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My pal Alan Dove has thoughtfully suggested that these guys might’ve done better to build themselves a trebuchet. I quite agree. [Thanks, Alan!]


Sean Michael Ragan

I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I write for MAKE, serve as Technical Editor for MAKE magazine, and develop original DIY content for Make: Projects.



  1. rjnerd says:

    I was surprised to see such a badly designed machine. The thing was clearly underpowered for the payload (they were pulling the arm down by hand, which is fine for a payload of ounces, but not for the several Lb that they were tossing). They were using 1:1 ratio with the arm, which given their wimpy springs makes some sense, but really lowers the tip speed.

    Trebuchet are easier to construct than a spring catapult, but don’t have the same sort of range. (the record for a spring catapult is over 3300′, the trebuchet record is 2044′)

  2. Alan says:

    Of course it’s only a matter of time before the smugglers move up to using long-range artillery. I can imagine modifying a traditional spud gun design to become …

    wait for it …

    a bud gun.

    1. rjnerd says:

      Most mechanical catapults are “stealthy” – minimal noise, no muzzle flash, etc. The spud guns (both pneumatic and combustion actuated) are very noisy. The combustion operated will also have relatively easy to spot muzzle flash (even if its IR only).

      Sure something like “Big 10 Inch” could do a fine job of “export”, but its annoying loud at distances well over a mile. (I expect such a cannon would have a range in the range of two miles or so, especially since a drug package would be a lot sturdier than the vegetable ammo normally fired)

      If I needed to do some “alternative cargo” international shipping, I would use a somewhat scaled up Slocum Glider. (an autonomous underwater vehicle, intended for long duration oceanographic survey ) They would be almost impossible to detect – the usual stealth of submersibles, without the noise of propellers, etc.