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30 Reasons Why Atlatls and Darts are the Coolest Things Ever!

1. They are cool because not everyone has one!
Fewer than one out of a thousand people in the United States have one and many people don’t even know what they are.

2. They are fantastic wall decorations. Atlatls and darts make great conversation starters because they are rare, interesting and not many people know what they are. customatlatlarray

3. There’s two ways to say atlatl. You can say “at-latl” or “atl-atl”

4. Atlatls and darts are a great family activity. You and your children will enjoy atlatl outings or backyard atlatl activities. It will get you all out of the house and away from your electronics.

5. Atlatls are just plain fun. It is fun to shoot something that goes farther and faster than you would expect it to.

6. Great way to make new friends. People who come to atlatl events are just fun to be around. Remember they are cool to begin with.How-to-use-an-atlatl-dart

7. Kids can cast them. We have seen children from 3 on up casting darts with atlatls.

8. Old people can cast them too. We have seen people 80 and older using an atlatl.

9. Intergenerational sharing. People of all ages can enjoy atlatl events together.

Showing how to cast an atlatl

Showing how to cast an atlatl

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10. It’s a gift you can’t get at a big box store. When was the last time you found an atlatl in your local shopping mall? Atlatls are what you get for the person who already has everything.

11. They have history. Atlatls have been used for more than 12,000 years. That’s a lot of history. Cortez fought against the Aztecs who used atlatls.

12. They’re primitive. Atlatls and darts were one of the first weapon systems ever devised by humankind. All of us have ancestors who survived, nay thrived because they were masters of the atlatl and dart.

13. They’re survival tools. You can learn to make an expedient atlatl in almost any location for hunting, fishing and self-defense to help you survive in adverse situations.

Making your own atatl in Sussex, England

Making your own atatl in Sussex, England

14. You can hunt with them. People have been using atlatls to hunt with for at least 12,000 or maybe at least 60,000 years. New laws allow atlatl deer hunting in Missouri, Alabama, and Nebraska. Many states allow small game hunting and wild boar hunting.

15. You can fish with them. Atlatl fishing is one of the most exciting ways to fish. Instead of the fish choosing you, you choose the fish. Atlatls cast harpoons much deeper and with more penetration than can be achieved with bow fishing. Check your local fishing regulations first.

16. Amaze your friends and confound your enemies with your atlatls and darts! Show your friends your new skill.

17. You can go places with atlatls and compete in contests. You can compare your score to everybody else’s in the world through the World Atlatl Associations International Standard Accuracy Contest or ISAC.

18. There’s a World Atlatl Association that ties everyone who plays with atlatls together in a network. You can join for a year for a very minimal amount and receive a newsletter.

19. You can do atlatl physics. Who says physics is incomprehensible. With an atlatl you can see physics in action! Energy equals the velocity squared times the mass.

20. You can use an atlatl as sculpture piece, woodcarving or woodworking project. Atlatls and darts are beautiful.

21. You can learn how to knap flint so you can tip your darts with stone points like the Native Americans did long ago. Isn’t that why many people start using an atlatl in the first place?

22. You can test your math skills by scoring contests. When a group of eager contestants surround you after a contest, you will have all your calculations completed!
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23. You can make your own atlatl. Go out into the forest and you can make a great primitive atlatl or better yet, check out one of our atlatl kits.

24. Take your date on an atlatl outing. Your date will be astounded by your romance, creativity and innovation.

25. Fantastic educational devices. Teachers, you can teach history, archaeology, anthropology, physics, math and more with an atlatl.

26. Atlatls are great for Summer Camp. You can entertain a group of youngsters at camp with ever increasing enthusiasm. Youth can spend hours of sheer joy with an atlatl at the range.

27. Atlatls make great school science projects for school. Just think of all the science lessons you can build around the atlatl. They make a fascinating display that your teachers and parents will be thrilled with for an A+.

28. They are interesting to discover in museums. It is amazing to see how many different types of atlatls were used by our ancestors, the kinds of darts our ancestors used and view the collections of projectile points on display.

29. Atlatls and darts can help you develop a healthy low impact exercise program. You will get plenty of walking and arm exercises, and you can do it with a small group of your friends

30. And you can get your atlatls and darts right here.

Introduction to Atlatls

Welcome to our introduction to atlatls! This is a quick introduction to atlatls for absolute newbies.


Atlatls are devices used to throw darts (spears). These devices were developed throughout the world by such civilizations as the Aztecs, Aborigines of Australia and Indonesia, the Incas, Inuits and many more. It is unknown exactly where the atlatl originated but archeological evidence shows that it has been in use for at least fifteen thousand years. It is possible that it was invented and reinvented many times over hundreds of thousands of years by countless cultures. The atlatl is a device that is used to lengthen the arm, adding a greater mechanical advantage than throwing a spear with one’s bare hands, which makes the darts able to fly much faster and with much more force, with less power provided by the thrower. Above is a picture of Robert Berg demonstrating the use of the atlatl.

The atlatl is usually about 15″ to 30″ long, and on one end has a hook of some sort, and the other end has some sort of hand hold. The hook on the end of the atlatl is typically made out of bone, wood or horn, and is designed to connect to the back end of the dart. Each dart has a small dimple at the end that fits the hook. The dart lays parallel to the atlatl, and at the handle end it is held in place by the fore finger and thumb. Some atlatls, such as the one in the picture above have rests for the dart, others don’t. The varieties and types of atlatls are almost endless, and each has different features.

The atlatl is held in the thrower’s preferred hand, with the dart parallel to the atlatl. The thrower points the dart at the intended target, steps into the direction of the shot, while the end of the atlatl swings around in a flipping motion, pushing the dart forward. As soon as the cast is started, the dart is released by the fingers holding it, while the atlatl itself is retained in the hand. Centrifugal force keeps the spur in contact with the knock dimple. Then, it is simply a matter of following through until the dart leaves the atlatl. Many different types of throwing styles have been developed by different atlatlists but they all are something like this.

One of the many atlatl designs available from Thunderbird Atlatl

Atlatls and darts vary in size, shape, material and quality. There are as many styles of atlatls and darts as there are atlatlists. The equipment of atlatlists varies from the simplest stick-like atlatls to elaborate, decorated atlatls that are pieces of art as well as deadly weapons. Weights are often used both to decorate atlatls and to improve their stability, balance, and accuracy. No atlatl is complete without a good set of matchinng darts. Darts range from 5 feet to 8 feet, but average about six feet long. Competition and hunting darts tend to be longer. Usually, the longer the dart, the more accurate it is — but the longer it is, the shorter the distance is that it can be cast. Atlatls, darts and parts to them have been made from many different kinds of materials including, wood, metal, stone, bone and cane. (Check out Thunderbird’s many different designs) Each has its purpose, form following the function of each of the various designs.

Atlatls are used by many enthusiasts for both target shooting and hunting. Atlatl hunting is legal in several states, including Missouri, Alabama, Nebraska and Alaska, but the majority of states do not yet allow it. Wild Boars are most often hunted, but many animals, from Fallow Deer to Caribou have been killed by the atlatl in recent times. Many Atlatl enthusiasts are lobbying their state governments to legalize atlatl hunting and fishing just like bow and firearm hunting is allowed. If you live in a place where atlatl hunting is illegal, contact your local state legislature and voice your support for legalizing atlatl hunting and fishing.

For those of you who are not into the hunting or fishing aspects of the atlatl, there are dozens of atlatl contests held throughout the world (See the shows section). There also is a World Atlatl Association, which we encourage you to join. Among the many benefits of the World Atlatl Association is the news letter that will help keep you abreast of the latest information about atlatls and events in the world. They also keep track of the top atlatl scores throughout the world in a contest called the International Standard Accuracy Contest (ISAC) that measures the skill level of each contestant, relitive to all the other contestants.With more and more atlatlists taking their first throws every day, and ever increasing interest being expressed , the sport is one of the fastest growing pastimes around.

Thank you for reading this introduction to atlatls!

Written by Peter Berg, 1999.