Sunday, December 22, 2013

Slingshots for bushcraft

A slingshot can be a handy and silent tool for harvesting small game when backpacking or in a survival situation. Some commercially available models have even been modified to project an arrow. Many bushcraft practitioners carry one in their woods trekking bag for such uses, as well as fun camp recreation. The purpose of this blog is to discuss the history and safe use of slingshots and to perhaps inspire you to give them a try.

Slingshots have been around since the introduction of rubber in the late 1830's, and were widely in use by the 1860's. Projectiles of the period included lead musket balls or shot as well as round stones. Initially they were a self-crafted tool, but by the early 1900's commercially manufactured slingshots were available for purchase. In the 1960's the next big evolution, the "Wrist Rocket", arrived with a frame that incorporated an integral arm brace and used surgical rubber tubing to power the slingshot.

I own and use 2 slingshots, a DAISY F16 [no arm brace] and a MARKSMAN folding slingshot with an integral arm brace:

Slingshot kit: Slingshots, shot, carrying/storage box

Assuming you have purchased a quality slingshot and shot, you need only find a safe place to practice and a safe target to shoot at. You will have to develop a style that works for you, but here are some *generic* tips for shooting a slingshot that may help you:

- Grasp slingshot with support hand, draw bands with dominant [strong] hand.

- Point in on the target with the shoulder of the arm holding the slingshot.

- Draw the bands straight back; Don't cant the slingshot...keep the yoke arms perpendicular to the ground and the bands parallel to the ground.

- Use a consistent anchor point on your lower jawline. NEVER draw the bands to your eye level, as they can break and cause injury and/or permanent damage your eye.

- Practice at varying distances and learn how to use the slingshot arms/yoke as a reference to adjust your point of aim.

- Gently relax hand and release the shot pouch when you are sure of your shot. There is no need to "explosively" release the shot pouch!

- Use protective eyewear for safety. Observers should also wear goggles or protective eyewear.

- Be sure of your target and what is behind it; Never draw and aim a slingshot at anything you don't intend to shoot; Never horseplay or intentionally aim a slingshot at another person.
Use consistent weight/size ammunition for practice, such as commercially made shot, for best results [Interestingly, a good friend of mine uses "Skittles" candies for practice ammunition. He states they actually make "good practice ammo", are inexpensive for a large quantity, are biodegradable and are pretty consistent in size and weight].

Left: MARKSMAN folding slingshot; Right: DAISY F16.

In the photograph above, you can see that the MARKSMAN has a 3" wide yoke, and the DAISY has a 4" wide yoke. I shoot better with the DAISY, bracing my index finger and thumb on the arms of the yoke [The smaller 3" yoke on a non-wrist-supported slingshot would work better for me...the DAISY is a bit of a stretch for my fingers, but I shoot well with it].

More than anything, becoming proficient with a slingshot requires a LOT of practice. Be prepared to invest some time, to lose some shot, and to not be disappointed if proficient skill doesn't immediately come to you. Be patient and persistent!  Become proficient at several distances. I shoot at 21, 30, and 40 foot distances every time I practice.

When choosing a place to practice, you should select an area that allows safe shooting and no chance of a stray shot hitting someone or damaging property.

Also check local laws and ordinances to confirm it is lawful to use a slingshot in your community.

I like to practice at some horseshoe pits in a nearby public park. The pits are situated in a large open field, far from the roadway and picnic areas, and allows a good 360 degree view of the area for safety:

  The horseshoe pit allows a solid backstop.  

You should only shoot against a safe backstop that won't cause a shot to ricochet. For increased safety, I use a piece of carpet hung over the backboard to deaden the impact and greatly reduce chances of a ricochet [ALWAYS REMEMBER: A Sling-shot is very powerful and can cause serious injury!]:

Tin can badly dented by impact of shot. Obviously
Such impact could cause serious injury or even the 
 loss of an eye were the projectile to strike someone.

Care should also be taken to regularly inspect the bands of your slingshot for tears or damage that may result in failure and then injury to you. If the bands appear old or dried out, you should replace them with fresh rubber bands, or a new shot pouch if it is worn or damaged.

Finally, if you do use the slingshot for hunting small game, harvest the animal humanely. Never take a shot unless you are sure you can make a clean kill. If you do take an animal such as a rabbit, clean, cook, and consume it. Killing game animals for the sake of killing is inhumane and completely unacceptable.


1 comment:

  1. I have an old folding wrist rocket style slingshot. It has a steel frame and is fairly heavy for it's size. I would like to upgrade to the much lighter aluminum version of it. I have found a good source of ammo is lead muzzleloader round balls found at most gun shops. The smaller 36 caliber that Hornady makes are a great item. If they are not already coated you can wax coat then to eliminate any lead dust issues when handleing them. double boil melt wax in a No. 10 coffee can. Ues an old steel strained and place about 10 balls at a time in it and dip and pour the wax over the balls and then swirl them around in the strainer until the wax sets up. This same technique can be used with the steel balls to prevent rusting. Another good source for slingshot ammo is shotgun shells. No. 4 buckshot and larger as well as some of the larger sized steel waterfowl shotshells can be taken apart and the pellets used for sling ammo. Additionally the shells can be used for firestarting. Shotshell powder os slow burning and is will light from a spark from a ferro rod. If I am going to carry my slingshot in the woods with me, I'll often drop about 5 shotshells in my pack to go along with it.