Slingshots are popular and effective weapons for taking small and medium game quietly, and also have an advantage in that they can launch various kinds of projectiles for different tasks.
Slingshots have been around for ages, and one nice perk is that they are mechanically very simple, at their most rudimentary being nothing more than a forked branch with some elastic strung between the tines with a crude pouch or cup to hold the ammunition in the middle.
But modern slingshots can be made from the best and most technologically advanced materials, and capable of launching their ammo at blistering speeds. But a slingshot’s single biggest shortcoming is its comparatively short range, though how short or how long this range is depends on who you ask.
A modern slingshot has an effective range of between 25 and 55 feet, or around 8 to 18 yards, or 7 to 16 meters.
Used recreationally, a slingshot may be accurate up to 50 yards (45 meters), depending upon the ammunition used, but almost all ammo types will have lost substantial velocity by this point, and will not be suitable for hunting.
But like any other ballistic solution there are many variables that go into the equation, and determining your maximum effective range with your slingshot and chosen ammunition requires a little bit of assessment.
We will take a look at some of the variables in the remainder of this article.
Consider Your Objective
If you do just a little bit of searching on the internet you will come up with dozens or even hundreds of slingshot “fishing” stories; tales from posters on forums regaling any who will listen with story about a shot they made with their slingshot to strike a target 150 yards distant… or even further!
I’m not saying it is impossible, but I am saying those are not realistic expectations if you plan on using your slingshot for any serious purpose, like hunting or self-defense.
If you are using a modern slingshot with a powerful band and optimized ammunition I can tell you right now it is entirely possible to strike a larger target at these great distances. Strike it, connect with it, not penetrate it, and definitely not kill it if it is an animal.
No matter what kind of slingshot you are using and what kind of ammunition you are firing, you’ll be loosing your shot holding your point of aim high over the target if you want to have any chance of hitting. You are in essence lobbing a shot in, at this point.
For recreation, target practice or just playing around sure, this is fine, and I have no reason not to believe anyone who asserts as much. But when people start talking about bringing down gophers, groundhogs, squirrels, birds and other prey at these ranges with a slingshot, I flat-out do not believe them.
Stories like these are the stuff myths are made from. But every myth begins with a grain of truth, and the truth is that a sharpshooter can strike and potentially stun or knock out an animal with a slingshot beyond the ranges at which they are typically dispatched, and then give the dazed critter the coup de grace as a follow up shot or by some other way.
Nonetheless, if you have the ability to shoot accurately that far away, there is no reason you don’t want your weapon to produce as much range as possible.
Consider the other factors below when choosing a slingshot to make sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck when the time comes to push the distance.
Ultimately the band of a slingshot is made from any elastic material, but traditionally and most commonly some kind of vulcanized rubber. The properties of the band contribute greatly to the power of the slingshot, though its dimensions also play a part.
Any given band can be fitted or trimmed so that it will be drawn to its maximum length, meaning its potential energy is at peak upon release which will then be imparted to the projectile. More power equals better range, all things being equal!
However, no slingshot band will last forever and it degrades, however incrementally, with every shot. As it degrades it loses power, and as we just learned, less power means less range.
Generally speaking, the more modern the material the longer life and greater power it will have over a simpler, more primitive option.
The best competition grade band available today will generally outperform a simple strip of vulcanized rubber cut from an inner tube that has been employed in countless boyhood slingshots over the ages.
Ammo choice will significantly affect the range of your slingshot, or at least the range at which it can effectively kill or wound a target. The typical ammunition of choice utilized for the slingshot is some type of ball, though they can fire with great force anything that will fit in the pouch such as pebbles, BBs, airgun pellets and, so forth.
Round balls of varying calibers can be made from almost anything, oftentimes made from glass in the case of marbles, and lead or steel for shot, or even other material such as ivory, bone or even man-made synthetic resins.
The lighter the ammo is the faster it will be traveling upon release. The heavier it is, the slower it will be traveling upon release. Again, this assumes all other factors are equal.
The ideal projectile is one that is heavy enough to impart significant force upon impact and retain velocity but light enough to benefit from substantial velocity at launch. This is not even delving into “specialty” ammo like arrows and stunner bolts.
The design of the slingshot itself also contributes greatly to its maximum effective range, either by making it easier to shoot, or imparting more power and stability to the projectile.
The ubiquitous primitive slingshot, a Y-shaped forked branch, is a surprisingly powerful weapon when paired with a good band, but they don’t hold a candle to modern “starship” type slingshots that feature arm braces, ergonomic grips and a fork that is extended far ahead of the firing hand in order to optimize and maximize the draw length of the band.
You might be able to do surprisingly good work at modest distances with a simple slingshot, but if you really want to push the range you’ll need to upgrade to a modern design.
A modern slingshot using an equally modern band and quality ammunition can easily achieve an effective range of 25 to 55 feet (7 to 16 meters) assuming the shooter is up to the task. This also assumes that one is in pursuit of small animals with a slingshot used as a hunting weapon.
Much beyond these ranges a clean kill is not assured, though the slingshots can almost certainly fire accurately past this distance. Understanding all the variables involved intruding your slingshot and ammunition choice are essential for maximizing range.
Tom Marlowe practically grew up with a gun in his hand, and has held all kinds of jobs in the gun industry: range safety, sales, instruction and consulting, Tom has the experience to help civilian shooters figure out what will work best for them.