One extremely important accessory for a shoulder-fired weapon is frequently overlooked by preppers. It is unpretentious, cheap, readily available, and easy to install. It’s the sling.
Suffering from a lack of sex appeal, lost in a plethora of available furniture, and definitely not the cover-girl of gun porn, the lowly sling often suffers from a lack of appreciation – until your body has paid the price.
Through the years, I have conducted numerous training sessions and can now easily identify the guys and gals who have experience in the field… the folks who have carried a long gun for an extended period of time. Their slings are functional and comfortable – like an old pair of well-worn blue jeans or a seasoned pair of boots.
They fit, function, and perform critical tasks without fanfare or ritz. Those who have ignored this critical component suffer – sometimes badly. More on that down-article.
No doubt some of you are wondering, “Why is Joe ranting on and on about something as simple as the humble sling? It’s just a length of material that you use to attach a weapon to your body – right?”
Not really. Not in a practical application:
In the gun-candy store, it’s easy to get distracted by lights, lasers, and fancy optical doodads. At the range, other shooters rarely stroll over and say, “Wow, what a nice sling.” In the gun safe, they tangle and annoy. But if you ever have to keep a shoulder-fired weapon on your person for extended periods of time, there is nothing you’ll appreciate more than a good sling.
Many of the folks I work with haven’t spent a lot of time with a weapon in the field. That’s not a criticism or a sin; it’s simply a fact that few occupations or lifestyles demand the need or naturally deliver those experiences. Most of us do not walk into corporate America carrying a long gun.
Even the gents who have served for years in the infantry may not consider that their military experience will likely differ from that of a post-event prepper. Protecting the homestead while accomplishing daily activities, chores and movements is different than the routine of a soldier who is a component of a fighting unit.
I often challenge my friends to perform one simple task without leaning their rifle against a tree – set up camp. Pitch the tent, build a fire, and empty the packs while wearing your blaster. The experience can be a real eye-opener.
Take that exercise one step further; envision a typical post-event day from dawn to dusk with security as part of your plan. This mind-movie will help you realize the need for comfortably accommodating your weapon. Unless you find yourself surviving in a densely populated urban area, you’ll most likely spend a lot more time carrying your rifle than shooting it. This is a critical point. You probably won’t be fighting, sweeping, clearing, or defending all the time. (If your environment requires such diligence, it might be time to consider another location.)
You will, most likely, be spending countless hours gardening, gathering, harvesting, and performing manual labor. If there is no rule of law, you’ll probably want a firearm close by, or on your person. You may spend considerably more time traveling by foot than you do now. There’s a reasonable chance you’ll be outside and exposed for significant portions of the day.
All of this translates into the lowly sling playing an important role. The wise prepper will evaluate this humble piece of kit now, rather than later when it’s too late. Prove that you can carry that blaster comfortably, securely and in a manner that is “mission configurable.”
Types of Rifle Slings
For years, there were two basic types of slings: Single-point and 2-point. (For a short time, there was a 3-point sling, but it faded from the market quickly.)
A few years back, the single-point sling was all the rage. It debuted as a cool accessory, and droves of shooters wanted to convert their battle rifles to accept this option. For most, this was a huge mistake.
Single-point slings are for SWAT teams, hostage rescue units, and other outfits that are expecting short duration encounters of intense violence. Single-point slings are great for moving a weapon to the weak-side shoulder, close-quarters combat, and other tactics that require a lot of movement of a weapon.
They, however, suck as a way to secure a long gun for extended periods while on the move.
Infantry soldiers, hunters, search and rescue responders, and probably preppers need slings that secure the weapon tightly against the torso. This configuration allows running, jumping, climbing, walking, and picking berries without the rifle banging into knees, thighs, or more personal regions between a male’s legs. A hot barrel can make this capability even more critical.
Consider that you may need to slide the rifle around to your back if you have to use your hands to carry something heavy or to climb. You’ll want to be able to tighten and tuck that fancy AK either in front or across your shoulders and do so in a way that doesn’t rub off significant swaths of flesh.
Recently, a new design has eliminated the need to make a choice. Several vendors now offer what I call “hybrid” slings that easily convert from single-point (when you’re expecting to fight) to a more comfortable two-point arrangement. This nifty invention gives us preppers the best of both worlds.
When shopping for a sling, consider these factors:
- Be aware of the strap width and thickness. When you have a pack, body armor, load-rig, jacket or other paraphernalia on your shoulders, strap-pollution can be an issue. Wide and thin slings are typically the best option.
- At least one connection point should swivel. This avoids tangles, twists, and hang-ups.
- Metal rings, clips, and buckles will hold more weight than their plastic counterparts.
- Look for quick adjustment straps. These are extremely handy.
- Quick Detach (QD) connectors are also great innovations. Over the years, I’ve been in numerous situations where I wanted to get the weapon off my body in a hurry. QD mounts work well.
- The company Magpul probably offers the most configuration/options: http://store.magpul.com/category/slings
But wait. Carrying the weapon is only part of the equation:
Have you ever read those great articles on a gazillion uses for paracord? Well, a good rifle sling has its own list of secondary applications. Not as many as 550-cord, but more than many people realize.
A sling can be used to provide a brace for several different shooting positions. Used correctly, it can steady a shooter’s aim.
Or how about an angle indicator for non-level shots? If you live in a mountainous or hilly country, you know that making a shot 40 degrees down into a valley requires some adjustment. Often, it’s difficult to judge the correct angle. This handy little accessory can help you with the estimate by creating a plumb line.
Properly selected, a sling can form a tourniquet, elevate an injured arm, tow something, fashion a stretcher or drag bag… the list could go on and on.
Essentially, a sling is a fancy 4-foot section of very strong rope. What could you do with that in an emergency situation?
Consider a scenario where you have three people in your group and need to climb a tree in order to scout. Three of these cords attached end-to-end would yield a 12-foot section of climbing rope.
In my fictional series, Holding Their Own, the protagonist uses his rifle sling and backpack straps to make a safety harness for a dangerous climb.
What I have come to respect most about preppers is a mindset of adaptability and creativity. I’m sure if you put 50 like-minded individuals in a room, they would devise dozens more innovative uses for this little length of material.
All the best! Visit Joe’s website, www.joenobodybooks.com, for more articles, reviews, books, and other resources for those who believe in the self-reliant lifestyle.
- AR-15 Rifle Builder’s Manual: An Illustrated, Step-by-Step Guide to Assembling the AR-15 Rifle
- AR-15 Skills & Drills: Learn to Run Your AR Like a Pro
- How To Shoot Your M16/AR-15 In Training And Combat