This staple of juvenilia is somewhat elementary. You're probably thinking, "Jurph, you total moron! Everyone knows how to do this, and if they don't, hand them a rubber band, and they'll figure it out." To that, I reply, "Oh, I'm sorry, maybe I should have explained--this node is about

How to shoot a rubber band with extreme range and precision."

For this trick, you will need:

  • Two hands, one with at least a finger and thumb, one with at least one finger.
  • A rubber band.
  • A target (optional).

Form your less-dextrous thumb and forefinger into a wide "L" shape (think of the old "loser" forehead symbol). Stretch the rubber band over this--your "L" may deform into a semi-circle; this is okay. This will be the "rubber band hand".

Hold the "L" so that the rubber band is horizontal and the inside of your wrist faces you. If you can't visualize this, imagine you are going to use the rubber band as a slingshot, or that you're going to throw a paper airplane. Think of how the Germans hold their cigarettes in old WWII movies. That's how you should be holding your hand.

Now, straighten the index finger of your other hand. This will be the "aiming finger." Bring the rubber band closer to your chest than the aiming hand, then slip the aiming finger up into the rubber band's loop, as shown below.

  _           _   _                /\
 (_\_________(_\_/_)              /  \
  \_______________/              /    \
 ( \ \         V /\             |_/  \_|
 (\ \ \       / A  \             /____\
  \\ \ \_____/ / \  \           |______|
   \          /  aiming     
   /  left   /   finger        aim this way
  /   hand  /

Now slowly push the aiming finger away from you while holding the rubber band slightly taut. The rubber band should be forming a triangle--not an isosceles triangle!--on all three fingers. As you push the aiming finger away, carefully rotate the rubber band hand (bringing the thumb towards you) until the non-aiming finger no longer has any slack on it--retract it into your fist. At this point, the rubber band hand's thumb and the aiming finger should have the rubber band stretched between them. One side (in this case, the right side) of the rubber band should be quite tense; the other, less tense, but not slack.

Looking down on the fingers, then:
2.        _ 
      _/    \
    _/       \ 
  _/          \
3.    |o|
      | |
     /O |
     |  |
     |  |
     |  |
     |  |
     \  |

3.    /o|
      | |
      | |
      | |
      | |}-- this side quite tense
      | |
      |}+--- this side less tense
      | |

Stretch the aiming finger away toward your target. If you wish, you may rotate the thumb further to increase the tension differential between the two halves of the rubber band.

Release the rubber band from the thumb--it should go sailing towards the target very quickly, and with a little practice you can "call" your shots from across the room: left ear, between the eyes, etc. Even if you just miss, most people will exclaim that they heard it go by--you know you're doing it right when it whistles.

Why does it work?

The tension differential in the rubber band causes the rubber band to spin like a frisbee in flight. This gives it a stability that a normally fired rubber band doesn't have. The spin also causes the rubber band to gain lift from its edges, and to massively reduce skin friction, and likewise drag. Some of these shots will hook or slice, but in general, they sail straighter, faster, and about 50% farther than a normally fired rubber band. Quick troubleshooting tip: if the rubber band goes into a stall and seems to just hang in the air about ten feet away, you've put too much spin on it; lessen the tension difference between the two sides before firing, so that you can pull it back farther. A perfectly balanced shot can fly 20+ feet and hit a one-foot circle every time. A slight imbalance will result in a hook around fifteen feet; a serious imbalance stalls or hooks inside ten feet.

After about fifty practice shots, I became adept enough to hit a doorknob from twelve feet away on the first try. YMMV, of course, but using this method, you will consistently hit targets harder, at greater range, and with more accuracy than your counterparts. You're not still in third grade--why should your cubicle warfare skills be?

If you're looking for another fairly accurate method of shooting a rubber band, and you'd like the convenience of firing with one hand, here's another way.


Step 1:
Hold out your hand of choice. Hold it straight out, palm up, all fingers out. Now, fold in your middle and ring fingers.

Step 2:
Take said rubber band, and wrap it around your pinky. Fold your pinky in, so the rubberband cannot escape. Turn your hand ninety degrees inward toward your body so that your thumb stands straight up, and your index finger points forward.

Step 3:
Pull the free end of the rubber band out, and around the outside of the joint of your thumb, and pull to the tip of your index finger. Wrap the inside of the free loop of the rubber band onto the tip of your index finger so that it rests there.

Good. You have now armed your rubber band pistol. Your fingers should be formed into the traditional "gun" position. "BANG BANG, YOU'RE DEAD!"

Step 4:
While keeping your rubber band securely positioned, point your index finger at your desired target. When you're ready to fire, simply open your pinky enough for the rubber band to unhook and escape. THWAP!

The following is a rubber band shooting technique I developed while I was hosted in some suburban hotel for a few months during a course I was taking.

Slaying mosquitoes using a rubber band

First, a small introduction. We had these huge mosquitoes, about 4cm wide, which crippled the ceilings, bathrooms, and hallways. There was a certain need to get rid of them, especially before going to sleep. You don't want to imagine what will land and bite you while you are way through some midnight dreaming. After some time people got used to them and didn't even bother to throw a pillow at them. At nights before going to bed I'd lie down and stare at the threat posed from above.

All of this changed one night. While my roommate was talking with his girlfriend over the phone, I picked up a rubber band that I found between my stuff. I aimed toward the mosquite that was attached to one of the upper corners of my room

Splash! It flew, the nasty insect got hit, smash! The rubber band fell from above, bringing pieces of the mosquito along with it. Some of the mosquito was still stuck to the cieling. My roommate, seeing this, started laughing like crazy, "Man, you're nut! This was the funniest I've seen in a while!". I came across the others' rooms and taught the technique to the other people. I slayed like 20 of them that night.

Slaying with a rubber band works because the insect is slower than the rubber band, considering that you stretch enough before firing the band, giving it enough potential energy. The insect doesn't know what's coming. All it sees is a tiny thing coming closer to it in a split of a second, and then it goes to meet its creator.

I am not a marksman. I think it is rather easy to do what I've did. I'll describe what is need for this.

The rubber band: Take a circular strip of a rubber band. It needs to be at least 1mm thick at one side and 6mm think in the other. The diameter of the circle should be at least 7cm in the not-stretched mode, and the rubber band should span at least 30cm when stretched.

The distance: About 3 meters is the maximum, it is very hard to hit exactly if you position yourself much further. Of course, closer means better luck in a hit, plus a more powerful blow.

Holding the rubber band: You have to use both of your hands for this. Each hand needs to hold one edge of the stretched rubber band. I'll use the terms 'far hand' and 'close hand' for this. The rubber band should form a line to the direction of the target. The far hand should have one side of the rubber band wrapped in half circle at the tip of of the pointing finger. Let me illustrate:

         ##\\     \##  
        ##  \\     ## 
       ##   \\___## \
      ##     \\  ##  \
     ##       \##     \
    ##         ##      \  
   ##         ##\       \  
  ##         ## \       \  
 ##         ##   \       \  

 rubber band        finger

So if you stretch the rubber band, the finger will be pulled back, still holding it but not letting it go toward you. The other hand should hold the other side of the band tightly with two fingers, the pointing finger and the thumb. I'll illustrate:

                      |   pointing finger
  #################### /   thumb
                      | _________
                      \/         \

The longer you stretch, the more precise the hit will be, the smaller changes the insect will get away, but remember that it will be harder to hold the band with the close hand.

Aiming: Be careful when you aim. If the band releases from the far hand, the band will fly right at you, and may hit your eye. Think scorched earth. Take into account air friction (the rubber band slows down), gravity (the rubber band falls down). Try aiming a little higher (1-2 centimeters) than the target if the distance is more than 2 meters.

Fire!: You carefully release the band from the close hand. There it flies. The mosquito, who looks more or less like this:

    \       /
     \     /
    ---| |---
     /     \

After a roughly 50 miliseconds now looks like this:

    \       /
    ---    *

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