One of the most important accessories to have for a rifle is a good sling. It saves your arms from getting fatigued carrying the rifle, frees your hands for other tasks, and helps you maintain readiness by keeping your rifle handy. Today I’ll list the three types of rifle slings with their pros and cons, and list some tips for using a two-point sling in the field.
Types of Slings
There are three basic types of rifle slings: single-point, two-point, and three-point. The “points” refer to points of contact on the rifle.
- Single point: single point slings attach to one point towards the rear of the rifle normally just behind the pistol grip. These slings provide the greatest freedom of movement while still retaining the rifle. However, this comes at the cost of being able to use the sling to stabilize a firing position, and the slung rifle dangles at your side (or in the front hitting you in the family jewels). These slings are best suited to work in confined spaces, such as in/around vehicles or urban terrain.
- Two-point: these slings attach to the front and rear of the rifle. Two-point slings have the advantage of being used to stabilize firing positions, as well as retaining the rifle without swinging around wildly. The downside is that you sacrifice a little bit of mobility. However, this can be overcome with some techniques that I will describe below. These slings are best suited to rural light infantry style operations.
- Three-point: These slings attach the front and rear of the rifle like the two-point slings do. However, they can also quickly convert to a single-point sling by unclipping a buckle in the middle. They were intended to do the job of either a two-point or single point sling, but in my experience they do neither very well. I was briefly issued one of these and I hated it. It always turned into a jumbled mess of buckles and straps whenever I tried to put it on, especially in the dark.
I am of the opinion that a good two-point sling is the way to go for the vast majority of intended uses for a rifle. The best ones have some kind of slider that allows you to quickly adjust the tension of the sling, which is incredibly useful. I was issued a Blue Force Gear Vickers Sling in the Marine Corps, and I loved it so much that I use it on all of my rifles to this day. In the next section I will share some tips and tricks for using a two-point sling.
Strong Side, Weak Side, and Necklace carry
The two-point sling is designed to be used with one arm through it so that the rifle is angled downwards at an angle. The difference between strong side and weak side carry is which arm you put through the sling.
Strong side carry is the most common, with the sling going over the shooting shoulder and underneath the shooters off-hand. This method of carry provides maximum retention, holding the rifle snug against the chest. It is, however, not very maneuverable unless you significantly loosen the sling.
Weak side carry is just the reverse, with the shooters firing hand placed through the sling and the sling over the shooters off-hand. This method of carry is a good middle ground, providing decent maneuverability and good retention. When the rifle is not in use, it held either against the shooter’s chest or against the shooter’s strong side pointed down.
Another advantage of weak side carry is that you can quickly transition the rifle to your back, freeing your hands for other tasks.
The third way to wear a two-point sling is called “necklacing” the sling. “Necklace” the rifle by removing your arm from the sling and letting it hang around your neck. This allows you to still retain the rifle while gaining all the mobility you need. All it takes is to “swim” your arm in and out of the sling to make this transition instantly.
With the sling necklaced, you can maneuver your rifle all around your body, transition shoulders freely, and get into and out of firing positions with ease. Additionally, if you need to drop your rifle to do something like throw a smoke grenade, it is still retained on your body instead of lying in the dirt.
Wearing a Backpack with a Slung Rifle
If you put a backpack on while wearing a two-point sling normally, the sling will become trapped under your shoulder straps and you will be unable to raise the rifle into a firing position. To prevent this, always necklace your sling before putting a backpack on or taking it off. See the steps below:
(From left to right) Step 1: necklace the rifle. Step 2: put on the backpack. Step 3: “swim” into the sling by placing your arm inside of it. Step 4: Resume the strong side carry.
This enables you to maneuver your rifle freely with your pack on. When removing the backpack, you will again need to necklace your sling before removing the straps.
How to Stow your Sling on your Rifle
If you’re inside of a vehicle, you probably won’t want to have your rifle slung at all if you have a two-point sling. However, if your sling is dangling off of your rifle, it can get caught on a lot of things in your vehicle when you try to dismount. This means that you should have some way of storing the sling on the rifle to avoid needing to remove it entirely.
One way to do this is to use some kind of elastic band on your buttstock. I use boot bands, but any kind of elastic material will work. Hairbands are pretty good for this as well.
Another method that I like is to wrap your sling around your buttstock and pistol grip as shown below, then tensioning the sling until it’s snug. I learned this technique from John Lovell of Warrior Poet Society fame.
The Sling as a Shooting Aid
Two-point slings can also be used to stabilize a firing position. This is accomplished using the strong side carry and tensioning the sling until it is snug. This essentially provides another point of contact between your body and the rifle, making a more stable firing platform.
Step 1: assume firing position. Step 2 (left): tighten the sling with your support hand until it is snug. Step 3 (right): replace support hand and resume the firing position.
This technique can be applied in any firing position from standing to prone, although it is most useful in unsupported positions where there is no barricade to brace the rifle against. Although you would not take the time to do this in most gunfights, it is still a valid technique that can help you make those longer range hits when you have time to be more deliberate with your shots.
There are many different reasons that someone would choose one type of sling over another, most of which are situation dependent. In my experience and for the type of work I intend my rifles for, a two-point sling happens to be the best choice.
All of the above tips for two-point slings come from my own personal experience, although I cannot claim credit for inventing any of them. At some point in time someone showed them to me, and I hope that I have helped someone else by passing the knowledge along.