The Shooting Sling: What is it and What does it Do?

I have written several articles in the past on rifle slings and how to use them.  Most of those articles dealt with the facts and materials as I understood them at the time.  So much time, study, and experimentation have elapsed since those articles were published I thought it prudent to start again with a clean slate.
Using the rifle sling as a shooting aid is a dying art.  Some people who I respect as shooters don’t fully understand the use of the sling.  I hand them a rifle and it is clearly apparent that they are faking their way through it and don’t quite understand it fully. That needs to change.  The shooting sling, in my opinion, is a tool that should be on every shooter’s proverbial belt, and within easy reach. 
Appleseed is one big exception to the growing sling ignorance that pervades the shooting culture.  If a person shoots rifleman at an Appleseed shoot I have a pretty good idea that they can use a sling properly.  If they’re an instructor, I have a pretty good idea that they can not only use it, but teach it to some degree, and teach it pretty well in all likelihood.  If you need to learn to use a sling, just go to an Appleseed.  Pay attention and get extra help.  They have a bias toward the USGI web sling, which works fine for training, but is impractical for utilizing the loop from a field shooting standpoint.  Just something to keep in mind.
The rifle sling, in addition to its role in carrying the rifle, is used to support the weight of the rifle when shooting.  How does this work?  Probably triangles or something, but let’s take a look and see if we can figure it out.
The sling loop is affixed to the upper support arm above the bicep.  STOP!!!   I could sense that you were getting wrapped around the axle about the question of getting the sling wrapped around the arm.  It sounds impractical, doesn’t it?  I’m going to solve that for you later, so just relax. 
Sling 012- face blocked
Referencing the photo above, the sling is attached to the body at point 1.  Unless the shoulder is ripped free of the arm, there should be no worry as to the sturdiness of the anchor there (don’t play with alligators!!!).  The second anchor point is at 2, where the flat of the arm, just above the elbow rests on a support.  Yes, the sling will only support the rifle’s weight if the support side “elbow” is supported (hear elbow and think “flat of the arm”).  There will be dissenters over that last sentence, and that’s fine.  The sling is attached to the rifle/support hand at point 3.  You could split hairs over whether it’s the sling stud or the support hand that make point 3, but let’s save that discussion for later.  This completes the triangle that supports the rifle’s weight.
Sling triangle
To make it all work the rifle’s butt makes firm contact at the firing side shoulder pocket.  The sling should have sufficient tension to pull the rifle back into the shoulder pocket without your firing hand having to pull at all.  You will know this is the case when you have to push the butt forward to be able to get it into the shoulder.  

Sling triangles
That’s a lot of triangles.  Guess what that means.   
                                       -Pretty much guaranteed to be really steady.
                                       -It looks cool like a space logo or something.
                                       -I can use the line tool in paint really well.   
Actually I don’t know what it means.  If I could plant that right elbow I could draw more triangles…
The reason that the sling steadies the rifle is that it removes the need to use the muscles of the support shoulder, arm, hand, and probably also the back to some degree.  Muscles get tired and shake.  They can be inconsistent.  Bones and a rifle bound together by a sling into a frame make things much more steady and consistent.  Because there is some elasticity in the way everything is connected, your rifle will tend to bounce back to the same spot after recoil as well.
The sling also makes it very easy to find your natural point of aim.  This is because you are able to relax completely in the position with the sling supporting the rifles weight.  A relaxed position is a natural position.  This will yield very consistent results.  Pretty neat!
I think that pretty much covers what a shooting sling is for the context I do my shooting in.  More information will be presented in the next few days.

9 thoughts on “The Shooting Sling: What is it and What does it Do?

  1. Good stuff I assume that the sling shown is your creation I like what I see ,how do you transport or “sling” with it( I know later installment be patient)

    • That one is NOT mine. It’s a USGI sling. I just used an old picture. I have a photo of a prototype on the “Enoka Reflex” post, but it’s not quite as nice as the actual sling will be.

  2. I should clarify that this article and the next several to come pertain to shooting slings in general and their use. The next 6 posts or so, over the next 2 weeks, are intended to cover the what, why, and how of the concept of using any shooting sling in greater detail than I have in the past. I also wanted to consolidate all of that in one series so it’s easier to use as a reference.

    Immediately following the instructional posts I will make a couple of posts with detailed info, pictures, and general propoganda about it. The reason that stuff doesn’t exist yet is that instead of having all the components I need, I have some components and some tracking numbers. My prototypes were made to test function, not to be pretty, and I want to represent the sling properly, so I’m not quite ready to put out a lot of pics yet.

    • All I’m waiting on is elastic webbing in the solid color that matches the camo webbing I’m using for this run, labels, and some metal tri-glides. The stuff I have in hand is the webbing, thread, and plastic tri-glides.

  3. Maybe this is upcomming in another installment of sling use.
    But I like to say the sling holds the shooter up. especillay in prone

    • That’s a pretty good way to put it. I’m still holding on to the tip you gave me over a year ago about switching the legs in cross leg sitting to shoot downhill. That was a good one too.

  4. I thot I was the only one who still used the “old corp” style of shooting. I dunno about that elastic comment tho your diagram shows the mechanics of loop sling (even with proper web sling) a tight grip and sling i always found best…

    • I was referring to the elasticity of the human connective tissue that tends to absorb the recoil and bounce back, not jellyfied sling swivels or rubber slings or anything like that.

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