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If you are putting together a survival package for a prolonged period, should a sling make the short list of your hunting tools, and if so, why?

By prolonged, I mean a year to decades, during which it is not possible to resupply at an abandoned store. The survivor is alone, or with a very small group, is athletic, strong and handy. Assume an environment plentiful in fibrous materials and animals that can be skinned.

To address the usefulness of a sling for hunting in a prolonged survival situation, the answer should include data on the accuracy, range and velocity attained by modern slingers, and the time it takes an adult to achieve competence in hunting. Because the sling would probably have to be replaced at some point, the answer should include the difficulty of making and using a replacement from materials in nature.

Note: this question has been extensively edited after the first answer was posted. The first answer was a reasonable reply to the original question.

closed as primarily opinion-based by Niall, paparazzo, cr0, Aravona, Phil Feb 10 '17 at 16:54

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    This is still both incredibly broad and opinion-based. There's no clear goal here, not enough specifics to give a definite answer on anything, yet also includes a tome of irrelevant background. "Useful" is very ambiguous, especially as a use hasn't even been specified. There's an assumption that some materials are not available, yet others are. No specifics of environment are included. Simply, this is a very low quality question. – Niall Feb 9 '17 at 18:48
  • @Niall Edited in response to your comment. The availability of materials for the flintlock is discussed in the two questions I referred to. – ab2 Feb 9 '17 at 19:03
  • There's still no actual clear question. You included a paragraph about materials but haven't said what would be relevant - "there is access to gunpowder and ammunition" (incidentally, don't you need saltpetre?) – Niall Feb 9 '17 at 19:08
  • @ab2 I honestly don't think this can be saved. The best way I can think of putting the question is "can a person with a sling (in X environment) expect to hunt enough food to survive"...but that still sounds opinion- based/speculative. It might be possible to ask about the comparative accuracy of a sling vs. a flintlock - you at least remove a lot of the variables that way, but the question might still bee unanswerable. – Niall Feb 9 '17 at 19:24
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    You can make a sling in a matter of seconds if you have string, half an hour if you have to make your own string, and use it immediately as long as you have trained with slings. Which is much faster than most weapons and while a rough made sling will be less effective than a well made bow, it can help you with hunting while you work on your bow. – Willeke Apr 16 '18 at 19:34
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The question about which type of weapon is best is certainly opinion based. It depends on circumstances. What is not so opinion based, and stays consistent throughout different situations, are some principles: the importance of capability and familiarity with the equipment. Whichever weapon is more capable in the situation and whichever you are more familiar with is the way to go.

A capable weapon is one suitable for the conditions. For the first short chunk of time, perhaps the firearm is the way to go, but in the years ahead without infrastructure for maintenance, reloading, and repair, something like a sling would be of greater value. 'Necessity is the mother of invention' and in this case, you'll find that the tools different cultures made most use of were the ones which were most capable in meeting the demands at hand. If you're looking for a well rounded tool that is most widely capable to meet the dynamic and long-term challenges of long-term survival, you'll probably want something like a knife or axe, and after that, whichever best suits your environment, needs, and abilities (which is where 'firearm vs. sling' becomes moot - depends on many factors about you, probabilities about your surroundings, probabilities of near and distant future scenarios).

Secondly, your familiarity is important in deciding which is more valuable. If you don't know how to operate a weapon, it can be both useless and even dangerous to your own well being (consider if you become disarmed by someone more familiar with the spear you were just holding, or if you sling a rock in the wrong direction). If you don't know how to maintain, reload, and repair a weapon, how long will it serve you? All that said, familiarity can be picked up, especially if the stakes are high. So then we need to consider, what's the learning curve like in terms of becoming familiar with the different tools, especially considering the lack of infrastructure? Good luck figuring out how to repair a flint lock with no infrastructure if you don't already know how it works - not to mention actually doing the repair.

With all that said, if you had to pick one, a decent rule of thumb is that more primitive tools (slings, knives, spears, axes, bows, darts) have been tested further by time and can be more reliable as a place to start for the long run, but in the short-term the more advanced tool can handle more advanced challenges in conditions it is capable in. Do note that humanity evolved to use more advanced tools as more advanced demands called for them; realistically you will never 'just pick one' and depend on it for survival for the remainder of your time. Challenges change, conditions change over time, and so (hopefully) will you. In more common, non-apocolyptic situations, many experts emphasize how your survival in wilderness depends more on your craftiness, mind-set, and adaptability than on the tools you have.

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Slings are difficult to master,

The main reason that slingers were only found among certain groups and fought as specialized corps in the ancient world was because the sling required a much higher level of intensive training than any other weapon. Even the bow with its point-and-shoot firing can be mastered over a matter of years at almost any age, while the sling had to be practiced from childhood to achieve an adequate level of proficiency. Without the proper amount of training, it is extremely difficult to even launch a missile in the right direction.

Arguably the most famous and skilled slingers of the ancient world were those from the Balearic Islands in the western Mediterranean. They underwent similar vigorous training from a very early age. Parents gave a sling to their children as their first toy so that they would become familiar with it as quickly as possible. Once familiarity had been achieved, a piece of bread was placed on a stake in front of the children. The parents withheld food from their children until they could successfully hit the bread and knock it off the stake. Using these severe training techniques, Balearic slingers became masters of three different sizes of slings used to launch projectiles at varying distances.

Because of the large, heavy arrowheads preferred by the Cretans, their arrows were only accurate at a distance of a little more than 442 feet, while the sling could launch projectiles at least 492 feet, and most likely even farther due to the incredible skill of the Balearic slingers.

Source

With that said they are also easy to improvise so it might be worth the effort to make one. However, it might be better to improvise a bow as that would take less practice to use.

  • Having been a regular on a slinging website and forum, having played around with a sling for a couple of months and having met others from the site, in person as well as online, I do not agree with the long training needed. – Willeke Apr 16 '18 at 19:31

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