Slingshot market is relatively small. There are about 80 commercially produced models to choose from. Many look very similar to each other, and it is not easy for the beginner to choose. When I started this page, I wanted to stay as neutral as possible in slingshot model and brand description. Now, I feel it is a bigger service for the slingshot community if I tell about advantages and differences between the brands.
Before we start, keep in mind that a slingshot's characteristics are mostly defined by its bands. It is no problem to put on a new bandset (you have to do this from time to time anyway), and almost all brands are interchangeable. You can hook a Trumark band on a Barnett or vice versa. Therefore, the bands have to be evaluated separately from the slingshots.
Designing a slingshot is a seemingly simple task. So simple that quite a lot of factories all over the world try to do it - bend some metal to form the frame, put two plastics halves around, push a piece of rubber tubing on the fork ends and it is done...is it? If you have ever made a slingshot at home, you probably know that things aren't that easy. It is by far no trivial task to design a really good slingshot. You must know the right rubber source for the bands, need knowledge in ergonomics and must take care of the rubber attachment. And if you are a commercial manufacturer, who wants to compete with others, you need ideas to improve the slingshot. As with all simple things, it is difficult to find real improvements. The basic principle- rubber band with pouch, connected to a grip via two attachment points - remains the same since about 200 years.
The big problem is that too many manufacturers aren't aware of that. They blow out tons of cheap slingshots that break after a few shots, or are downright dangerous. We'll address this problem later in the text. Let us start with the reviews. Every review has three parts - quality, innovations or special advantages and the bands. And as you'll see, there are several good brands to choose from, all with distinct advantages.
Saunders makes superb slingshots. All models are made with very high quality standards. You can see that much attention was given to them - no grates, a robust, even paint coat on the heavy-duty steel. The thickness of the steel parts surpasses all other manufacturers. The Falcon's fork is a whopping 7mm strong - you can be sure that this slingshot will never break apart, no matter what bands you use! The plastic parts have a slightly roughened surface that feels good, just like the paint on the metal parts. The metal parts of the Hawk and Sr 7 run right through the slingshot.
Saunders slingshots are very innovative. It is the only manufacturer who has realized the superiority of flat bands. The Wrist Rocket Pro is a masterpiece, just like the clever folding mechanism in the Double Eagle. Besides this, they are true field slingshots, rugged and able to support the strongest bands. The Wrist Rocket Pro really sets new standards in slingshot design. The flatband attachment system also accepts tubular bands (and, for that matter, everything else from office bands to cut speargun tubing). The bands "fly over" it during the shot. This increases band life considerably.
The tubular bands are very powerful, the flat bands have a great power/pull force ratio. The synthetic pouches last long and weight about half as much as a normal pouch, which further increases the velocity of the flatbands.
Trumark is another manufacturer of high quality slingshots. The handles are made of tough ABS plastic,. The metal parts are directly bent inside the handle, so there are no screws or rivets. They are made of aluminum, so they'll never rust or break. The plastic parts which are involved in the band attachment are made of very tough nylon (solid nylon is one of the toughest materials known) and the brace is a comfortable foam pad. The slingshots are well constructed and quite robust, but using very strong bands (like speargun tubing) can bend the aluminum parts - though this is nothing to worry about unless you take ridiculously strong bands!
Trumark has a great rotating prong system. The bands can rotate freely during the shot. This enhances power, accuracy and considerably improves band life. Most shooters appreciate the sight as a good aiming help. Another advantage is the way the wristbrace is attached. It is below the handle and doesn't run through half of the body. This makes it possible to form a fist with all fingers and the slingshots fold down to a smaller size. The stabilizers, which can be added afterwards and the internal ammo storage are another bonus. If you want a folding wristbraced slingshot, you should definitely check Trumark. Its non-wristbraced slingshots are also good. Most shooters like the wide forks Trumark offers. The slim shape, internal magazine and low weight makes the S9 a great slingshot to take out in the pocket of the jacket, although some shooters want a more contoured handle.
The bands are the best tubular bands I know. The RR-t tapered bands have a very good balance between power and pull weight, and the RR-2 bands use plastic clips to attach the pouch. This takes away 1cm of pull length, but the pouch is absolutely equal on both sides and not twisted. The pouch is uniform, lightweight soft leather and the bands are packed straight to counter kinks and curl-ups. Whatever slingshot you own, if you are not satisfied with the bands, try the Trumarks.
Barnett slingshots are also of high quality. The handles are made of tough plastic with rubber parts for a better grip. The handles of the Cobra and Diablo are one single molded piece, with no screws. They are quite heavy, a pleasure to hold and the brand name inlets and rounded edges show that much care was taken to create a good-looking high-quality handle. The metal parts of the slingshots are 6mm and are strong enough to take any bands. The steel parts of Dablo, Strikenine and Black Widow are beautifully plated (nickel, I guess), the Cobra has a heavy duty black paint.
The big advantage of Barnett slingshots are the very ergonomical grips. It is a pleasure to hold and shoot them. The Black Widow is THE wristbraced folding slingshot in many european countries, although I believe the fork is too small for the tubular rubber. The Stabilizers and wide forks of the Cobra and Pro Diablo make them accurate and enable a clean shot, even with big bands.
Barnett bands are ok. Many shooters like the big pouch, although it is a bit on the heavy side. The new ones are packed in straight boxes to prevent curl-ups. The bands which are already installed on the slingshot are sometimes a bit twisted or attached improperly, but every serious shooter adjusts band length before the first shot anyway. The bands are quite powerful.
Crosman slingshots are well designed and constructed. The Vortex has a nice nickel plating, the other models have painted metal parts. The plastic parts comfortable, especially the handle of the Vortex, they sometimes have sharp grates that had to be removed to make the handle comfortable. I must admit that I have no personal experience with Crosmans, but they are said to be rugged and reliable. The wide forks are appreciated by most shooters, and they fold down to a compact size. The metal part of the classic and folding slingshots runs completely through the handle - another plus, although the wristbrace attachment might bend if too much stress is pushed on it. (Should not happen when used normally).
The Vortex used to be a well made, comfortable and very powerful slingshot. However, they are currentlys sold without rounded fork ends! This severly decreases the band life. The fork ends are the most important part of the slingshot, and leaving them rough ans square makes the slingshot more or less unusable, unless you are willing to spend a lot of money on replacement bands. The other models are good standart slingshots - nothing special about them, but very well performers within their field. A big advantage is that the wristbrace attachment is below the handle, making grip more comfortable and enhancing accuracy.
Crosman bands have a "click-on" feature for fast band changes. This makes band changes easier, but the band protectors are glued onto the band ends, so you can neither adjust them to your length, nor re-use them when they break short before the fork ends. They are quite powerful, but the pouch is a bit stiff. And they are packed in tiny packages which crumble them up..not good for accuracy and band life.
Marksman is one of the biggest slingshot sellers in the US, mostly because of the low price. The slingshots quality is ok. Steel parts are 1/4" steel with black paint, the plastic handles are comfortable, although small grates can be seen on them. The handle parts are riveted together, and they sometimes loosen and cannot be re-tightened - bad thing. The metal fork runs completely through the handle.
Marksman has quite different slingshot models. First, its "Laserhawk 3071 Stealth" is a bit of a misconception. I don't know any buyer who is satisfied with it..very bulky, non-foldable, bad power, aiming is difficult etc...better buy something else. The "standart" folding slingshots are better, they are well-performing models without any particular advantage or disadvantage. The wristbrace is long to have a good leverage, but it makes the folding designs quite big when folded. The 3060 and 3061 is a very good design, capable of high power with the right bands. It is the only slingshot that can adjust its pull length without tools. The ammo holders of some slingshots are appreciated by some shooters, I prefer to keep the ammo in a pocket for faster access and consistent slingshot weight.
Marksman bands have a very bad reputation. I heard reports about ripping leather pouches and a short lifespan in general. The package they are sold in is not straight, but large enough to prevent kinks. The tapered Laserhawk bands claim to be powerful, but are in fact the weakest bands I know. The new magnetic pouch is a useless gimmick.
Daisy slingshots are ok quality. It seems that several different versions exist - some have a nice nickel plating, others are painted black. Anyway, they have 1/4" steel parts which withstand a lot of abuse, although I'm not 100% sure if every Daisy slingshot has such strong metal parts. The plastic parts show small grates, but are functional and solid.
Concerning ergonomy..the F16's fork is a bit high and the handle may be too small for people with large hands, but other than that, it is good. The B52 has a flat handle that looks pretty much like a copy of a 10 years old first generation Barnett Black Widow..Daisy should think about updating this design for the sake of ergonomy! The P51, however, is very ergonomical and a very well thought-out slingshot. Its fork extension makes it powerful and the adjustable wristbrace adds accuracy and comfort. The new "natural" line of slingshot was a major disaster, they wounded several shooters because of band attachment failure. They are currently recalled.
Daisy bands are quite powerful. The pouch is a bit stiff and, unfortunately, the replacements bands are sold totally crumbled up in tiny packages, which is bad for band life and accuracy. It seems that different band versions are available, some attach the pouch with a clip, others with the loop-in method. Daisy does produce in China and it seems they used different manufacturers, which results in different quality and tons of 1:1 copies.
Megaline slingshots were once on the lower end of quality scale- still better than the cheap no-names, but much worse than the other brands. The plastic handles were ok, the metal paint came off easily and the plastic end protectors were too loose, which could result in a band snapping off and right in your face.
Since then, they launched some new models, changed the paint and, judging from their webpage and leaflets, made some effort to produce higher quality. So frankly, I currently cannot say what quality is to be expected from them at this time. What I can still see is that they didn't make their homework with the bands, they still have far too heavy pouches and even the ones in the advertising cataloques are carelessly attached. You should also stay away from the "Alpha 2", it is a gross misconception. Megaline models are often copied by chinese other brands. I don't know if Megaline sells licenses to all the others or if the Megaline patterns or if they copy them without permission. Most copieshave a horrible quality. Stay away from them.
There are tons of different "no name" brand slingshots floating around. Some manufacturers - i.e. Marksman, Crosman and Daisy - don't mkae the slingshots in their own factories, but give the orders to manufacturers in Asia. There was actually a time when Crosman and Daisy slingshots were made in the same factory in Taiwan. When a cheaper company is found, production orders are given to him. And now the big surprise: Sometimes, the old company doesn't cease production..they just scratch out the brand name from the moulding forms, put the slingshots in new boxes and start selling them on their own. The company has usually no connection to slingshot sport, so there is no one to make quality control, and nobody who can tell if a slingshot is good or bad. This sometimes produces ridiculous results. For example, some "rubber bands" are not latex tubing, but some cheap rubber that breaks after 15 shots. And some manufacturers know that slingshots are sometimes sold with paintballs, but don't know what these paintballs are, so they sell the slingshot with colorful solid plastic balls which are marked as paint balls, and have the potential to create some funny moments during a paintball game.....
The rubber for the bands is usually supplied by the "brand" companies. When the order is canceled and the factory continues to produce, it has to find a rubber source for itself. They usually take the cheapest latex tubing available, which happens to be extruded latex, which happens to be crap. So as a rule of thumb, almost all no-name slingshots have horrible bands that break very fast. To get things going, you have to add the cost of a decent replacement band assembly to the price of the cheap slingshot. You might as well have bought a good slingshot for the same money.
But besides the bands, there is something far more worrying and dangerous. All major manufacturers use at least 6mm steel rods for the metal parts. This way, they can be absolutely sure that the forks will not break, even when they have to take very strong bands and a lot of abuse. Now take a little look at this..
This is not 6mm...I doubt it is 5mm, rather 4!Ok, the usual 6mm are much more than needed to withstand the force of the bands. 5mm should work, too. 4mm? Should work, too... Should. Might. Maybe. I know someone whose cheap no-name slingshot broke when he pulled the bands. This is definitely not funny. The broken steel fork part can easily take out an eye or some teeth. Stay away from thin-forked slingshots, as well as models with badly bent metal parts. By the way, look at the funny handle, with the "thumb mold" on the back. How are you supposed to hold the slingshot?
What really annoys me is that most of these no-name slingshots are either brainless copies or have little changes which are just as brainless. Look at the plastic parts of the wristbraces - they are almost all a 1:1 copy of the Barnett Black Widow brace. It isn't difficult to create a decent grip and a band attachment that doesn't eat your bands after fifty shots, but some models look like they were designed by someone who never shot a slingshot in his life:
Take this band, for example: It has a KNOT inside..this band was junk the day it left factory. It is simply not usable, or at least not usable for someone who wants to hit a can at more than five metres distance. Not to mention the poor leather pouch and bad attachment...
All these cheap slingshots give the "good" manufacturers a really hard time, because they cost less, especially when bought in large quantities. Far too many shops buy them because from an economical point of view, it makes perfect sense to buy something for two dollars and sell it for nine, instead of buying a good slingshot for six dollars and selling it for twelve.
Ok, enough ranting. Please, don't think I want to bash all asian manufacturers - as mentioned before, ok models like the Crosman slingshots are manufactured in Asia. And a few of the no-name products are "big brand" models in a different package, with the same quality as the "real" ones. And as a true slingshot enthusiast, I find it highly interesting to see the different no-name models, guess who made them, try to evaluate how good they are and so on...but if you just want to get a good slingshot, go and buy the real thing. Does it really matter for you if the slingshot cost 6$ or 14$? If money is an such an issue for you, I propose you make a slingshot by yourself, rather than buying junk. Generations before us did it, and even it today's world, a selfmade slingshot is often better than a good commercial one.
A slingshot is a very simple device, and it is easy to modify it to suit your needs. Some manufacturers (Marksman and Barnett, for example) add soft plastic band protectors to their bands. They fit on other slingshots, too. Furthermore, don't hesitate to buy other brand's bands, they are all interchangeable, with very few exceptions. You don't need high skills to enhance your slingshot. The Trumark S9 feels too light? Simply fill the handle with putty. The handle of your slingshot is too smooth? Wrap some grip-tape around. The plastic wristbrace cuts your arm? Glue a piece of foam pad under it. Your Strikenine shall become a Black Widow? Get a 6mm metal bar and make a brace yourself (only if your country permits wristbraces!). Such adjustments can be done within short time and with almost no expenses. And don't worry, there's nothing you can break, and if the slingshot breaks, it wasn't worth a dime anyway. Have fun, be safe, and experiment!