Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Slingshot Revolution

While not something I would EDC, there is a new breed of slingshots out there that are every bit the technological marvels that custom flashlights and high end knives are.  Designers, people like Bill Hays over at Pocket Predator, have transformed that staid tool of mischief that accompanied Dennis the Menace over to Mr. Wilson's house, into formidable tools of destruction.  Like with knives and flashlights there are a dedicated core of people around the world innovating and pushing the development of ever more powerful, accurate, and easy to use devices.  Many of these folks frequent  They also tune in to the very informative and entertaining Slingshot Channel on YouTube, hosted by the gregarious Joerg Sprave.  Part Science Channel, part demolition derby, Sprave is a great spokesperson for this new slingshot revolution.  He explains so much physics in such an accessible way, it makes me wonder whether he is a science teacher by day (no fights break out in his class, trust me).

The basics of the slingshot are pretty straightforward.  Like the traditional Dennis the Menace design, modern slingshots are still roughly shaped like a Y.  The two top parts are called the forks.  In some more sophisticated designs there are is an arm brace that helps distribute the pressure across the forearm.  These designs are being replaced however by more ergonomic one piece slingshots that use palm swells, curves, cutouts and different hand positions (placing the grip of the hand much closer to the top of the forks than the Dennis the Menace version) to do the bracing and distribution of pressure.  Also unlike the Dennis the Menace version, modern slingshots have tons of different choices for bands.  There are two main groups--flat bands and three dimensional bands.  Flat band come in two styles: regular flats (like big rubber bands) and tapered flats (with the wider end attached to the forks and the narrower end attached to the pouch).  The three dimensional bands likewise have two types--the traditional medical tubing and square bands.  Tapered flats are typically faster but not as long lasting, which square bands are the toughest but slowest. The last thing you need to understand is the band configuration.  Many modern slingshots use an over the forks (OTF) design, meaning the bans rest on the forks and hurl the ammunition OVER the top of the slingshot.  Other designs, still use a through the forks (TTF) configurations.  The benefits aren't easy to weigh, but an OTF configuration can cause the bands to come back and slap the user's hand after release.  One solution to this problem is Bill Hays's Universal Forks (see the picture below) that allow the user to determine which band configuration they are going to use.  Bill recommends the TTF configuration for both comfort and accuracy, and given his impressive trick shooting ability, I would take is word for it on the accuracy issue. 

Like with knives and flashlights, modern slingshots have also embraced the revolution in materials.  There are G10 version, carbon fiber versions, and how about this acrylic beauty:

Also like knives and flashlights, modern slingshots are made in custom versions as well.  Here is a custom laminate version from one of the finer makers out there Flippin Out Slingshots:

There are also artisan designs--completely all natural slingshots.  Folks find beautiful Ys in nature and fit them with bands ready to fire.

The slingshot world has been changed upside down by innovators and helped along by the Internet, the forums, and YouTube.  It is really fascinating.  I have one on its way from Bill Hays and I will write up more once it arrives and I have plunked a few bottles and cans with it.

Along with the sites referenced above here are some other slingshot sites:

EHS Slingshots
A Plus Slingshots
Bunny Buster Slingshots
Slingshots USA (they also have a forum in addition to the storefront)

1 comment:

  1. I have been following Joerge's channel for a while now, and you are absolutely right. The guy seems to absolutely love life and couldn't be a better ambassador for this aptly named "revolution."

    I remember tooling around with a slingshot as a kid. I'd love to brush up on my skills with a new (and improved) slingshot. It's not a bad skill to have, and it's good clean fun.