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How to choose a survival hunting catapult

How to choose a survival hunting catapult

16 Mar 2016

A catapult or slingshot (interchangeable terms for the same thing) makes an excellent weapon for those wishing to prepare for a survival situation.

A catapult is a proven weapon to harvest small game (given the right set up), they are small and most suitable frames will easily fit in a pocket. In use they are almost silent and with practice they are surprisingly accurate.

Another potential use is as a defensive weapon. While it is unlikely a catapult will take a man out a 12mm ball bearing in the face may make him think again before he attacks, and it can be used at a decent range. BUT do not take a catapult to a gun fight.

There are four components to consider when looking for a survival hunting catapult. The frame, bands, pouch and the ammo.

Frame. The frame is the part that is gripped and to which the bands are attached. The best type of frame is one that is strong enough to remain rigid with even the strongest bands fitted but one that will be easy to carry in a pocket or bug-out-bag. Frame materials include wood from natural branch forks, plastic usually HDPE, acrylic or PVC, aluminium, stainless steel and plywood.

Wire frame catapult frames with wrist braces should be avoided as they are quite large even if they fold. They are usually made with low quality materials meaning that attaching stronger bands will bend the frame. The power tubes crack and perish very quickly and they tend to have huge pouches. The forks tend to extend much higher than needed above the hands which creates a lever effect when the bands are drawn, making the wrist brace necessary.  

A natural fork branch can make an excellent frame and it is worth making a few of these yourself. Keep the forks short and smooth all areas that will come into contact with the bands.

Quality plastics such as HDPE make for an excellent frame, it is strong, lightweight, never needs surface treatments such as varnish and is a void free material.

Aluminium is also a first-class material for a catapult frame. It comes as either cast, where moulton aluminium is poured into a mould or as sheet material, where the shape is cut from aluminium and ground and polished into shape. Cast aluminium can be quite brittle and break if the ammo hits a fork, but sheet aluminium is very strong

Like aluminium stainless steel can also be cast or board cut but I am not aware of either breaking, and thicker designs can tend to be heavy.

Plywood is lightweight and can be quite strong but it will require maintenance such varnish. The main problem with plywood is unless it is the very best quality there can be hidden voids which will severely weaken the frame.

The shape of the frame should have low forks that can be gripped with the thumb and forefinger. It should shoot “OTT” over the top of the which in my opinion is the easiest to aim.

Do not be tempted by frames that have sights, stabilizers, torches or lasers on them. They are a waste of money and time, do not make a frame more accurate and look ridiculous. The way to aim a catapult is to hold it on the side, sight down the band to the target adjust for range and shoot.

There are plenty of catapults for sale at reasonable prices, but cheap Chinese frames are a quick way to the inside of an eye hospital. They are often made of low quality plastic coated spelter which can shatter at any time and they are not always that cheap to purchase. If you can only afford a very cheap catapult borrow a saw and a knife and cut a forked branch.

Bands.  The bands are what dictate the power of your catapult and should be chosen in conjunction with your ammo. There are two types of bands available, flats or tubes. Flats are generally more efficient but don’t usually last as long as tubes which are slightly less efficient. Tubes are available in a range of sizes and smaller diameter tubes are often doubled up to get more power. Flat bands are also available in a range of thicknesses and thinner bands are doubled to increase power.

The majority of bands available are latex, often based on exercise bands.

 However, in a SHTF or emergency situation there are other latex bands available in the form of balloons or even condoms. But ideally it is advisable to have a couple of spare band sets made up and ready to go.

For 10 – 11mm steel ball bearings I would be using either Theraband Gold cut 25mm wide or 4070 tube bands.

There are many systems that allow bands to be fitted to a frame without having to tie them. But tying is the most flexible and reliable method of attaching bands. There are no parts to loose and no tools needed. And once you know how it is easy and fast.

Using bands that are too powerful for the size of ammo you are using will cause the bands to stretch in the other direction after you release and come back at speed to whack the back of your hand.

Pouches. Pouches are fixed to the bands to hold your ammo whilst it accelerates. They need to be light, strong in that they won’t deform when the bands are stretched and not too large. The pouch doesn’t add anything to the propulsion but just adds to the weight.

Leather is far and away better than anything else and the best leather is kangaroo. One good pouch will outlast several band sets.  

In an emergency, the tongue from a pair of lace up shoes makes a great pouch when cut to shape. Some people like a hole in the centre of the pouch to mark where the ball should sit, however after a few shots the leather self-marks where the BB sits.

Ammo.  For hunting purposes you need to be using 10 – 12mm steel ball ammo or the equivalent weight in lead. Steel ball bearings can be purchased online in bulk and they have the advantage that after use they can be collected with a magnet. Or shoot into a catch box when practicing. Pebbles and rocks should be used as a last resort, they don’t fly straight and may damage your bands.

In conclusion, a simple catapult frame with a couple of spare band sets, some ball ammo and the skill to use them would be an extremely useful addition to your EDC, bug-out-bag or SHTF kit. Particularly in areas where guns are not permitted or are illegal.