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Ball Control is everything

As every slingshot enthusiast knows, controlling the ball is everything: accuracy, safety and fun. So how do you corral those pesky steel orbs that want to roll, run and fly away at every opportunity?

There are lots of magnetic lanyards, but most grip the steels pretty tightly. That is good for hunting but a little annoying when you intend to shoot a 100 or so. For target practice, I needed something easier. I often use a large, plastic, container lid to hold target steels. But the free-running balls just want to scoot around inside the lid ahead of my fingers. The little buggers resist capture!

How to herd the balls

A simple way that keeps the balls in formation, at attention and ready for service is to use a large, flat, disk magnet under a plastic container lid. With just a little herding help from your fingers, the disk magnet wants to arrange and hold the balls in a pattern that makes counting and pickup easy. See the attached photos.

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Do this experiment

If you don't believe the rough pattern will emerge, try this experiment. Take 15 steels, divide them into groups of 5. Drop the first five from 6" over the lid with the disk magnet below the lid. Take the second set and aim for a bare spot. Drop the last five on any remaining bare spot. What do you see?

Where to find the disk magnets

The online Harbor Freight (HF) site shows three, larger sizes of disk magnets, 50, 60 and 81 mm. I found them all at a local HF store. The 60 mm size comes as a two-pack of "Magnetic Decor Hooks" for $5. The 81 mm (3.2") size is $5.50 for one. After trying both sizes, I recommend the larger one. The store also has magnetic dishes used to hold nuts and bolts. But, these are small and didn't work as well as a large plastic lid and large disk magnet.

If you don't have an HF store nearby, there are other stores and online sites that sell disk magnets.

Minor modification

I filled the shallow, center hole on one side of the magnet with a thin piece of wood. The wood keeps the balls from getting down in the shallow center hole where the magnet grips them very tightly and they are hard to get out.

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Three ways the magnet helps you

There are at least three tasks the disk magnet performs. First, it securely holds the steel balls in a good formation for target use. Second, it helps gather the steel balls from the catch box, driveway, and dirt. Third, with the disk magnet under the plastic lid, you can bump, step on or tip it over without spilling the steels all over the place.

I hope this post helps you corral those wayward steels and train them to stand in formation ready for target duty.
 

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They sell them at Ace Hardware also next to the command hooks. I use them to hold the drawers closed in my trailer. They have lots of sizes. That's a great idea, I think I have a few laying around. I think I'll throw one in the bottom of the mesh target catch box for a collector and see how it works. Maybe they'll just stack themselves :)
 
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