Thursday, November 29, 2012

Just the Basics - The Sling


When you start a discussion about rifle slings, you are sure to hit more than a few “hot buttons” in the shooting community. However, past the specific manufacturer, the specific connector system, the specific material – there are basics about a sling that every new shooter should be aware of. And that is what I would like to spend some time in.

First – let’s divide slings into two general categories – combat slings and precision shooting slings. In each of these two environments there is “overlap” of purpose. But the primary purpose of a sling in combat differs significantly from the primary purpose of a sling for precision shooting. First, we will take a walk through combat slings.

Combat Slings

Purpose: There are three primary purposes for a sling in combat – weapon retention, weapon transition and load distribution.

Weapon Retention: In the heat of battle, losing your primary battle weapon is not a good thing. This may happen by simply dropping it while traversing a stream or a steep mountain trail, or it may happen during a close encounter with an enemy that may well try to seize your weapon. A sling will help to secure your weapon to your body in insure it is not “lost”. Retention can also apply to physically securing it closer to your body in the event you need your hands to climb, or you need to pick up a fallen buddy or for any other reason where you need free hands and you don’t want your battle rifle banging around your body.

Weapon Transition: In the heat of battle you hear a deafening “click” . . . . and you need to transition to a secondary weapon – sidearm, knife, fists. By simply letting go of your battle weapon your hands are free to transition to the secondary weapon system. And, when the moment passes, and you have time to repair the weapon malfunction – you will know exactly where your weapon is.

Load Distribution: During an extended patrol, everything begins to weigh more – including your battle weapon. A sling helps distribute part of the weight over a wider amount of your body rather than simply two hands/arms that are tasked with carrying it.

There are two primary variations of the combat sling – a 2-point sling and a single point sling. While there are multiple variations on these two themes, each has primary characteristics.

Two-Point Sling: The sling attaches to two separate sling-points on your weapon. One is usually near the rear of the stock and the second somewhere on the fore-grip. My personal preference is the Vickers padded 2-point sling. It allows for easy adjustment whether I want to snug my weapon to my body during movement or if I want to extend and engage with my weapon. The biggest advantage to a 2-point sling is that when both hands are needed, the weapon can be drawn close to your body so that as your move your hands are free yet your weapon doesn't bounce off your thighs and knees.

Single-Point Sling: A single point sling attached to a single point on your weapon. This is typically to a ring located near the top of the mag well or forward of the stock. It typically has a “shock cord” feel so that while you can keep your weapon close to your body, it easily stretches during engagement without the need for additional adjustments. The biggest fault I find with a single point sling is the amount of movement of the weapon when it is released to hang free on your body. If you do this during movement, you are guaranteed some pretty good sized bruises by the end of the day.

Another big area discussion is “How the heck do I wear this darn thing???” Honestly, to me it’s as clear as day. You want easy access to your secondary weapon system. This is typically a handgun worn on your dominant hand side – therefore, I want that arm to have the most movement possible.  I wear either of these slings by putting my head and SUPPORT arm through the hole. This insures that there are no obstructions on my dominant side between me and my secondary weapon system.

Precision Shooting Sling

Probably the most famous precision shooting sling is the M107. There are a number of crossover characteristics between the M107 and combat 2-point slings. Both are 2-point slings. Both will keep your weapon close to your body during movement. While both are adjustable, the M107 does take a significant amount work compared to many modern 2-point slings.

Where the M107 excels is in providing a significantly improved and more stable shooting platform. While typically limited to either the kneeling or sitting shooting position, the M107 allows an additional point of contact to help secure and stabilize your shooting platform. This is formed through the use of a “Lower Keeper” and the “Long Strap” to form a loop that fits around your support arm bicep. The length of these two elements is adjusted such that, when your support arm bicep rests on your knee, your weapon is drawn into your knee helping to secure it. Through this additional point of contact with your body and the use of your knee as a resting place for the lower part of your bicep – your shooting platform becomes much more stable – allowing for more accurate, long range shots.

There was an excellent article on the M107 written for the Shooters Carnival in October of 2003. Follow the link to read this excellent article.

Slings are a vital part of your battlefield rifle/carbine. Find one that you like and fits you well. Then work with it, use it, train with it.


  1. I admit little to no experience with slings (and long guns in general until I went to Appleseed last year. They are all about the precision sling.

  2. Yep, and Blackfork has a couple of good videos about slings on his YouTube channel. I was taught by a retired Marine, so I 'know' how to use one... :-)

  3. Keads - Hope to do an Appleseed training this year. We'll see how the sling work goes . . . .

    Not heard of Blackfork before, will check it out. And, well, Marines are the be all, end all . . . . just ask 'em! :) Nice to know you're all trained up!! :)

  4. I have to admit. I am so new to guns compared to you guys. I know exactly how to handle a gun but all the lingo I'm so lost on. You help me with your posts here. Thanks! Maybe one day I won't feel so lost.

  5. Lowry - Glad I'm fillin' in a few holes here and there. There's lots of "geek" speak with weapons tech, just like every other field. No need to feel "lost" - 30 years will fill in plenty of holes! :) Thanks very much for stopping by, I appreciate it.