Published by admin on 27 Jul 2009
By: Dean A. Grennell
Bow And Arrow Magazine March – April 1968
In its basic principles, the Slingthing is simple it can be constructed by almost anyone and probably it has been. Rare indeed is the person who, at some point in his urchinhood, did not trim a likely looking fork from a tree with his trusty Barlow knife, cutting strips from a discarded innertube for the elastics plus a pouch from the tongue of an old shoe, blinding the pieces together with scraps of store string to terrorize the local sparrows with selected hunks of gavel. Such devices tended to break down rather quickly, provided you didn’t shatter a window and get them confiscated sooner.
The idea of substituting a strng in place of the leather pouch, thus permitting the launching of arrows instead of rocks, is not particularly new. Such devices have been around for several years in one form or other. However, the best of them tended to fall short of equalling the performance of a bow of comparable draw weight, Likewise, the concept of a brace coming back to the upper surface of the forearm to lend support to the wrist has been around for some while now.
So the Slingthing can claim one inovation: a slotted semi-circular trough on the front to hold the elastic in one continuous lubricated, readily changed if desired. However, somewhere in the process of picking up this refinement, the Slingthing acquired a startling gain of capability. It delivers a punch close to the point of incredibility.
The elastic used in the Slingthing is latex-based — i.e., non-synthetic — surgical rubber tubin, black in coloe and it seemsca bit snappier than the more familiar brown surgical tubing. The Slingthing’s creator, Robert Blair, obtains the elastic in various diameters and wall thickness from an eastern surgical supply house and notes thatit resists deterioriation somewhat better than the brown type, this being sort of side bonus.
Blair’s development of the Slingthing has been under way over the course of the past few years, with a series of mutations, each showing useful improvements and refinements. Application has been made for a patent to cover the slotted yoke which is the Slingthing’s distinctive innovation.
My own introduction to the Slingthing was rather perfunctory. BOW & ARROW’s gruff kindly editorial director dropped it upon my desk, together with an assortment of spare elastics and a small plastic bottle filled with rubber lubricant.
“Take this out and see how it shoots,” was his terse suggestion.
“What does it shoot?”
“Arrows, among other things,” he replied.
“So where are the arrows?”
“It looks as though we’ll have to promote some,” he said and, within days, Jim Easton loaned a box of experimental Easton hunting shafts, of a size equivalent #2016. A rifle over thirty-two inches from nock tip of the field heads, they weigh appromimately 530.4 grains with a shaft diameter of .3122-inch. Viewed in their study shipping carton, they looked much too pretty to shoot with their eye-achingly vivid scarlet shafts and fluorescent-canary fletching. But, with a conscious effort, we unpacked them and set out to deduce the proper way of launching them via Slingthing.
When set up in its arrow-launching configuration, the Slingthing has a sheet-nylon rest up front, relieved to allow clearance for the feathers, with a flat V-shaped component joining the rear the ends of the elastic. Blair refers to the latter as the nylon nock engager: It corresponds to the string of a bow.
A couple of minor problems manifested themselves at the outset. Since the nock engager is not under tension, you cannot seat the nock against it and commence to draw as you would when using a conventional bow. As it turns out, the technique I worked out is about the same as Blair uses the abdomen, I hold it there with the left hand, meanwhile guiding the nock against its engager with both left and right hands. When it’s in place with a light tension on the elastics, the left hand is shifted to the pistol-type grip, the brace is positioned atop the left forearm and the nock is held in place on the nock engager between the right thumb and forefinger. Since the engager is a rather loose fit within the nock, some slight degree of tension must be maintained on the nock with the fingers during the draw to keep it fro slipping off.
The second problem involves getting a firm sort of grip on the nock engager which is equipped with a tuft of shaggy leather to afford a holding surface. After trying in both ways, I gravitated toward keeping my thumb on the lower surface of the engager with the four knuckles uppermost and roughly parallel to the horizon. As it turns out Blair has developed a preference for keeping his thumb on the upper side of the engager, with his crooked forefinger along the lower surface. When using the heavier elastics, he puts on an improvised finger stall made by cutting the forefinger off an old glove. Since he has acquired his power and accurrancy to a degree considerably beyond my as yet modest attainments, I’d have to concede the thumb-up technique is surperior.
The accurancy potential of the Slingthing has no, as yet, been fully explored. My prowess in the accurancy department, with any sort of archery tackle, is such that, with about five years of intensive practice, I might attain mediocrity. Mr. and Mrs. Blair claim little, if any, greater deadliness of eye although they turned in some fairly creditable targets at fifty feet. It would be interesting to have a Slingthing wrung out on targets by accomplished marksman but, alas, none were on tap during the period of testing. Since the arrow is loosed by relaxing the tension between thumb and forefinger, it should be possible to do fairly well with it because it’s not rolled off the fingertips, as with a conventional bowstring.
The business of making the draw on the pincer-like strength of thumb and forefinger sets some sort of upper limit on the power of the elastics being used. The heaviest unit supplied with the test Slingthing had a pull of approximately thirty pounds and I found myself able to draw it full back with no particular difficulty. However, when Blair dropped in at the BOW & ARROW editorial offices with some experimental elastics running to a bit over fifty pounds, my success with them proved somewhat less thn salutary. After inadvertantly putting one of his arrows out of reach forever in the bottom of a fenced drainage ditch bordering the Citrus College archery range, which had been borrowed for the conclusion of the test’s, I passed the beefed-up Slingthing back to its inventor and foremost practitioner for the remainder of the distance attempts.
Blair proceeded to engage in a session of flight shooting, driving light aluminum arrows with field points to distances as great as 190 longpaces. With the sample hunting shafts supplied by Easton, the fifty-pound elastic got them out to a bit beyond 160 paces, with some of Blair’s hunting broadheads alighting at about the same distance. Switching to the thirty-pound elastic reduced distance but not as much as one might expect : depending upon the type of arrow, flights from 120 to 140 paces were turned with ease.
Blair explained that the lubricant, properly used, is a vital factor obtaining the rather impressive distances of which the Slingthing is capable. Lack of lube up in the curved support yoke through which the elactic passes will lop as much as twenty or thirty yards off of the maximum distances. Undoubtlym this is due to the frictional resistance set up by the elastic rubbing against the rear surface of the yoke as it contracts upon release. The lubricant, by minimizing this friction brings about a rate of contraction almost as rapid as if the elastic were contracting untouched by other materials.
There is a receptable provided in the hollow base of the pistol grip to hold a hex-wrench and the angles and relative positions of the various parts can be adjusted to almost any desired configuration and re-tightened by the wrench provided. Thus, if the shooter favors his left hand, it is quick and simple to set it up for use in that manner. By this means, one can “customize” the Slingthing to his individual tastes. An accessory carrier can be attached to the lower end of the pistol grip to carry two spare elastic units, if desired.
Blair currently has another accessory under development. This thumb-release grip designed to bypass the problem of developing the thumb muscles to super-human levels for the use of the heavier elastics. Use of this system requires a special nock engager and the elastic unit made up witht hat engager was not as powerful as the fifty-pounder used in the flight trial. However, the distances attained with the thumb-release device, which permits the use of two fingers in the draw, was barely a few paces short of the performance turned in by the heavier elastic.
As further aspect of the Slingthing’s versatility, Blair produced some elastics made up with a leather pouch in place of the nylon nock engager. By switching to one of these, and removing the arrow guide from the yoke, any sort of suitable small missile can be launched : marbles, ball bearings, backshotor pebbles. And, again, the power is impressive With the heavier elastics, a seven-sixteenths-inch nut can be driven through 24-gauge corrugated sheet iron, according to Blair.
We didn’t have any sheet iron available, but with the thrity-pound elastic. I drove one of the Easton hunting shafts througha sheet of one-half-inch fir plywood.
Blair, an aluminum welderwith a firm specializing in aluminum extrusions, plans to make and market the Slingthing, visualizing a price under $30. Although it may appear somewhat unconventional to the archery purist, the potentials of the novel device should no be discounted lightly. It may take a fair degree of accurancy rivalling that of the bow but it seems well within reasonable possibility. Having mastered the attainment of accurancy, the operator of a Slingthing would enjoy several advantages.
For one thing, it’s considerably more compact than any sort of bow, including the crossbow, requiring less length than arrow itself. It’s ready for use at all times, requiring neither time nor effort to be strung. And, last but not least, it offers a choice of readily adjustable weights of pull, from less than twenty pounds to well over fift, plus an option to change from arrows to universally available pebbles if one should lose his last arrow far from the nearest archery shop.
At the moment, there doesn’t appear to be any way you can convert the Slingthing into a bow drill to serve as an emergency substitute for matches but Blair may be cogitating on that angle, too. He mentioned that he’s building a version with an attached reel for the Slingthing variant of bowfishing. So anything is possible and quite a few things are probable.
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