Are you considering adding a rock-throwing or slingshot program at your camp?
Slingshot and/or Rock Throwing ranges can be fun, easy and inexpensive to build.
In this article, we’ll explore course set-up, targets, ammo, safety and more.
Archery is very popular at camps. Riflery programs using .22s or BB guns have also been around for a very long time. These days rock-throwing, slingshots and ax throwing are gaining in popularity. In fact, some camps are reporting that rock-throwing is more popular than any of the other options.
The first thing you’ll need to do is find a suitable location for your range. If you have an archery course already, it’s best if you follow the same recommendations. For example, you don’t want anything behind the range, especially people.
Here are some images of ranges at a variety of camps.
As you can see, there are a number of targets you can use, as well as a number of ways you set them up.
Whether we’re talking about slingshot ranges or rock throwing ranges, the targets can be similar.
Here is a list of targets to consider.
Pots and Pans
Hit the garage sales. Scour the kitchen. Hang a bunch of different sized pots and pans on your range. They make a great sound when hit.
The more objects you have that make sound, the better. Find some metal or tin signs to hang up. There are so many cool ones to choose from. They are inexpensive to buy new as well.
- Perfect purchase for a gift
- Great craftmanship
These are expensive and not easy to find used. Check Craigslist, Facebook or eBay.
Cans and Containers
Set up a wooden ledge or table to place cans on and have campers try and knock them off. You could also hang them from tree branches or a structure you’ve built.
A word of caution – cans and containers that had food in them previously may not be the best option as animals will go after them, drag them away, and tear them up. That’s not great for your range or for the animals.
You can find plain cans in different sizes at hardware stores. Check the paint section.
They don’t make any sounds. but the visual of them being knocked off a table or knocked around swinging from a branch can be exciting. Add some color by painting them with neon paint or buy these.
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Add a mailbox to your range. Let the campers try to get their rocks inside the mailbox. Bonus points for hitting the little flag.
Add some character to your range with license plates. If you can get ones from other states, that would be even better.
You can always grab some butcher paper, draw something on it and use it as a target. Better yet, print a picture out of a crazy monster or something similar.
- Includes Three of each target: Carnival Shoot 1,2, and 3
- Works with any pistol, rifle, or gun.
The more unique sounds you have available as targets the better. Whether you use handbells or cowbells, your campers will love the variety of sounds.
Speaking of adding in more sounds, hang up a used xylophone for a variety of cool tones.
Here’s a great target for throwing ranges. Find some used ones. Look for cracked and damaged ones to save money.
Making sounds is cool, but what about movement? Add some spin to your range. You can find a variety of spinning targets online. If you have someone handy or are handy yourself, you could probably build one.
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- Sturdy steel made diamonds target plate
As a kid, I loved setting up my GI Joe action figures and knocking them down from a distance with rubber bands. It would be cool to see action figures on a range that I can throw rocks at.
Cut-out some silhouette targets from wood or purchase some.
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Now that we have our targets, let’s talk about ammo. A rock-throwing range is easy…lots of rocks.
A slingshot range, however, gives you options. Here is a list of objects you can use for ammunition that other camps are using.
This is the obvious choice when it comes to ammunition for slingshots. Go to any store that sells slingshots and steel balls will be right next to them.
Another option is to use biodegradable clay balls. They are the same size as the typical steel balls for a slingshot.
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- Easy to use: The ammo is a good balance between light and heavy
If your location has plenty of small rocks, you can definitely use those. Watch for sharp edges that could cut into the rubber tubing of a slingshot. Keep the rocks small if you don’t want to do too much damage to your targets.
Want to add some color? Use paintballs. I love this idea, but it can get a bit expensive.
Dog food seems to be a popular option. It’s cheap. But beware, it may attract wildlife. Depending on the wildlife in your area, this could be a good thing or not. You certainly don’t want to attract bears. But if that’s not a concern you may want to attract critters like raccoons that can be seen during a night hike.
This was a new one for me. As I was doing some research, I found that some camps use pinto beans as their ammo.
Don’t want to leave anything behind? Use ice for your ammo and let it melt away.
A few other ideas I came across were marbles, taconite pellets, chickpeas, rock salt, acorns, and stale mini-marshmallows.
You’re going to want to have campers and staff wear eye protection, especially on the slingshot range as there is always the possibility of ammo bouncing back.
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As for range rules, I like to follow the Cub Scout Shooting Sports Guide which has a section specifically on slingshots. Here is an edited excerpt from it.
Notes on Slingshot Level 1 Requirements
CAUTION: Slingshot bands contain natural rubber latex. Those who are allergic to rubber latex should not use slingshots.
Slingshot ranges, equipment, and safe practices must follow the guidelines spelled out in the National Shooting Sports Manual. Generally, the same rules apply for this activity that would apply for BB gun shooting.
The preferred slingshot for Cub Scouts has a wrist brace so the shooter’s hand doesn’t become weak from having to hold the frame tightly.
Although exciting and fun, slingshots are not toys. Campers must understand that they must follow the rules when shooting slingshots or they will not be allowed to participate.
Shooting items from slingshots can be dangerous. For these activities, follow the same safety guidelines as used for BB shooting. Always shoot at a range such as an archery or BB gun range.
Here are three wrist-rockets that have been recommended by other camp professionals.
- Extra Wide Fork
- Flexible Wrist Support Provides Steady
- Soft touch contoured grip
- Attached stabilizer
But there are many, many more. There are even ones with laser sighting.
MAKING IT A FULL PROGRAM
Throwing rocks can get old pretty quick. Same with using slingshots. Most of the campers will get bored if that’s all you do for this activity.
Here are some ideas to keep the campers engaged for the length of the activity.
Have each camper collect their own ammo. When it comes to rock-throwing, start the session off by walking the campers around to gather rocks that are the right size.
Assign points to the different targets. Put up a leader board. Top 10 scores go on the leaderboard.
At the beginning of the session pair up campers to make tabletop catapults. Take them to the range and see if anyone can hit a target using their catapult.
Place targets along a trail. With safety as the priority, walk the trail and have campers take turns at each target.
1. “A bit of silicone grease on the bands every week or so will go a long way to preventing bands breaking. Old spearfishing trick.” – Kyle Beach
2. If you want to build your own slingshots and targets, take a look at this YouTube channel. https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLLsXS0Q74bSuxBPpG9j1rby0V4WeRCc8k
3. Here’s some advice taken from Philip Drake of Mt. Lou San Bible Camp.
“For those interested, this is the simplest element to add to your camp, and kids love it. And it’s nice because even the smallest of campers (we have kindergarteners) can do it.
We have sectioned off an area of our woods away from all other activity, built a ‘barn side’ silhouette out of old decking lumber, and built a standing line (trough that holds the rocks). I buy the small river rocks from the hardware store.
On the barn side, we have hung aluminum bottles in the windows, old saw blades on nails, a metal shovel, and an old wooden barrel, etc. (things you might see on the side of a barn).
We have a large metal barrel sitting next to the wall. If you want, you can paint numbers on each item for point values. We started out this way but quickly realized the kids didn’t care about the score, just the noise that the items make when you hit them with a rock.
We buy the $10 wrist rocket slingshots from any sporting goods store or Walmart, Target, etc. The wrist rockets are nice because they really help the small kids who aren’t strong enough to hold a traditional slingshot stable.
Then we treat this like any of our target shooting ranges with a lesson on weapon safety, proper handling of the slingshot, etc. Kids wear safety glasses and we allow 3 or 4 to shoot at a time.
It is a very popular activity, even with the teens that come. You will have cost in replacing the bands.”
Additional Advice from Other Camp Pros:
- Same range rules apply just like guns and archery.
- We color the rocks and put each color in a bucket. Then each kid is required after all rocks have been thrown to retrieve all of their colored rocks. Make extras for the lost rocks though.
- The range officer controls all commands so it stays safe.
- We have a boundary railing they can’t cross until they are allowed to retrieve the rocks.
- The more junk the better. Believe it or not, they can’t throw very well, so if they can hit something they love it!!
- Add unique items like bowling pins, buckets on a rail to knock down, and hanging sheet metal which sounds cool when hit.