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A Brief History of The Sling - Chris Harrison

The origin of the sling is unknown. It seems to have developed independently worldwide. The concept is simple enough. Once people started throwing rocks (or other simple projectiles) as weapons, the sling was introduced as an extension of the arm for greater mechanical advantage. There are many references to slings in historical documents. Most people know the story of David and Goliath. The Romans were the first civilization to effectively use slingers in large formations in their armies, but they were used by the Sumerians , Assyrians, and Egyptians as well. As bows and arrows were expensive to supply to thousands of troops. Slings were used to give Roman reserve troops a cheap long-range weapon. They used (American) football shaped lead projectiles that could supposedly pierce armor.

In general, the sling is a hard weapon to master, and because of this, few armies used the sling to the same extent as the bow or crossbow (when the were developed). Slings were used outside of the military as hunting weapons as well. There are documents describing bands of hunters killing big game with slings. Often they would use rocks from riverbeds, as they were more spherical and smooth. The slings' use as a weapon started to dwindle in the Middle Ages because of advances in bow and crossbow design. The longbow and crossbow became increasingly accurate, out-ranged the sling, and provided more accuracy for less training. With the advent of firearms, non-gunpowder weapons became obsolete.

As the memories of simpler times faded away, people started using these older weapons as hobbies, as you can see with the popularity of archery today. Slinging remains a popular pastime in many countries today, especially in Mediterranean and Pacific islands. The last official use of the sling in war was by the allies in World War I to lob grenades.


- Chris Harrison

© 2007