Friday, September 7, 2012

Slingshots in ancient times?

As some of you may know I specialize in slingshots, and rubber based weapons. Now vulcanized rubber wasn't invented before the mid 1800's.

What did the Dennis the Menace kind of boys used before Mr. Goodyear's useful invention?

Well, we know about the "David Sling", and the related throwing sticks. But these weapons require lots of practice. No problem for sheppards, but what did the offspring of an urban Roman/medieval family use when he was up for shenanigans?

Torsion based weapons, using twisted rope, were clearly well known back then.

So it is likely that toy sized versions were made, too.

I want to find out if a handheld slingshot, based on twisted rope rather than rubber bands, is feasible. Of course it needs to fire rocks and lead/steel balls, and of course it has to be somewhat accurate.

I bought some 4mm hemp rope and tested the concept - it works! I chose an inswinger design for power and a larger swing angle. The hemp rops is very unelastic, and the swing has to be limited to about 90 degrees. If I go above, the draw gets too strong at the end of the motion. Keep in mind no trigger and no stock. Just a very wide fork with the rope casings at the end.

Should be interesting!


  1. No Thera-Bands? Joerg, how could you?

  2. if i lived back then, i would've tried animal tendons for this concept

  3. Animal tendons when dried out would have been what is called sinew. They are very steong when used with hide glue as a backing for primitive self bows. I would be afraid though that since they beckme brittle when dried alone that they would not have worked unless twisted into a 2-3 ply twine and then made into a rope bundle. They just have no elasticity once they are not a "living" tendon.

  4. I guess sinew and hemp ropes have both been used for such weapons.

  5. Smart invention Joerg. Really creative, hopefully you could improve it even more so it will be stronger and better.

    Btw, if anyones interested in Slings, I have a blog about it.

    Greetings from!

  6. ballistas of the times used twisted ropes to propell bolts...
    i made a mini ballista a year or so ago just to see if this concept would work scaled down... it wasnt a handheld one, i designed it to sit on a desk and shoot cocktail sticks... it was about the size of the palm of my hand... it would launch a cocktail stick across the room with quite some force... scale that up slightly, add a handle and i see this being a very pheasable project

  7. Hi I am working on a movie about the 1821 Greek independence. What type of slingshot would have been around at that time and place? If you know that would be a big help. Thanks