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Then Saul dressed David in his own tunic. He put a coat of armor on him and a bronze helmet on his head. David fastened on his sword over the tunic and tried walking around, because he was not used to them.

“I cannot go in these,” he said to Saul, “because I am not used to them.” So he took them off. Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd’s bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine.

As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him. Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell facedown on the ground.

So David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone; without a sword in his hand he struck down the Philistine and killed him.
1 SAM 17: 38-40 & 48-50.

Basic Information

A primitive ranged weapon consisting of a strip of cloth or leather which uses the centrifugal effect to fire a missile. The user fits his ammunition into the belly of the sling (either a fold in the strip or a purpose made pouch), whirls it around rapidly and then releases one end of the sling so that it unfolds and launches the round in the direction of the target. Slings vary in size from those that can be easily worn as a wrist band to much larger devices used for siege warfare that are operated with both hands. Effectively the sling extends the user's arm by the length of its cord (and makes the application of the centrifugal effect much easier) and most authorities seem to agree that it is possible to achieve ranges of around 400m.

The sling requires a significant level of skill and good hand-eye co-ordination but is cheap to produce and, if loaded with pebbles, virtually free to operate. Traditional users - especially in the ancient world - tended to be shepherds for whom a cheap and handy ranged weapon to keep wolves and similar vermin off the flock was a necessity. In later periods improved bows relegated the sling to marginal status at best, but in many parts of the world it clung on into the 20th century as an agricultural tool with which a farmer could exchange pests (such as small birds, rabbits and the like) for free food. In a sling using culture it becomes very easy for an apparently unarmed man to deploy a relatively effective ranged weapon with very little warning.

Militarised the sling is often use to throw cast lead bullets as opposed to stones which, having far more mass, deliver more energy on target as a result. Slings have also been seen to deliver darts (although the ballistics of that would seem hair raising) and even grenades (and their ancestors).

An interesting variant is the staff-sling, which places a sling pouch on the end of a wooden staff for extra leverage - opinion is divided as to whether these were used for heavier loads or to give increased range to typical loads. It seems likely that it was used for both purposes at various times.


Game and Story Use

  • For a "Seven Samurai" type adventure, the sling may turn out to be the weapon that the peasants didn't know that they had.
  • In a sling using culture a riot can turn deadly very quickly once the slinging starts.
  • This should be a common skill for characters from a peasant background - even if they aren't skilled military slingers, loosing stones at crop pests will usually have been a normal part of growing up and the food value of the targets, even more than natural competitiveness, an important incentive towards accuracy.
  • This will also be a weapon that is easily concealed - or indeed, worn openly without anyone considering it a weapon - if the user carries it wrapped as a wristband. It may not be a full scale, weapon grade sling, but it's almost certainly a ranged backup weapon the sling user loses virtually nothing by carrying.
  • Moving through country infested with hostile shepherds suddenly becomes a significant nuisance - expect a steady stream of casualties from rocks that come hurtling in from several hundred meters away launched by someone who vanishes into the brush before any response can be launched. Sending parties to track down your attackers may become counterproductive…
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