The sling weapon that David used to slay Goliath launches a stone with much more power by extending the thrower’s arm. Imagine David, a small man, standing in a battle arena with a 9-ft undefeated giant Goliath. The crowd laughs as David swings a length of rope with a stone in it above his head in a helicopter-like fashion while Goliath does crowd work and taunts David. David then hurls a stone, also known as a “sling bullet,” whizzing at Goliath’s head and dents his skull between the eyes. Goliath drops dead and the small man silences the crowd.
How does this work? How can a small stone thrown by a small man be thrown with so much energy as to kill a giant? The idea is similar to a lacrosse stick being used to launch a ball at a higher velocity that one can throw with their own arm. By extending the human arm, a projectile is able to be launched at incredible speeds. During the Spanish Civil War, combatants were known to use slings to throw grenades over buildings onto their foes a full street over.
As far as an improvised weapon goes, this one is pretty bare minimum. It took me and a friend 45-minutes to make each of our slings from existing cordage. For this bushcraft project, I used lengths of natural jute twine to get it as close to natural fibers as I could. The same tool could be achieved by reverse wrapping lengths of yucca fibers or by using some man-made paracord.
How to Make the Sling Weapon
The first step into making a survival sling weapon is making sure that the thickness of the fibers used as the length of your sling are adequate. I used the jute twine as-is for the lengths that I’d be swinging for my first sling. While it was functional and held up for a day, it did fall apart by the second day due to my fingers rubbing and separating the fibers. For my second sling, I reverse wrapped the fibers to make it much thicker and should last much longer. Some mention that a braided cord is preferred over a twist as the braid resists twisting when stretched. I didn’t know this at the time, but it may be of note.
Once the thickness of cord is achieved, you want some very loose measurements. The typical length of the sling weapon is 2-3ft but frankly, I made a longer one. I’m not very accurate with mine, but I can launch a rock to the moon. Your height is usually an indicator of your wingspan. With your arms stretched to your sides and outwards, the fingertip to fingertip length is generally within your height measurement. You’ll also want the pouch of your sling to be the size of your hand so be cognizant of this measurement as well. The pouch will use the length of cord with 5 folds knotted on the ends. With that all being said, a full wingspan measurement for length and extra is a good place to start. If you have pre-made cordage, there’s no harm in making a little extra length.
Once you have the full length of cord, measure from the center of your chest to the tip of your finger for one of the lengths of sling before the pouch. You’ll make your pouch at this end. Take the long length after what you have just measured and fold it over about 5 times to create an area to weave. You should have 5-strands (more or less is okay) with a long length of cord coming off of each end. Use the long lengths of cord to tie in a double square knot on each end to lock in the cords you’re going to weave, with the bones of the pouch in the middle of these.
From there, I took additional cordage from the twine roll and did a reverse wrap down the center of the pouch, forcing a set space between each of the cords, to add some extra architecture to the pouch. This allowed me to control the height measurement of the pouch. Then, start weaving in twine from the roll to fill in the pouch.
Once this is all made, I created a loop on the shorter length of rope for my finger. With my finger in the loop and my non-throwing hand in the center of the sling’s pouch, I pinched the longer strand of rope to mark where my pinch would be for consistency and tied in a double square knot here.
Using the Sling Weapon
At this point, your sling should have a finger loop on one end, a pouch in the middle, and a knot on the other length. I start by putting my finger in the loop and pinching the knot and make sure that the center of the pouch is the center between the two lengths that I am pinching.
Traditionally, river stones that are smooth were the stones being used for ammunition. These were more aerodynamic and wouldn’t fly off course or curve when thrown. For my practice, I just found any stone and wasn’t too accurate either way.
I would start by putting the stone into the pouch and using my free hand, start the pendulum-like swing in the direction of my throw. In my case, I would start the pendulum swing with my left-free-hand and get the rock behind me from my left-side. If everything feels stable here and the rock is still in the pouch, I would speed up my swing or keep it consistent.
Once the rock is at speed in my swing, I would use my natural instinct to throw something and add that to the final release cycle. When ready to release, this is simply an exercise of releasing the knot that is in your pinch and letting that stone whizz in front of you (preferably).
I suggest practicing with your sling weapon in a very open space without nearby windows or people.