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How to Build a DIY Slingshot
Slingshots have been a part of childhood for many years. They are often a boy’s first projectile weapon, used to terrorize tin cans and “accidentally” break windows.
Do not let the nostalgia of childhood deceive you, a good slingshot in the right hands can be a powerful tool.
There are few feelings more primal than stalking in the woods with a weapon you have made yourself, hunting food for the evening. With a quiet release and a thud, the rabbit falls over dead, and lunch can be prepared.
Knowing how to make a slingshot can be the potential difference between starvation and survival. Plus, those uppity tin cans still need to be terrorized.
What is a Slingshot?
Ammunition is inserted into the pouch, the pouch is pulled back, then upon release the force from the elastic is transferred into the ammunition which flies on its way.
Far from being a boy’s toy, a slingshot can be a deadly weapon. With strong bands and heavy ammunition, a slingshot can kill small animals such as rabbits and squirrels with one strike, and will cause injury or even a fatality if a person is struck.
Be careful, and pay attention to your local laws if they apply to your situation. Respect your weapon.
Why You Need a Slingshot
A good friend of mine has lived in the woods of Alaska, just outside of town, for over a week at a time. The only weapon he had taken with him was a slingshot he had made himself.
Using the slingshot, he fed himself and even defended himself when confronted by some unruly persons.
Slingshots make wonderful emergency weapons. They are small and light. Practice is fun and does not require a large range (though you still want to have a safe backstop—watch for ricochets!).
Being small, they are easy to maneuver with in the woods. Legally they’re one of the least regulated weapons, though I hear New York has banned slingshots with wrist braces. Make sure to check your local laws.
While both cheap and expensive commercial slingshots exist, tournaments have been won and game taken with simple slingshots made out a branch.
So even if you do not have a slingshot on you (or in your bug out bag), it is not difficult to make one in an emergency situation.
How to Make a Hunting Slingshot Out of Wood
Here’s everything you need to make your own slingshot out of wood. You should be able to easily find all of these materials, either outside or in your junk drawer.
Y shaped branch
This wood will form the frame of your slingshot. The branch should be comfortably thick, at least the width of your thumb if not larger.
The total length will end up around eight inches from top to bottom with the fork in the middle.
Avoid any cracks or knots, they will weaken the frame.
Hardwoods are superior to softwoods, as we do not want the handle to bend. Maple is a great choice.
Anything long and stretchy will work in a pinch, but the stretchier the better.
Rubber bands will suffice for practice but may not be strong enough for hunting. Surgical tubing is recommended for serious homemade slingshots. You can buy (often overpriced) premade slingshot bands.
If you are scrounging for materials, bicycle tire tubing is a good choice.
Different types of bands (surgical tubing, bike tire tubing, rubber bands, etc) will have different characteristics; this choice is where the most experimentation comes into play.
The string is just used to hold certain parts together, so all you need is a small diameter string (though larger than sewing thread). Dental floss can also work.
Leather is the number one choice of material to use for a slingshot pouch. However, heavy cloth will work as well, or even a flexible yet strong plastic.
We will talk about ammunition more in-depth in a later article, but for now, keep in mind that some good and easy to acquire ammunition includes glass marbles, steel balls, and stones off of the ground.
Try to choose smooth stones. Larger stones tend to fly better because of their mass.
Steps to Build
1. Prepare the wood
First we will need to get a frame for everything else to hang off of. Other types of frames will be discussed later, but for now, head out into your local woods and look for a branch which forks into a nice Y shape.
As mentioned before, you want a hardwood branch that is at least eight inches long and at least as large as your thumb. The wood can be fallen wood or off of a tree.
If you take a branch off of a tree, try to be respectful and only do so if it is absolutely required.
Now we need to remove the moisture from the wood. If you use wet wood, then the frame will bend when pulled, and that robs a lot of energy from the slingshot.
There are three main methods you can use to dry out the wood.
The most simple is to put the branch in safe spot, covered to protect it from the rain, and let it sit for a year. Does that sound like a lot of waiting? I think so too, so let’s look at the other methods.
You can dry the branch next to a source of heat. A campfire will work well. A stove used for heating will also work, but more slowly. Place the branch next to the source of heat (not close enough to catch on fire, mind you), and let it dry.
This will take anywhere from several hours up to a full day of drying.
The easiest method also requires some technology, so this might be a good method for making practice slingshots. Take your branch, wrap it in a towel (not a paper towel), and microwave it on high for 30 seconds.
Let the branch cool for a minute (else your microwave will become a wood fire stove), then nuke it again. Once the branch stops hissing, all of the moisture has evaporated and the wood is dry.
2. Turn the branch into a frame
Now we want to trim the branch so that it is of the appropriate length. Going off of the center of the fork, the handle should be four inches long and each fork should be four inches long.
Use a saw rather than breaking off the wood. We want the ends to be smooth. This also keeps the wood from splitting.
About a quarter of an inch down from the top of the fork ends, use a knife to create a V shaped notch around the frame. This will help hold the bands in place later.
If you like, remove the bark from the branch. This will make the handle smoother and more comfortable. You can also trim down any imperfections and sand the frame for an even more comfortable experience.
3. Prepare the bands
We want two pieces of elastic of the same length. A good starting point for their length is to use the frame as a guide and cut each piece so it is as long as the frame.
It will take some trial and error to figure out the best length of elastic you want for your slingshot. Shortening the bands will increase the power behind the shot, but will require more force to pull and can potentially break weak frames.
Make sure the two bands are the same length!
4. Prepare the pouch
Take your leather (or strong cloth) and cut it into a rectangular, octagonal, or oval shape. It should be several inches wide but only about an inch tall. Trimming the ends of a rectangle to form an octagon will help the pouch cup the ammunition better.
Then cut a slit or hole about a quarter inch from either side of the pouch so you can attach the band to the pouch.
5. Put it all together
Take one band, wrap it around the notch on the frame, then tightly tie the band to itself. Repeat on the other side of the frame with the other band.
Do the same with the pouch; bring the band through the hole or slit, double back, then tightly tie the band to itself. Repeat with the other band.
Congratulations! You have a slingshot. The main difference between a hunting slingshot and a toy slingshot is you, the sling shooter. Practice makes perfect, so get out there and show those tin cans who’s boss.
Just make sure to check the bands before every use, you don’t want a cracked band breaking on you.
Upgrading Your Hunting Slingshot
There are a few things you can do take the basic slingshot and make it even better. None of these upgrades are required, but they can be helpful.
Board Cut Frame
Rather than using a tree branch, you can cut the frame out of boards. A good thing to keep in mind is that the wood grain in the boards can be weaker than a found branch, so make the frame thicker and ensure that the grain goes from top to bottom.
However, if you are woodworker, this type of frame can let your creativity flow.
A thick wire frame is both very strong and very lightweight. Most commercial slingshots have a wire frame for this reason.
You can bend your own metal as well. Just make sure to cushion the handle area.
When you release the slingshot, the bands have to accelerate both the ammunition and the pouch.
Any weight in the pouch will slow the projectile. Minimizing the size of the pouch can increase velocity.
Punching holes in the pouch can help by both lightening the pouch and decreasing air resistance.
Also, a hole in the very middle of the pouch can help with centering the ammunition consistently, though you want to ensure it is smaller than the diameter of the ammunition you will use.
A quiet, deadly weapon that flies under the radar and is also a fun toy you can make at home. A slingshot truly fulfills a large number of criteria for being a good choice for hobbyists and people concerned about emergencies.
Practice making a few slingshots now, and you will have no trouble if you need to make or use such a weapon in the woods.