How to Build and Use a Traditional Apache Sling

A little bit of interesting history here, and a fun project. I’ve built slings but am nothing close to an expert with them.

While stationed at Biggs Air Force Base (now defunct) in El Paso, Texas in 1963, I had the rare opportunity to be shown how to construct and use a “proper sling” by a 75 year old master whose heritage was Mescalero Apache. I never could properly pronounce this gentleman’s given name, but he preferred to be called Grandfather anyway as it was a term of respect.

The sling he removed from his pocket was somewhat worn and unimpressive to see which belied what he and it were truly capable of. Mentally I was comparing him with other slingers I’d seen. I’d become accustomed to observing wasted motion and inaccuracy as the norm. His calm demeanor and unhurried movements added to my misconceptions. After his first two casts, it began to register what I was actually seeing. This old dark-skinned gentleman transformed before my eyes to the embodiment of a trained hunter and a fearsome warrior. His strength and speed left me speechless.

At approximately 35 yards or less his accuracy was more than equal to the fictional Ayla*. He explained that after that distance the stone lost velocity rapidly which would make kills more difficult, but his accuracy seemed barely affected. His demonstration target was the bottom metal climbing rung on an old style telephone pole which he easily hit more than 80% of the time with such extreme speed and force that the stone would fracture into small pieces while the rung itself rang like a loud, dull sounding bell. He matter-of-factly claimed similar accuracy on moving targets. To the best of his knowledge, his Mescalaro tribe had been using slings for centuries for hunting or combat and could kill a deer or warrior with equal ease.

While he was growing up, before the turn of the 20th century, his tribe was restricted to a small area of reservation land so hunting was difficult at best. They were not permitted to legally possess firearms until the second decade of the 20th century, after having been forcibly disarmed in 1880 by an order from Col. Hatch of the U.S. Army. If they missed a throw, then they usually went hungry because the food the U.S. government dispensed was always too small in quantity and was frequently contaminated. He firmly maintained that his methods were the best and I could find no fault. The following text summarizes his instructions through actions and verbal communication.

Read the Rest


About Vince

I am a Tlingit, born and raised in Tlingit Country, and a proud member of the Tlingit Nation.
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