Need a Tennis Ball Gun/Shooter/Slingshot
February 27, 2013 7:24 AM   Subscribe

For a High School youth Group i help moderate, we are creating an American Gladiator style event. One of the games we are going to do is the favorite/famed Assault. If anyone can help me brainstorm the following questions: What should I use for launching Tennis Balls, a Sling shot, or something else? It needs to be fairly quick. Any cheaper alternatives to Tennis balls, need to launch something in a gym (it has a stage to shoot from)? I think i can get some tennis balls on craigslist, but open to any alternative.

I'm open to buying something if it is less than $50...
posted by fozzie33 to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You can rent tennis ball machines for about $70 a day or $150 a weekend. Or ask your local tennis club if you can borrow one.
posted by musofire at 7:27 AM on February 27, 2013

It's likely too dangerous but my first thought was a potato cannon or two.
posted by bitdamaged at 7:31 AM on February 27, 2013

i think a potato cannon would be too dangerous, and too slow.
posted by fozzie33 at 7:32 AM on February 27, 2013

I don't know how the assault game works so maybe this isn't a viable suggestion, but could a rapid fire nerf gun or maybe a couple of the nerf ball shooters lay down enough fire to make the game work?
posted by cirrostratus at 7:36 AM on February 27, 2013

for reference:
posted by fozzie33 at 7:40 AM on February 27, 2013

What about hitting the balls with a tennis racquet? You'd probably have to be better at tennis than me for it to be quick enough.
posted by Xalf at 7:42 AM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Could the kids make it?

I would use exercise bands (the ones like flat ribbon not bungee cord) to make a slingshot. We did that off the porch at a birthday party. Kids could shoot a cardboard tube pretty far. I just had two kids hold ends of bands and they would turn to aim while someone else pulled it back to shoot so the team had to work together to make the shot
posted by chapps at 7:57 AM on February 27, 2013

Something like this? Perhaps.

I'm not sure of the feasibility of a low budget rapid, controllable tennis ball launcher/gun. I would think you would need a large air compressor as the motive force supply. From that you should be able to cobble something together, but given the amount of air it would take, both volume and force, I'm guessing you're looking at a pretty darn large compressor. You could easily make a smaller number of shots/slower rate of fire with even a foot pump (see here)

But for speed and rate, I'd suggest going with the slingshot method. Have multiple slingshots preloaded.
posted by edgeways at 8:17 AM on February 27, 2013

When you say that it needs to be "fast," do you mean that the speed of the balls needs to be fast, or that the mechanism needs to shoot multiple balls out in a short period of time, or both? If the former, tennis ball machines can shoot between 20-80 mph (and can spit out a bunch of balls pretty quickly, either to one spot or across an arc), but it depends on the model, and that speed may be too fast to be safe (unless the kids will be wearing face protection of some sort). If the latter, and you can't swing a tennis ball machine, I'd say set up multiple slingshots in the stage area.
posted by Pandora Kouti at 8:25 AM on February 27, 2013

When I was a teenager I got into trouble with my parents for using a potato cannon to punch neat round 3" holes in the solid wood slats of our backyard fence. Don't aim one of those at a person. Using a slingshot (not likely powerful enough to hurt anybody) or an off the shelf tennis ball serving machine (engineered and tested to be safe for shooting toward people) is the way to go. I wouldn't build your own compressor-based system unless you're quite sure you can design it so that there's no chance of excessive pressure building up and firing that ball at bruising/rib-breaking/eye-putting-out speeds.
posted by contraption at 8:29 AM on February 27, 2013

Well for Assault there is the gladiator trying to hit the contestant with tennis balls, and the contestant trying to use a series of more convoluted weapons to hit a target (all the while getting closer and closer to the gladiator). As you said the method for the gladiator to use has to be quick, and I would add that it also has to be very accurate. The whole point of the game is that when the contestant is out of cover, it should be very easy for the gladiator to hit them. If the contestant stands still out in the open and the gladiator doesn't have a very good shot at hitting them on the first shot then it's probably not going to work like it did on the show.

Personally I would say if all else fails just have the gladiator throw tennis balls at the contestant. Not very flashy but probably more effective than the other options. If you can get some sort of slingshot device to work as well as throwing, go with that but it needs to be accurate enough that the contestant is in danger whenever they are not hiding completely behind cover. Things like nerf guns, tennis rackets, and other wacky devices would probably work better for what the contestant has to use to hit the target. Also if speed is an issue with whatever method the gladiator uses, you could always use multiple gladiators.
posted by burnmp3s at 8:30 AM on February 27, 2013

We bought my kids snowball "guns" last week at Target. Essentially a tube with surgical tubing attached to a cradle; a slingshot in a tube. I think it would work perfectly. They were on clearance for like ten or fifteen bucks each.
posted by Keith Talent at 12:12 PM on February 27, 2013

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