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Slingshots

Advanced models can be used for varmint control or as a bait launcher.

By Gibbs Milliken

Homemade slingshots are well known around the world as toys of youth. Only in the past 50 years has this small rubber-powered missile-thrower dramatically changed into a modern target and hunting instrument made and sold commercially in many variations.

No longer are thin-cut rubber strips from old car tire inner tubes used for power bands, but instead slingshots are now made from matching lengths of resilient pure latex surgical tubing. These lightweight, compact catapults can shoot round projectiles of steel or glass for hundreds of yards at speeds up to 170 mph. The energy storage principle is the same as the traditional bow. In fact, many archers use them for practicing sight-free shooting techniques. In the hands of a skilled marksman, they are silent, very accurate and deadly on small varmints.

Many shooters enjoy just roving or target shooting with precision ball-bearing ammunition of either 1/4-inch or 3/8-inch diameters. Also popular are special 1/2-inch white glass tracer marbles that can be followed in flight. Like any kind of instinctive shooting, this is a skill that must be developed with practice, but it is lots of fun and an inexpensive method of developing both quick reflexes and excellent eye/hand coordination.

The most advanced slingshots are very different in design from old Y-shaped wooden frames. Over 50 years ago, two Nebraskan youngsters developed the idea of bending a steel rod into a rigid wide-yoke shape with an extended frame providing arm support to eliminate wrist fatigue. Today, still one of the best designs is the Trumark Folding Slingshot featuring the above concept plus a pistol grip, in-handle ammo storage and foldaway padded arm brace. ($12.95, Trumark Model FS-1, Trumark, 800-878-6272, www.slingshots.com)

The heavy-duty Crosman Fire-storm Slingshot is equipped with a folding arm brace, non-slip molded handle and removable ammo dispenser. This powerful unit is difficult to pull while holding the small shot-pouch with two fingers and requires a strong adult to reach a full draw at the corner of the mouth. In some models, the strength of the rubber power bands can be exchanged for ones with less tensile strength. If a unit is too strong, it will cause fatigue and loss of accuracy. ($12.50, Firestorm Model FSS, Crosman Corporation, 800-724-7486, www.crosman.com)

Fishermen use a specialized Fox Swinghead Method Catapult with an oversize mesh pouch to lob wads of compacted bait far out into lakes and rivers to attract carp and buffalo fish to specific locations. Some bow hunters use this same instrument to place a series of small scent-impregnated pellets to lure game like deer or wild hogs to a tree stand with a waiting archer. ($17.99, Swinghead Catapult, Fox, Big Carp Tackle, 918-331-9047, www.bigcarptackle.com)

For practice, an easy target range can be set up using any cardboard box mounted with a target face and loosely filled with shredded newspaper or a suspended scrap of old carpet hung inside to stop spent ammunition for reshooting. Start practicing at a distance of about 10 feet and gradually extend the range up to 30 feet while maintaining a 4-inch grouping in the target center.

Warning! A hunting slingshot is not a toy. Adult supervision is strongly recommended. Always wear shooters’ protective eyewear. Frequently check for wear and cuts in the rubber power tubes and replace with new ones at the first signs of age or damage. Careless use of these weapons may inflict property damage or serious injury.

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