A slingshot (also called a shanghai, in British English a catapult, and in the Southern U.S., a beanshooter) is a small hand-powered projectile weapon. The forked Y-shaped frame has two rubber strips attached to the uprights, leading back to a pocket for holding the projectile.
It is normally shot by holding the frame in the non-dominant hand, extended at arms length. The pocket is then gripped between thumb and forefinger of the dominant hand, pulled back to near the cheek, aimed and the pocket released to shoot the projectile toward the target.
Home-made slingshots were popular children's toys for much of the 20th century because the low projectile velocity was generally considered to be safe. However, it is possible to construct a slingshot with sufficient power to cause serious bodily harm.
Construction and use
The simplest slingshot is just a rubber band stretched by a person's fingers, and then a hornet (also known as a criket or wasp) (the projectile) is slipped on, pulled back by the other hand, and released. Although the simple forked stick and rubber models are still made by children and adults, there are now a range of commercial models, some sophisticated and powerful. There are many professional catapult makers in the UK, and many people collect them. Custom catapults are made from various materials: buffalo horn, deer antler, exotic hardwoods, etc. Most slingshots are made from wood.
Custom-made catapults are sometimes made in the style of the famous MILBRO catapult of the 1950s.
Many powerful commercial slingshots now have a wrist-brace, and some models have stabilizers, rotating prongs, sighting mechanisms, and other sophisticated improvements. While these are not necessary they usually improve accuracy, and the power and lifespan of the bands.
The elastic material is critical. The best widely-available materials are dipped latex rubber, surgical tubing, and latex sheeting, which last about 6 months before they need to be replaced. They can be attached to the frame and packet by stretching them over a metal rod of the correct diameter. Some slingshots are constructed of metal tubing. Many types of rubber are used, but there are three main varieties: square, tube, and flatbands. Among the makes of flatband material are linatex, theraband and latex. These materials were designed for various medical and industrial uses and have been adapted for catapult use. Usually, the flat band material is tapered from 3/4" to 1/2", and about 5" long.
A slingshot can be powerful enough to hunt game such as small rodents and birds at ranges up to 25 meters. A typical heavy pull band slingshot should be used with 9 mm (3/8") to 12 mm (1/2") steel balls. Using lighter ammunition doesn't increase the speed of the projectile significantly.
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