Slings and slingshots can be a lot more dangerous than I thought

I used to play with slingshots as a kid.  In those days, we made our own out of Y-shaped branches we picked up among the trees on Table Mountain, and used strips of old bicycle inner tube (or, on one memorable occasion, my mother’s entire stock of elastic for clothing – she was not amused!) to make the sling.  They could launch acorns, or small pebbles, or nuts from my father’s old-nuts-and-bolts jar, out to 20 or 30 yards.  I never hunted with them, but plenty of other youngsters did (including a younger Lawdog, with hilarious results).

I hadn’t realized that slingshots have come a long way from those primitive beginnings.  While looking online for a Christmas gift for a friend, I came across a whole range of hi-tech wood, steel and polymer creations, strung with surgical tubing and sundry other quasi-lethal launching devices.  The Pocket Shot range, in particular, caught my eye.  That thing looks deadly!

It looks even more deadly when launching arrows.

I must admit, I’d never thought of a slingshot as a bow replacement!

I wondered just how powerful a slingshot could get.  I was answered by this video from the Slingshot Channel on YouTube.  The narrator cast a huge block of ballistic gelatin (normally used to test bullet penetration), and tested ball-bearings fired from various slingshots.  To my astonishment, using larger balls fired from more powerful slingshots, the depth of penetration rivals that of some handgun bullets!

You could quite easily kill someone with some of those combinations.  You might not get the same penetration into the body that a bullet would, particularly through clothing, but one of those ball-bearings hitting the skull could very easily fracture it, and cause brain damage.  I have no doubt some of them could penetrate an eye or an ear to reach the brain, too.

I’m going to have to re-evaluate slingshots.  I’ve always thought of them as a child’s toy, but some of them are clearly much more capable than that, and much more dangerous, as their use in modern riots demonstrates – even as anti-aircraft weapons!

Of course, that shouldn’t surprise us, given the use of shepherd-style slings in ancient and not-so-ancient warfare (the story of David and Goliath comes to mind).  If slingers can hit a bird on the wing, they should certainly be able to hit a low-flying drone.  You can buy modern paracord slings, too.  I might invest in one, to learn how to use it, just out of curiosity.



  1. Mom Logic: "You can't have BB guns, you'll shoot yer eye out!"
    But Wham-O Wrist Rockets are OK, because every kid when she grew up had a slingshot.

    Shortly afterwards, no crow would overfly or alight within 100 yards of our suburban domicile, due to the volume of AAA; the neighbor several lots over with the metal-roofed patio would be summoned by incoming dirt clod mortar fire every night at 5 minute intervals until our sides were splitting with laughter; the local JROTC contingent had to move unit formations to 200 yards away, on the other side of campus, because we had the range to their parking lot parade deck down to the meter for a 1 inch dirt clod, and they could never figure out where it was coming from, despite multiple attempts.(We figured random incoming was good training for their future military careers.)

    And nobody makes the good old ones anymore, just pussified folding versions. Probably have to make my own new out of rebar one of these days.

  2. Musket balls – The didn't necessarily kill you outright. You either bleed out or died of infection. A good slingshots would work the same way.

  3. Slings aren't actually that hard to use. You can learn the technique in a few minutes. Adjusting your aim and release-timing takes a bit longer, of course.

    It doesn't necessarily involve whirling the pocket above you head, either – the way I was shown doesn't even let the sling complete a single revolution around your arm.

  4. Look at the clay ammo, no cleanup and less chance of bouncing and taking out a window. Great for shorter ranges and critters you want gone.

  5. When I was young I made a sling out of boot laces and the tongue out of an old boot.
    It was surprisingly powerful and I could knock chucks of bark off of oak trees.
    It is a compact and powerful weapon, but does take some practice to hit what you are aiming at.

  6. Addendum: check out the Scotch Sling for launching arrows.
    And back into the day when we were training for crowd control/riots we were made aware of some "demonstrators" throwing and/or using sling shots to launch common gaming darts from behind a crowd/mob and into the ranks of the po po (that would be us).

  7. Spent .22 casings make great slingshot ammo.
    Not for hitting anything, but the wind passing over the opening makes a whistling sound. And with the brass tumbling through the air, there are rapid pitch changes. It's a bit unsettling, even if you know what's going on.

  8. The "Shepherds Bow" will toss an egg sized rock 100 yards with accuracy good enough to hit a man sized target with enough force to break bones. That's with me running it with a bit of practice. A skilled operator could no doubt do much better. And yes, spinning it around your head does nothing more than tangle the cords.

  9. Years ago I worked with a guy who was a marksman with a slingshot. He made his own out of forked tree branch and rubber tubing. I never saw him miss either stationary or thrown targets. He used steel balls for ammo. I have no doubt he could have delivered a lethal shot if he had chosen too.

  10. Inspired by David and Goliath during Sunday school, I did a little research and made my own sling with a little help from my mother, who sewed the pocket for me. I could not, for the life of me, understand how to make a pocket out of a flat piece of material.

    Learning to throw a stone (I had an ample supply) with any accuracy was difficult, but then my target was a split rail fence about 70 yards away. With practice and the right ammunition, such as perfect spheres made from clay, an eight year old boy could be transformed into a nasty little widow maker in a few weeks, and in the real old days the kids had little to do but practice.

    There's also a staff sling, which is harder to make but much easier to use. I had one but couldn't get it adjusted correctly. Then I got a .22 for Christmas and my sling was relegated to my whatnot drawer.

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