Paleotech Throwing Sling

This independent project is a thought experiment to determine whether a product-based solution can be used to treat a deep societal problem — gun control. The project leveraged the same lean product development process we use for our inventor/innovator clients to realize a market-ready product in just a few weeks.

The device is based on a Paleolithic invention. It is intended to introduce young "outdoorsmen" to the responsibility of owning a projectile weapon by slowing down the process by which they become deadly with it to more closely align power and maturity.

PRoblem

Within the time it takes to be handed a gun, a person with or without the maturity and discipline to handle a firearm responsibly is given the power to kill.

Further, for many gun owners a firearm represents independence. Ironically, these enthusiasts are completely beholden to the manufacturers of this equipment — weapons and ammunition — in a way that makes them helpless, if this is their only source of independence.

Opportunity

There is an opportunity for a consumer that provides the excitement and fulfillment of mastering a projectile sport (e.g. shooting), but that — like a traditional martial art — requires a time and discipline to develop the skill necessary to be dangerous to others.

Further, there is an opportunity for this product to empower its user by making him/her independent of any manufacturer — weapon or ammunition.

Solution

The solution is a piece of production sporting equipment that provides affordability, independence, and the development of martial skill through mastery over a long period of time. The design shown is based on an ancient technology — the throwing sling — but updated to be manufacturable using modern, high volume production equipment and affordable enough to be an impulse buy at any major sporting goods retailer.

precision and accuracy sports are sports whose objective is to hit a target of various shapes and sizes (such as a pocket, hole, jack or bowling pin) using various means (such as a bow, firearm, billiard cue, ball or club).
— Merriam Webster

What is it?

Self portrait as David with the head of Goliath by Johann Zoffany, 1756

Self portrait as David with the head of Goliath by Johann Zoffany, 1756

The PaleoTECH Throwing Sling is a modern redesign of an ancient innovation. 
Everyone who knows the story of David & Goliath knows the elegant power of the shepherd’s sling — the deceptively simple device that allowed a shepherd boy to overcome a seemingly indestructible adversary. The oldest surviving slings date to 2500 BC, though the innovation likely dates to the Upper Paleolithic Period over 10,000 years ago. The Shepherd’s sling is a low cost, high impact projectile device that leverages human ingenuity to enhance the strength and skill present in all of us. 
Like its Paleolithic ancestor, the PaleoTECH Throwing Sling is a simple and elegant device. Unlike the traditional sling — made of low durability braided plant fibers, leather or other natural materials — the PaleoTECH Throwing Sling is constructed of high performance, durable manufactured components. It combines low stretch, high strength paracord for enhanced throwing power and molded TPE components to securely grip stones and provide grip to the user. 
By combining the simple elegance of the Shepherd’s sling with the high performance of modern materials and manufacturing processes, the PaleoTECH Throwing Sling provides today’s outdoorsmen with an affordable, elegant, sporting, and high performance alternative to increasingly expensive and automated equipment.

How Does It Work?

Roman slingers (funditores) in action in the Dacian Wars. Detail from Trajan's Column, Rome

Roman slingers (funditores) in action in the Dacian Wars. Detail from Trajan's Column, Rome

Easily stashed in a pocket and far more powerful than the cheap, plastic Chinese alternatives, the PaleoTECH throwing sling is a fantastic way to burn off some of your dog's excess juice.

Like the ancient Shepherd’s Sling, the PaleoTECH Throwing Sling works through the principle of leverage. 
By extending the length of the thrower’s arm, it enhances the speed and distance a projectile can be thrown. To use, the thrower holds the ends of the sling (ring on one finger, bead held between thumb and forefinger) and places a projectile in the molded rubber pouch. With one simple swing and release, a practiced user can propel a small, dense projectile with the accuracy, range and force of a large caliber handgun or cast a lightweight tennis ball long distances at the dog park to burn off the excess energy of your furry friend.

Who Is It For?

The target end user for this device is twofold — recreational users and serious hunters and outdoors(wo)men. The benefits to each group are different but profound.

Recreational Users

Easily stashed in a pocket and far more powerful than the cheap, plastic alternatives, the PaleoTECH throwing sling is a fantastic way to burn off some of your dog's excess juice.

Easily stashed in a pocket and far more powerful than the cheap, plastic alternatives, the PaleoTECH throwing sling is a fantastic way to burn off some of your dog's excess juice.

For the recreational user, the PaleoTECH Throwing Sling provides a low cost, portable ball launcher for tennis and racquetballs or a new and exciting target sport. It stows easily in a pocket and can be used at the dog park to hurl tennis balls extreme distances. (More running = sleepier dogs!) Protected with racquetball glasses and armed with a pile of old balls, kids can have exciting tennis ball wars as a safe, affordable and less militant alternative to paintball or Airsoft.

Paintball is an extremely expensive pass time that requires complex and costly equipment. The outlay of cash associated with it does not stop at the purchase of equipment. It continues in the form of field fees, paint, air, and myriad other expenses. Reliance on breaking paint and referees leads to a culture of "wiping" (cheating) at even amateur levels of the sport. A low cost, honest alternative to paintball ("SlingBall?") might use inflatable Sup'Air fields like that shown below. Players would use slings and racquetballs in place of paintball "markers" and woould need only be protected by racquetball glasses. With no paint to break, the honor system would assure sportsmanship and reduce the need for refs and costly paint.

In a single 5 minute Tournament Speedball game, players often expend up to 2000 rounds (a case) of paint at up to $.05/ball. 

In a single 5 minute Tournament Speedball game, players often expend up to 2000 rounds (a case) of paint at up to $.05/ball. 

Outdoorsmen | Target Shooters & Hunters

The benefits to outdoorsmen are more complex. Even “minimalist” hunters rely on complex and expensive compound bows and other high tech equipment — often at the expense of the purity, excitement and honor of traditional bow hunting.

The modern compound bow is a double-edged sword when it comes to empowering its owner. The power it provides through high tech components and materials is more than offset by the inaccessibility of those materials and components to the average human. Modern archers and firearms users are dependent on the producers of equipment and ammunition in a way that ancient hunters, who could craft their own equipment, were not.

The modern compound bow is a double-edged sword when it comes to empowering its owner. The power it provides through high tech components and materials is more than offset by the inaccessibility of those materials and components to the average human. Modern archers and firearms users are dependent on the producers of equipment and ammunition in a way that ancient hunters, who could craft their own equipment, were not.

The PaleoTECH Throwing Sling returns hunting to its ancient and simple roots and upholds the fair chase ideology. It builds skill and respect without the need to master any special primitive fabrication skills (e.g. flint knapping, et al.) or get a second mortgage. A high performance compound bow can cost upwards of $1,000 for the bow alone, and you still need arrows. With (free) stones as ammunition, the PaleoTECH Throwing Sling frees the outdoorsman from dependence on manufactured arrows or ammunition. (This is also handy in the event of a zombie apocalypse… Seriously, where does Darryl get all those arrows?)

The modern compound bow is a double-edged sword when it comes to empowering its owner. The power it provides through high tech components and materials is more than offset by the inaccessibility of those materials and components to the average human. Modern archers and firearms users are dependent on the producers of equipment and ammunition in a way that ancient hunters, who could craft their own equipment, were not.

According to the Archery Trade Association's 2013 Participation Report, there are over 18.9 million archers in the US alone. Of these, 55% participate in target archery only, 35% participate in target archery and bowhunting, and just 10% participate in bowhunting only. Low cost and convenience could make slinging an attractive alternative sport that could span this entire market to serve target shooters and hunters alike.

What Makes It Cool?

As a recreational product PaleoTECH Throwing Sling is fun, inexpensive, portable and represents an exciting mastery skill. As a hunting weapon, the PaleoTECH Throwing Sling is affordable and empowering. As a business opportunity, it is sustainable, scalable and uniquely American.

The PaleoTECH Throwing Sling is exactly what a product should be. In the hands of a skilled user, the throwing sling has better range and accuracy than a recurve bow and more stopping power than a .44 magnum (Dohrenwend, 39). It replaces high tech with high skill, allowing the user to quickly and affordably practice and master a powerful skill that will last a lifetime. 
The outdoor recreation market is over 140 million Americans strong, $646 billion in annual sales, and is responsible for over 6.1 million jobs (Bureau of Economic Analysis).It longs for authenticity, purity and the fair chase.

Robert E. Dohrenwend, PH.D., Journal of Asian Martial Arts, Volume 11, 2002, The Sling, Forgotten Firepower of Antiquity

Robert E. Dohrenwend, PH.D., Journal of Asian Martial Arts, Volume 11, 2002, The Sling, Forgotten Firepower of Antiquity

Made in the USA from recyclable components and using only stones as ammunition, PaleoTECH is part of a sustainable and scalable business. Using just 3 molded components and adaptable cables (colors & lengths), customers can achieve a custom fit even as the business maintains low costs. As the PaleoTECH line of products expands, it will grow to include tactical, hunting and recreational (tennis ball specific) slings and supporting accessories (targets, scales and ammunition).
PaleoTECH is more than a cool product — It is also a skill, a philosophy and a revolution in projectile sports!

Development Status

The development of the beta prototype shown here was accomplished in less than three weeks, including quotes for production tools and patent drawings. 

Initial proof-of-concept prototypes were constructed of braided synthetic fiber and used to determine technical specifications for the finished product, including cord length, ring and pouch sizes. User insights were identified during testing with these prototypes. (These included the need to enhance the security of the projectile prior to throwing, which led to the incorporation of a rubber pouch.)

A CAD model was generated in Solidworks and used to create Alpha prototypes. These were fabricated in silicone, using RTV tooling, and combined with cut-to-length paracord in a variety of colors to produce functional alpha prototypes. Packaging was sourced from Placon and assembled for product photography. Custom rock bags were prototyped by a manufacturer of rock climbing chalk bags.

CAD models were submitted to a US manufacturer for single cavity tooling quotes and further refined to streamline manufacturing and assembly. The resulting cost of goods (with packaging) indicated a fantastic margin for the finished product, providing a 6x multiplier, even made in the USA.

The project is currently being redirected from the injection molded solution shown here to provide additional education and empowerment to the user and to accommodate the small size of this currently non-existent market. This new direction re-envisions the device as a kit for creating a braided sling. Each kit will include a detailed set of illustrated braiding instructions, an assortment of cut-to-length paracord, and a small book describing the history and use of the throwing sling.