I wrote a bit about how the world of slingshots had changed since the days of Dennis the Menace here. One of the people leading the revolution is a guy from Texas named Bill Hays. He runs a site called Pocket Predator where he sells his designs direct to the public. Hays had been making slingshots for a while and has a line of basic designs and can make many of them or mods of them with a custom level finish. They run from a very accessible $20 up to, well, as much as you want to spend. Some of the more amazing designs were shown in original slingshot post.
Hays is not just a maker of slingshots, he is probably one of the finest shots in the world, doing many of the famous "trick shots" from turn of the century Western shows, but with a slingshot instead of a gun. He can tear a card in half, shooting it through the edge, from a good distance away. He can even do the legendary shot from Winchester '73 (a great movie starring Jimmy Stewart, if you haven't seen it; Herb Parsons made the through the coin shot in the film). Here is Hays doing the same, but with a slingshot (video from his site):
I had to decide which of his designs I wanted to try out and since I was already going into uncharted territory, I thought I may as well go full bore and try something COMPLETE unique. Among his designs, the Hathcock Target Sniper (HTS) is perhaps the most unique looking and it is, according to Bill (and my experience) easy to shoot.
Bill is something of a slingshot advocate and it is easy to see why once you handle one of his set ups. He sees it as an easy, entry level device for people that want to try out shooting sports and hunting. He is also a proponent of slingshots as primitive, emergency hunting devices capable of taking small game (he has a few shots on his site of things like birds, rabbits, and even a snake). I am not much of a hunter, but the 13 year old boy in me still likes watching targets go boom. As an entry level device, the HTS is perfect. Here is a picture of the slingshot all by itself:
Hays's designs are real stand outs, even among the newer style slingshots. Their ergonomics-first approach makes them something like the Spyderco knives of the slingshot world. They look dramatically different than what you think a slingshot looks like. First, unlike the traditional slingshot, Bill's designs are designed to be shot turned on their side ("side shooting style"). This makes them much easier to use, distributing the pressure across your forearm in a more comfortable way. It also makes them easier to aim. Here is a shot of the slingshot in my mitts:
Unlike a traditional slingshot, where you have to aim through the forks (the two top parts of the Y), you can site down groove on the top fork in many of Bill's designs. He also designed what he calls the "universal fork". In the slingshot world there are four types of bands: flat bands, flat tapered bands, round tubes, and square bands. Each type has its advantages and disadvantages, but Bill's slingshots allow the user to choose which ever they prefer. The universal forks also allow the user to determine which firing configuration they want--over the top or through the forks. One other thing about Bill's designs they are actually quite small. He really means it when he calls them "Pocket" Predators. Here is a picture of the HTS next to my well-loved Benchmade Mini Grip:
The HTS is made of a resin material and it is very, very tough. Even where the Y narrows it is still rock solid. Wrenching back on the bands before a shot produces no flex in the shape. Plus, this thing can really take a hit. Bill's site has a video of him blasting the slingshot with no real effect. The bands are very, very well attached and the leather pouch is nice. I want to get faster shooting ammo one after another, but I think that is just an issue of practice. If you have a few bucks to spare and want to try something different, go see Bill and his slingshots. Even if you aren't a hunter, they are a ton of fun.