification method. The model is validated for different crystal orientations and temperatures, which was not attempted before in the open literature. © 2008 IOP Publishing Ltd.