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:



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.

16 thoughts on “Why Consider Using a Shooting Sling?

  1. In several kinds of competition the sling is not allowed for the standing position. I feel like I am cheating using a sling in standing. I use the Hasty configuration for standing and the configuration you show for sitting, kneeling and prone but if I am competing in a match and using all the equipment then I use an extra long 1907 in a “no pulse” configuration as taught by Jim Owens for prone and sitting.

    • I used to use the 1907 in that same configuration. I came to the conclusion that for my purposes it wasn’t any steadier than the standard 1907 sling configuration and it was really slow, but then I’m more interested in “field” use and less interested in competition.

      The Ching did the same thing for me in a lot less time, and my sling does the same thing as a Ching with 2 studs.

  2. Most everyone has a sling of some sort on the rifle. Might as well have one that helps you shoot more accurately, and learn how to use it well. I have a sneaking suspicion that it is faster to get into a Ching than to deploy and adjust a bipod.

  3. Your sling looks like a “Rhodesian” style sling – is that right? Big loop in front, acts like the ching but on two studs? I have one on a carbine of mine and I love it.

    • The last of my components arrives on the 10th. It actually takes about an hour to make each one, but I’m doing what I can before the last of the supplies shows up. It will be a pretty small initial run (~20). I’ve gotten emails from about 10 interested people so far, but only a few that have actually seen it and committed to one.

      The second run will be larger (~40 or so), and I’ll get supplies ordered as soon as I recoup enough cash from the first run. I’ll probably do a solid color for the second run, coyote brown or OD green.

      There are a few photos of my last prototype on the blog, but I wanted to get pictures of the production models that have the appropriate colors of thread, hardware, and keepers to match the camo pattern on the webbing. The sling tutorial posts will continue for another week, and then I’ll release some pics on the blog. I’m going to try to get info out to people that have emailed me a few days earlier.

    • The major differences are in how you get from point A to point B, in terms of design, execution, and technique. I would say that the only similarity is that you have a 2 point sling with an integral loop, and that the sling doesn’t need to be reconfigured to don it.



      To don the loop on the Safari you release the firing hand to work the loop around the support elbow. This skips the possibility of wrapping the support hand in the sling, which in my opinion is the only way to fly (so important to me that I wrote an article about it, due 12/10/12).

      To don the loop on my sling you release the support hand and thrust it through the loop. I don’t think that would work on the Safari using a one-handed entry. My sling is more like a regular Ching sling in use than the Safari is.

      The Safari Ching loop seems to be made of 2 leather pieces joined at the bottom of the loop by a 3rd small leather strap. The loop on my sling is one piece of webbing that has layers of reinforcement at the bottom of the loop to keep it open. That is the 3rd difference, they use leather, I use webbing.

      My webbing is nylon, but it feels about the same as USGI cotton webbing in terms of texture and thickness. It might be slightly stiffer than the USGI. The loop stays put on my arm better with my webbing than with my leather Ching, which seems counter-intuitive.

      The introduction to my sling on the blog is 9 days out (12/16/12). I’ll have information sooner to people who have emailed with interest in buying one. I started sewing today. Everything is on track.

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