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Flails on straps 10

Analog of slungshot.

A slungshot is a maritime tool consisting of a weight, or "shot," affixed to the end of a long cord often by being wound into the center of a knot called a "Monkey's fist." It is used to cast line from one location to another, often mooring line. The cord end is tied to the heavier line and the weighted end of the slungshot is thrown across the intervening space where a person picks it up and pulls the line across.

As a weaponEdit

The slungshot was often used as a civilian or improvised weapon; however, the rope length became much shorter when used as a weapon. The cord is tied around the wrist, and the weight is carried in the hand or the pocket of the user. A slungshot may be swung in a manner similar to that of a flail.

Slungshots were widely used by criminals and street gang members in the 19th Century. They had the advantage of being easy to make, silent, and very effective, particularly against an unsuspecting opponent. This gave them a dubious reputation, similar to that carried by switchblade knives in the 1950s, and they were outlawed in many jurisdictions. The use as a criminal weapon continued at least up until the early 1920s.[1]

Carrying or attempting to use a Slungshot is a felony in the states of California,[2] Oklahoma,[3] and Michigan.[4] It is a gross misdemeanor in the State of Nevada and Washington State.[5] In Massachusetts it can be either a misdemeanor or a felony depending upon the circumstances.[6]

Other namesEdit

They were also known as "slingshots," but had nothing to do with what is now known as a slingshot. Many jurisdictions' laws against "slingshots" were actually meant to refer to slungshots.


They were also used in China and Japan, under different names. One variant was called "loaded sleeves," where a pair of long, flowing sleeves had weights concealed in them. According to Robert van Gulik, the reputation of "loaded sleeves" saved some Western nuns during an anti-Western uprising in China, when the nuns were cornered by a mob. As the nuns believed they were going to be killed, they raised their hands to pray. The crowd reacted believing them to have Loaded Sleeves. The Chinese had seen their breviaries, which they carried in the sleeves of their robes, believing the nuns to be dangerous. A path opened through the crowd, and the nuns escaped.


  1. "Egg Dealer Holdup". New York. September 23, 1921. 
  2. California Penal Code section 12020, subdivision (a)(1)
  3. 21 O.S. § 1282 (2012)
  4. MCL 750.224
  5. Nevada Revised Statutes 202.350
  • Stone, George Cameron. A Glossary of the Construction, Decoration and Use of Arms and Armor, Jack Brussel, New York, N.Y., 1961, pg. 568.
  • Van Gulik, Robert: The Red Pavilion, Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, N.Y., 1961. (Discussion of the use of weights on chains in story text)
  • Van Gulik, Robert: The Willow Pattern, Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, N.Y., 1965. Loaded sleeves are explained in the afterword.

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