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The Sling!

Last updated: April 2003

The sling is a fascinating weapon!

It has been around for thousands of years! It can hurl a half pound rock 100 yards with relative ease. Some slings were designed to throw rocks of twice that weight even further. A good slinger can hit something the size of a human head at 40 yards, even 60 yards without too much difficulty. While no longer an effective weapon of war, it remains an excellent hunting device in the hands of a skilled user.

Of all the throwing weapons we've discussed, the sling is one of the most extreme in terms of its relative advantages and disadvantages.

  • Cheap, easy to make. Can be made of many common materials. By far the easiest throwing-assist weapon to make.
  • Long range. The sling is the second longest range throwing weapon there is, the only one exceeding it being the modern (not the ancient) atlatl.
  • Ammunition (rocks) is often plentiful and costs nothing.
  • A true hunting weapon in skilled hands. Also good for defending oneself or one's flocks from animal predators - dogs, wolves, big cats, etc.
  • Disadvantages:
  • Steep learning curve. The sling may be the easiest weapon to make, but it is probably the most difficult to learn to use effectively.
  • Unuseable in heavy forest or brush where branches can snag it in motion. Can not be deployed from cover with full effectiveness.
  • Can not be quickly deployed. This makes it unsuitable as a weapon of self defense against human adversaries that come upon one unexpectedly.
  • Slings were introduced on the thrower mailing list in Feb. of 1996. I began playing with one I made myself out of materials I had easily at hand in my house. Here is a diagram, in ascii, of what I did, and a short description of the tie off between the cords and the pouch. The pouch itself was a simple piece of leather about 2 inches wide by 7 inches long. I punched holes in the ends as shown in the diagram below to tie the pouch to the release and retension cords. The loop in the retention cord is just a simple loop of the cord tied off with two half hitches, making it easy to tighten and loosen it around the finger.

                      |    x                     x    |
      X=========//====| x                           x |=====//===========O
                      |    x                     x    |
                      |-------------------------------|  retension shank with
      release node.                                      loop on end. Same 
      2' - 3' long      rectangular leather strip      length as release node.
                            2" x 7" aprox.
    Cord is long shoelace, or parachute cord, or any appropriate nylon or other
    line. 'x' represents a hole punched in the leather of the pouch material.
    Each side is tied separately. 
    Cord comes up through apex hole, over to hole at bottom and through. Then
    under the pouch material to hole on top, up, and back over and down the apex
    hole. Note that the cord goes through the apex hole two times, so it  will
    have to be a little bigger. Each side of the pouch is tied in the same way. 
    The cord can then be tied off to itself on each side with any suitable 
    knot. The hangman's noose has been suggested for the task. After the lines 
    are tied off, if you pull them in opposite directions they will cinch up
    the ends of the leather strip and form a longitudinal concavity, a perfect
    pouch. If you can find, or cut, a pouch that is a little more oval in
    shape, so much the better.
    A Word About AMMUNITION

    Rocks are the most common sling ammo, and they are usually plentiful. Begin with something heavy, maybe a half pound or so (200g) as the weight helps to signal where the sling pouch is by dragging more on your arm and helping to force the arm to follow the pouch which is what you want to do in the release stroke. Once you get the hang of it, you can move to lighter ammo that travels faster and farther.

    Rocks are also dangerous however. If you slip up it is easy to send a your missle in the wrong direction, so try to find a place where an accidental mis-release won't hurt people, animals, or property. I have found an interesting alternative ammunition that is pretty harmless no matter how hard it is thrown. I am lucky enough to have access to a syringe and needle as my wife is a nurse. I took some old but otherwise un-torn tennis balls and injected them with water. They take about 45ccs, and that makes them heavy enough to be thrown, but they decelerate rapidly. If you aren't related to a medical person and otherwise have no access to needles, try to buy one from a local addict!

    Further Reading

    There is a book on the subject if anyone is interested in more information. There is also this interesting story from a former soldier in the Israelie Army. Here are some non-local discussion threads edited from various emails and other sources about this ancient weapon, and a few posts by members of the thrower list about sling braiding, and sling ammunition. Jim Burdine's page has great information and some good looking work to view. Over here STONE SLINGS has home made slings for sale.

    Jim Burdine macrames and braids slings out of many materials. Contact him with that link, or see his web site for details and prices. STONE SLINGS, is a commercially oriented site, but has some good essays and other information (see his links page) Seth does make some nice looking slings. The braided ones look like Jim's excellent work above.

    A new site in 2003, check out SLINGING.ORG and see what you think.

    Here you can read about a variation called the staff sling, and there is another essay on this just below. Last, but certainly not least is a marvelous sling page with some big pictures from Ted Bailey


    Date: Sun, 15 Jun 1997 22:23:23 -0400
    From: James K Sinha (
    Subject: staff sling option

    on a normal staff sling, you can only go back 180 degrees there is a way around it

    yes my design works, and it has consistenty accurate behavior with practice, of course. i can throw at least 3 times farther than a hand throw, i've only had this thing for 3 days, with more practice i'd bet it'll go much farther

    to make my staffsling i used an old 1 meter hockey stick

    i took an eyehook woodscrew thingy and screwed it into the flat part of the stick about 1 inch from the top. you want to make sure that the "eye" ends up "looking" up and down the shaft

    i used some thin rope the length of the stick plus some 36 inches. put the rope through the eyehook so that there is just enough rope below to meet the length of the entire stick make a knot just above the eyehook (i'll call the top of the stick the end with the eyehook), do this so that when you pull back, the rope stops

    tie one end of your sling pouch (big enough 4 a baseball) to the rope (the part that's hanging off the stick!)

    take rope#2 and tie it to the other end of your sling pouch then with the other end of rope #2 lash it to your stick just below the eyehook so that when you hold the stick bottom end up, your pouch will hold the baseball (that is, your ropes should be about equal length from the top end of the stick.

    how to use it: grab the stick with your right hand. place your right thumb on the trailing rope to keep it from sliding out and dropping your ball. if you want, you can place your left hand below your right hand on the stick, for more leverage. start way back, dont let pouch touch ground, and overhead swing, lift right thumb to release ball.

    you could swing the whole thing around and around over your head with one hand to build up speed before release, but because it is a sideways throw, who knows where it will go? without practice

    i like to make a little loop with the trailing rope using a bowline knot (the one w/ the bunny around the tree) i find it's more comfortable to hold

    the length of the stick you should use is proportional to your strength, the higher the strength, the longer the stick

    if the ball keeps hitting the ground, make rope longer if ball keeps going too skyward, shorten rope you can also vary timing of release to change angle

    Mail to mjr, goto survival, knives, or back to knife throwing

    This page is part of the official ARCHIVE COPY of the pioneering but abandoned Thrower website on knife throwing. Copyright and details