I wrote this little tutorial on how to effectively use the rifle’s sling as a shooting aid back in September of 2006. I had read Fred’s Guide to Becoming a Rifleman several times, and had attended four Appleseeds. I understood the concepts well, but found the description of sling use in the manual lacking. It seemed vague to me. I thought then that detailed descriptions with pictures would be a benefit to new shooters unfamiliar with the sling, and especially folk interested in attending an Appleseed, to give them a head start.
I want you first to get a feel for your rifle. Learn every inch of it. Learn its workings and mechanisms, its sights and trigger. You should strip the rifle, clean, and lubricate it per its specification. Inspect the magazines (if your rifle requires them). Look for bent feed lips and, if necessary, disassemble and clean them as well. With your rifle clean and lubricated, it is ready to begin. It is time to prepare you, the shooter, to progress and to become a Rifleman.
First, you will need to learn your rifle sling. For my example, I will describe the proper use of the web sling as issued with the M1 Garand and the M14 (including its semiautomatic variants, the M1A/M14S/ M14SA, et. all). This sling was an essential piece of wartime kit for three generations, and is most commonly available made from cotton canvas webbing, although later issue, including the current issue in use by Army and Marine designated marksman M14 slings are Nylon; these are superior to their cotton equivalent, and are well proven. I highly recommend these slings (the cotton and Nylon) over the leather 1907 sling. Many match shooters prefer the leather; and although I agree that they are quite attractive and old school when well made, they are more susceptible to inclement weather, and will rot from hard use. This is not match riflery. This is field shooting. Although it is specifically for the M1 and M14 rifles, you may be able to adapt it to the FAL and HK91 systems. Certainly, the same sling usage applies to all these rifles, plus the AR15 and AR10 rifles. The web sling has four parts (see figure one). They are the spring clip, which attaches the sling to the butt end swivel, the buckle (permanently attached to the sling), for adjusting the sling’s length, the sling itself, and the keeper (the buckle that holds the slings adjustment). Attach the spring clip to the butt end swivel with the buckle’s loop facing out, away from the stock. The sling’s keeper should be on the sling, with its hasp facing inward (toward the stock) and up toward the upper sling swivel. Bring the end of the sling outside, and place it through the upper sling swivel. Lace the end of the sling through the keeper. Now, with the sling in place, you can adjust it to fit (see images).
(Figure 1, disassembled sling pieces)
(Figure 2, assembling the sling)
(Figure 3, assembling the pieces. continued)
(Figure 4, attaching the keeper)
(Figure 5, keeper attached)
With the sling attached, hold the rifle horizontally. The sling will hang down from the swivels. Place the thumb of one hand under the grip (the small of the stock) and splay your fingers out making your hand span as far as it is able. Adjust the sling length with the keeper until it just touches your smallest finger. Later you can fine-tune the adjustment from position; but this should get the sling to the right length to start (Figure 6).
(Figure 6, determining proper slack)
There are two basic configurations, and one variation on the second, for using the sling as a shooting aid. The first is the loop sling, used in the prone and sitting positions. To make a loop sling, begin by detaching the sling from the rifle’s butt by sliding the spring clip from the rear swivel, leaving the sling attached to the rifle at the front. It is usually easier to perform the next steps kneeling, with the rifle butt on the ground, and the barrel resting on your shoulder (be careful doing this on the firing line with a hot rifle. I once wore a brand for days made by a hot barrel that- very briefly- touched my neck). Hold the spring clip and buckle in your strong hand (right for right-handed shooters, left for left-handed shooter). Now feed some of the sling back through the buckle, forming a loop of material (Figure 7). Twist the sling a half turn away from you (this is very important: turn the sling away from you). The spring clip will now be facing up (Figure 8). Holding the sling in your strong hand (again, right for right-handed shooters). Use your weak hand fingers to grab the cuff of your shooting jacket’s sleeve. This will prevent the sleeve from riding up when you put the sling on your arm (Figure 9). Now, slide the sling loop as far onto your arm as possible, even up to your armpit. The USMC jacket has a brachial pad on the support arm sleeve, ostensibly to keep your rifle from moving in time with your brachial pulse. In my experience, placing the sling above the pad will keep the sling from sliding back down the arm in rapid fire shooting. If you have made the loop correctly, it will tighten when you pull on the sling (Figure 10). If not, start over, you have made a mistake somewhere. From position, the sling should be so tight that the shooter will have to place the stock into the shoulder pocket with the strong hand, and cam the strong arm down, forming a good shoulder pocket. If the sling is so tight that you lose feeling in your fingers, it is just about tight enough (not really, loosen it up just a little bit if it is that tight). We will go over that again when we address positions in detail.
(Figure 7, form a loop)
(Figure 8, twist the loop, note that the clip faces up)
(Figure 9, be sure to hold your sleeve)
(Figure 10, the self-tightening sling)
The other sling configuration (and its variation) is the hasty sling, and the hasty-hasty sling. Riflemen use these principally in the offhand, or standing, position. For these configurations, begin with the sling attached to the rifle, as we began for the loop sling. Hold the rifle by the small of the stock horizontally, with the sling hanging below it. Put your support arm through the hole created by the sling and rifle (Figure 11). Reach are far as you can, again so that the sling is up to your armpit. If you stop here, and shoulder the weapon, you have the hasty-hasty sling. If you wrap your arm around the outside of the sling loop, and back inside the sling, effectively weaving your arm around the sling, and back on the fore end of the stock, that is the hasty sling (Figure 12). It is slower to assume, but helps hold the rifle tight to your shoulder. If the sling is tight enough, you will have to place the rifle into your shoulder pocket with strong hand.
(Figure 11, starting the hasty sling)
(Figure 12, Assuming the hasty sling. This is the position for the hasty-hasty sling)
(Figure 13, the weaving the arm through, finishing with the hasty sling)
Many gun owners so-called shooters have only fired their rifles from a bench rest. Even many hunters use only tree stands or blinds fire from supported positions. One of the would-be Rifleman’s objectives should be to learn to shoot from unsupported positions, using the rifle’s sling as a shooting aid. In my next entry, I will go over the basic positions, their uses, advantages and disadvantages, and how accurate shooting from unsupported positions places the qualified Rifleman in the top five percent of all gun owners.
There you have it. My first serious attempt at informative writing. It could use a polish; but I think it has aged well. As always, constructive comments are welcome.