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Slings, Bows and Other Misadventures - Eric M. Lyman

My first recollection of slings was as a three year old. My father would read me the story of David and Goliath from the Bible. I was fascinated about the sling he used and I begged my father to show me how he used the sling. My father, who was destined to ship out to Viet Nam for his first tour as a helicopter pilot, obliged by building a sling almost as long as I was tall. We went out to a field where my father proceeded to show me how (or how not…) to use a sling.

First, a short background on my father, he was raised in the harsh southeastern Utah, near the famed ‘Four Corners’. He, his brothers and friends would experiment by building bows, slings, slingshots and even atlatls. He used to tell me stories about his ‘hunting expeditions’ with his friends. He became an officer in the US Army and used his quest for knowledge and adventure and became combat helicopter pilot. …Now, back to our scheduled story…

Dad took the sling and had me stand off a good distance from him. My brother, older by two years and shorter by three inches and I stood off near the edge of trees that lined the edges of the field. He had made a leather sling pouch and used old leather bootlaces to attach the pouch. If I remember, and this may be where the problem arose, he didn’t have an anchoring loop on one of the leather thongs. Dad was near the old green 63 Ford pickup truck with the camper on it. He found a rock about 2 inches long and an inch and a quarter thick and placed in the center of the pouch.

He wound up and let go with a baseball style throw. For about a second, we looked for the rock to whiz down the field, and then we heard the crack and tinkling of glass. My fearless father, the great white hunter and protector of innocents, had hunted his first and last pickup truck. So much for slings, we were told, Dad thought it would be better if we stuck to something safer like tightrope walking or preparing to swim the English Channel.

And so it remained for 37 years. Oh, I didn’t really let is sit dormant, I too toyed with slings, stick slings, bows, and I even tried my hand at an atlatl like my father. I became intrigued with the English longbow (self bow) about a year ago and I ordered one so that I could practice with. While I waited for it to arrive, I got bored one afternoon and decided that I’d try my hand at a sling. Taking a page from my father’s book of life, I built mine out of reclaimed leather. The pouch is about 4 inches long and I used twenty-seven inch latigo leather for the thongs.

I stand at five feet and ten inches and I have a thirty-inch reach for my arms, (…yes, some people do claim that I have ape arms, but it helped when I used to box…) and the sling I made seems to be just about right for me. I’ve tried the overhand slinging method and also the underhand throw that Chris describes. They both seem to work OK, but I’ve found better accuracy with my overhead slinging (like a helicopter). I can almost use a ‘point and shoot’ method with my aiming. If I put throwing arm straight at the target, I get better than usual accuracy and as for looping the sling in my overhead throw, I only rotate once and have found that I get as much power from it as I do with my underhand slinging.

I suppose that with practice, the underhand throw can achieve the accuracy that I get with my overhead throw. When I sling, I try to throw for accuracy, and I’ve learned that accuracy only comes with practice. At twenty yards I can hit a fifty-galleon drum that I use as my target. And when I do hit it, which isn’t every time, I get the resounding thwang as the missile bounces off of it. So far, no pickups, I’ll keep trying though.

- Eric Lyman

© 2007