The slingshot is an ancient weapon, and one that still sees plenty of use today for hunting, target practice, and even insurgent operations. Shockingly powerful and nearly silent in use, it is easy to see the benefits of this primitive but useful weapon.
Any prepper worth their salt should consider himself wise and add a slingshot to their survival repertoire. Better yet, learn how to craft one from a variety of natural and man-made materials! Slingshots are definitely a niche weapon, and like all niche weapons have their own fair share of myths.
One such myth is the effective range of a slingshot. Depending on who you ask, they might answer that a sling shot is effective anywhere from in-the-room distance to well in excess of a hundred yards.
That is quite the spread! But if we are going to rely on any weapon we must have a thorough and realistic understanding of its capabilities.
How far can a slingshot really shoot? The generally effective maximum range of an average slingshot used for hunting game is accepted to be between 30 and 50 feet depending on the type of slingshot, the type of band, the draw length and the ammunition. Other factors like angle of attack and wind conditions also play a part.
A shooter using an optimized slingshot with specific ammunition is capable of extending this range significantly, where a shooter that is less accurate or using a non-optimized slingshot will suffer from reduced effective range.
In the rest of this article we will examine a few of these factors, how they interact and ultimately how they will determine your slingshots effective range.
The Realities of Slingshot Range
One should never underestimate a slingshot, especially a modern design with a long draw and equipped with a powerful band.
Slingshots of this type firing steel or lead balls as ammunition can easily pierce both sides of an aluminum can out to 10 feet and even beyond, break bones and cause serious injury. They can only do this because they are launching their projectiles at substantial velocities.
Using a typical .36 caliber lead or steel ball, a modern slingshot can propel this projectile at speeds anywhere between 130 feet per second all the way up to 200 feet per second and even faster.
This is velocity capable of causing substantial wounds at close range and is more than adequate enough for hunting small game and varmints, and could potentially even bring down a larger game with a precisely placed shot to the head anywhere from 10 to 50 feet.
This is a far cry from the typical boyhood slingshot of yesteryear that broke so many windows!
Despite this respectable and admirable performance from such a simple weapon, it is definitely removed from the claims we sometimes run into on the internet that feature users of slingshots in a hunting capacity bringing down game out to 25, 50 or even on an astonishing 100 yards.
Those are ranges where actual firearms, pistols, shotguns and rifles, perform. To be completely clear, it is possible for a slingshot to fire a projectile many hundreds of feet, even beyond a hundred yards or so on a ballistic trajectory.
However, the typical spherical projectiles used as shot in a slingshot lose velocity quickly compared to bullets, and the velocity that the slingshot itself can generate is not even in the same solar system compared to a handgun or even a shotgun.
That being said, increasing velocity will make shooting easier, and enable you to take game more effectively at any given range, or extend your maximum range and is a worthwhile endeavor.
Model / Type
The type of slingshot you are using will play a big part in determining its effective range. The draw length is one important consideration, as is the presence or absence of a brace and other components that can aid in accuracy.
Better accuracy equals a longer effective range. Certain modern slingshots are designed with a grip and brace arrangement that places the fork very far forward ahead of the hand, increasing the draw length substantially and garnering more power using the same type of band.
You should not expect tremendous effective range using a primitive slingshot, or one made from scavenged materials. Conversely, you can expect excellent or even best-in-class range from a modern slingshot with all the ergonomic and performance enhancing trimmings.
The material a slingshot band is made from, its type, and its length will all contribute to how much power it can generate shot-to-shot and correspondingly how much range you will get with a given projectile, all things being equal.
Most bands are made from vulcanized rubber, but other material options are available, including some high-tech synthetic elastic fibers.
Consider to that the lifespan of the chosen material will also contribute to the effective range. Repeated stretching and relaxation cycles will degrade any elastic material over time, and one that has lost much of its “snap” will not provide as much power as one that is fresh and new.
A more powerful band that is nearly worn out will probably produce less velocity than a weaker one that is brand-spanking-new.
Not all ammunition is created equal. The typical projectile fired by a slingshot is a ball, often one made from steel, lead, glass or some other material.
External ballistics is a complicated subject, but simply stated assuming that two projectiles of the same type are the exact same size and present the same surface area subject to drag, the lighter projectile will have a higher initial velocity given the same launching force, but will also lose that velocity more quickly due to wind and other sources of drag.
The heavier projectile will have a slower initial velocity given that exact same launching force, meaning its trajectory will drop more noticeably over distance, but it will “buck” the wind better than a lighter projectile.
Also consider the type and shape of the projectile. Balls are not particularly aerodynamic, whereas arrows, bolts and even things like airgun pellets launched from specialty pouches or holders offer significant aerodynamic advantage over spheres, increasing range. But once again, all of these factors must be considered in totality.
A modern slingshot in the hands of a good shooter, and equipped with suitable ammunition can reasonably produce an effective range for small game hunting between 30 and 50 feet, with longer ranges being achievable under ideal conditions, or with increased mechanical performance.
While they will never rival any firearm as is sometimes erroneously reported, slingshots are still accurate and reliable if short ranged ballistic weapons.
Tom Marlowe 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, He has the experience in helping civilian shooters figure out what firearms work best for them.