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.


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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”.

15 thoughts on “How to Use the Sling, Part 2: The Support Hand

    • I would have to stick with what I said in the article “Bolt Manipulation in Sling Supported Positions”. I don’t really have that problem with the FN. It’s length of pull is just short enough for me to reach. Left handed is harder though.

  1. Add to the fancy hand stop a 1.75 inch wide buckle sling that stays on the heavy coat sleeve with a hook attached to the top of the sleeve and you have my old prone set up. Don’t forget the big thick glove…..

    All of the above is useless anywhere but HP or Palma rifle match firing line. I’m very interested in construction specifics of your sling, I can see me sending you some of my rapidly declining in value American dollars for it.

    • BS (no pun intended),

      If you’re interested in the sling, the thing to do would be to shoot me an email. I’m keeping a list of folks who are interested so I can get info out to them.

  2. 1. I think no discussion of the support hand or arm wrap position is complete without mention of the potential for pulse beat transfer from the sling to the rifle. This is a little different for every person, so some trial and error is in order to find the points with the lowest pulse beat amplitude yet still having good support. Pulse beat can be hard to see for some shooters to appreciate until they see it in say a SCATT or else crank up the power on their scope and aim at a close target.

    2. Another issue, especially in prone, is the cutting off of circulation in the support hand over long periods of time. Again, lots of trial and error with where the sling meets the support hand and wraps around the support arm to minimize this.

    3. As an alternative to a hand stop, I have used skateboard grip tape on the bottom of an old wood rifle to keep my gloved hand from slipping. With some trial and error with different tapes or stippling a decent friction can be found to keep the and from slipping and further allow the support arm to relax.

    • We used rifle grip or the spray rosin for ball bat grips on service rifles to keep the glove in place. Nasty but it works.

  3. (laughing) I used to keep food on hand too but it would generally fade away before the day was out. So I just wrote it in the cupboard and forgot about it – suspect it’s still there.

    • You always get my jokes and have something nice to say. Plus you’ve been reading this blog pretty much as long as anyone besides me.

      Top bloke (is that pretty close Australian talk for really good guy?)

    • Crikey mate, you keep talking like that and you’ll get automatic aussie citizenship(then you can move over here and have all your favourite guns taken off you!)

      And you’re very perceptive – I really am a top bloke (just ask me) – my one and only shortcoming is my shooting but it’s coming along steadily due in no small measure to this blog. Soon I’ll be the perfect man (don’t believe anything my wife tells you though – aussie women are really great but once they get married they turn int0 HUGE liars).

      But jokes aside I do have a serious matter to raise with you in relation to the use of the sling. Using a sling as a support aid is all well and good, and you’ve obviously made a real study of it, but how in the name of Ned Kelly do you do you manage all this ‘wrap your support hand around this and that, make sure there’s a half-twist’ etc, etc without spilling your beer? Me and my shooting mates reckon you must be a LEGEND (and that’s one up from a ‘top bloke’, by the way).

      Catch you later,

      PS – I have been perservering with the Ching now since you got yours (though mostly with .22LR and not as intensively as you manage to find the time to do) and it has done a great deal for my generally piss-poor field shooting ability. I remain very keen to learn the ins and outs of your new sling design. Truly, you are the Rifleslinger.

    • For bottled beer I hook the cap on the stock after wrapping the support hand. For cans I squeeze it really hard, causing it all to come out in the air, then I drink what I can. The rest is for good looks and perfume. You understand I’m sure. Either way it only takes a second.

    • Legendary! Particularly interested in the technique for cans (maybe you can do a video) – I often drink cans because you can crush them when you’re done and that way they don’t take up so much room on the floor of the car.

      cheers 😉

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