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AKAH Zwille

The living fossil

Modern AKAH slingshot. Note U-shaped fork and metal criping at the pouch.

Can you imagine: At the very end of the 19th century, a German leatherware company starts to produce a slingshot. WWI happens and the Kaiser makes place for the Weimar Republic. The company continues to make the slingshot. Germany starts WWII, but the company makes the slingshots as ever before. The Federal Republic of Germany forms, people fly to the moon, Germany re-unites, the European Union is born, globalization and the Internet change everything - but not for this slingshot, as the company just keeps on producing them. Is it true? Well, finding hard facts on slinghots is difficult. But there is reason to believe that the AKAH slingshot is indeed a living fossil that dates back to the time when vulcanized rubber was a brand new invention.


Lets starth with the company: AKAH (Albrecht Kind GmbH) is Europe's oldest hunting supply vendor. They started business in 1853 by selling guns, ammo, hunting supplies and producing hunting-related leatherware such as rifle slings and dog collars in their own factory. Their slingshot (which is advertised mostly as a dog training tool) has no name. It is just called "Zwille", which is German for "slingshot". The slingshot sold in the USA as the "Hy-Power", and was imported by Phillips Importing from San Pedro, Callifornia.

Technically, the AKAH Zwille is very different from the slingshots we are nowadays used to. Its most prominent feature is the leather wrapping that surrounds the metal fork. This slingshot doesn't try to deny its origin from a leatherwork factory. The leather handle has a thumb protection, as the slingshot is intended to be shot with the thumb pushing agains the frame. This shooting style was very popular with European slingshots, but went completely out of fashion due to safety concerns and accuracy problems. The slingshot uses cubic bands (once popular, now very rare) and the rubber bands are attached to the slingshot by small loops of synthetic fabric that are fixed to the frame by threading them through holes in the fork ends. This is a clever attachment, as it allows fast band changes. Plus, cubic and tubular bands profit from a flexible attachment, they get more accurate and take less space when the slingshot is carried in a pocket. In contrary to the good band-to-fork attachment, we find the pouch being secured to the bands by metal crimps. This is a cost-efficient way to connect pouch and bands, but the metal will tear up the bands.

Over the time, slight changes have been made to the slingshot. Early models use real leather straps to attach the bands to the fork. The leather pouch was connected to the bands by tying it down with string, which took a lot of time, but was a much better idea than the metal clamps in the modern models. The fork ends of the modern model have a flattened end with a hole punched through. On the earliest versions, the hole is formed by a screw running through a notch formed by the fork end. Sometime after changing the attachement holes, the fork transitioned from a V-shape to an U-shape. Earlier versions are made from unpainted metal, later models are painted brown or green.

How can we know the age of the slingshot? First - and here we leave the hard facts - we have accounts of US citizens who recall their fathers came back from WWII with these slingshots. Second, there is a book written by Ernst Jünger. Its title is "Die Zwille" (The Slingshot), and its narrative takes place before 1900. In the book we find a description of exactly this slingshot. The book was written in 1973 though, and we cannot know if the author was actually recalling this slingshot to be around during his childhood time.

Coming back to the hard facts, there is a way to date this slingshot: AKAH printed cataloques from the beginning on. Unfortunately, these are valuable collector's items themselves, and hard to come by. In case you have access to an old AKAH cataloque, I would be very glad if you could check if it contains this slingshot, and tell me the date of the cataloque.