When I was a child, my father made me my first slingshot. It was underpowered by most standards since it was constructed of rubber bands linked together but to me it was awesome. I shot little pebbles with it in the backyard and it created a monster inside me. As years went on, this monster continued to use slingshots but sought out more powerful models and better projectiles. To this day, I have to feed this monster and practice on a regular basis or it gets hangry. You see, slingshots are always fun and they are fun for all ages.
Some of you may have never used one before and this article will serve as a primer for getting started. You’ll find carrying one in your back pocket like Denis the Menace or in your pack will be worthwhile as plinking opportunities present themself all the time. Beyond the entertainment or sporting aspect of shooting slingshots, you’ll find they are an excellent hunting tool should the need arise. No matter what filter you view slingshots with, they are awesome. Here’s what you need to know.
My father always harped on safety when I was just a kid using my slingshots in the backyard. Hell, even to this day, whenever I see him I get the typical “dad speech” on what I do and how not to get hurt along the way.
Slingshots are relatively safe but there are some basic considerations you should keep in mind. Like a firearm, you want to mind your backstop. Make sure you know where your shot will travel and how far it can travel.
Another issue is ricochet. Shooting at targets that will bounce your shot back at you is not wise. Therefore don’t shoot at trees or the broad side of a barn. Another issue is slingshot band breakage.
The eye protection you should have put on to protect from ricochets serves double duty. A simple pair of safety glasses from the hardware store is all you need. Last but not least, don’t shoot at any people or animals. You could hurt them, or worse, make them mad and then the fur will fly.
My first slingshot was a forked branch from a tree in the backyard and some rubber bands. Over the years, I upgraded to tubular band slingshots and eventually to flat bands. You can make your own slingshot or you can purchase a commercially made version. Make sure you match your slingshot to your level.
While the tendency is there to buy the biggest and baddest, a simple slingshot with appropriate draw weight (how easy/hard it is to pull the bands back) will give you the fundamentals.
While I learned to shoot with pebbles, I’d recommend investing in quality ammunition and learning how to reuse it with an appropriate backstop (more on this later.) Stainless steel ball bearings, lead shot, marbles, and clay are all popular.
One thing to consider, you can always shoot any size and weight ammo out of any draw-weight band but there is a perfect match between the band and the ammo used. Too heavy of a projectile and too light a band is not preferable just as too light a projectile and too heavy a band. DON’T LITTER- ALWAYS PICK UP YOUR AMMO WHEN YOU ARE DONE.
If you can, do some research and look to see what the manufacturer recommends for the slingshot you purchase. When you get your slingshot squared away, think of how you will need to maintain it should a band break. Purchasing spare bands is a wise idea and will ensure your target practice will continue on in the field should a mishap occur. Last but not least, a decent ammo pouch makes sense.
A Good Target/Backstop
One of the great aspects of the slingshot is the wide variety of targets that can be used. From the homemade shooting gallery to the arbitrary and solitary leaf hanging from a branch that stands out from the terrain, you have so many options for targets.
Old soda cans, plastic “army men”, plastic cups, paper plates, potential targets are endless. Fill up some dixie cups with colored water or paint for a reactive target.
With a small length of string and some creativity, you can create swinging targets to add movement to your shooting gallery.
Whatever you use as targets, make sure you know where your shot goes if you miss or if the ammunition passes through the target with a surplus of velocity.
A simple backstop can be made with a wool blanket or small section of carpet draped over the inside of a cardboard box. The benefit of setting up a backstop is the ability to reuse your ammunition once you collect it from where it will pool up.
Ideally, you will want to have someone versed in using a slingshot to guide you through the use of one. However, you may be a lone wolf or be the first in your group of friends to show interest in this pastime. If this sounds like you, you’ll first need to know which eye is dominant.
Extend your hands in front of you and form a small triangle with your thumbs and forefingers, look through the triangle at a distant object with both eyes open. Close one eye. If you can still see the object with the open eye, that’s your dominant eye. This will translate into how you hold a slingshot.
If you are right handed, you will hold the slingshot handle with your left hand (shooting hand) and pull the band back with your right. If you are lefty, you will hold the slingshot with your right hand and pull the band back with your left.
A few pointers to achieve greater accuracy. Place your slingshot ammunition in the same spot on the pouch each time. Make sure you have the bands attached equal distance apart and ensure there is the same length of band on each side of the pouch going back to the arms (fork) of the slingshot.
When you draw the bands back, keep the shooting hand wrist locked strong and prevent the slingshot from canting or pulling backward. Also, pull the slingshot pouch to the same location each time. This is often referred to as your anchor point.
For me, I draw the band underneath my eye at the corner of my mouthwith my thumbnail. I tend to turn my wrist slightly to look down my slingshot bands as a sighting device. The key to good accuracy is consistency.
If you can create more consistencies and eliminate more inconsistencies, you’ll be able to fine tune and adjust your accuracy. This is why using pebbles as ammo is problematic since they are highly inconsistent.
Slingshots can be fun and they can be challenging. You can use yourself as the ultimate metric. Challenge yourself. How accurate can you be? Test your skills attempting to make 5 out of 5 shots. How quickly can you shoot 5 shots? Another test is “long range”. As you find hits at 10 yards simple, push it back another 5 yards then 5 more and keep going. When you find the art of the slingshot soothing and want to raise the stress level, teach a friend to use one and go head to head against targets downrange.
There is nothing like the stress of working against another human being to induce it. Eventually, learn to make your own slingshot in the field with just a spare slingshot band, forked tree branch, saw, and some cordage. Learn to shoot double banded slingshots or try to shoot with your non-dominant hand.
Throw a target in the air and hit it with your slingshot before it hits the ground. Help disperse dandelion seeds or punch holes in the cans you find on trails. If you couldn’t tell, there is no shortage of what you can do with a little creativity.
Keep in mind, slingshots are also used for hunting all around the globe if you ever decided to go down that path. You have so many options and possibilities. Make sure to pack one on your next adventure and as always, Live Wild, Wise and Free !