Gravel Shooters or Slingshots

Remembrances of my childhood...

When I was a bright boy of eight I let my ‘gravel shooter’ do the talking. After my buddies saw mine they all wanted one too, so the neighborhood guys were all eyes and ears listenin’ and watchin’ with intensity as I described the latest gadget to catch our fancy back in the summer of 1951. My dad had shown my brothers and me just how to make and use a homemade gravel shooter to put a dent in an old tin can or how to scare an old neighborhood cat caught diggin’ around in your mom’s flower bed . First of all he said the handle needed to be a good hardwood that was not only strong but tough as well. We had a couple dogwood trees and he said that was good wood if the fork was right. He said he made plenty of them when he was a youngster using dogwood, hickory and oak and I’d say he did. My dad always said that you could do anything you set your mind to it.

Did you ever have or shoot a slingshot?

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homemade gravel shooter
homemade gravel shooter

If you looked hard enough...

Besides the wooden forked handle, you needed an old inner tube from a bicycle tire and a tongue out of an old shoe. If you looked hard enough you might also find a tube from a spent flat tire at a service station or a neighbor who might work on cars. You could really make a lot of gravel shooters from an old car tire tube. You would use a sharp knife or large scissors to cut two strips of rubber around ½ an inch wide by 12 to 14 inches long. Each stripe of rubber was then positioned over the right and the left forks of the handle and fastened with a piece of bailing wire twisted tightly to secure the strips to the handle the other two ends were attached to each side of an old shoe tongue making a pocket for the rocks to be hurled or shot.

You needed to ‘try it out’...

Dad said that the after you finished makin’ one you needed to ‘try it out’ on something. We had plenty of old cans in the trash for us to shoot at so we had plenty of targets. Dad also said to never aim at another person or even the little birds because the stones traveled at a fast speed and could kill a little bird and maybe put an eye out so we always promised him that we would not shot at birds or people. Some boys got to callin’ them sling shots, but I don’t guess it mattered much just what you called them as long as they did the job and those that dad showed us how to make stood the test. He said the smooth stones were the best to use and I tried my best to keep my left side pocket of my overalls full of rocks I had already selected. I kept my shootin’ marbles in the right side pocket.

© SamSonS

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Comments 12 comments

Fiddleman profile image

Fiddleman 6 years ago from Zirconia, North Carolina

Sampsons1, my dad made me a slingshot just as you described. I was never a "good shot" and today good rubber is almost as hard to find as a leather shoe tongue. Dad had a sling shot he kept to antagonize the squirrels in his yard when he was in his 70's. Just goes to show you ,you can take the boy from the country but you can't take the country from the boy.

samsons1 profile image

samsons1 6 years ago from Tennessee Author

thanks Putz for your gracious comments. Times were certainly different 'back in the day...'

AlexK2009 profile image

AlexK2009 6 years ago from Edinburgh, Scotland

I never tried making one of these but I read that in the Philippines people used this kind of catapult to fire sharpened bicycle spokes. Often during political demonstrations.

samsons1 profile image

samsons1 6 years ago from Tennessee Author

thanks AlexK2009 for your interesting comment. That could certainly cause some damage...

lifegate profile image

lifegate 6 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA


Those were the days!

samsons1 profile image

samsons1 6 years ago from Tennessee Author

thanks lifegate for your comment.


bayoulady profile image

bayoulady 6 years ago from Northern Louisiana,USA

Thanks for the memories! We were not allowed to use gravel in the shooter. We called them pea shooters. We used black-eyed peas or other dried beans.But gettin' hit with one sure did pack a sting!

samsons1 profile image

samsons1 6 years ago from Tennessee Author

thank you bayoulady for stopping by, I've been missing you and hope all is well and Happy New Year to you. I always appreciate you sharing your personal reminisce...

WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

This brings back wonderful memories. My dad made me a similar slingshot to keep the birds out of the cherry trees. I was about seven years old so there was little chance I would actually hit one!

You and I are apparently about the same age.

BTW, surgical rubber tubing works great!

samsons1 profile image

samsons1 6 years ago from Tennessee Author

thanks WillStarr for the follow and for your nice reflections on childhood. Sounds like your still living out your childhood a little- surgical rubber, huh...

WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

Yup! They even sell it already made up for slingshots:

samsons1 profile image

samsons1 6 years ago from Tennessee Author

thank Will, you weren't kidding were you-- thanks for the link...

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