Friday, February 12, 2016

Slings and Rifles

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
Now that the furor over the Zika virus has died down, let's talk about more interesting things. Today I'm going to address what is the most commonly overlooked rifle accessory: a good sling.

Sling Carry
Most people think that a sling is just for carrying a rifle or shotgun, and while there's more to it than that, carriage of a firearm is their main purpose. But did you know there are different ways to carry?

American Carry is the method most readers are familiar with. It's comfortable and you've seen it in countless movies. The major drawback is that the barrel is behind you and pointed upwards; if you're traveling though woods or areas with rocky outcroppings, it's easy for the barrel to strike or snag on the environment, and rain or snow can easily run down the bore and possibly affect the internal mechanisms.

There's also discussion about how it's difficult to unsling a rifle from American carry quickly; I disagree. A little practice with (more if you're a klutz; less if you've been on drill team) and you can quickly shoulder it by grabbing the grip and rotating the rifle up onto your shoulder. However, this comes with the drawback of striking anything immediately behind you, or muzzling any companions to your rear.

European Carry is just awkward. It's safest, due to being in the carrier's field of view, but also most tiring as the control hand shares the weight burden with the shoulder. This is the carry style I would use if I had to climb over something like a fence, but a better way around that is to hand my rifle to a buddy so had both hands free.

It has the same muzzle-up drawbacks as American carry, but it's also the fastest to implement the Hasty Sling technique (see below).

African Carry is usually trumpeted as being the best form of carry: it's (allegedly) the fastest to unshoulder and raise into position, the barrel faces down and the carrier has visual confirmation of where the muzzle is pointing. On the other hand, if an African-style carrier trips, falls, or even kneels, that muzzle is going into the dirt and the bore could get plugged with debris.

If you're curious how to quickly sling and unsling from African carry, here's a video demonstration.

Hasty Sling
Slings aren't just for carry, though: they can also stabilize your rifle while shooting it. By taking up the slack with your support arm and tightening the sling across your chest, you essentially add a third point of support. In addition to helping hold your rifle steady, this is also a very comfortable pose that can be help for a long time.

Hasty sling technique in action. Note how it loops over the model's support wrist,
behind the bicep, and then across the chest before connecting to the other end off-panel. 
Instead of trying to explain with words how to hasty sling, I'm going to post two visual aids here: a video demonstration and a series of still pictures. I prefer the technique shown in the video, but have included the pictures as a backup (sometimes videos just disappear from YouTube).

Picture courtesy of Lucky Gunner

Which Sling to Buy?
Whichever sling you purchase is going to be a personal choice. That said, I recommend the Echo Sling by Matt Rogers: it's rugged to the point of absurdity, it comes in a variety of colors, it's very affordable ($19 to $20, plus $3 shipping), and it can even be used as belt/tourniquet/tow strap. I reviewed it on my personal blog a few years ago; you can read that review here.

If you need more reasons to buy them, Echo Slings are made in the USA and are owned by a former serviceman who is also a gunnie.
Disclaimer: Matt is a friend of mine, but I wouldn't mention his product here if it wasn't excellent quality.

Further Study
This is of course not an exhaustive article by any means. There are other methods of carry that do not require slings (over the shoulder, or in the crook of the arm), and there are other types of sling out there (single-point and three-point). This is simply a discussion of the most common forms of carry using the most common type of sling, the two-point. I leave it to those people with more experience in the matter (like Lokidude and Firehand) to expand upon these edge cases if they wish. 

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