It is impossible to really know how the sling was invented.
We can speculate about circumstances that caused some
distant forebear of ours to come up with the idea. But
it is just that, only speculation. It is also quite
probable that there have been many independent inventors.
What is certain is that the sling became the universal
personal weapon of the common people in agrarian and
And this is the very society into which the real hero
of our Project Goliath was born, some 3000 years ago.
You may recall that David was the youngest of many brothers
and it was his job to look after the sheep. Many of
his Psalms have this underlying shepherding theme. He
undoubtedly would have had many opportunities and much
time to develop his skills as an expert slinger preparing
him for the encounter which is probably one of the most
famous incidents in the Bible.
days many historians dismiss the story of David and
Goliath as myth or embellished legend at best. But the
story itself is certainly not unbelievable. There have
many instances in military history where a small well
armed force has defeated a large and formidable one.
The story is related in 1 Samuel 17. Let’s look
at it in detail.
Philistines who were the dominant military power were
preparing for war against Israel. They had weapons of
iron which implies that Israel generally did not, and
were still using bronze. In addition they had a champion
soldier. A man reputedly nine feet tall who was supposedly
the manner of the time the armies faced off, each hoping
that the other would lose heart and run. Goliath taunted
the Israelites challenging them to produce their own
champion to fight him in single combat. And David? He
was not even there. He was too young to be conscripted
into the army. But his older brothers were, and David
was sent by their father to bring them food and to find
out how the war was going.
he arrived he found the Israelite army paralysed with
fear. No one was confident enough to take on the giant.
Evidently the Philistines were also not confident enough
to launch an attack. Into this impasse came the supremely
confident David. Angered by Goliath's taunts and attracted
by the promised rewards of wealth and fame offered by
Saul the Israelite king for the one who would defeat
Goliath, he volunteered to fight.
considered the situation hopeless, but swayed by David's
insistence he gave in. He dressed David in his own armour
but David found the unaccustomed armour too restricting
and decided to discard it. Notice that only a sword
and no sling is mentioned at this stage. But David took
his staff and selected five smooth stones from the stream,
undoubtedly chosen to give the best slinging accuracy
and destructive power. It is reasonable to surmise that
even David expected to have to shoot more than once
to bring his enemy down. He went out to face Goliath.
it was Goliath's turn to be outraged. Not only was this
not the Israelites best soldier, this was no soldier
at all. Just an impudent youth without even a proper
weapon. "Am I a dog that you come at me with sticks?"
he berated David. Again no mention of the sling. Could
it be that Goliath did not notice that the shepherd
was armed with a sling? He himself was armed with a
spear which would have been used as a stabbing weapon,
a javelin and a sword which was still in its scabbard.
His shield was carried by a bearer but it is probable
that prior to battle he would take this in his left
hand and engage his opponent in hand to hand combat.
the Philistine moved closer to attack, David ran quickly
to meet him. Whilst running, he reached into his bag,
took a stone and slung it at Goliath striking him on
the forehead. Whether the blow itself was sufficient
to immediately kill Goliath is not absolutely clear
but it penetrated someway into his skull and he fell
facedown on the ground. David ran to the dying man and
finished him off with his own sword. With their champion
dead the Philistines ran and the Israelites had a great
victory. Eventually the young shepherd with a sling
became the most famous king of Israel and a great military
commander in his own right.
what is surprising is that neither Goliath, nor in fact
Saul, seemed to consider David's sling as any sort of
a potential battle winner. Could it be that David himself,
as king, popularized it as a military weapon? If so
it would be even more remarkable as the chief military
use of the sling is to rain projectiles at the enemy
“en masse” from a distance, quite different
from the close in, precision shooting that he used to
account records nothing about the actual sling David
used, the range at which he hit Goliath or other details
we as slingers would love to know. But we can take a
few educated guesses. Firstly, the only definite thing
is that there were five stones contained in his shepherd’s
bag. They could not have been too large to fit in there,
probably about the size of eggs. The range - close enough
to be confident of hitting Goliath in his only really
vulnerable spot; his face, as the rest of him would
have been protected by his armour. Yet far enough away
to be out of reach of both spear and to a lesser extent
the javelin. It would be important to make his first
shot count as a near miss would have alerted Goliath
to the danger, making it even harder to hit him subsequently
before he ran out of ammunition. Probably no more than
fifteen metres, using a fairly short sling, an overhand
throw with minimal windup would seem likely. How else
could it be done when still running? Whatever the case
he must have been a brilliant exponent of the sling
and whereas today we talk of a David and Goliath struggle
as meaning that a large opponent has a huge advantage
over a little one, perhaps it was really Goliath who
was doomed from the start when confronted with the power
of this amazing weapon in the hands of this amazing
Ludwik Siedlecki (a.k.a. Ausieslinger)