Sling Shots

Native American Weapons

Sling Shots (Slingshots)

Description and Definition of Sling Shots (Slingshots): Slings, sling shots or slingshots were all used to describe one of the most ancient and primitive Native American weapons. Two pieces of cord made from plant fiber or sinew were tied to a leather pouch to hold the sling stones.

Sling Shots were used by Native Americans primarily for hunting but they were capable of inflicting a significant injury when used as a weapon.

Sling Shots (Slingshots)
Sling Shots were used by Native Americans primarily for hunting but they were capable of inflicting a significant injury when used as a weapon - as can be seen by the size of the stones in the above picture.

Sling Shots (Slingshots) - Primitive Weapons
Sling Shots were ancient, primitive weapons used by Natives Americans that required minimal resources or technology to construct. Hurling stones using Sling Shots (slingshots) demanded little equipment and not much practice to be effective. However, the accuracy of sling shots was totally dependant on the shooter. Native American children were encouraged to use sling shots from an early age and by the time they were old enough to participate in hunting and warfare their skills and accuracy were considerable. Nearly all of the ancient tribes of Native Americans used sling shots but as they are deemed to be inferior weapons and made of perishable materials, few ancient sling shots have survived and are rarely depicted in the paintings of the period.

Sling Shots (Slingshots) - Targets and Uses
Sling Shots (slingshots) were used primarily as impact weapons for hunting purposes but also for warfare.

  • Uses of Sling Shots (Slingshots) for Hunting: The projectiles were used to bring down small game and also birds. They were also used to 'flush out' larger game such as deer by hurling stones to make deer nervous and nudge them out of the brush
  • Uses of Sling Shots (Slingshots) as weapons: The accuracy and hardness of the stones could cause significant injury but the main purpose of using slingshots in warfare was to distract the attention of the enemy

The major advantage of the sling shots were that suitable stones were readily available and required little attention as opposed to he man hours required to produce weapons such as bows and arrows.

Description of Sling Shots (Slingshots)
Sling Shots (slingshots) consisted of two parts - the sling and the 'shots' which were the stones and missiles hurled at targets. The sling consisted of a piece of leather approximately nine inches (23 cms) long and about three inches (7.5 cms) wide in the middle. The sling tapered off at both ends which were attached to fiber or leather thong. The thongs varied in size according to the requirements of the shooter.

Making Sling Shots (Slingshots)
The two requirements for making sling shots were the sling and the thong:

  • Making a thong for sling shots: The thong was made from animal gut, sinew or rawhide. Plant fibers were also used for slings including nettles, dogbane and milkweed or the inner bark of basswood or yukka
  • Making a sling for slingshots: Pieces of tanned hides, rawhide or buckskin was the most common types of leather used to make  the sling. the slings were made from left over pieces of leather and materials that had been used to make other weapons or items of clothing and equipment. Rawhide is tough and durable material and favored for making slings for sling shots. Rawhide is not leather, but a de-haired hide from cattle, elk or deer, that is not tanned.

Hurling or Throwing Sling Shots (Slingshots)
The method of throwing or hurling sling shots was simple.

  • The Native Indian would  loop the end of one of the thongs around a finger of his right hand, or would tie it to his right wrist, with the thong passing over the palm of the hand
  • The end of the other thong would be doubled back and held in the same hand
  • The stone was then placed in the centre part of the sling
  • With his left hand stretched forward, he would hold the stone in position and then swing it in a full circle above his head, release the unattached thong and sling the stone forward
Native Indian Weapons and Tools
Native Indian Tribes Index

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Updated 2018-01-01

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