How Does Spidey’s Webslinger Work – A Not So Serious Investigation

(Ok, quick note before we begin here: I’m stringently following the mantra that Spiderman uses a manual shooter and doesn’t have them come from his body like the original trilogy) Now we’ve got that out of the way, let’s try and crack the big question: How Does Spidey’s Webslinger Work & Can I make one too?


Well, only a science major could have created a device like his!

-Spider-Man, Amazing Fantasy Vol 1 15

When Peter Parker first decided to make his shooters, he had originally (no joke according to the comic) made them to use in his quest to become a stunt man. I suppose if you suddenly find yourself with the ability to jump and fall from all heights without getting hurt, then a stuntman is a good gig. Once he changed his mind and thankfully saved us from one of the weirdest story arcs in comic book history, Peter made his shooters so that his spider could have his own web.

Aside from Wolverine’s claws and possibly Batman’s utlity belt I can’t think of a superhero with a more famous accessory/weapon that the web-shooter. I used to have a version when I was a kid where you put a silly string can in a plastic holder and went around the house runing your family’s day. And while a quick Google shows me that the product hasn’t changed much in years, I got to wondering what the science behind the real (or should that be fake?) web-shooter was like and if someone out there had gone to the trouble of trying to make one.

So let’s get our science hats on and find out how exactly the web slinger works

The Machine

Web-slingers are metal brackets that make up a device that looks like a watch, only a bit wider the whole way round the wrist. The central part which sits over the pulse and has small pneumatic valves in place either side of where the web sits.

The Web

Now here’s the fun and rather annoying part of the shooter: it’s never been revealed exactly what the web is made from. If the Marvel Wikia is anything to go by, the web is a sheer thinning liquid that is “virtually solid until a shearing force is applied to it”. The webbing sits compressed inside the tube as a liquid until it is released. Once it comes in contact with air, oxidiation occurs and the liquid very quickly forms a flexible fiber that makes it in to a sticky web.

Throughout the history of the comic, Peter has had a multitude of version of the webbing he’s had to use. These include (and I’m not making this up) taser webbing, magnetic webbing, flame webbing, ice webbing and, my personal favourite, quick drying web cement. He’s also had voice command slingers years before Siri was ever a thing that could cast nets and fire quick round web pellets.

The Action

You’ve just put on the slinger, have your costume all ironed and looking nice, and now you’re thinking “how do I turn this thing on?”

The slinger acts like a pressure pad that relies on the stretch of the suit’s fabric around the wrist. All you’d have to do to fire a web is pull your wrist down, let the fabric push down on the pad and thats the web ready to rock.

The reason for having the fingers pointing in the ways is threefold:

  • it helps get a little more pressure on the wrist
  • it clears the way for what direction the web will go in
  • it obviously looks much more than a hand outstretched

Can It be made for real?

I went down a YouTube rabbit hole on this one and it seems that people out there have a lot more time and money than me to make one.

This video was my favourite of the bunch simply because the shooter was the most accurate. There was one I did like that was very small, but was essentially just a waster pistol on a tiny motor. I’m still waiting for someone out there to make a very accurate rope version that sticks, but until that day comes it will just have to be silly string for all of us.