How My Rifle’s Trigger Likes to be Worked

I wrote a long article early on in the blog about trigger control.  The rifle I was using then had a superb feeling trigger.  It was one of those glass rod type things, I would say just under 3 lbs.  The trigger on my current rifle, the FN PBR-XP is about 3.5 lbs with a bit of pre travel.  Some might call it creep.  It demands that I have good trigger discipline and will not accept anything less than what it wants.

Here’s what seems to work the best, the best being I see no reticle movement as the trigger breaks during dry fire.

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The second joint is as close to 90° as I can get it.  The first joint is relaxed.  This seems to result in a pretty good technique for the Glock as well.

Here is a photo without the rifle in the way:

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The camera angle makes it look like I’m right on the fingertip, but I tend to stay in roughly the center of the pad.

This is what I’ve been trying for on all my rifles for a while now.  Since trigger control is one of those major components of marksmanship, I will compromise other things to make it just right.  In a perfect world in which the government supplied everyone with a special rifle fitted exactly to their body, we wouldn’t have to make any compromises.  As it sits now, only the privileged 1% can afford to have such a special rifle.  Perhaps if the poor could reduce the size of their flatscreens from 60” to 50” and sacrifice just one marinated steak per month, we could get our rifles fitted.

In lieu of a fitted rifle, here is what I do instead:

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I use my fingers to stand my grip off the pistol grip sufficiently to make the trigger technique work like it should.  I’m sure it creates its own issues, but the problem it solves is more significant in my opinion.

I’m still working on my trigger work.  I believe it’s one of those things you can never be complacent with.

Thank you for reading.  Now go and shoot.

See you in 2013!

Dot Drills…


…are frustrating:

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I shot these right handed, and the left side left handed.  I forgot to take a photo of the completed target and I seem to have lost it.

The dots are ½” and I’m firing from 100 yards.  The dots are small enough that my crosshair obstructs most of it when lined up.

I like these targets because a). the targets are small enough to really make you do it right, b). “hitting something” as opposed to “shooting a group” seems more realistic, worthwhile, and that it removes some of the mindgame factor (“4 out of 5 rounds and this looks like it could be my best group ever”), and c). each shot is its own event and must be set up for independently of any other shot on the page.

I’m placing a self-imposed moratorium on group shooting for the foreseeable future unless absolutely necessary.  I have a pretty good idea what my rifle will do.  Trying to hit stuff seems like a better expenditure of my ammo at the moment.

Merry Christmas.

Perfection?


Glock
“Austria! Well, then. G’day mate! Let’s put another shrimp on the barbie!”
 

It makes me wonder now whether Jonno might work at the Glock factory.
1911’s occupied the entire realm of my gun interest for years.  Everything else was an answer to a question that had not been asked.  They always came up right on target, seldom malfunctioned (but occasionally did, more than I would have liked, or cared to admit), were reassuringly hefty, and spoke to me of a time when craftsmanship was perhaps a bit more commonplace.
Back then my guns were more hobby items rather than tools.  My attitude on that has shifted over the years, but the 1911 had a lot of inertia for me in terms of my pistol preferences.  I have carried a 1911 99% of the last 12 years.
My first experience with a Glock (a Gen 3 17) was that it was a plastic piece of crap that just by some accident of fate shot reasonably accurately and rarely malfunctioned (I should clarify, I have never experienced a Glock malfunction, but have seen them).  It wasn’t the trigger that bothered me, because I always thought it was alright.  It’s not as good as a 1911, but I think it’s better than my wife’s Browning Hi-Power (lighter pull and shorter, more positive reset).  The looks never bothered me either.  What really bothered me was that the receiver assembly was so ridiculously light and that there seem to be an awful lot of stamped parts.  To a 1911 aficionado, anything but a forged or machined part that is appropriately heavy is cheap and untrustworthy.
Probably the worst thing about the Glock, in my opinion back then, was that it just didn’t “feel right” in my hand.  That translated to it not pointing right (too high).  Not that I ever shot poorly with it, except in force on force, when a rushed attempted at a center mass shot would become a head shot (sure, uh, I meant to do that).
In my rifle shooting, my switch from #1 , the Sako 75 that was my blog gun for over a year, to the FN PBR-XP taught me that I could take something that had been automatic and translate that skill to a significantly different platform.  This got me over the last problem I had with the Glock, that it just didn’t “point right” for me.  I had to find an acceptable answer to this question:
If the gun makes perfect sense in terms of what I want from a pistol, does the fact that I resist it based on ergonomics and familiarity mean that I’m not competent enough to start over with a new platform?
The only suitable answer to that question is NO!
I had considered the M&P and the Caracal.  The latter really appealed to me on the basis of its high bore axis and that it held one more round than a G17.  I like accurate guns, however, and I had heard too many reports of both of those candidates being marginal.  The only elephant left in the room was the Austrian one.
It’s very odd to pick up the 1911 now and find that it “just doesn’t point right” anymore.  It’s sometimes disconcerting that the weight on my hip is not significant enough to register.  I’m still behind the curve logistically in terms of gear and accessories for the Glock.  But it’s quite comforting to know that I have 18 rounds right there.
I’m hoping that this will better fulfill the role that I think a sidearm should play for a person who might happen to be carrying a bolt action rifle.  I’m going to have to get a lot better with it, which I hope will translate into better than I ever have been, which will be a nice challenge.

A Windy Shoot at Tiny Targets, Ambidextrously

I have a confession to make.  This shoot occurred on the first day of the month that I set aside for weak handed shooting.  I forgot to shoot the first stage of the shoot left handed.  I’ll explain.
I got up before daylight.  It was windy and rainy.  I had my gear packed and got out of the house as efficiently as I am capable of.  I had a general idea of where I was headed.  There were directions but they didn’t indicate from which direction they were for.  I let a computer dictate my route, which can be pretty bad around here, because as Sun Tzu wisely said, “The map is not the territory.” 
Things were going pretty well until I hit a road that had a sign proclaiming the necessity of a permit from November to April.  There was a reason for that I’m assuming, as it was soft mud.  I decided just to find another route, which added a little time, and I still wasn’t certain as to where I was headed.  Fun!
After driving for long enough that I figured I was off track, I finally saw a bunch of sponsorship banners for cool gun companies blowing in the wind (might be a song there).  I saw the shooters’ vehicles out across a rocky field.  I figured there must have been a road leading to them.  Shortly after that I figured out that there wasn’t, that the road I was on was passing them laterally and getting farther away, and that people were staring.

I wasn’t late, but I wasn’t early either.  I was also suffering from a similar malady that plagued me at the last shoot like this: I don’t own a rangefinder.  When targets are anywhere from < 1 MOA in size to maybe 3 MOA, at unknown distances from 400 to 770 yards, knowing the exact range will be helpful (understatements are a specialty of mine).
There are a few techniques for ranging targets at unknown distances.  The best one to use in situations like this is to act like you know what you’re doing, while filling out a range card standing next to someone that does own a rangefinder.  It goes something like this:
“You got that crow out there just down from that knoll?” 
“Hang on, oh, 465.”
“465.  OK.  What about that rockchuck just out and to the right of it?” 
You get the idea.  Luckily I knew someone there.  He’s the one that told me I could borrow his rangefinder last time, but it didn’t work out.  This time he put a Leica 1600 in my hand and I went to work.
There were 2 stages fanned out about 45° degrees.  I frantically started ranging the one on the left, which consisted of 7 targets from 161-438 yards.  About the time that I was almost done with my range card, Caleb, who puts the shoots on, called out the shooting order.  I was the first shooter, on the long range stage (not the one I had been working the range card on). 
I had to quickly transition over to the long range stage and start filling out my range card.  There is a difficulty involved that is rather easy to convey.  The terrain is mixed dry grass and rocks.  The targets are small and black.  They can’t be seen by the naked eye.  Sometimes they are difficult so see through binoculars (especially for some reason my $10 Bushnells) and even through scopes.    
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There are 7 targets out there. None of them can be seen with the naked eye.
Luckily people are pretty nice and will generally help you locate the targets.  I got them ranged, plopped my rifle down, loader ‘er up, and asked the scorer if he was ready to go.  Yep.
The rules are this, you have 10 minutes to shoot 7 targets.  A first round hit is 1 point.  A second round hit is a half point.  After that, well there is no “after that” because there are no points for after that.
The long range course consisted of a rockchuck at 390, a bobcat at 521, a rockchuck at 567, a bobcat at 573, a crow at either 631 or 718, and a rabbit at 778.  I’m missing something on my rangecard if you’re wondering why I only have 6 targets.  There was a 12-14 mph wind coming from about 8-9 o’clock.
Here’s what happened.  I had no time to waste or consider how I was going to get it done.  I got into position and started to dial dope.  I started firing.  That’s about it.  There was no thought that it was the first day of weak handed rifle shooting month.  I shot it right handed.  That’s my confession.  I’m sorry. 
My iphone was giving me corrections that were pretty consistently 0.2 mils to a little more that that high.  As I caught on it would be a little bit more off due to the ranges gradually getting longer.  The crow at the “way out there” distance was pretty hard to see and was in the shadows.  You had to know where it was to even glass it; even then you could just make out that it was something irregular.  It’s a roughly triangular shaped target.  Off in about the vicinity I had drawn my crow target on the range card, there happened to be a triangular shaped rock that stood out.  Even on 9x it looked like the crow to me.  After I shot twice they figured out that I was shooting at something other than the target.  Such is life…  I think I at least hit the rock I was aiming at.
I ended up with 3 points out of 7, and at about the bottom of the top third of the shooters on that stage.
The short range stage had easier targets (because they were closer), but the wind had gotten tough.  The terrain was a little more varied on the short range course, and the wind got more intense during as the day progressed.  It was around 15 with gusts over 20 and lulls at about 12.  It was evident that the targets from 161 to 220 weren’t getting as much wind as we were at the shooting position, maybe half.  The targets out at 375 and 438 seemed to be getting just as much.  This was judged by the swaying of the grass.
About midway into the day, they decided to open up a 2nd position on the short range course.  I volunteered to take up that position 1st, because I was cold and hungry, and I had people with me who were miserable.  I found that I couldn’t really see one of the targets from where I was.  I think I got 2 first round hits, a second round hit, then not much if anything after that.
I shot this course mostly left handed, which isn’t really a handicap from the bipod for me.  The exception was the target that was obstructed by the grass.  I attempted a slung seated position.  This was day 1 of weak handed rifle shooting month, so I did it right handed, not wanting to figure out left handed seated again on the fly under time stress.  On paper my sitting should have been accurate enough.  I didn’t get my hit though.
The wind was very dynamic.  I had trouble spotting my own impacts, so I relied on the scorer.  By the time he gave me a correction the wind would generally have picked up causing a pretty much identical miss.
The shoot was fun, but I ended up in kind of a down mood.  I spent too much on gas, I was hungry, my brake pads were worn out, etc…  The shooting was fun.
This was the first time at one of these things that I didn’t end up in the top three for at least one of the events.  My preparation in recent weeks had been oriented towards maxing out my Appleseed AQT.  It’s a completely different ballgame.  It’s funny that to an Appleseeder, 7 shots in 10 minutes would sound like an eternity.  When you are dealing with tiny, irregular targets at unknown distances, the game completely changes.  Being good at all the games is a very formidable challenge.

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.

Introducing The RifleCraft RS1 Sling

I’ve covered what a shooting sling is, why you should consider one, how it works, and how to use one.  Let me show you the sling I designed to fit my needs as a practical rifleman.

 

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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.

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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.

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Old school cotton USGI webbing on the left, the webbing I’m using on the right.

 

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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.

 

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Don’t be afraid.  I don’t bite.

Many slings have adjustment hardware near the front swivel.  This tends to get in the way of the support hand and will give you a booboo when you experience recoil.  My sling has no hardware that touches the support hand.
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Nothin’ here to hurt you.

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.

 

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The loop beckons…

 

How to Use the Sling, Part 4: Getting it Tense (but not two tents)

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?

If you get right down to it, every position will have an amount of sling tension that is appropriate for a specific shooter.  That’s why competition folk use slings that adjust.  They also have the luxury of shooting predictable courses of fire at known distances and a measure of time to setup their equipment.

If I really nitpick about it, I find that as my position gets higher (prone→sitting→squatting→kneeling) I require more sling tension.  It gets pretty easy and quick to adjust if you do it a lot and your sling adjusts easily.

Sling tension is kind of a preference thing and varies a lot from shooter to shooter.  Competition guys have a reputation for liking it very tight.  I don’t think this is as practical in the field as a sling that is “snug”.

I think a good amount of tension requires that the rifle’s butt be pushed forward in order to get it into the shoulder pocket.  I use the firing hand as I’m getting into position and push from the top of the butt.  As I push it all the way forward it doesn’t become so tight that it simply won’t go forward any more, but it’s tight enough to push back on my shoulder after it’s been placed there.

A problem with adjustable slings is that they can un-adjust.  I have experienced on multiple occasions a 1907 frog escaping from its holes, or a cam buckle on a USGI sling just coming undone.  This can cause your rifle to fall (which is undesirable generally, unless your rifle is Russian).

Other slings do not easily adjust for tension.  This type of sling is more suited to the user who does not expect to have the luxury of foresight to know what position he will shoot from or the time to make the adjustment.  For this type of sling you can find one length of loop that is a compromise that will work across the spectrum of positions, perhaps not optimally, but it will work.  I call this class of sling “set it and forget it”.  These are generally simpler and more secure.

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…

How to Use the Sling, Part 3: The Half Twist

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.

Sling around the hand with no half twist:

No Half Twist
Less comfortable than it looks.

Sling around the hand with a half twist:

Half Twist
Conforms perfectly to the support hand and continues on to the arm.

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.

In the old days, when you had to remove the rear of the sling from the rear swivel to loop up, they would put a half twist into the sling after unhooking the rear of the sling.  If you, like I, have figured out that unhooking the rear of the sling is impractical for any type of practical shooting (we’d hate to be impractical while being practical) you’ll need a different solution.  One way is to put the sling on the rifle so that it is straight from the front swivel to the rear and input the twist by grabbing the loop just prior to inserting the arm and putting the half twist in then.  There’s one problem with this: it’s still a little slow and means you need to juggle your hand position around prior to looping up.

What I have been doing for over a year now, and what I recommend, is to put the twist into the sling when it is mounted to the rifle.  The tricky part is figuring out how you want the sling hardware and adjustments oriented before placing the sling.  The other part that is not tricky, but takes a moment of practice is keeping the sling from the loop on back oriented one way, and keeping the half twist confined to the area of the sling forward of the loop.  Luckily, every sling material I have used has been “trainable” to some degree and seems to retain the memory of the half twist.  It’s one of those things that you check on when you pull the rifle out of the case and pick it up.  After that it tends to stay in place.

I’ve used the half twist on the 1907, Andy’s Ching sling, and all manner of nylon slings.  When I designed my own sling, which is soon to be released by the way, I had the half twist in mind from the beginning, and from the beginning it has been easy to work in that manner.  No aspect of my sling usage has suffered a bit from putting a half twist in.

The best part of the half twist is that when you go to the range, someone will tell you that your sling is twisted.  This is a great opportunity for you to look over their shoulder off into the distance.  After several seconds let a strand of drool out of the corner of your mouth.  Be subtle.  We all know that a little drool goes a long way.  After another 2-3 seconds start laughing, quietly at first, then growing in intensity.  Then say, “I like shooting guns.”  You will make new friends and impress others every single time (this statement has not been approved by the FDA).

Now that everyone is twisted I can move onto how to determine the proper tension for your sling… in a couple days.

How to Use the Sling, Part 2: The Support Hand

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.

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From a different angle:

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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.

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Pulling the rifle into the shoulder seems like a good thing.

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.

Lever

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Pulling the rifle away from the shoulder seems like a bad thing.

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.

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You can see that I like to have food on hand.

When the hand is wrapped, that doesn’t happen.  In the following photo the rifle’s weight is just sitting in my relaxed hand.

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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.

Half Twist

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.

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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.

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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”.

How to Use the Sling, Part 1: The Shooting Sling to Arm Connection

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.

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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.

Rice Paddy Prone:

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Sitting
:

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Prone:

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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.

Why Consider Using a Shooting Sling?

There are many ways of steadying a rifle, so why consider the sling?  It’s not a be-all-end-all solution.  It’s just a tool, so let’s go over some of the other tools available, and explore some of the advantages and disadvantages of each.
There’s the bench, which doesn’t go all that well into the field, so I’ll just dismiss it outright as a practical implement for steadying the rifle.  I suggest you do too, unless you plan on hauling the shooting bench with you when you take your rifle to the field.

The bipod is a great tool.  I won’t disparage bipod use, because it works great, and people are getting better at using it.  The primary issue that will preclude the use of the bipod is intervening terrain, e.g. tall grass, small hills, etcetera, that obstruct line of sight.  Bipods can be used in positions other than prone, but there’s the issue of the necessity to find a suitable surface to plant it on.  Like anything else, training with and using a bipod will increase your ability to use it well.

Another useful method to steady the rifle is to take advantage of what I call “improvised support”.  This involves finding stuff to rest your rifle on.  It helps, and I recommend taking advantage of whatever you can use to get steadier.  You can’t count on being able to find it when, where and how you need it, and finding it can be a bit of an art.  That is the principle weakness of improvised support.

There are several advantages that a sling enjoys over other methods of steadying the rifle.  It’s lightweight and easily portable (a bit more so than a bipod).  Nylon, especially, adds very little weight and is very durable.  It serves double duty as a means for carrying the rifle.  It tends to stay on the rifle, so it’s quick to get into action, provided the sling design allows for quick use (the bipod is similar in this respect).  The sling can be used in any position in which the support arm can rest on something, such as the ground or part of the body, e.g., the support side leg.  The sling can be used from prone up to kneeling, and can be combined with the use of improvised support.  Some use the sling in standing as well.  The method of using the sling is consistent from position to position, which makes it easy to use when other methods may present greater challenge to adaptation.

Take the following photos as examples.  Let’s say the shooter sees a target of opportunity in the areas indicated by the red circles:

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Getting prone won’t work because of the intervening terrain (hills and tall grass respectively).  There is nothing to use as improvised support in the first photo, and nothing nearby in the second, especially considering that the close range and open terrain will likely require speed before the target decides to leave.  If you have one extra second to get steady, the sling will be of use (not all slings are that quick, including the one pictured above).

Disadvantages of the sling?  It doesn’t stabilize quite as well as a bipod and doesn’t allow you to see your impacts (not the same as calling your shot).  Although it’s very simple, it’s still subject a man-made object that is subject to failure, so it shouldn’t be relied upon as a crutch any more than benches, bipods, or even firearms.  The sling can snag when carried in dense foliage.  The best advise if this is a problem is simply to take it off and stow it temporarily in a pocket or pack.  You’ll probably be snapshooting at a close range target anyway.

What about relying purely on good positioning with no extra tools used to steady the rifle?  I think it sounds like a good idea to practice it.  I have to admit though, that I’m always looking to use whatever is handy to gain an advantage.  But sometimes all you got is what you got, and it’s good to be able to get by without extras.  In my experience, however, the sling will tighten groups up considerably.  It’s hard to put a number on it, but I would say that the sling could potentially double your accuracy over using nothing but good position.

Kneeling without sling, 100 yards, 6/20/11:
Sling 6-20-11 High Kneeling no sling

Kneeling with loop sling, 100 yards, 6/20/11:

Sling 6-20-11 Low Kneeling with sling

Enough said.