Slinging

Vikings for all occasions, no foe too far

Manaraefan Herred

Comments on this site should be sent to Roger Barry

†††††††††††† The sling was widely used throughout Europe in the early middle ages mainly for hunting, if you can hunt animals with a sling there is no reason you canít hunt men!† Would the Vikings of the people of the British Isles use the sling in war?† There are laws, both Norse (Viking) and English which list the weapons that a warrior must bring to a muster and the sling is not listed but that doesnít mean that an expert with the sling didnít bring one even if he only intended to use it for hunting.† Norse laws required that a warrior attending a Weapons Thing had amongst other weapons a bow and 24 arrows per thwart on his ship, if he has to have a bow it seems less likely that he will take a sling.† It is unlikely then that any Vikings descending on the British Isles would use a sling when he had a better option, though the range of the sling is easily comparable with the bow it canít match the rate of missile release except in the hands of dedicated experts, Baleric slingers were the dominant missile troops in the Punic Wars and could achieve phenomenal ranges and rates of release but while an individual Viking might be able to do the same there was no militarily significant number of highly skilled slingers for the Vikings to exploit. Nor is it so easy to cover a target and release a missile at exactly the right moment though again an expert slinger might only be a fraction of a second slower than and archer, an archer only has to let go of the bow string while a slinger may have to wait for the stone to be in the right position before letting go of the release knot, for these reasons in the modern Vikings re-enactment society the sling may not be used by the invader, the home team however can use them.† Some of the auxiliaries that may accompany the defending army as servants etc. could use the sling to hurl rocks at the enemy in the early stages of a battle at least.† Early medieval battles tended to be fought in phases, first the intimidation of the enemy in the hope he will see the sense in surrender, second a missile phase and thirdly the dangerous and unpredictable business of exchanging blows.† The sling may well be used by the auxiliary members of the defending army to add some weight to their missile assault on the invader.† None of this is certain though as references are few and far between, for example there is a single peasant armed with a sling hunting birds on the Bayeux Tapestry, later there are pictures of rocks and sticks being hurled at the Normans and a single English archer but no slingers appear in the battle scenes.

In the Vikings re-enactment society the following instructions are given to those using a sling, the first is for those that have passed a test that amongst other things only required them to hit a target equivalent to six warriors standing in line, the second required the slinger to hit a shield held by a warrior.

†††††††††††† Unarmoured warrior equipped with a sling and seax.

†††††††††††† You are the lowest class of warrior allowed on the battlefield to defend your home and lord.† As a slinger you are on the home team, if a sling is the best weapon you can provide yourself with you will not be going on any raids abroad. You will shoot at the enemy until you run out of ammunition, if you canít find any more you might as well go home or return to camp.† If an enemy warrior comes too close you must run away. If your army commander or unit commander dies go home quickly, rout!

†††††††††††† Unarmoured warrior equipped with a sling, seax and an axe, may have a shield too.

†††††††††††† You are little better that the fellow only armed with a sling, you can at least now defend yourself! If youíre not sure what to do run away! If your army commander or unit commander dies go home quickly, rout!

†††††††††††† Before we can play the role of an early medieval slinger we need a sling, there are several ways of making a sling and the best place to learn how is at Slinging.org but with the permission of the sites author, Chris Harrison, and Dan Bollinger the author of the following article, I have copied Danís article on how to make a woven sling, the type I use.† The photos are the authors and he has used modern materials, for re-enactment all you need to do is replace the nylon cord with linen cord or any other effective material available at the time.

Making a Braided Sling: An Illustrated Guide - Dan Bollinger

Braided slings were made by ancient slingers and continue to be popular by contemporary slingers. They are easy to make, work well, and beautiful craft objects, too. These instructions are for a 39", or one meter, long sling, the simplest form of all braided slings based on a continuous triple-braid. It features a finger loop, split pouch for the stone, and can be braided in any length to suit your purpose.

For your first sling, use nylon #18 string sold in craft and hardware stores, and sometimes called "Mason's Line." It is inexpensive and readily available.

Any string 1/16" (1.5mm) wide will work. Many people like to use natural fibres for a historically authentic sling. 48 pound hemp works well. Smaller and larger string can be used, just alter the number of strings to suit.

Dimensions are in inches followed by the metric equivalent in centimetres in parenthesis unless otherwise noted.

Cut six lengths of string 110" (280cm).

For this pictorial, I've chosen three colours to illustrate the 3-strand braid better. You may use one colour.

Combine all the string and double to find the middle.

Secure the strings at the middle. A spring clamp works well, too.

Divide the string into three strands. In this case, the three colours of string.

If you already know how to braid three strands, skip this and the next panel.

Braiding three strands is the same as braiding hair. The outermost strand always goes over the middle one only to become the new middle one itself. A strand in this sling is composed of two strings. Keep the strands tight. It helps to secure the braid to a stationary object so you can pull the braid tight.

When making a three-strand braid of many strings, how the strings are oriented changes the braid. This is useful in making a sling.

If the strands are 'rolled' over the previous strand, it makes a "round" braid. Fast. Good for 'down' and 'release' cords.

If the strands are kept flat and parallel, it makes a "flat" braid. Slow. Good for 'finger loops' and 'pouches.'

Braid a 'flat' braid for 4" (10cm). This will become the 'finger loop.'

Bring the ends of the 'finger loop' together and secure. Separate the string into three equal strands.

Braid a 'round' braid the 'down cord' for 14" (36cm) .

When finished with the 'down cord', secure the braid and separate each of the strands evenly into two, new strands of six strings each. Divide each of these into three strands and begin flat braiding one set to become the 'pouch.'

Flat braid the 'pouch' for 4" (10cm) as shown. Repeat for the second side of the pouch.

Combine the two pouch cords and evenly divide their strings into three new strands. Begin an 18" (46cm) round braid for the 'release cord'.

When finished, take two of the three strands and tie a square knot to secure the braid. Nylon is slippery, you may want to add a drop of super-glue to secure.

Trim the ends. Use a match or hot surface to melt the nylon strings to prevent unravelling.

Some people like a smooth release cord. Others prefer a knot. Tie an overhand knot in the release cord to make a 'release knot.' You can move the knot to adjust the cords so the pouch is centred during throwing.

These instructions make a short sling good for practicing your braiding technique. If you want to make longer slings you will need to begin with longer strands. To make an finished sling 'x' long the formula is: 'x' times 2.8.

Change the size of the finger loop to suit yourself, change the size of the pouch to suit your stones. 4" is good for stones the size of a golf ball; 6" for tennis ball size stones.

The slings to the right are made from #18 Nylon (6 strings), 20# Hemp (6 strings), and Sisal (6 strings).

Dan Bollinger

Now we have our sling we need some ammunition, again Slinging.org is good for this so long as you are not shooting at live human targets that you wish to share a drink with round the camp fire later!

After much trial and error the following ammunition is recommended, the criteria were that the ammunition should not cause damage to the target warrior and have sufficient weight to fly properly.

Materials required are some dried peas, plastic sandwich bags and some grey/silver gaffer tape.

Tear of a strip of gaffer tape approx. eight inches long.

Wrap the gaffer tape round the bag but not too tightly.

Wrap a second piece of gaffer tape round the bag to cover the open sides.

Wrap a third piece of gaffer tape round the bag to cover any remaining signs of the plastic bag.† Each of the three pieces of gaffer tape should be wrapped round the bag of peas in a different direction.† Your done, go and shoot your friends!

You may want to mark the ammunition as yours, coloured electrical tape works well.

 

 

 

When complete there should be enough give in the ďstoneĒ to press your thumb into it.

Now make some more ammunition, you will need enough to last the battle if possible.† As an archer I usually take thirty arrows with me but I can use the arrows that are shot at us by the other side too, as a slinger you canít, you are on the home team and the invader has left his slingers working in his fields! In my admittedly limited experience the rate of shooting of a slinger is much slower than that of an archer, I can shoot thirteen arrows a minute but my best with a sling so far is six, in recent battles I have found fifty stones to be a sufficient number of missiles and I was able to recover some ammunition when my side advanced, you should never pass up the chance to collect ammunition!† I have been advised that with practice a slinger can shoot up to twenty stones in a minute, I look forward to seeing that but doubt that Iíll have the time to develop that level of skill as my slinging career only seriously started at age 54!

Take a handful of peas, approx. two and a half ounces.

Place the peas in the bag and twist the bag closed.

Wrap the rest of the bag round the peas.

Don't forget you will need a bag to carry your ammunition!

 

Hrothgar

An open pouch is not to everyone's liking and not recommended for beginners. There are two options here, you can sew in a piece of cloth to fill the gap when the weaving is complete or you can divide the strings into four woven strands before re-joining as instructed.† These strands are then used as the warp while a separate piece of string is used as the weft to weave the cup.† Hrothgar

Here is a simple and quick way to make a sling posted on slinging.org by Malik Lund.

 

You will need a piece of string approx. 5mm thick, I find an ideal length is equal to your out stretched arms plus the distance from your finger tips to your shoulder of one arm, once complete this length give you a sling fitted to you.

The following instructions and illustrations are for a right-handed person. Fold the string in half and hold it in your left hand with a loop at the top approximately the width of your thumb.

With the outside half of the string make a similar loop at the bottom.

Place the outside strand over the top loop.

Bring the strand around and under the top loop.

Now bring the strand up between the outside and centre strands.

Then pass the strand down through the top loop.

Pull the strand upwards to tighten the knot, no need to pull very tight as we will be tightening the knots after making the next one.

Turn the whole thing round so that the bottom loop is at the top and the loose strand is on the outside.

Place the outside strand over the top loop.

Bring the strand around and under the top loop.

Now bring the strand up between the outside and centre strands.

 

Tighten the new knot then take hold of the upper† strand either side of the cup you have created and pull the whole thing tight.

If you havenít already tie a knot at either end of the string, this isnít absolutely necessary but will stop the string from unravelling.

You will find that one of the strand is longer and tie a loop in it.

A slip knot is good as you can fit that firmly to your hand which reduced the chance of you throwing the sling after the stone at the enemy! Pass the loose end over the strand.

Bring the end round the back of the strand.

Tighten the knot and adjust to size.† Note the end of the string is pointing down, this will be more comfortable.

On one of these finished examples I have sewn a piece of cloth to make a closed cup but a three strand open cup works well.

Then pass the strand down through the top loop.