There is a certain theme to vintage British catapults. In fact, most of them share striking similarities: They are small in size and made from cast metal, use square elastic bands and attach these by means of holes in the fork end. The catapults are meant to be held in the thumb-support grip, with the thumb being pressed against the frame at the place where the fork' prongs run together. This shooting style went completely out of fashion, but used to be quite popular.
By far the most iconic British catapult is the Milbro. And as it if it tried to be a textbook case of British catapultry, it combines all properties attributed to British catapults: Its frame is made from cast metal, and is made to be supported by the thumb where the two forks meet. The size is small, especially when compared to most US slingshots. The square rubber bands are fixed to the fork by jamming them into holes with split wooden wedges. The Milbro's popularity persists and reproduction models exist. Collectors need to be aware of this, as the reproductions are sometimes fraudulently sold as vintage original models.
Much more rare than its straightlined sibling, the "special offset thumbgrip catapult" was made in UK by the Milbro company. The designer apparently tried to improve ergonomy in their thumbgrip slingshot, thus creating one of the most awkward looking slingshots ever made.
Dead Shot catapults made by London gunsmiths 'Frank Dyke and Co', of Ernest Avenue, West Norwood, London.
Ejex catapults made by 'The Modern Arms co' Marco Works, Bromley, Kent. First half of the 20th century.
Goliath Catapults, square black elastic. The early versions date back to the first quarter of the 20th century. The "horseshoe" style of the fork is made to run one single length of rubber band along the fork, by threading it to through all four holes. The band serves as the rubber strap on both sides of the slingshot. This is a very simple way of attaching the bands to the fork.
Silver Shot catapults were made in the West Midlands UK.They were a direct competitor of the Milbro before Milbro went out of business in the early 1980's. Black version appears most often.
Thomas Salter catapult. Thomas Salter started as an English company and later moved to Glenrothes in Scotland. They were famous for making a huge range of toys and games. Went into bankruptcy in the early 1980's.
The TSL was probably made by Thomas Salter as well.
Armoury catapult. Sold by 'The Southern Armoury', 41 Newington Butts, London in the early 1920's.These frames were also sold by other companies under different names and date back to the turn of the century. Used square elastic.
The "Magda Ding Dong" is as truly as strange as its name. It was manufactured in UK by Harringtons, Walton-on-Thames, better known for its "Gat" air pistol. Production date is unknown. Its body is made of cast alloy, the folding wristbrace is bent steel wire with a length of synthetic tubing. Its handle has an ammunition reservoir inside, with a small spring-loaded door at the bottom of the yoke. One of its most unusual features are the one-piece molded bands. They are solid round rubber, tapering down from 3/8" to 1/4" at the pouch. Such one-piece band assemblies are usually found on very cheap toy slingshots because they perform poorly. One the one hand, it is clearly visible that quite a lot of effort was put into this slingshot: It has a contoured handle, an ammo reservoir and the wristbrace is attached on a swivel that allows it to be folded to the side of the slingshot. I'm sure it was quite an expensive model back in its days. On the other hand, there are the low-performing one-piece bands, with an attachment that prevents you from installing any other type of bands. I know two owners of this slingshot, and both complain about an uncomfortable wristbrace, low power at high draw weight, poor acuracy and an extremely un-ergonomic handle. It is a great collector's item, but the Ding Dong will not become your favourite model for shooting. Note: The "Ding Dong" was also sold as the "Gee-string". The Dingdong says "Ding" on the left and "Dong" on the right fork.
Warden catapults were produced in both metal and plastic versions and used a one piece band. Made by T. J. H. and Son Ltd (later to become T. J. Harrington and Son Ltd) at the Magda works, large premises in Walton on Thames. The company famous for the Gat pistol also made above mentioned Gee String/Ding Dong catapult. The Warden uses the same molded rubber band, but has a more traditional british-style handle with place for thumb support.
I am very grateful to N. Bird who provided me with most of
this page's content, both the photos and data.
Thanks to Francis Rostron for supporting this page with the picture of the Milbro.