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Slinging for Accuracy - Leon Robadey

With over a 30,000-year heritage the sling, time and time again, has proved itself to be an effective ballistic device. Its far-reaching use into antiquity can primarily be explained by its simplicity in form and consistent functionality. Whether pitted against the average dodging mammal, or flailed out towards an anticipant military unit, the simplistic nature of the device often belies its effectiveness and accuracy.

Compared to the modern hunters regalia of bambie blasters, the sling is often unduly characterized as an archaic device unwarranted of attention or use. Admittedly, the sling does lack aesthetic appeal, showcasing no polished wood or slick trigger. While its plain character does play a factor in its unpopularity, the main reason for its lack of continued use is the sharp nature of the learning curve. The sling, initially, is very difficult to employ and it takes a healthy dose of devotion to gain accurate usage.

When using the sling, the dilemma that most people face is accuracy. To attain accurate throws, the slinger must pay careful attention to bullet weight and shape, the speed and angle of rotation, and most importantly, the exact moment of release. To gain reliable accuracy, a technique must be worked out that considers all of these factors.

At a basic level, technique minimizes randomness. It allows for a pattern of consistency that, with careful attention, can be tweaked until accuracy is attained. With slinging, technique is often categorized by the type of throw (the angle and direction of sling rotation). When deciding on a base technique, most people go with what they feel comfortable with, and what gives them results. Some people favor the overhead (helicopter) rotation and release. Others favor the baseball and softball-esque throws.

It should be noted that no one technique is the “best” or “right” technique. Every person has a different body and sling to deal with. Thus, what works for some will not work for others.

The key to finding your individual technique is experimentation. Try everything you can think of. If you think that it will help to stand upside down to gain accuracy, ignore the blood rushing to your head and give it a go! Just remember to pay attention to what happens. Experimentation is only useful coupled with adaptation.

Another means of learning good sling technique is by observing those who have mustered good technique of their own.

On a more personal note, after a good deal of experimentation I have found a technique that allows for accurate and powerful short range throws that would lend well to hunting and target practice.

When I first started slinging, I was faced with the dilemma of not having a spot to sling; I live right smack in the middle of a city and I often have to travel thirty minutes out to my parent’s rural home to practice. After a bit of hiking and sneaking around in a state park nearby, I found a nice little meadow off the beaten trail. At the center of the meadow is a very large aged oak tree. Having such a wide trunk, I thought that it would make a perfect backdrop for my throws. And so it did.

For a target, I set up a crushed tin can on a log at the base of the tree. At the time, I was more interested in practicing short distance powerful sling throws as opposed to distance slinging. Across the meadow there is a large field, and I admit to taking a few long distance throws out of curiosity. With my lack of ammo, however, I soon had to go back to the meadow where it was easier to retrieve that which I threw.

From the beginning the sling type that I felt most comfortable with was the overhead counter clockwise release. I would rotate my sling overhead until I felt comfortable, then release at my intended target. The major problem that I had with this technique was consistency. Eighty-percent of my throws would veer to the left of my target. While they were landing in the woods in roughly the same spot, it certainly wasn’t where I wanted my ammo to go.

With much practice, experimentation and adaptation, I worked the quarks out. Here is the technique I have found to give me the most accuracy and power.

My stance is rather much like the basic martial arts readiness position: Body facing east of my target with my feet at more or less a 45 degree angles. My sling arm lies ready shaped much like an L, with pocket resting just above the ground. I point my free left hand, balling up my fist, at the target (I’m not sure why, I just feel more balanced and it helps me focus). When I’m ready, I begin to swing my sling, starting in the resting position it travels over my head counter-clockwise. As I’m near completion of the first full rotation, I step forward with my right back foot towards my target. With this step, I swing the sling around for the second (and last) rotation. I have found that stepping forward and rotating my hips with the release will increase the momentum of the bullet. Now for the strange part: at the end of the second rotation, I arc my sling arm towards the ground with kind of an under hand sling. When my hand is facing palm up, and slightly to the right of my target, I release!

This picture highlights the location of the can. It's hard to see in the video until it tumbles down the slope.
Thus far, this technique has led too much more accurate throws. I am able to hit a tin soda can fairly consistently at about 10 yards (this may not sound very like very far but a tin can is a pretty small thing from that distance). If you were interested in hunting in thick forest or brush, I would also advocate that you practice the baseball or softball throw. It is fairly impossible to rotate a sling horizontally if you are surrounded by trees. Swinging vertically can be much more advantageous.

Again, the method that I explained above may not work for you. Stick with what you feel comfortable with. Utilize what works, discard what doesn’t. Above all else, ignore you initial frustration and have fun. With resignation, you will be impressing the bowman, gunman, or casual observer in no time!

- Leon Robadey

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© 2007