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What is a Slungshot?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated May 17, 2024
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Popular during the 19th century, slungshots are simple weapons that involve a weight that is tied to the end of a length of cord. The slungshot can be deployed in two different ways, both of them relatively simple to master. While no longer popular, the slungshot was often a favorite street weapon among youth gangs in metropolitan areas during the mid to late 1800s.

The most common means of using the slungshot involved tying the unweighted end of the cord to the wrist. The remainder of the cord was bunched in the palm of the hand, along with the weight on the opposite end. When attacking an opponent, the weight is thrown into the face, quickly retracted and thrown again. Regular practice would allow the user of slungshot to become proficient with the device, delivering blows in quick succession.

A second application of the slungshot would involve throwing the heavy end of the device while handing onto the other end of the cord. This would send the weight flying in for a direct hit that can be quite painful. Throwing a slungshot became a favorite strategy of street gangs and thieves, since the device could be hidden with ease, but would quickly disable the victim and make it possible steal a wallet or other valuables. A well placed blow can easily crumple a knee or knock the wind out of the stomach.

By the end of the 19th century, many jurisdictions had outlawed the use of the slungshot, imposing strict penalties that included extended jail time. Over time, the practice began to fade as new and equally effective weapons gained favor among street gangs. By the end of World War I, the use of the slungshot had all but disappeared.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum , Writer
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including WiseGeek, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Malcolm Tatum

Malcolm Tatum


Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
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