What You Need to Know About Rifle Slings

(Psst: The FTC wants me to remind you that this website contains affiliate links. That means if you make a purchase from a link you click on, I might receive a small commission. This does not increase the price you'll pay for that item nor does it decrease the awesomeness of the item. ~ Daisy)

In the comments section of the How to Become a Good Shot article, commenter N Nipp said that “I want more encouragement like this to defend ourselves from marauders during times of disaster, and such.” So today, I wanted to talk about carrying one’s rifle, slings, and the use of slings.

Let’s go back to my island in the sun.

At the rifle range in USMC boot camp at my beloved island, Paris Island, our Primary Marksmanship Instructor (PMI) made a point of pulling out two maggots (recruits) from the platoon. One was a gym rat with well-defined muscles. The other was a bean pole, thin as a rail.

Our PMI had the gym rat hold his M16A2 Service Rifle before him by the barrel, one-handed, straight out in front of him. The bean pole, holding his M16A2 Service Rifle, at a very relaxed half-at-ease and port-arms stance.

The M16A2 in use.

After about 7 or 8 minutes, the gym rat’s arm was shaking. The strain of keeping his rifle at arm level was too much.
The bean pole was just fine.

The point was that using one’s skeleton to support a rifle rather than muscle was more efficient and less taxing. We applied the same concept in marksmanship.

One of the things I have noticed is the trend of the low, tactical carry.

You have seen it. In the Hollywood action movies, our physically fit hero is carrying an M16/M4/AR-whatever at the low, tactical carry as he/she scans for the bad guys/aliens to take a mind-boggling expert shot to the brain housing group without so much as a hiccup.

Have you ever actually carried an M16/M4/AR-whatever at the low, tactical carry for more than a few minutes? I have. Doing so will demonstrate the importance of having a sling.

We were doing a movement exercise, and someone needed to take “point” to assess for mines as our platoon conducted our patrol. The platoon SGT called out for someone to take point . . . no one answered the call.

I said something to the effect of, “Don’t everyone volunteer at once! Fine, I will do it!” I then asked the guy who would be covering me (likely the second guy to die after me if we encountered an ambush/firefight) not to shoot me in the back or arse.

It took us nearly an hour to go a quarter of a mile as I searched for mines in front of the rest of the platoon (I found all 6!). And let me tell you, at the low carry, even with an iron sight M16A2 Service Rifle, that rifle gets dang heavy. It was so heavy that by the time we finished my bicep, forearm, and shoulders were burning.

A few years ago, the wife and I had just finished dinner when I heard a coyote howl just behind the house, 100 to 150 yards give or take. Concerned for the livestock, I went out with a shotgun topped with a red dot sight and a forward-mounted Surefire flashlight. Knowing my experience with the low tactical carry, I opted for the late, great Col. Jeff Cooper’s “Snap Shot Carry.”

What is the Snap Shot Carry?

Place the butt of the firearm at your waist/belt line, on or about the hip, at or just to the left of the top of your pants pocket. Support hand on the firearm’s forearm, trigger hand on the grip. With the rifle at an easy and natural angle in front of you, lower the muzzle, so it is just below your line of sight.

Wherever your eyes go, the muzzle goes. Wherever the muzzle goes, your eyes go. When the threat/target presents itself, you then snap the butt into your shoulder, align the sights/scope and take the shot. Granted, this takes a degree of practice and training.

However, the low tactical carry may be faster. With strained or fatigued muscles, you may not be able to get off a well-placed shot when you need it. Using the Snap Shot Carry, we use our skeletal (hip) to support most of the weight of the rifle, reducing the use of our muscles. Your Support hand still carries the weight of the rifle, but at a much-reduced effort while allowing for movement and scanning.

You do need to understand a thing or two about slings and things.

There are a number of multi-point or single-point slings out there. Some are better than others. Generally, the point behind a sling is to carry one’s rifle. In modern times, not only how to carry the rifle, but then deploy and use the rifle when the situation arises.

A proper sling will make your life much less miserable after SHTF.

As I learned in the USMC, a sling can also make one’s shooting position steadier, namely from the prone, making that first-round hit probability much higher than not. We also used the “hasty” sling from the standing, kneeling, or sitting position.

From the standing, using the “hasty” sling, we wrapped the sling around the forearm of our support arm.
It kinda worked, but only to a degree, as it still only had two points of contact, the forearm and the butt stock in the pocket of the shoulder.

What about the trigger hand, you ask? The trigger hand uses the grip to actuate the trigger. Very little goes into actual support of the rifle itself. When I am looped up in a sling but stock in my shoulder pocket, I can remove my trigger hand and still line up the sights. Try it.

(Want to starve the beast? Check out our free QUICKSTART Guide to doing so.)

In his book The Art of the Rifle, Col. Jeff Cooper states, “If you can get steadier, then get steadier.”

That applies to not only shooting field positions (e.g., using a log or tree) but the use of a sling. Col. Cooper identified the use of the sling to not only carry the rifle but how to use it to make one that much more “steadier.”

One of his preferred slings was the “Ching sling,” named after the inventor, Eric Ching. Whereas the “hasty” sling uses two points of contact, the Ching Sling, on the other hand (see what I did there?), uses three points: The sling looped on the upper tricep of the supporting arm, the supporting hand under the forearm of the rifle, and the butt stock in the pocket of the shoulder.

When looped up, the sling really locks the rifle into you. I can easily remove my trigger hand and still sight in on a target. I could also shoot from the sitting and pone, with only minor adjustments, mostly of my support hand. If need be, it can all be looped up and carried with the Snap Shot Carry at the same time.
When used correctly, again, it takes a degree of practice and training, but you will be more stable for a first-round hit.

There are a number of “Ching Slings” out there.

I am rather fond of Andy’s Leather Ching Slings. I own two. I also have two two-point slings. One is made by SPEC-Ops and the other made by FNH. They do allow for a more, across chest, tactical carry. I feel the two-point slings do not really add a whole lot for increased accuracy from the standing. My support arm carries all the weight of the rifle.

Even after a few minutes of trying to adjust the slings for more support, I knew my bicep was there. They do allow for more different carries, like across the back, easier. Shooting from either the sitting or prone, both slings did provide more support than no sling at all. They did require more adjustment of the length of the sling to get it just right.

I have never actually shot with a single-point sling. The few I did try out were easy to get to all parts of the rifle. But I can see where if I had to do something requiring two hands, carrying something, the rifle could get in the way or really get caught up in my legs or knees.

One thing of note that Matt in OK pointed out (thanks, Matt!) is that the materials and sound matters.

All of the slings I own, synthetic or leather, none of them make noise enough to attract attention. When I was in the Marines, prior to going to the field, we would bust out the electrical tape and tape up anything that could make noise when slapped against another object.

(Want uninterrupted access to The Organic Prepper? Check out our paid-subscription newsletter.)

Final thoughts

It seems that in the prepper community, preppers get tunnel vision on the tacti-cool stuff. Ultimately, the ability to be able to make a first-round hit comes down to the skill of the shooter themselves. The use of a sling can improve the chances of a first-round hit.

Slings are a personal choice. What may work well for one person may not for another. Some slings are better for a particular situation. Some are worse.

Shooting only from sitting at a concrete bench, front bipod, or rear bags, at 100 yards is not going to help your shooting skills in an SHTF situation. The only way to get better at using a sling is to get out there and shoot (dry fire is not bad, either) using your sling from the standing, the sitting, and the prone. So get your butt out there and practice.

Do you have a rifle sling? What kind do you prefer? Does it improve your accuracy? Share your thoughts on slings in the comments.

About 1stMarineJarHead

1stMarineJarHead is not only a former Marine, but also a former EMT-B, Wilderness EMT (courtesy of NOLS), and volunteer firefighter.

He currently resides in the great white (i.e. snowy) Northeast with his wife and dogs. He raises chickens, rabbits, goats, occasionally hogs, cows and sometimes ducks. He grows various veggies and has a weird fondness for rutabagas. He enjoys reading, writing, cooking from scratch, making charcuterie, target shooting, and is currently expanding his woodworking skills.

Picture of 1stMarineJarHead


Leave a Reply

  • Awesome article.

    I agree completely that we all need to go out and practice/train shooting in a more dynamic environment.

    There are the mechanical aspects of shooting, the actual fundamentals of marksmanship, and then there all the things that happen when you aren’t shooting, but are necessary to get you there.

    Just through friendships, I have had a lot more mentoring and training and the average civilian, as well as access to facilities and gear most folks simply can’t use, outside of extremely expensive courses. Even then, one weekend of rifle 1 doesn’t equal regular training and discussions over decades. I’m extremely lucky in this.

    One thing I have learned is that even those who you would think would have to be on the ball, and really put in the hours at the range, and train for the fight as it is and not what we think it will be, often meet the minimum qualification standard and thats it.

    If you actually put the rifle on a sling, any sling, and go out and move through the landscape, use your gear, you can learn so much in a short time. I can think of many guys I know and sometimes shoot with, who think that because they can hit a beer can at 30 yards offhand, that they are good to go. It’s crazy. They haven’t carried a rifle on a sling for an entire day. Not even one. Run with it. Gone through thick brush and forest with it. Run in sand with it. Field maintained it. None of that.

    This winter when I take the trip, its not possible for me to carry a rifle, but I can and will carry a piece of rebar on a sling. That will be 2 months (if I don’t tap out) of carrying a slung rifle walking 10 to 15 miles a day in Dec and Jan. At the end, having that faux rifle should feel if not natural, then at least normal.

    My point is, if any of us truly believe we may be required to act as combatants, we need to act that way. Find ways to simulate that environment, and really get those skills nailed down. I mean, its fun anyway once your into it.

    I guess mostly try to find people who will help and support your efforts. I would happily pass on what I have learned, although it’s not much. I think we (men specifically) think we are way better than we actually are.

    I honestly want to change some of that culture, figure out a way where “doing things” , the direct real life experience, (training with full kit, wear the rifle like you would if you thought you might need any second now) is the standard. Instead of something some preppers do when they can, but for too many is out of reach for any number of reasons.

    We can do better as a culture.

    Great article.

    • “we may be required to act as combatants”

      what will grid down “combat” involve? long recon patrols through neutral terrain? engaging unknown but presumably enemy units on an “as encountered” basis? sustaining one or two casualties per action?

      • Grid down combat for me, alone, looks like running away. Encountering any group large enough to resemble what could be called a maneuvering element, we have to run away. Unless you have enough intel to know for sure you have the numbers, and who they are, I think you run. If its just you, you can only sustain one casualty, ever. That doesn’t mean we should just head on out there like nimrod pilgrims, having shot the gun a couple times and count on being able to easily disengage and take off. Relentless pursuit is a thing.
        Required means just that. I don’t have a choice. Given a choice, I don’t like big fat bullets chopping through undergrowth anywhere near me. I’m out of there.

        • “If its just you, you can only sustain one casualty”

          (nod) yeah, that’ll probably be the governing consideration in all engagements – with well-fed reasonable people, anyway. but there will be lots of unfed unreasonable people.

        • Misreading The River,
          What I saw in Afghanistan was certain tribes (funny, before we came, they were warlords, after and working/friendly to us, they were “tribes”) controlled a given territory. No one wanted to risk a real one on one confrontation with a neighboring tribe as the out come was not a guarantee. Note: this was not some LA or Chicago gangbanger with a Gat, at the sideways position, but AK-47s, PKMs and RPGs.
          Post-SHTF, people tend to flock together for safety. This can be anything from gangbangers in the urban areas, to a HOA sub-burb community, to a militia in the rural areas.
          It is when people will be fighting for resources be it fuel, food, water, that things will get interesting. According to military doctrine, it takes 3 offense (attackers) per every one defender to overcome a defensive position.
          Think about that for a moment.
          And that is with logistical support of the DoD supply train.
          Post-SHTF, what ammo you have on hand, is what ammo you have on hand.

          • “it takes 3 offense (attackers) per every one defender to overcome a defensive position”

            well that presumes one military formation vs another, each capable of absorbing losses, with large numbers of smaller engagements averaging out over a span of time. with prepper groups this simply won’t be the case – with most prepper groups the loss of two or three individuals will likely result in immediate, maybe even permanent demographic, defeat. this will place an extremely high premium on first hits.

      • Asking what a “grid down” engagement is like asking what each time a person has sex is going to be like. I know this may sound perverse, but there is no way of knowing. My engagements while in the Army in Afghanistan as an Automatic Rifleman we’re considerably different than engagements in West Africa, and South America after the Army. To answer your question I would read a book called the book of 5 rings. Short read and very insightful. Engagements are engagements. No one will be the same. No plan follows through by the numbers. It is simply…adapt and overcome. Take the basics and fundamentals and apply them to the “engagement” at hand. Remember, if you can’t feed your weapon you can’t fight. If you can’t feed your body you can’t fight. And if you don’t feed the mind you won’t win. Now this is all for your first question.
        As for the rest, that is; location, season, and skill set. Grid down or not, Playing for Keeps is an experience held by each. It’s different for everyone. I have clients constantly ask me that question, and to be combat is primal and should be viewed as such. Find something you have done primal, for the first time, remember that trembling feeling and multiply it by whatever number makes you feel good.
        I did like this article. Personally, I keep 1Point for close applications, and 2Point for movement and extended applications. Know your equipment, but above all, know yourself.

        • “1Point for close applications, and 2Point for movement and extended applications.”
          Thank you!!! I am trying to determine which sling(s) to use. Working with Project Appleseed has taught me to use the loop sling for stability.
          I, quite frankly, have fought against a sling for years… I was not comfortable with them and did not want to take the time to adjust. Appleseed has taught me how to use the loop, but quite frankly, I find that absurd, because you are literally tied to the weapon. Anyway, I have come to respect the need for using the sling for stability, but have not been able to figure out which sling type would be best for me. Your comment has given me insight that others failed to make clear (or I was too stubborn to understand). Thanks again.

  • Vietnam Army SF vet here. In VN, I used a homemade combat sling: length of OD webbing strap with a metal D-ring (taped for sound suppresion) attached to the open front sight post, rear attached to a smaller (1/2″) webbing band around the stock behind the bottom sling post/just forward of the butt (the sling post prevented the rear attachment stock band webbing from sliding forward on the stock). Placed around the neck, the rifle hung at a “medium-ready” position across the body just above waist- high. Whichever way you turned, the rifle was aligned parallel with your body and always aligned toward any potential targets. Not readily conducive to using the sling as a steadying device (although you could quickly and easily loop the front half of the sling around your forward arm, thereby anchoring that hand to the forend), but you were always ready to quickly engage any target.

    • Mike,
      Thank you and thank you for your service.
      Ingenious use of webbing!

      While I was in Afghanistan, I saw more than a few ANA guys with homemade slings.

    • This is what my buddy does, ex SEAL, current alphabet agency. He necklaces the sling. Then swims through it if needed. Seems weird to me, but useful if you are doing lots of things and also shooting.

      • Misreading The River,
        I once saw a sling made out of OD paracord/550 cord.
        Was about 1 1/2 wide. I thought that was interesting. And some one with real skill to make. Just a normal hunting like or web sling.

  • this article need to be revisited repeatedly, print for future reference. 2 things every long gun needs: a sling and a field cleaning kit of some sort.

    • John WIlliams,
      Glad you liked it and thank you.

      I keep a Otis field cleaning kit in my BOB.
      At home, I use a one piece cleaning rod, with jags, brass bore brushes, and a box of Q-tips.

      • Mike here again. VN combat experience, responding to replies re: cleaning equipment. Always carried the standard Army cleaning kit/pouch on my webgear/in a ruck. One problem encountered in combat/heavy firing could be a ruptured case (based sheared off, case body stuck in chamber). Usually meant disassembly of the rifle (during which time you were dehors de combat and most likely dead). What I did was to drill a cleaning rod diameter hole in the forward front handguard retaining piece (stamped sheet metal just back of the front sight assembly) and a similar hole at the rear of the fiberglass forend up against the receiver. I then put together a piece of cleaning rod just long enough to span the muzzle to end of chamber distance. Put this through the two holes and tape it down (OD “100 mile an hour” tape) and voila, an immediately available rod rapidly deployable to clear chamber blockages.
        All comments about getting out there with your gear and “beating the bushes” to find out what works and what doesn’t is spot on. You may think you can hump a 75lb bug out ruck plus whatever web gear rig you favor, but try it in 90° heat through the bush/swamp – it was tough when I was 20…doubtful I could do it today.

        • “(based sheared off, case body stuck in chamber)”

          what does the rod push against to push this out?

        • Mike,
          Neat idea of a field expedient brass ejector. I like it! That is one of those things I have never experienced, but could happen. Thank you for sharing that with me/everyone.

          75lbs ruck bush/swamp . . . that is making me sweat just thinking about it.
          I keep my BOB at around 30-40lbs range depending on the time of year (winter gear tends to be heavier, more layers).

  • Wonderful article…I am almost 70 yo Navy vet. my time with an M14 was a few times a year.Since I retired I have taken to shooting pistols a few times a week as I am disabled( back condition) ( makes rifle a little harder) and enjoy pistols …not only for time shooting but shooting the BS at the gun club….my question is this I want to get a sling for my AR not so much for heavy duty training as that is really next to impossible as I have to use a cane but just to have it on my person on my property …I live very rural upstate NY….one point or two point…excellent article …..BZ

    • RussUSN,
      Thank you and thank you for your service.
      I used to shoot NRA High Power running a NM M1A. I sure do miss that rifle. Just something about it made it a joy to shoot.

      Off the top of my head, I would say the two point sling. You can have it across you chest for ready use, barrel down. And then when you are not having need of it, without taking it off, grip the rifle by the fore end clost to the barrel wrap it around to your back, barrel up. Then if you think you may need it, same movement but gripping the butt stock (be at your hip), wrap again bringing the rifle back across your chest, barrel down.
      That make any sense?

  • Thanks for the great article, 1MarineJH. I don’t have outside-the-wire experience but I hope you all won’t mind my recommendation of practicing ‘diving’ for cover/prone, and then getting up – without digging your muzzle into the dirt/carpet. Man, it takes a lot of repetition to get good, smooth, comfortable and fast at it. It’s exhausting! Really great exercise and, I believe, a life saver.

    Then try it with a backpack on! Holy shait!

    How good have I become? I have lots, and lots, of room for improvement and need to practice a lot more. A large enough open space in the living room is a good place to start. It’s private so outside neighbors won’t see you acting crazy. Try it at least once so you have a real idea why inexperienced people avoid it – and get killed for not being behind cover fast enough, in a WROL situation.

    • StormN,
      Great suggestion about practicing ‘diving’ for cover.
      I am actually in the process of writing another article about shooting under stress or physical conditions, exercises one can do.

      Just be careful when diving, especially with a pack on. Studies show wrist followed by collar bone injuries are most likely.

    • “practicing ‘diving’ for cover/prone”

      good way to get hurt. what you do is (from a run) 0) plant your feet shoulder width apart coming to a stop, 1) drop to your knees, 2) fall forward to one side with the butt of the weapon hitting the ground with you with the muzzle up, 3) roll into position with the weapon.

      • Oh! Snap! So good. Spot on.Thank you. And, with practice, (step 0) planting my feet . . .to a stop, I can learn how much to lean back and control the drop to my knees (in step1). Got it.

        (Now to find someone’s living room with enough runway . . .)

      • I’d like to add the following. I understand a neglected but very important tactic is to ‘take a knee’ and listen for a few minutes to your surroundings, every so often (15-20 minutes? Depending on likelihood of contact with opposition forces).

        Due to my lack of actual experience, I speculate the reason for this neglect is because of the weight of the backpack – and more.

        I have weight-lifting (at the gym) experience. So a 180 lb soldier carrying a 70 lb backpack plus gear (rifle, ammo, etc.) For ease of argument, let’s just round it up to 300 lb total.

        If he tries to get up from ‘taking a knee’, he is lifting approximately 250 lbs with one leg (a calculated amount for the leg making the effort is deducted). Impossible to do repeatedly from a rested position. No wonder it is a neglected tactic!

        So there must be a technique to overcome this. Using the buddy system and careful use of your rifle for support to either get up completely or position your other leg into a full squat movement. This would reduce the effort to a much-more-manageable about 100 lbs per leg (and is much better for balancing). You may think my math doesn’t add up but a calculated amount must be deducted for each leg as it is being used to lift the weight. I hope this makes sense.

        • “very important tactic is to ‘take a knee’ and listen for a few minutes to your surroundings, every so often”

          don’t know about taking the knee, but yes it’s very important especially at night. a clinking sling, a voice (especially spanish), a stone in a shoe tread scraping on cement, it all comes across very well at night, especially in an urban area where it will echo around walls and carry down a street. and open your mouth when listening carefully, it helps to hear better. turn your head slowly from side to side – I find it can help me to close my eyes while doing that, to focus on that one sense. as for how often and how long, you’ll have to judge that according to your circumstance.

        • StormN,
          I worked a season (Thanksgiving through New Years) at a UPS distro center. We had a class on technique of lifting of everything from a 5lbs box to a 70lbs one.
          This year I have been rucking with a 30lbs pack. Even turning you have to be aware of technique on your back, knees, and ankles.

          Thank you for bringing up technique. I have always thought, I will have stockpiles of stuff, alt water sources, gardens, livestock, hunting, and then when SHTF I get done in by tripping or an infected ingrown toenail.

  • I tend to carry my rifles with a 2 point, slung across my chest. (Basically a low ready position). Over the years I’ve just found that it works best for me. My hunting rifles have all been configured for a sling attached to the left side of the rifle. I find bottom attachment awkward and very limiting. Left side attachment allows the rifle to lay flat against my back if I choose to carry it this way, but I generally don’t. Hunting season sees me carrying a rifle all day. Slung across my chest allows me to always have control of the muzzle, and let’s me use either had to clear obstacles when going through the bush. I’ve seen to many guys carry on their back over the years get caught up in bushes creating an unsafe condition. The across the chest carry also allows use of the hasty sling. The majority of the weight is carried by your shoulders (which do get tired by the end of the day) and your hands are there simply to control the rifle. This means that when that big buck jumps out your arms are not fatigued.

    I’m not saying it works for everyone, but over the years this is what I’ve found works best for me.

    • The Lone Canadian,
      Good post, especially concerning hunting carry.
      Honestly, my hunting rifle, the sling is just there to get me from the house, hump it out to the deer stand. The deer stand has a padded rail to rest the rifle on.
      But that is a different type of hunting.

  • These kinds of articles are the best articles for me.
    Good information, about a commonly neglected subject, with good feedback in the comments from guys who have been there and done that.

    I learned long range interdiction (that makes I sound more official than it was) in the late 80’s from a Viet Nam Green Beret, just a great guy, and his lessons and mentoring on shooting fundamentals, simplicity, rifle systems (as a system lol not just a gun and scope and we are part of the system) have hopefully stuck with me, for sure they form the foundation of my interest in mindset and training. He is missed. I’ll drink a toast to Catfish tonight.

    Beachin Tactical is a veteran owned, Christian gear maker, who makes a 2 point “speed sling”. Others make similar slings, but Jacob is a solid dude, and a prepper.

    • Misreading The River,
      We try to address things that we (preppers in general) tend to either over look, or take for granted.

      Will look in to Beachin Tactical. Thanks!

  • I wonder what kind of sling Kyle Rittenhouse had on his rifle the night he defended himself in Kenosha, Wisconsin? I still remember thinking how fortunate he was to not drop his firearm when the last guy swung the skateboard at him.

    • Lee,
      Just a quick look at some pics, looks like a single point sling, and he also had (IIRC) a first aid kit. In the pic, the single point sling is over his left shoulder, and he is holding the rifle in his right side. The first aid kit sling is under the single point sling, over his right shoulder, and the kit resting on his left hip.
      That is an interesting observation. Thank you for pointing that out.

  • I’m no Operator, and certainly don’t have the combat training that most commenters here are talking about, but I have been an avid hunter (elk, deer, black bear, and cougar) for 30+ years. In my area, we aren’t allowed to hunt over bait, it’s all spot-and-stalk, so I’ve covered literally hundreds of miles on foot with a heavy rifle and a backpack through heavily forested, steep terrain, and I have found that the Boonie Packer Safari Sling works incredibly well for me.

  • You Need More Than Food to Survive

    In the event of a long-term disaster, there are non-food essentials that can be vital to your survival and well-being. Make certain you have these 50 non-food stockpile essentials. Sign up for your FREE report and get prepared.

    We respect your privacy.
    Malcare WordPress Security