A rifle sling is an essential piece of equipment for any rifle user, even if it does seem like a minuscule component of your setup. It is imperative to have the right sling and be comfortable with wearing it. However, there are a lot of different types and styles of rifle slings out there to choose from.
Rifle slings seem like a simple enough addition to your firearm, but each type of sling has some nuances to it. So you need to know the difference between those slings and what they are used for. Then, you have to know how to use your sling effectively without fighting with it. It is also a good idea to look at a few different types of materials commonly used to make slings. Lastly, you need to mount your sling effectively.
So if you are in the market for a new rifle sling, let’s start by figuring out the most important question, what type of sling do you need?
Types of Slings & How to Wear Them
There are three general types of rifle slings: single-point, two-point, and three-point. They are very broadly named, but you might be able to guess that each sling name refers to the points of contact that the sling has with either the rifle or the person carrying the rifle. Although those points of contact fundamentally change how we use and install the sling.
Single Point Slings
A single-point sling attaches to the rifle at a single spot. This spot is usually somewhere on the butt of the rifle, attached with a clip or strap of some type. This type of sling is very popular for tactical uses with AR-style rifles and other tactical rifles. Outside of tactical uses, this sling has some limiting features that might not work for other uses like hunting.
The single-point sling has a single loop that usually goes over the neck and under one arm of the person carrying the rifle. The single attachment point to the butt of the rifle then allows the gun to hang down in front of the shooter’s body or slung off to the side of the body with the muzzle facing down towards the ground in a safe manner.
This is useful in tactical situations when switching from a rifle to your sidearm is necessary. One drawback to this style of sling is that it can sway in front of you when your hands are off the rifle, which can impede movement or cause the rifle to bounce off body parts such as the knees and thighs. This sling is definitely meant for the shooter to mainly operate the rifle and keep constant contact with the rifle for ease of movement.
Two Point Slings
Two-point slings are by far the most common and most popular slings on the market for rifles. This is the traditional style sling that pops into most people’s minds when they hear the term sling. This sling attaches to two points on the rifle, usually on the butt of the rifle and on the fore-end of the rifle. The strap connects to swivels of some kind to allow for better and easier movement.
Many traditional hunting rifles and military rifles are outfitted with a two-point sling because it gives a great balance between stability and ease of use for the rifle user. This sling can be worn in a few different ways. The three most popular are called the American carry, African carry, and Cross-back carry.
The most popular is the American carry, where the shooter puts a single arm through the sling and then places the strap over their shoulder with the rifle on the backside of their shoulder and the muzzle facing the sky. This method can be used on either shoulder but has some drawbacks. With the muzzle facing up, it can get caught on tree branches or other foliage while hiking, and it can also expose the open barrel to the elements like rain and snow. The sling can also slide off your shoulder fairly easily, so some of these slings are made with stickier materials that hold onto your shoulder better.
The African carry is similar to the American carry, but it alters the direction of the muzzle during carry. Again, placing a single arm through the sling and carrying it over the shoulder on the backside is very convenient for hunting. The muzzle, however, is facing the ground instead of the sky. The drawback to this method, especially if you are a hunter, is the possibility of driving the barrel into the ground. This can clog the barrel in muddy conditions and cause issues with your rifle. It is also more difficult to ready your rifle from this position.
Finally, we have the Cross-back carry. This carry can be used by placing an arm and your head through the sling with the rifle held diagonally across the back. This is probably the most stable and secure position to carry in, but quick shots are not possible, and if you wear a pack for hunting or for other uses, this carry position is much harder to use. You would have to lengthen your sling, and there is a high probability of your blot being caught on your pack when you try to ready your rifle.
Three Point Slings
The least popular of all the sling types is the three-point sling. As its name suggests, this sling has three points of contact with it attached to the rifle on the butt and front fore like the two-point sling. However, a three-point sling adds an additional loop from the butt of the gun to the mid-section of the sling. This allows the operator to wear the sling around their torso.
This sling is not used very widely because it has a lot going on, and is harder to use. If it were to be used, it would most likely be used in a tactical method with an AR-style weapon and the carrier also possessing a sidearm. You will not find many hunters running this type of sling.
This sling uses a loop to place the head and one arm through, similar to the single-point sling. Instead of this loop only connecting to one point of the rifle, however, it attaches to the butt and another strap on the sling, which attaches like a two-point sling. The rifle can hang in front of the body or to the side of the body with the muzzle facing down.
Again, this is used more for tactical uses but allows for more stability and weapon security than the single-point sling. It also allows for easy transitions between rifle and sidearm. The drawbacks are what make this sling the least used. It offers less flexibility and can be cumbersome to the user with all the additional material this sling brings with it.
Adjusting Your Sling
Being able to make quick adjustments to your rifle sling is an essential feature to have. Newer, more modern styles of rifle slings have more adjustments and possibilities than some of the older style and leather rifle slings. The more adjustability, the better fit you will get for exactly the type of shooting you intend to do.
Each type and brand of the sling will have its own adjustments, so make sure that you do your homework and know exactly what adjustments you can make with your chosen sling before you buy.
Single Point Sling
The single-point sling, with its one attachment point, is definitely the type of sling that should be adjusted well for comfort and for functionality. Each shooter will be a bit different in their preference type, but it is encouraged to not have too much slack in this rifle sling. You want it adjusted so that the butt of your rifle stays extremely close to your shooting shoulder for quick transitions when needed.
Experiment and work through all the movements that you might use with the rifle and its sling to ensure that you have the correct adjustments that work for you.
Two Point Sling
Two-point slings may seem pretty straightforward on adjustments, but depending on what you intend to use them for, they can be a bit more complex. Basically, you adjust a two-point sling by shortening or lengthening a single strap of material between your two connection points. A longer sling is more comfortable for carrying, but a shorter sling will be out of the way when you are shooting.
I know that the sling on my duck-hunting shotgun, or deer-hunting rifle never stays the same length. I am periodically changing it to better suit my needs in the moment. That is why you want a sling that is easy to adjust. Investing in a quality sling is one of the best things I ever did as far as hunting gear goes. It saves me time and a lot of frustration when my sling just works the way I want it to the first time.
Some users, especially hunters, may just view the sling as a more convenient way of carrying their rifle in the field. If that is the case, making adjustments should be fairly easy to make it comfortable to carry. Others choose to use it for carrying and as a stabilization aid. If this is the case, the adjustments are a bit different and more complex. We will talk more about additional uses in the next section.
Three Point Sling
The three-point sling has a variety of adjustments but is similar to the single-point sling. In this case, you want your rifle to be positioned at a 45° angle across the front of your body with the butt of the gun close to your shooting shoulder. This allows for quick shouldering and keeps the muzzle pointed at the ground. You want to make sure that the body loop is tight enough to keep the gun from swinging down by your legs and making quick transitions from the carrying to shooting positions.
Additional Uses for a Sling
Slings have more uses than just carrying. Many use their sling to help steady their shot for more precise accuracy. This can be done in a variety of different ways and shooting positions. Every little bit of extra sturdiness and stability can really help.
Hunters will often use them to hang their guns while in a tree stand. Some hunters will rig them up to use them as extra support while aiming from a tree stand or blind. They do this by simply wrapping their arm through their two point sling and holding the fore end of the rifle. This puts more pressure on your arm and makes your rifle tighter and more controllable.
Different Sling Materials
Rifle slings are constructed out of a variety of different materials that are both durable and aesthetically pleasing. Durability is definitely a must when it comes to rifle slings, with the amount of wear and tear that can be placed on them in different situations and scenarios. A broken rifle sling is the last thing a carrier wants to deal with.
The most popular materials used for rifle slings are leather, nylon, and other synthetics that are used for padding and comfort. Another material that is starting to be used more often is woven paracord. Nylon and synthetic materials are known to be the most durable, with leather coming in close behind them. Paracord slings are new to the market, so the jury is still out on their durability until the shooting community really puts them to the test.
Keep in mind your look as well. Although rifle enthusiasts place more importance on functionality, they still want to look good while they are at it. The type of rifle that you have might determine the sling material and setup that you choose.
Mounting a Sling to Your Rifle
When it comes to mounting your sling to your rifle, it will vary based on what type of rifle you have. For a traditional hunting rifle, most are outfitted or can be outfitted with studs on the butt and front fore that allow clips to be hooked into. These clips will be attached to your sling but can be easily removed for transportation and storage.
Other rifles, like tactical and AR-style rifles, often come with sling attachments already on them or are manufactured with holes that allow for quick detachment studs to be attached. These are very helpful and are quick for tactical rifles.
It is highly recommended that, if you can, attach your sling to the body side of your rifle. This means if you shoot right-handed, your sling should be attached to the left side of your rifle for ease of use and functionality.
Rifles with bottom-mounted slings should always be used with swivels to allow for easier movement and less binding of the sling itself. This is common with traditional hunting rifles. Swivels are usually sold with most rifle slings today or can be bought and added to an older sling if need be.
Who knew that a rifle sling could be so technical and have so much to think about?
A rifle sling is a vital piece of gear for anyone carrying a rifle, whether it be for tactical reasons or for hunting. There are many types to explore and many ways to set it up for each individual. So do your homework, make adjustments through trial and error, and get the most out of your rifle sling you can. You will not be sorry that you did.