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Fifty-Second Bullets - Mark Findlay

I have been a slinger for thirty years now. My first, and only source of information was a picture of David from the bible. Since that time I have been steadily improving my slings and made dozens of styles trying to improve my accuracy. Only in the last three years have I been experimenting with making my own ammo. After experimenting with many different systems of production I have arrived at a way to make very consistent sixty gram cement balls in less than fifty seconds. This time includes painting and cleanup. Now my slings are made to fit my ammo and I have seen dramatic improvement in accuracy.

First you need to make some tools: The channel is a piece of tin that was bent around a piece of wood to form a channel, and glued to another piece of wood for stability; one end is blocked with a small piece of wood. Then I made a small cookie cutter-like tool out of stronger, thicker steel. The cutter fits inside the channel snugly but is a 1/8 inch taller to let the excess cement squeeze out the top. Then you need a chunk of foam egg crate to rest them on, a bowl, rubber gloves and a spray bottle.

Next mix a small batch of cement: I mix enough for between 75-80 bullets (any more than that and I start to get tired). Make sure the cement you use has no aggregate. I like the mortar type, small grains are best. It’s important to mix the cement to the correct consistency. This is something you have to feel, and it may take you a few batches to get what I mean. You may need to give it an occasional spray with water to keep it moist enough, or add a little dust to it, to dry it up.

Then jam cement in the channel starting at the blocked end and compacting toward it, taking care not to leave air pockets. Now use the cutter to cut a small square. Each cube must be made of compacted cement, or it will be the wrong weight or crumble as you try to roll it. Don’t lift out the cutter, but rather slide it out the free end of the channel. Now you roll them between your hands, a tiny spray of water on your palm will help to melt the corners. You need to be very gentle -- a full 15 second roll with almost no pressure will round it just enough. The idea is not to have a perfect sphere; a few bumps and flat spots will give you similar aerodynamic properties to a dimpled golf ball.

After 12 hours of resting on the foam they go into a sealed bucket to sweat for at least a week or more. Painting is the last step: I put on gloves again and hand roll them in latex paint and lay them on a wire mesh to dry; as they dry I like to give the top side a blast of fluorescent orange spray paint for visibility. When you shoot these you get a cool meteor like streak through the sky. Some other cool patterns are little planets with green and blue, or eyeballs, just to give a thrill to some kid that finds it some day.

This technique is so fast I rarely even look to reuse my ammo; if I stumble upon one I will pick it up, but sling time is precious, and you don’t want to waste it looking for ammo. I would rather spend more time in the rotten months of Canadian winter cutting and rolling than the summer on scavenger hunts.

- Mark Findlay

© 2007