Rifle Slings

Vital but overlooked accessory
8

One for every need — slings come in all shapes and sizes ranging from simple
nylon carry straps (left) to two-piece shooting slings (right) based on the U.S.
military pattern dating to 1907.

A sling is one of the most useful accessories for a rifle. I’m speaking in terms of hunting rifles, not slings for some types of formal rifle competition or the tactical slings used by military and police. My primary purpose for a sling is for carrying the rifle in the field while hunting. Using it as a shooting aid is secondary.

This simple web strap weighs less than 3 oz. including the swivels and is
ideal on lightweight rifles such as this Kimber Adirondack in 6.5 cm.

Contradictions

There are valid objections to a sling; when still-hunting, for example or on watch during a drive, you want the rifle in both hands so it can be quickly brought into action. On a ground or tree stand the rifle should be in hand so it can be raised without a lot of arm waving and game-spooking commotion. I’ve heard of slings getting caught while moving through heavy cover; never had it happen myself but I’ll agree it could be a concern, especially if you are following up dangerous game. In such situations it is easy enough to remove the sling and store it in a pocket or daypack.

An ingenious design by the late Eric Ching, this Ching Safari Sling by Galco
has an adjustable loop that slips on the support arm to help steady the rifle
and also makes a comfortable carrying strap.

Pros

Still, I want to have a sling available. A rifle, even a light rifle, can be a tiresome burden over the course of a long day. Even in still-hunting, when it comes time to head back to camp or the truck, it’s a blessed relief to get the rifle out of the hands and onto the shoulder. I can recall many a long hike across rolling prairie when hunting antelope or mule deer with the rifle slung. Not only is it easier carrying, but also it keeps the hands free to use a binocular. In fact I’ve come to like carrying a hiking stick for easier walking in rough country and to steady binocular and rifle.

A sling is also handy if you meet up with other hunters, after a drive for example. I think it is a courtesy to others to have the action open and the rifle slung where everyone can see the muzzle is pointing in a safe direction. I haven’t been checked by conservation officers very often but on the three or four occasions officers drove up to check licenses, I made a point of opening the bolt and slinging the rifle as a matter of simple courtesy. I’ve always found if you are civil and respectful you get civility and respect in return.

Sling swivels come in all shapes, sizes and prices. Inexpensive versions
often fail after a short time so bargain-basement swivels are often not the deal they may seem.

Choices

After nearly 60 years of carrying rifles afield I’ve developed preferences in slings. For lightweight rimfires and center fires I like a simple web strap. I’m embarrassed to admit my favorite wasn’t even made as a sling. Originally it was a carry strap for a duffel bag. I liked the length and width so I added a pair of sling swivels. Weight is less than 3 oz. of which most is made up of the swivels. I adjusted the length so it can be used as a hasty sling.

Currently the most popular style of carrying slings have a wide area over the shoulder (the “cobra” style) or a large padded fabric or leather addition to the sling. I don’t particularly like the look of these but I’ll admit they do add to comfort when slinging a heavy rifle. “Heavy” is a subjective term but for me anything over 9.5 lbs. field ready is heavy. When I use such slings, I like to keep it simple though some styles add cartridge loops or pouches to the outside of the padded area.

A now-discontinued Uncle Mike leather basket-stamped shooting
sling on Dave’s Remington 700 .243 Win.

G.I. Issue

Long ago, circa 1907, the U.S. military designed a two-piece sling that could be opened to carry the rifle on the shoulder, snugged up straight to look sharp on the parade ground, or — and this was really ingenious — used as an aid to accurate shooting. Military issue slings are usually 1-1/4″ wide and made of thick, heavy leather. Versions for hunting rifles are 1″ wide and made of lighter leather. I used one such sling for many years until it started to crack across two of the adjustment holes. I bought a replacement from Uncle Mike’s made of basket-stamped leather. It seems to have been discontinued but the one I have should see me out nicely.

I use this sling when hunting open prairie for mule deer or antelope. When there are no handy trees or posts to use as a rest, and sagebrush precludes the prone position, sitting with a tight sling is sometimes the best option.

These three styles — web strap, cobra-style and two-piece shooting sling — meet all my needs. All my slings have quick-detach swivels, mostly by Uncle Mike’s to fit rifle studs. I know there are some better-looking flush mounted styles but most of my rifles came with swivel studs fitted. Changing them all over is too much trouble and expense. I like being able to use any sling on any rifle.

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