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I've been thinking about how to design the best bandsets for my needs. I'm a target shooter who wants to take a similar bandset out to hunt. I like a chin draw. What works for me might not work for other people, because we're all different. A person's best bandset depends on many factors such as how strong you are, whether you need power for hunting, whether velocity and consistency are a trump factor, the kind of ammo your shooting, range, etc. These are just my current thoughts about why I shoot what I shoot.

Best rubber material: I use 100% latex bands. Most people agree that the best type of rubber is 100% latex, because it gives great elongation, great resilience on contraction and has a smooth power delivery. A smooth finish results in less abrasion and longer band life. Some people use latex doped with fillers and other modifying agents and others opt for synthetics, but most people will shoot 100% natural latex if they can. There is some voodoo about colours. Some people want no colouring agent and others believe red is the least negative, but honestly it doesn't really matter.

Type of band: I use flat 0.5mm-0.75mm flat bands. Square rubber works. So do rounds, tubes, bands and basically almost any cross section. However, just about everyone agrees that thinner rubber that has a high ratio of surface to insides shoot faster. So, to get more speed and energy from a band of the same draw strength, shooters have started using thinner rubber. How thin? Well 0.50mm (.002") to 0.75mm (.003") is in the ballpark for what shoots fast but holds together. You can go thinner or thicker, but this works for me. Any thinner and you'll be changing bands very frequently and any thicker and performance will drop a little, just noticeably.

Tubes vs bands: I'd prefer tubes but shoot bands. Given that very thin rubber tends to tear from the edges, one solution is not to have any edges, and use a tube. Tubes are presently harder for me to obtain and very few tubes are available as thin as I'd like and none in quite the taper profile that I want, so I stick to bands. I like tubes and would shoot them otherwise. There's been a lot of debate on the forums between band groupies and tube zealots but all of them want thin walls. Only people with huge surplusses of muscle power should shoot thick tubes like you get on the typical wrist-braced slingshot, or heaven forbid harpoon gun elastic. Harpoon gun elastic is only for when you want a simple bandset to fire very heavy projectiles, like a baseball, full soda can, or basically thrust a harpoon through the water and out the other side of a big fish. It has thrust but is inefficient at generating velocity. If you want more thrust but without losing efficiency, then add more thin tubes or bands. It's not unusual to see thin tube slingshots with 6 bands per side and having 2 stacked flat bands per side is commonplace.

Band taper profiles: I use a 30% taper. deciding this is down to a speed vs wear compromise. First, the good news: tapered bands are known to be faster. Tapers smooth out the draw, and reduce the weight of the back part of the bandset that must travel the furthest. The bad news is that bands tend to tear where they stretch most and two of those places are the ends of the bands. Here the stretching is intensified and so is the friction. If you taper your bands from being fat at the forks to thin at the pouch, then the weakest part of your band coincides with the place where most bands fail. Mild tapers have little impact on either speed or longevity, but really aggressive tapers on thin bands are going to lead to a very short band life. Few people would be comfortable with a taper of over 50%. I would start with about 30% and if the bands last, try for a bit more off, and if they don't then cut them a little wider.

Finding the balance: This is all about educated compromise and optimum combination of attributes for your needs. Let me sum it up by saying it's like deciding between a top fuel dragster and a family sedan. You can make it fast, dangerous and liable to blow up every other night, or sedate and reliable. I like to aim for the super car level, where I as an enthusiast can feel some excitement and marvel at the acceleration, but not soil my shorts at the thought of a razor thin band under high tension lying across my pulsing jugular as the pouch starts to cut through the taper.
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It's good engineering practice to engineer each part so that they have a common breaking point. That is to say that as no chain is stronger than its weakest link, don't make any part much weaker than the rest. The corollary is that (if you'll forgive my mixing metaphors) The castle gate should be weaker than its walls, so the defenders will know where the enemy will breach and be ready to deal with those that do. Therefore the taper should be as tight as possible so that the band doesn't snap under tension, but it's good that a band should tend to snap at the pouch because it's better to get slapped in the hand with a band than get slapped in the face with a fork arm.

This is what I'm shooting these days:

  • Target: Double layer, 100% latex 0.50mm (.002") flatbands. Cut from 10 inch bands (8" between the fork and the pouch) for an under the chin draw. 1" at the fork. 30% taper. Gives a light, controllable shot. 5-7g (.2oz/ 90 grains) lead ball.
  • Power: Double layer, 100% latex 0.75mm (.003") flatbands. Cut from 10 inch bands (8" between the fork and the pouch) for an under the chin draw. 1" at the fork. 30% taper. Gives a heavy but manageable shot. 9/12g (.4oz/ 160 grains) ball.
Of course, I'm still on my journey of discovery and I expect this to evolve. As for purchased bands, you can't go wrong with Tex-Shooter's Field or Express Bands for targets and small game, or pallan65's natural latex bands are great plinkers and hunters. fish's Hunter Bands are for men with hairy chests to go stalking rabbits in plate armour and just super fun. I am sure there are others good bands, but I'm yet to buy and try them.


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JoergS
May 31 2010 07:45 AM

True words! Great post.

One thing I'd like to add: Fish Hunter Bands are designed for the Fish Hunter / Ergo slingshots. Those have a very low fork and therefore it is not too hard to draw them out. However if you put the Hunter bands on a slingshot with higher forks, it really requires serious strength.


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ZDP-189
Aug 28 2010 07:14 AM

Three months on, this theme is coming up more and more in my thoughts.

I used to think it was about pushing one or two parameters right up to, or past, the feasible limits. Paper thin bands, long draws, powerful draws and super light pouches - all of these make for extreme slingshots, but that's not what's generally needed. I usually pick a slingshot out of the pile because its bandset is just what is called for - it is fairly fast, but mostly it's easy to draw, accurate, consistent and it's not broke or starting to go. Extreme slingshots make compromises in all these latter categories. Reliability is a priority when I'm out hiking. I want a reliable tool, not an exotic bandset that requires a pocket full of spares and a haemostat.
 
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