The most common method of using a sling to steady the rifle is the loop sling. Although it’s the most common and probably the best, it’s not the only game in town. The next most common method is known as the hasty sling.
The hasty sling uses the full length of the sling from swivel to swivel. The arm is simply thrust through the support side, the hand wraps itself by taking an outboard turn, and the rifle is shouldered. The sling should pass snugly across the chest, say midway between the collarbones and nipples. There should be a feeling that the back of the support arm pushes downward into the sling creating tension, and that the weight of the ‘system’ rests on the support side pectoral. The overall length adjustment of the sling needs to be set so the tension of the sling will support the rifle.
In the following photos I used a model of my RS-2 sling that I made specifically to illustrate different aspects of sling use. The color of the loop portion (front of the sling) is foliage colored and the rear portion of the sling is tan. I apologize for the quality of the photos. My photographer for this session was 8 years old, so you can blame this guy:
We took him back to double the distance on the same target as compared to last time, and I convinced him to try out the X-15. He nailed a 6 oz. water bottle from kneeling on the first shot at about 20 yards.
Unlike the loop sling, which is pretty simple to look at and figure out, the hasty sling takes a bit of investigation to understand the function. It seems clear that the sling across the chest is an important part of the equation, and that perhaps the weight of the rifle at the forend is somehow cantilevered to be supported by the chest, but it makes no sense that a piece of material under the rifle support its weight.
What seems to actually be the case is that the sling offers tension to the position front and rear, somewhat like the loop sling. Unlike the loop sling, which offers very simple and direct support by taking the place of the support arm muscles, the hasty sling offers an indirect support. It’s kind of ingenious, but the hasty simply offers a place to set the support hand arm, in lieu of setting the arm against the ribs or against the chest.
The weight of the rifle goes straight down the forearm and into the small section of sling just behind the triceps. All that is supported by the tension of the sling against the chest nearest the support side (in my case the left side).
The portion of the sling just forward of the chest supports the support arm. The support forearm is vertical or nearly so, which means it really doesn’t have to work to bear any of the weight. Likewise, the support hand really doesn’t have to do anything because of the straight line vertical forces pushing right down into the sling. The weight goes into the support side of the chest.
I used the hasty sling extensively in standing from about 2009 to 2011 or so. About the time I started the blog in the summer of 2011 and started testing methods against each other I noticed in dry fire that my arc of movement was slightly smaller with the sling overall with the sling, but that it was not controllable at all. Without the sling the overall movement was larger, but much slower, and I could control it enough to pause it for a moment. It’s the difference of having a guaranteed 12 to 14 MOA arc with the sling versus learning to stall the movement for long enough to break a shot. I’m currently shooting groups in the 5 to 7 MOA range without a sling, and I think I’ve still got some room to shrink.
I believe that the hasty sling is a lot like the dark side of the force. If Luke were asking Yoda about the hasty sling it might go something like this:
Luke: Is the hasty sling more precise?
Yoda: No. No. No. Quicker. Easier. More seductive.
For that reason I think that the hasty sling is attractive to new shooters because it offers a really quick shortcut to a decent level of mediocrity without having to really figure out what makes the standing position work, kind of like force choking people instead of waving the hand and saying, “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.” In one set of groups a beginner can get from a group that essentially not measureable without the sling to a 12 to 16 MOA group with the sling, which is probably good enough to get a passable score in the standing position on the AQT. The problem is that I don’t think it gets much better from there. It’s kind of like if you’re on the California trail in the 1800’s and some guy named Hastings tells you about this really cool shortcut, and before you know it you’re stuck in the Sierra Nevadas in the worst winter on record EVER, and you’re eating human flesh to survive. You finally look down at your name tag and it says “Donner”. Crap. Probably should have just stayed on the regular trail.
I tested the hasty sling twice with the X-15. The first time I just did it without any practice. After I spent some time figuring out how to explain it, I kind of liked the concept and decided to practice for a week in dry fire and then try it again. I intended on also trying it with the FN, but the transition to that rifle was too abrupt and I wasn’t feeling it. I decided not to waste my time or ammo on it that day.
Standing No Sling:
Standing Hasty Sling:
Standing No Sling
Standing Hasty Sling
On the second day I shot groups I felt like I started getting into a groove with the hasty sling. It felt a lot like it used to, where I would take a breath, watch the sight rise, then exhale and watch the sight fall steadily back toward the target. As it settled back in at the respiratory pause I pressed the trigger. That happened after the first shots, which were those wild ones top and bottom. Even then, the group is still worse than my group with no sling.
As with the loop sling, the hasty sling slows the shooter down by forcing a more finite natural point of aim, and of course the time it takes to loop up. So the normal position is much quicker, easier, and more practical in addition to being, for me at least, much more precise. If more precision is needed, the target standing position without the sling is typically about a full minute more precise for me than the practical position.
To sum up: The hasty sling. Learn it. Love it. Leave it.
Or just skip it altogether.
Feel free to prove me wrong by emailing me photos of your own groups. The control group and the experimental group should be shot on the same day, close to the same time, under the same conditions, with the same equipment (with the exception of the sling, of course).