Essential Skills: choosing and mounting a sling

IMG_8770 (2)A sling is to a rifle what a holster is to a pistol, and more. It allows the user to stow the weapon out of the way when they need their hands for other pursuits while keeping it handy, and can also assist in bracing the rifle for more accurate shots when precision is in high demand. In the world of slings, there are no shortage of individual brands and models, but there are really only three overall types of slings: single point, two point, and three point. To decide which one is best for you, you need to understand the primary advantages and disadvantages of each:

Single point slings – these attach to a rifle at (wait for it…) a single point, typically at the back of the lower receiver through a specialized receiver end plate. Of all the sling types, the single point allows the greatest maneuverability to the user, especially in tight quarter scenarios such as CQB or vehicles. However, this maneuverability comes at a cost, in that single point slings are notoriously hard to secure. Because of its attachment method, the rifle on a single point is basically a pendulum with a bullet in it unless in the shooter’s hands or in a retention device. This is especially important if your job requires lots of hands-free tasks like handling prisoners or carrying equipment or injured members. For example, if you are a police officer, it can make your life more complicated from a paperwork standpoint if you bend over to handcuff a suspect and your pendulum plants its front sight into the suspect’s forehead. The single point sling’s design also tends to cause the rifle to center itself during weapons transitions or movement, which can interfere with transitions, or just generally cause discomfort as it bounces about merrily while you move and smacks you in your most sensitive point repeatedly.

Photo Mar 21, 16 57 13Two point slings – yeah, they attach at two points. More importantly, they attach at two points of your choosing, meaning that they provide more security than a single point, but you can also change up your mounting points to find the balance of stability and maneuverability that works for you. These are not the old WWII era two point slings, so remove that image from your mind, although they do still allow many of the traditional stabilizing methods for precision shooting. Now, you will give up some maneuverability, especially if you run your sling over/under a shoulder, but if you plan on having to use your hands frequently, the security provided by slinging your rifle and tightening it down cannot be matched by a single point on its best day. I tend to run my attachment points on the buttstock and just behind my VFG, which pulls the rifle tight to me when slung, but doesn’t interfere with my grips or the rifle’s controls.

Three point slings – a three point sling is really nothing more than a two point with an extra strip of webbing that runs alongside the rifle and connects the two attachment points. For security, there is none better. For everything else, you really gain nothing from a three point that you can’t get from a two point with significantly less hassle. So, if you want to be really, really secure, and aren’t all that worried about maneuverability or the fact that you have a random strip of webbing laying across your bolt catch, feel free to use a three point. Sarcasm aside, are there legitimate uses for a three point? Probably, but they are specialty applications that aren’t going to be of use to your average shooter.

Now, while I said at the beginning that there are only three major types of slings, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the convertible slings available on the market that allow you to convert your two point sling into single point configuration as needed. Several major manufacturers make them now, so if you work in an environment that may drive the need for both single and two point slings, and don’t feel like purchasing, keeping up with, and switching out two separate slings, convertible slings may be for you. You may lose some flexibility in mounting positions, and most are not designed to be converted from one to the other under stress, but they are a legitimate option.

As with any gear, let mission drive your choice, and practice with it until you can use it efficiently.  Don’t let hype drive your choice, and be realistic about the fact that like a holster, you may end up buying several slings before you find the one that works best for you.

About the author

Joel is an 11 year veteran of the US Coast Guard, where he has served at various units including the International Training Division and Maritime Security Response Team. He has held qualifications including Deployable Team Leader/Instructor, Direct Action Section Team Leader, and Precision Marksman – Observer. He has deployed/instructed on five continents and served in quick reaction force roles for multiple National Special Security Events in the US. He is the owner of Hybrid Defensive Strategies, LLC in Chesapeake, VA, and can be contacted on Facebook and Instagram. Any opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the US Coast Guard or the US Government.

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