Since the first musketeer decided to cut a length of leather to carry his “smoke stick”, fighting men have added slings to their rifles in one form or another. Some slings are so silly-complicated that they need to ship out with a special DVD. Other slings so simple that they consist of an old bootlace tied by an African bushman to his worn G3. Whether complex or caveman simple, the sling has many uses.
The sling exists primarily to carry the weapon in non-contact situations. Look through any news stand gun magazine and you'll invariably see, either in an article or an ad, a photo of some guy “wearing” a long gun. I say "wearing" because he will probably be using some sort of multi-strap like device harnessing the rifle to his body.
If the issue is simply to do away with the Fudd rifle rack while standing around looking cool at the range, any sling will do. But if the matter involves moving through rough country, running, or really needing a hand-free situation, it will get considerably more complex…or actually, it will get simpler.
If you are in a conflict area, the rifle will be in your hands. Some units have gone as far as to eschew slings altogether to compel their men to keep the weapon in hand at all times. While this is not the best policy, it does kill the lazy sling carry habit. If you need to run without the rifle in your hands, to climb, to secure a prisoner, or anything requiring the use of both hands, you will want the rifle on your back and not hanging in front of you like an additional appendage, banging into everything in sight. Thus your sling, whatever it is, should allow you to sling to the back.
The sling must also be simple and stay out of the way.
The rifle must be deployable without the need to “strap in”, and without a long length of nylon loop floating around to catch on everything. It must allow for a quick and dynamic transition to pistol.
With this last requirement, I suggest taking a look at our DVD programs depicting the over the back transition method.
There have been far more clever methods devised and in sue for quite a while, but I would submit that a non-clever, but stress-proof method, not requiring perfect timing or extremes in dexterity, that provides for a high probability of success is a far better choice than an alternative that looks cooler.
But that discussion is for another time.
One other thing the sling can do, in some cases, is as an aid to marksmanship.
Sling use goes back to the early part of the 20th century. While my research was not clear on who produced the first shooting sling, many sources point to the Boyt Harness Company and the Rock Island Arsenal. Theirs was the famous 1907 pattern shooting sling often seen on 1903 Springfields and M1 Garands. What these slings did, and still do on the right rifles, is to lock the weapon tightly to the shooter’s upper body, and allow him to relax in position enhancing bone support while reducing muscle tension. The sling is made up in two parts, the longer part in essence creating a loop through which the shooter put his up[per arm, sand cinching down, locked him into the rifle. The rear length of sling was there for carry and irrelevant for any actual shooting. That sling works great, but takes time to loop up. Hardly practical in situations where time is of the essence.
Eventually, the leather sling was usurped by the cotton webbing sling, and later nylon sling, probably to reduce weight and cost. These later slings were of one piece and did not have the capability for a front loop. Crafty shooters devised ways to do what they had seen others do with the older 1907 designs and worked up the “hasty sling” in which the shooter simply loops his arm through the sling tightly. Unlike the 1907 system, this later method puts opposing pressures on the handguard, barrel, and action, which unless the rifle has been free floated, will invariably cause the point of impact to shift.
The 1907 slings, and its various system copies such as the CW sling, and Ching Sling, do not do this, as they create pressure between your arm and the fore end only (at least if used correctly). So unless your rifle is free floated, stay away from the “hasty sling” method, and opt for the 1907 style slings.
The nice part is that the 1907 system can be used on your light assault rifles with a gain in accuracy, without the annoying impact drift caused by improper sling use. Any sling can suffice here as long as it has a forward loop, adjustable for the individual, that can secure the upper arm to the handguard.
One argument against sling use is that there is often not enough time in field shooting to “sling up”. With the traditional 1907 system that is true, but the newer derivatives are much faster. Nonetheless, if one has a rest to use, such as a vertical surface, it will be much quicker than slinging up, but with a little ingenuity, you can still use the sling in these situations.
So grab your assault rifle, and see what you can do with your sling. Make sure the pressure is ONLY between your arm and the handguard, and then get out into the field and see how this simple device can improve your shooting.
I think you will be pleasantly surprised.