See you in 2013!
By the way, I’m pulling rank and giving myself a waiver for the rest of weak handed rifle shooting month. I’ve already reversed the half turn on the sling back around the other way. It just wasn’t as much fun as last year. I tend to want to follow what is interesting at the time.
I developed this sling because I wanted something that did not yet exist. I decided to bring it to you because I needed a new hobby (not exactly). Actually I saw the opportunity for innovation and entrepreneurship.
I have tried a very wide variety of slings, and have seen and experienced their strengths and weaknesses. I have done a lot of shooting using a loop sling. Some slings are too slow to loop up with. Some slings use inferior materials. Some slings seem to work well but are uncomfortable with actual use. Some slings are overly complex to the end user.
I had a few criteria in mind when I came up with the sling. It had to be as simple as possible to use. I wanted as few buckles, adjusters, and sections necessary to make a functional sling.
I wanted something that could be set up once, left as is, and used in a moment’s notice. Easy adjustability of the loop is nice if you are shooting competition and want everything fine-tuned perfectly, but it’s impractical for a rifle that will be carried and when the time and conditions of the shot are not predictable.
I wanted materials that combined the thickness, stiffness, weight, and texture of cotton webbing with the durability, strength, and resistance to rot of nylon. I wanted to use materials that were strong enough to last a lifetime. I wanted materials that were made in America.
Most of all, I wanted a sling that I could loop up with quickly enough that I could get it set during the time it takes to get into position. What good is a loop if you can’t use it before your target disappears? That has always been the big problem with loop slings, most have been too slow for most practical use.
I didn’t think something up, order some webbing and thread, and sew them up for sale. My thought was that if I’m going to make something that doesn’t exist, something that I think is better than what’s out there, the quality should be first rate. It didn’t take long before I learned I would need to drop a huge amount of money on a sewing machine to do what I needed it to do.
I tried 5 kinds of webbing before finding something that finally satisfied me. Some webbing frays too easily. Some is too thin. 1.5” webbing is popular, and I initially began with the intention of using it. The fact that swivels don’t come in that size has always bothered me a little, but the 1 ¼” webbing and the adjustment hardware is pretty darn hard to find.
It took a lot of trial, error, searching, and dissatisfaction, but I’m very satisfied with what I finally found. I also found that 1 ¼” webbing also seemed to work better for a rifle sling in this application. It’s a bit lighter, and I found that it didn’t cut off my circulation quite so readily as 1.5” webbing, which surprised me. What I finally settled on is 1 ¼” mil-spec nylon webbing that really feels like the real-deal good ol’ USGI cotton webbing.
Old school cotton USGI webbing on the left, the webbing I’m using on the right.
Some of the colors that will be available. For now, only coyote tan, OD Green, and A-Tacs AU (right) will be offered. A-Tacs FG, Multicam, and black will be available later.
I built 5 different prototype slings. I used the first one for almost 2 months and found that I was onto something. By the time I built my 5thversion, I knew I pretty much had it down. After using prototype #5 for a month, I took it to an Appleseed. I was able to score 246 on the full distance AQT without starting any stage looped up (video from that shoot here: “Fastest Hands in the Northwest?” [looping up at 1:10])That showed me that it worked and I found a few improvements I could make to really have a refined product.
During the time I was testing prototypes, I was also taking the time to source materials and components that were made in the US. Chinese parts typically run a fifth to a tenth the cost of “equivalent” US made parts. I could have saved money and cut a few corners by ordering stuff from China, but it wouldn’t be the best, and I don’t trust that they’re our friends. Every piece of webbing, elastic, every adjuster, swivel, the thread, and even the tag were made in the United States. I’ll say it again, THIS IS 100% MADE IN THE USA! More importantly, this stuff is strong and the quality is self-evident.
As for the sling and what sets it apart. Many slings have buckles or hardware inside the shooting loop. I’ve found that this will give you a welt if you’re wearing “normal” clothes and experience recoil. My sling has no hardware in the loop that touches the shooter.
Don’t be afraid. I don’t bite.
The sling’s open loop is very rapid to get into and out of. This design favors practical field shooting. Generally if you’re in the field actually using your rifle for something you won’t be firing a string of 10 rounds at a stationary target with a mandatory reload. Because of this design philosophy, you could say it favors mobility at the very slight expense of stability. It may not stay high on the arm through multiple reloads, such as formal Highpower competition, or if the tension on the loop is released if the gun is taken out of position. If this happens, it can be easily pulled back up the arm, like I did at the Appleseed. Another solution is to install a keeper near the front swivel that can be pulled down if needed.
I’ve never used the blog as a means to make anything for myself. I have just enjoyed writing it and I don’t like the way banner ads clutter blogs. I think I have a good reason to change that now. If I didn’t think that this sling is the best thing going, I wouldn’t put my reputation on the line selling it.
I look forward to slinging all your rifles. If you’d like to get one, please visit the RifleCraft store.
The loop beckons…
Now that the half twist is put into the sling let’s adjust the sling’s loop tension. One of the things that will easily mark someone as a novice with a shooting sling is a lack of proper tension. This renders the sling ineffective. Why take the time to loop up if it’s not going to help?
The way I adjust a “set it and forget it” sling is to set it slightly tight for the lowest position, which is prone. This setting should make for almost ideal tension in the sitting position. In rice paddy prone and kneeling, the tension will be less than optimal, but still very useful. I have considered setting the sling tight for sitting and just using the bipod in prone. That would give me better tension in rice paddy prone and kneeling, but I keep thinking I should leave the slung prone option open.
Incidentally, I have a friend who was able to shoot a 249 on an AQT using a fixed loop length (set it and forget it). Also incidentally, my sling design is also a set it and forget it. Hmmm…
When you tried wrapping your support hand, if you noticed that the sling got kind of bunched up around the back of your hand, let me introduce you to the half twist.
What is this half twist and why does it solve all the world’s problems? Because we’re wrapping the sling around the hand and the hand around the sling, the sling has to be allowed to be twist once for every wrap that is made if it is to be kept flat. If you do the wrapping motion of the hand, you’ll notice (hopefully) that there was half a revolution of the hand around the sling. If we keep this one to one ratio, then we would be putting a half twist into the sling, which coincidentally, is just the amount that is called for.
I left off in Part 1 with attaching the sling loop to the upper arm. That’s a good starting place to get the sling set up. Let’s move on to placing the support hand and fine tuning things a bit.
I highly recommend wrapping the support hand. Actually I would recommend even more highly trying the sling both ways. You’ll see what an incredible amount of stability the rifle gains from this quick and easy maneuver. For those without a rifle within their immediate possession I will try to illustrate what I’m referring to.
To wrap the support hand, after placing the loop on the upper part of the arm, the support hand will move away from the rifle towards the support side until it clears the sling. Then the hand will pass over the sling so that the back of the support hand contacts the sling. When the rifle butt is placed in the shoulder, the sling will become snug and the support hand hand will be trapped by the sling’s tension between the sling and the rifle forend.
Here are 2 photo sequences. The Reddit readers like a lot of pictures (the squiggly lines we call “letters” seem to annoy them), so this ought to help my rankings 😉 As with many of my photo sequences, if you scroll down at the right speed, they appear to move.
From a different angle:
Why is wrapping the sling in this manner so much better than eschewing this maneuver and going straight up for the stock? When the support hand is wrapped by the sling, it will be held under sling tension to the rifle’s forend. This compresses your hold to the rifle to some degree, and seems to increase the mechanical advantage of your hold, sort of like gripping a pistol as high on the frame as possible. It gives the feeling that your rifle is contained within your shooting position rather than on it. Also, recall the triangles formed by the sling that give the position the structure we need so that we can relax and let the sling do the work (or do I just like drawing triangles in paint?). Wrapping the sling alters the point of origin from the centerline of the rifle where it goes to the arm. This alteration places the line of tension within the triangle formed by the points of friction at the upper part of the arm, the forward sling swivel, and the butt to shoulder interface.
Consider that the sling acts as a force, the rifle a lever, and the shooting hand a fulcrum. When the hand is wrapped the resulting arrangement looks a lot like a 3rd class lever, pulling the rifle’s butt into the shoulder where it is stopped against the body’s structure.
When the support hand is not wrapped by the sling, the forces of tension seem to distribute themselves quite differently. In both methods, wrapped and unwrapped, the support hand is placed behind the front swivel stud where the sling attaches. Remember that the sling, being under tension, will be pulling the rifle not only back at an oblique angle, but also down, due to the angle to which it departs from the rifle to the arm. When the support hand is not wrapped the line of the sling tension passes outside of the triangle formed by the points of friction at the upper part of the arm, the forward sling swivel, and the butt to shoulder interface.
When we put it in terms of a lever, it looks like a first class lever, in which the hand is the fulcrum, the sling applies effort causing the rifle’s butt to have a tendency to move to the outside of the firing shoulder. This means that effort must be applied to keep it stationary.
If the sling is not wrapped around the support hand, it will pull from the swivel down and to your support side. This is most readily apparent if without shouldering the rifle you allow the weight of the rifle and the sling tension to rest on your support palm. The sling tension will cause the rifle to torque clockwise for right handed shooters, as viewed from the shooter’s perspective. You will have to actively work against this torquing motion.
When the hand is wrapped, that doesn’t happen. In the following photo the rifle’s weight is just sitting in my relaxed hand.
That is my plea to you to learn to use your sling in a deliberate manner that results in easy use with the polished air of expertise. Or you could just cut corners and show your ignorance (that was a type of hyperbole meant to be dramatic and slightly humorous while still being true 😉 ). I’ll leave it to you to decide which is more befitting of your approach to shooting.
I need to touch on one more aspect of support hand placement when using a sling. I recommend that you set your rifle’s sling swivel placement to facilitate using them as a hand stop. This means that you run your support hand all the way forward to your sling swivel, so that when you relax into your position you don’t have to grasp the forend. This removes a potential source of muscular input, which also happens to be a possible cause of inaccuracy. The sling traps your hand to it and the swivel/stud stop if from moving forward. This also gives you a consistent, repeatable position to place your hand in.
The front swivel has to be rearward enough to keep sufficient bend in your arm to keep proper elevation, but forward enough to allow the flat of your arm, rather than the point of the elbow, to contact the ground when shooting from unsupported prone with the shooting sling.
My FN has the front swivel too far to the rear, which puts the point of my elbow on the ground in prone. Bad fit.
My Sako 75 has a longer stock and the front swivel is farther forward. It gets me closer to having the “flat of the arm” on the ground.
Competition shooters use fancy hand stops that attach to their rifles and make for a comfortable surface for your hand to go against. We regular rifle shootin’ folk won’t have those fancy ones, but will be using our standard sling studs and swivels. You have to be careful because these can be rather uncomfortable, especially upon recoil of a centerfire rifle. If you have quick release swivels, place the plunger towards your support side to keep it away from your fingers. Consider taking a file to the sharp edges of your swivel (some swivels are sharper than others). Another way to deal with it is to put a keeper over the entire swivel.
We now have proper support hand conformity. Next we’ll cover a little dance I like to call the “Half Twist”.
Now that everyone reading this is fully committed to learning to use a shooting sling properly, let’s get down to making it work. Remember that the sling is made up of a loop that is wrapped around the uppermost portion of the support arm and is then connected to the forward swivel/stud of the rifle. When the elbow is rested on the ground or a solid object, the sling will support the weight of the rifle, so long as your position provides a suitable framework.
How do we go about attaching the sling to the upper arm? The means of attaching the sling vary by the type of sling. What I’m going to explain instead of how to use your particular kind of sling is the manner in which your sling’s loop should be attached to the upper part of your support arm.
In explaining how to affix your sling, I need to make obvious what should already be an obvious tendency of the loop. The sling, if properly configured, will be under tension. This is necessary for it to support your rifle’s weight. This tension pulls the rifle from its front sling swivel stud towards the attachment point at your support arm. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. This means that the sling also pulls from its attachment point at the upper part of your support arm towards the front swivel stud on your rifle.
As I explained in a previous article, we really hope that your arm is not going to come loose from its attachment point to the shoulder. Likewise, we hope that the sling swivel will stay firmly attached to the rifle. Therefore the weak link in this chain is the point at which the loop is attached to the arm. This is why there is a very specific way to attach the sling to the arm.
Hopefully you’ve picked up the words I have been using- “upper part of your support arm.” Specific definitions invite specific interpretations. The arm originates at your shoulder joint and terminates at the elbow joint, at which point the forearm begins. The upper part of your support arm is above the bicep, and above the meatier parts of the tricep. It’s as high as you can be on the arm without reaching the deltiod. This is where the sling goes. The following photos show the spot where the sling just kind of fits right in.
Why am I being such a stickler about this? Because I was “pretty much aware” of where the sling went for quite a while before I started using it to good effect by doing it properly. There’s a difference between knowing what’s right, knowing if you’re doing it right, and doing what’s right We would like all three to coincide all the time, but a lot of the time there’s a perceptual blindness that keeps us from existing in a state of integrity (harmony?). To overcome this tendency you have to apply deliberate effort in training yourself.
The other reason to be a stickler about this is that the sling has a greater tendency to slip the closer it is to the elbow. As the sling slips it also loosens, which enables it to slip even more readily. Slipping sling loops mean inconsistent sling tension. Inconsistent inputs into the shooting system usually mean inconsistent outputs from the shooting system. Translation: if you keep your sling lower on the arm than is absolutely ideal your shots have a higher likelihood of going astray from your intended point of impact. Keep your loop in precisely the right spot.
I find that the kinesthetic cue for me to get the sling properly placed is that the top edge of the loop’s width has the feeling of being at the threshold of the armpit (dangerously close to the dreaded “tickle zone”).
Following are several photos that will show you correct and incorrect loop placement in different positions.
You can see from the photos that I’m splitting hairs. I encourage you to split them too. It makes a difference.
Different styles of slings require different placements of the sling hardware on the arm, left, right, or center. Consult your local sling expert, the manual, experiment, or you can refer to my catalogue of sling articles.