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Not to be confused with sling (weapon) or catapult.
This article is about the simple handheld weapon. For other uses, see Slingshot (disambiguation).
Simple slingshot

A slingshot (chiefly American), hand catapult (primarily British English), shanghai or ging[a] (chiefly Australia and New Zealand), bean shooter, or flip, is normally a small hand-powered projectile weapon. The term wrist-rocket, sometimes used generically to describe any slingshot, is a registered trademark of Saunders Archery.[1] The classic form consists of a Y-shaped frame held in the off hand, with two rubber strips attached to the uprights. The other ends of the strips lead back to a pocket which holds the projectile. The pocket is grasped by the dominant hand and drawn back to the desired extent to provide power for the projectile (up to a full span of the arms with sufficiently long bands).

History and use[edit]

A 1922 diagram showing the construction of an arrow-firing slingshot.
A folding, steel framed wrist brace slingshot using tubular bands. Marketed by the Riley Kitchen Air Rifle Company.
Modern slingshot with ergonomic grip (center), arm support (left), stabiliser and sight (right).
Protester fires a slingshot during clashes February 18 in Kyiv

Slingshots depend on strong elastic materials, typically vulcanized natural rubber or the equivalent, and thus date back no further than the invention of vulcanized rubber by Charles Goodyear in 1839 (patented in 1844). By 1860, this "new engine" had already established a reputation for juvenile use in vandalism. For much of their early history, slingshots were a "do it yourself" item, typically made from a forked branch to form the "Y" shaped handle, with rubber strips sliced from items as inner tubes or other sources of good vulcanized rubber and firing suitably sized stones.

While early slingshots were most associated with young vandals, they were also capable hunting arms in the hands of a skilled user. Firing metallic projectiles, such as lead musket balls, buckshot, steel ball bearings, air gun pellets, or small nails, slingshot was capable of taking game such as quail, pheasant, rabbit, dove, and squirrel. Placing multiple balls in the pouch produces a shotgun effect, such as firing a dozen BBs at a time for hunting small birds. With the addition of a suitable rest, the slingshot can also be used to fire arrows, allowing the hunting of medium-sized game at short ranges.[2][3][4]

While commercially made slingshots date back to at least 1918, with the introduction of the Zip-Zip, a cast iron model,[5] it was not until the post World War II years saw a surge in the popularity, and legitimacy, of slingshots. They were still primarily a home-built proposition; a 1946 Popular Science article details a slingshot builder and hunter using home-built slingshots made from forked dogwood sticks to take small game at ranges of up to 30' with No. 0 lead buckshot (.32 in., 8 mm diameter).[6]

The Wham-O company, founded in 1948, was named after their first product, the Wham-O slingshot. It was made of ash wood and used flat rubber bands. The Wham-O was suitable for hunting with a draw weight of up to 45 pounds force (200 newtons), and was available with an arrow rest.[2][7]

The 1940s also saw the creation of the National Slingshot Association, headquartered in San Marino, California, which organised slingshot clubs and competitions nationwide. Despite the slingshot's reputation as a tool of juvenile delinquents, the NSA reported that 80% of slingshot sales were to men over 30 years old, many of them professionals. John Milligan, a part-time manufacturer of the aluminium-framed John Milligan Special, a hunting slingshot, reported that about a third of his customers were physicians.[7]

The middle 1950s saw two major innovations in slingshot manufacture, typified by the Wrist-Rocket Company of Columbus, Nebraska, later renamed Trumark. The Wrist-Rocket was made from bent steel rods that formed not only the handle and fork, but also a brace that extended backwards over the wrist, and provided support on the forearm to counter the torque of the bands. The Wrist-Rocket also used rubber tubing rather than flat bands, which was attached to the backwards-facing fork ends by sliding over the tips of the forks, where it was held by friction.[8]

Slingshots are also occasionally used in angling to disperse bait into the water over a wide area, so that multiple fish are attracted near the angler's fishing rod.

Military use[edit]

Slingshots have been used as a military weapon, but primarily by guerrilla forces due to the primitive resources and technology required to construct one. Such guerrilla groups included the Irish Republican Army; prior to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Saddam Hussein released a propaganda video demonstrating slingshots as a possible insurgency weapon for use against invading forces.[9]

Slingshots have also been used by the military to launch unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Two crew members form the fork, with an elastic cord stretched between them to provide power to launch the small aircraft.[10]


A tubular band slingshot showing a band failure at the fork.
The ball-in-band attachment method used by the recalled Daisy "Natural" line of slingshots.

One of the dangers inherent in slingshots is the high probability that the bands will fail. Most bands are made from latex, which degrades with time and use, causing the bands to eventually fail under load.[4][11] Failures at the pouch end are safest, as they result in the band rebounding away from the user. Failures at the fork end, however, send the band back towards the shooter's face, which can cause injuries.[12] One method to minimize the chance of a fork-end failure is to utilize a tapered band, thinner at the pouch end, and thicker and stronger at the fork end.[13] Designs that use loose parts at the fork are the most dangerous, as they can result in those parts being propelled back towards the shooters face, such as the ball attachment used in the recalled Daisy "Natural" line of slingshots, shown at right. The band could slip out of the slot it rested in, and the hard ball in the tube resulted in cases of blindness and broken teeth. Daisy models using plain tubular bands were not covered in the recall, because the elastic tubing itself does not cause severe injuries upon failure.[12]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Corruption of a Scottish term; see shanghai.


  1. ^ Wrist-Rocket, Saunders Archery: United States Patent and Trademark Office.
  2. ^ a b Wham-O Hunting Slingshot. Wham-O Manufacturing Co. 1963. 
  3. ^ "How to Make a Slingshot for an Arrow". Illustrated World (R. T. Miller Jr.) 37 (1): 318. March 1922. 
  4. ^ a b "Mel" Melchior. "Rubber Bands". 
  5. ^ "Mel" Melchior. "The ZipZip". 
  6. ^ Tom Cushing (August 1946). "Rubber-Band Sharpshooter". Popular Science: 154–155. 
  7. ^ a b Robert Hertzberg (April 1951). "Return of the Giant Killer". Mechanix Illustrated. 
  8. ^ Trumark Manufacturing Co. "History of Slingshots/Catapults". 
  9. ^ Shane, Scott (2006-11-24). "In Video, Hussein Uses Slingshots and Bows to Rally Iraqis for War". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-12-21. 
  10. ^ Tech. Sgt. Paul Dean (April 5, 2011). "Security Forces Unmanned Aerial Vehicles". Air Force News Service. 
  11. ^ Melchior Menzel. "Attaching the bands to the frame". 
  12. ^ a b U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. "Slingshots Recalled by Daisy Manufacturing Due to Risk of Serious Eye Injury". 
  13. ^ Melchior Menzel. "Attaching the pouch to the bands". 

External links[edit]