I have been in and out of the slingshot hobby a number of times over the years. The technology has certainly changed. Now, there are much better materials and technology. But, one thing that is not getting better is my hands. They suffer from years of working and repairing things. Some of this is genetic and some is due to the work environment on the job and at home. Injuries, arthritis and overuse contribute to the problem.
Below are some of the ways I cope with sore hands, so I can continue to enjoy shooting slingshots and working in my shop. This post is intended to offer some ideas that you can try. Some of these methods are unconventional but seem to work. Most of the slings shown are also unconventional, homebuilt prototypes, that are functional, but not pretty. Development is part of the fun and is an ongoing process.
Your slings may look different, but the ideas presented should still apply. This post is best used as a loose guide to get you thinking and experimenting to find out what works best for you.
Hammer or Pinch grip are both good, if my thumb can point forward. The hammer grip allows me to shoot the longest.
The thumb and finger supported grip is the hardest for me. I can use this grip but only for lighter bands and short shooting times. In this grip, my thumb is flat against the forks and this hurts. See the photo.
The dark sling in the photo shows a Pocket Predator, Taurus TTF. This is a very good sling and comfortable to shoot. It does not over stress the hand. The grip is sort of a cross between hammer and pinch. My only improvement suggestion would be, make the handle ½" longer. The pinky finger barely fits on.
1" wide handles work best for me and require the least contouring work to accommodate the base of my thumb. I can go to 1 1/2" wide if I make a relief on the handle where the base of my thumb touches the handle.
I can comfortably use a pinch grip up to about 2" wide, if the front-to-back frame thickness is 1" or less. If the frame is thicker than 1" from front to back, then the width of the handle should be limited to 1" to 1 1/2" wide for comfort.
If the handle is ¾" or narrower from side to side, then there is not enough area pushing against my hand to comfortably support the band pull load.
A straight back edge on the handle area that pushes into my palm is comfortable and supportive. Big palm swells don't seem to distribute the load as well. Smaller palm swells are OK.
The handle in this photo is bad because it is only ¾" wide, the back edge is curved in and not straight. Also when gripped, the thumb and pointer finger will overlap.
A better shaped handle is shown in the photo below. The back of the handle is straight and the front side curves inward. This gives a full grip with all fingers including the pinky. The thumb and pointer finger should just touch when you hold the handle.
If the pointer finger and thumb have a big open gap you may have a handle that is too big in diameter or too deep from front to back.
If your thumb and pointer finger overlap, the handle may be too small in diameter or too shallow from front to back.
The handle in the photo is being loosely held. It is a pretty good shape. But, it is still a bit too large overall. It would be better scaled by about 80%.
Fork lower edges
If you are using a hammer grip and holding up close to the fork, as you should, the lower edges of the fork should be rounded. You can round edges with a file or wrap them with junk rubber from old band sets. There are hockey and tennis grip wraps that can help. You can also slip on a thick rubber sleeve.
I combine many of these approaches on frames to make the fork edge rounder and kinder to the base area where my thumb touches the fork. In this photo, I am loosely holding the handle. Normally, my hand would be much further forward and the back base of the thumb would touch the lower fork area.
In addition to the fork, I also wrap the handle with junk rubber from used bands. Rubber rings cut from bicycle inner tubes also work for this chore. The wrapping improves the grip and comfort significantly.
You can try the over-the-counter remedies such as creams, sprays, aspirin… etc.
Others may have better suggestions in this area. I don't use them unless I am really hurting.
Fork pull height
Fork pull height is the distance from the bottom of the fork to the center of the band or tube that is pulling the pouch. Most of the forks shown here have a pull height of about 1 ½". Lower forks with shorter pull heights mean lower over-turning torque when you pull the pouch. This will in turn give lower forces on your hand.
In the case of some naturals and other "Deep Vee" slings, fork pull height is the distance from the top of your hand to the center of the band or tube. Many of these slings are used with the hand slid up on the Vee of the fork.
Kind of bands
Sensitive content, not recommended for those under 18
Light, flat bands give me the most zing for the pull force applied. But tubes can also be good if they are light. Just avoid stiff tubes or double band flats. They pull hard and hurt. Heavy bands do not always mean faster shot delivery. This has been shown and discussed often on the Forum.
I try to stay under 10#s of pull at my draw distance. About 8#s works well and flat bands give plenty of "hit" for 5/16" steel ammo. I can shoot this band and ammo combination for a long time. I currently draw past my ear to 36". This longer pull gives good energy even with light bands.
This photo shows a fish scale that I use to check band pull forces at my draw length.
Many people shoot BBs with even lighter bands and have a great time. So, if the bands and ammo are light enough, almost everyone should be able to find a combination that is comfortable for them.
It seems easier for me to grip larger (7/8" wide and 2 7/8" total length) and thicker pouches (0.060" to 0.100") I am not after the lightest pouches and the greatest shot speed. I am seeking the most comfortable and consistent pouch.
If the pouch has a rough and smooth side, I will usually use the rough side out for my hold. That seems to help my holding power. My rational is that rough or smooth, it's the same on either side of the pouch for my two fingers to grip.
Lately, I have been tying the pouch with the ears to the inside to avoid cheek scrapes when drawing the pouch beyond my ear. I have not noticed any accuracy or safety problems with the band ears to the inside.
Leather pouches are the best material for me. There are good vendors on the Forum. SimpleShot leather Latigo pouches are also good. Microfiber pouches are almost always too small and hard to hold.
How I hold the pouch
My thumb and pointer finger both hurt so I use other fingers to hold the pouch. The thumb is then in a supporting role which is less stressful.
I hold the pouch in an unconventional way, between pointer and middle finger along the middle bones of those fingers or at the first joint from the finger tip.
Relax your hold on the frame a bit between shots. Don't keep a constant, hard hold. Let the blood flow back into your hand between shots.
Find a comfortable frame you like and shoot it consistently. It's fun to swap frames and a little is OK, but focus the most effort on one comfortable frame. That will improve your accuracy for all frames and also keep your hands from hurting.
I like to shoot 15 careful shots and then go to pick up the ammo from the catch box. While there, I assess my accuracy on paper targets and mark my hits on the paper. Doing this gives me a 3 minute break before I go back to the shooting line and let 15 more steels fly down range. Doing this for seven rounds is 105 shots. This is easier on my hands and better for accuracy than shooting 105 shots, one right after another.
Keep the shooting sessions short. You can do more sessions, but keeping them short will help.
Vary the targets and the distance and height that you shoot. This changes the muscles used somewhat and keeps you more mentally fresh. I shoot paper, cans and spinners. Walking the woods is good for lots of reasons.
Tightly gripping your shop hand-tools can be more stressful than shooting.
Use pliers, vice grip pliers, clamps, vices and other gripping tools rather than squeezing hard with your bare hands to hold a piece of metal or wood.
Work smart and patiently. Think about what you are about to do. Is there an easier way to do the task without over stressing your hands? Do you need to use clamps, vice or pliers? Should you make a jig?
What are your tips to avoid sore hands?
I've told you some ways I use to cope with sore hands. What are your ways of keeping your hands comfortable? You must also have taken some steps to adapt to your new reality. Tell us about it and show us what works for you.