Caribou Gear Tarp

The Lost Art of the Shooting Sling #1

Cav1

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Joined
Mar 9, 2017
Messages
214
Location
Central Montana
Once upon a time, the late, great Colonel Jeff Cooper offered two simple but brilliant maxims for the hunter to follow to make a successful shot. “If you can get closer, get closer. If you can get steadier, get steadier.”

The first rule explains itself. As to getting steadier, there are a variety of options available ranging from one’s own shooting position and improvised field rests to shooting sticks and permanently mounted bipods. I will use anything readily at hand to get steadier. I’ve shot with a day pack as a rest, from logs, tree limbs, and rocks…all padded with a stocking cap or gloves…bipods, shooting sticks, and crossed ski poles.

Whatever you use, just remember things like shooting sticks or bipods are shooting aids, not crutches. I’ve seen more than a few shooters become so dependent on these things that they can’t take or make a shot without them.

As for myself, I long ago “rediscovered” and fell in love with the shooting sling. If you hunt with a rifle, you’re going to have one right there on the weapon, so you might as well get all the use out of it you can and utilize it as a shooting aid as well as a carrying device.

So, assuming one does have a suitable shooting sling and knows how to use it, just how effective is it when it comes to firing from field positions? Over the decades, a great many gunners more knowledgeable and experienced than I am have answered that question.

Mister Rifleman himself, Colonel Townsend Whelen, advocated the shooting sling for both military shooters and sportsmen alike. He even created a modified and simplified loop sling for sportsmen that’s still known as a Whelen sling. He wrote, “The gun-sling should be used whenever it is possible to do so. It is even more of a factor in fine marksmanship than the wind-gauge. By its use the rifle may be held absolutely steady; in rapid fire it facilitates the quick return of the rifle to the point of aim, and it takes up almost half of the recoil.”

whelen (2).jpg

Colonel Jeff Cooper devoted an entire chapter to the shooting sling in The Art of the Rifle. One entire paragraph was italicized to emphasize, “You must always use the loop sling if you have time to get into it (provided you are not shooting from a rest and that your left elbow is supported).” Cooper also noted, “I have hunted widely across the world, and I have used the loop sling in the field more often than I have not. It is no use whatever from the offhand position, but if you have time to assume a more stabilized stance, proper use of the loop sling will increase your likelihood of hitting by about 30 percent.”

I personally feel that number is perhaps conservative. In his book The Ultimate Sniper, Major John Plaster estimated that shooting slings can increase steadiness anywhere from 40% in the sitting position to 60% in the prone. Riflecraft’s Todd Dow believes proper use of the shooting sling doubles accuracy from field shooting positions.

Like Cooper, another Marine Corps Colonel, Craig Boddington, also devoted an entire chapter to the “Forgotten Sling” in his book Shots at Big Game. Timothy Mullin, a former infantry officer and author of Testing the War Weapons, likened the shooting sling to, “an 8-ounce bench rest.”

Elmer Keith was a rifleman as well as pistolero and he went so far as to advise: “Telescopes are of little if any value to the novice who is not first of all a rifleman, except to show him what he is shooting at. Until he learns to a hold a rifle fairly steady and to be able to hold well standing, or prone, or sitting with the sling, and learns the use of the sling, he will not be able to get the full benefits out of the rifle.”

It always impressed me that on my old Outdoor Life Book-Club tome Hunting North America’s Big Game author Bob Hagel is pictured on both the front cover and the rear dust flap in the sitting position looped up tight with his sling, shooting downhill in one pic and uphill in the other.

Wayne van Zwoll in The Hunter’s Guide to Accurate Shooting and Duncan Gilchrist in Successful Big Game Hunting also espoused the use of the shooting sling in the hunting field.

Finally, outdoor legend Jack O’Connor was a big fan of shooting slings, the Whelen in particular, and wrote in 1961, “Every game shot who takes his shooting seriously owes it to himself to get a good sling, then learn how to adjust it and use it.” Time and experience only reinforced that opinion since when I started reading him avidly in the early 1980’s he had amended his admiration of the shooting sling to, “A good gunsling, properly adjusted, is one of the great inventions of the human race, along with fire and the wheel.”

Well, if this shooting sling business is so great, one may think, why haven’t I ever heard about it?

In the age of smokeless military rifles of steel and wood, beginning with the .30-40 Krag-Jorgenson and continuing through the ’03 Springfield and P-17 Enfield to the M1 Garand and its immediate descendant the M14, sling shooting was still common knowledge since everyone who’d served in any branch of the United States military learned how to do it.

The AR15/M16 family of rifles was the reason the US military abandoned the concept of the shooting sling. The M16A1 had a rather thin, lightweight barrel, separate handguards which neither bedded nor supported it, and the front sling swivel attached directly to the barrel itself. When fired with a tight shooting sling, this caused enough tension on the barrel to slightly flex it, sufficient to move the point of impact of the bullets as much as four inches low at 100 yards. Doing the Minute-of-Angle math, that translates into eight inches at 200 yards and a full foot at 300, more than enough to mean the difference between a hit and a miss.

Another reason sling shooting tended to fade into obscurity among hunters was because some shooting slings became specialized pieces of gear evolved solely for use on the competition rifle range. There, having a sling that stays tightly in place for long strings of slow-fire is more important than being able to loop up fast for the crucial first quick shot and possibly a follow-up in the hunting field.

Even the old standard leather two-hole USGI Model 1907 sling might take even a well-practiced individual as long as five seconds to properly loop up. The newer military OD green cotton web or black nylon loop sling is, IMHO, even slower and clumsier than the Model 1907 to properly assume, and the metal snap that connects it to the rear swivel can and does make tell-tale metallic noises you don’t want while hunting.

It’s really a pity that this art has been lost to so many and, in fact, many modern sling systems can’t even be used as a shooting aid. They are nothing more, to be precise, than carrying straps. In tacticool circles, some slings have even morphed from carrying straps into retention devices, perhaps the ultimate evolution of what used to be called a “dummy cord”.

Regardless the name, every hunting rifle really should have a sling since the hunter frequently has to engage in tasks which may require one or even both hands free. A rifle without a sling is like a pistol without a holster. So, since you will no doubt have a sling on your rifle anyway, it might as well be one that can serve double duty for carrying and shooting.

More about that in Part 2.
 

Don Fischer

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Joined
Jun 27, 2017
Messages
1,566
I saw and read part two first. There is no doubt the advantage of knowing how to use a sling and how to get into proper position. When I wrap in my sling, it is never ever one of those wide on one end one made for I don't know what. Pretty much my sling will be little more than a 1" strap. Arm through it and wrap your hand up front and it's good to go. But I always adjust it before I need to use it!
 

Salmonchaser

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Joined
Nov 12, 2019
Messages
744
Regardless I am a big fan of the sling. The only rifle I carried with a bipod was my duty rifle. Simply leaves me wondering why guys don’t learn how to use one.
 

BoomerUSAF

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Jul 14, 2018
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3,824
Location
The prairie pothole region
I would argue the shooting sling is more applicable to still hunting through a dense forest. Where the ranges would allow off-hand shots to be effective.

With the spot and stalk method, bipods are borderline necessary.
 

Firedude

Active member
Joined
Sep 2, 2015
Messages
200
I shot a small buck at just over 300 yards by looping my arm through the sling and tucking it in close. You'd be surprised how accurate you can be shooting that way. It's all in knowing what you can do and CAN'T do. I've attempted offhanding game at less than 100 and thought "nope" can't make that shot right now. Then vice versa felt very comfortable out at longer ranges doing the same thing but at the time it wasn't going to work. Watch a CMP or NRA highpower competion sometime. You'll see what I mean. Standing with a sling at a target at 200 yards is routine to those guys.

Regardless of position, shoot what you can shoot confident AT THE TIME and nothing more. One day you can shoot 1000 prone, the next you may drop to 500. Admit it and go with it.

My dad took me to the range as a kid and we shot off of the bench. Then slow fired using a leather sling. You do that at a range now and people think you're crazy. We hunted in knee and hip high sagebrush. If you couldn't shoot standing with a sling, you went home to tag soup...
 
Last edited:

Don Fischer

Well-known member
Joined
Jun 27, 2017
Messages
1,566
Regardless I am a big fan of the sling. The only rifle I carried with a bipod was my duty rifle. Simply leaves me wondering why guys don’t learn how to use one.
I've never used a bi-pod. Can't wrap me head around getting a rifle and hanging that much weight under the front of the stock! Then I have read some about them and it seems that depending on the ground you sit the legs on it will change how the rifle shoots. As I understand it, there's a big difference between soft dirt and a rock! But the really main objection for me is all that weight added to the front of the stock, has to throw every thing out of balance.
 

Cav1

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Joined
Mar 9, 2017
Messages
214
Location
Central Montana
I personally never liked bipods for much the same reasons you mention, but that's just me. I'm all for every individual using anything and everything that allows him or her to make a clean, accurate shot. I can't stand them but my wife really likes and does very well with shooting sticks, for example. The one big problem I've noticed is that I've seen a few guys become so dependant on that bipod that they just can't take or make any kind of shot without it.
 

ImBillT

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Joined
Oct 29, 2018
Messages
2,352
I would argue the shooting sling is more applicable to still hunting through a dense forest. Where the ranges would allow off-hand shots to be effective.

With the spot and stalk method, bipods are borderline necessary.
Shooting sticks.
 

silasd

Active member
Joined
Feb 27, 2017
Messages
223
Location
New Mexico
Once upon a time, the late, great Colonel Jeff Cooper offered two simple but brilliant maxims for the hunter to follow to make a successful shot. “If you can get closer, get closer. If you can get steadier, get steadier.”

The first rule explains itself. As to getting steadier, there are a variety of options available ranging from one’s own shooting position and improvised field rests to shooting sticks and permanently mounted bipods. I will use anything readily at hand to get steadier. I’ve shot with a day pack as a rest, from logs, tree limbs, and rocks…all padded with a stocking cap or gloves…bipods, shooting sticks, and crossed ski poles.

Whatever you use, just remember things like shooting sticks or bipods are shooting aids, not crutches. I’ve seen more than a few shooters become so dependent on these things that they can’t take or make a shot without them.

As for myself, I long ago “rediscovered” and fell in love with the shooting sling. If you hunt with a rifle, you’re going to have one right there on the weapon, so you might as well get all the use out of it you can and utilize it as a shooting aid as well as a carrying device.

So, assuming one does have a suitable shooting sling and knows how to use it, just how effective is it when it comes to firing from field positions? Over the decades, a great many gunners more knowledgeable and experienced than I am have answered that question.

Mister Rifleman himself, Colonel Townsend Whelen, advocated the shooting sling for both military shooters and sportsmen alike. He even created a modified and simplified loop sling for sportsmen that’s still known as a Whelen sling. He wrote, “The gun-sling should be used whenever it is possible to do so. It is even more of a factor in fine marksmanship than the wind-gauge. By its use the rifle may be held absolutely steady; in rapid fire it facilitates the quick return of the rifle to the point of aim, and it takes up almost half of the recoil.”

View attachment 184066

Colonel Jeff Cooper devoted an entire chapter to the shooting sling in The Art of the Rifle. One entire paragraph was italicized to emphasize, “You must always use the loop sling if you have time to get into it (provided you are not shooting from a rest and that your left elbow is supported).” Cooper also noted, “I have hunted widely across the world, and I have used the loop sling in the field more often than I have not. It is no use whatever from the offhand position, but if you have time to assume a more stabilized stance, proper use of the loop sling will increase your likelihood of hitting by about 30 percent.”

I personally feel that number is perhaps conservative. In his book The Ultimate Sniper, Major John Plaster estimated that shooting slings can increase steadiness anywhere from 40% in the sitting position to 60% in the prone. Riflecraft’s Todd Dow believes proper use of the shooting sling doubles accuracy from field shooting positions.

Like Cooper, another Marine Corps Colonel, Craig Boddington, also devoted an entire chapter to the “Forgotten Sling” in his book Shots at Big Game. Timothy Mullin, a former infantry officer and author of Testing the War Weapons, likened the shooting sling to, “an 8-ounce bench rest.”

Elmer Keith was a rifleman as well as pistolero and he went so far as to advise: “Telescopes are of little if any value to the novice who is not first of all a rifleman, except to show him what he is shooting at. Until he learns to a hold a rifle fairly steady and to be able to hold well standing, or prone, or sitting with the sling, and learns the use of the sling, he will not be able to get the full benefits out of the rifle.”

It always impressed me that on my old Outdoor Life Book-Club tome Hunting North America’s Big Game author Bob Hagel is pictured on both the front cover and the rear dust flap in the sitting position looped up tight with his sling, shooting downhill in one pic and uphill in the other.

Wayne van Zwoll in The Hunter’s Guide to Accurate Shooting and Duncan Gilchrist in Successful Big Game Hunting also espoused the use of the shooting sling in the hunting field.

Finally, outdoor legend Jack O’Connor was a big fan of shooting slings, the Whelen in particular, and wrote in 1961, “Every game shot who takes his shooting seriously owes it to himself to get a good sling, then learn how to adjust it and use it.” Time and experience only reinforced that opinion since when I started reading him avidly in the early 1980’s he had amended his admiration of the shooting sling to, “A good gunsling, properly adjusted, is one of the great inventions of the human race, along with fire and the wheel.”

Well, if this shooting sling business is so great, one may think, why haven’t I ever heard about it?

In the age of smokeless military rifles of steel and wood, beginning with the .30-40 Krag-Jorgenson and continuing through the ’03 Springfield and P-17 Enfield to the M1 Garand and its immediate descendant the M14, sling shooting was still common knowledge since everyone who’d served in any branch of the United States military learned how to do it.

The AR15/M16 family of rifles was the reason the US military abandoned the concept of the shooting sling. The M16A1 had a rather thin, lightweight barrel, separate handguards which neither bedded nor supported it, and the front sling swivel attached directly to the barrel itself. When fired with a tight shooting sling, this caused enough tension on the barrel to slightly flex it, sufficient to move the point of impact of the bullets as much as four inches low at 100 yards. Doing the Minute-of-Angle math, that translates into eight inches at 200 yards and a full foot at 300, more than enough to mean the difference between a hit and a miss.

Another reason sling shooting tended to fade into obscurity among hunters was because some shooting slings became specialized pieces of gear evolved solely for use on the competition rifle range. There, having a sling that stays tightly in place for long strings of slow-fire is more important than being able to loop up fast for the crucial first quick shot and possibly a follow-up in the hunting field.

Even the old standard leather two-hole USGI Model 1907 sling might take even a well-practiced individual as long as five seconds to properly loop up. The newer military OD green cotton web or black nylon loop sling is, IMHO, even slower and clumsier than the Model 1907 to properly assume, and the metal snap that connects it to the rear swivel can and does make tell-tale metallic noises you don’t want while hunting.

It’s really a pity that this art has been lost to so many and, in fact, many modern sling systems can’t even be used as a shooting aid. They are nothing more, to be precise, than carrying straps. In tacticool circles, some slings have even morphed from carrying straps into retention devices, perhaps the ultimate evolution of what used to be called a “dummy cord”.

Regardless the name, every hunting rifle really should have a sling since the hunter frequently has to engage in tasks which may require one or even both hands free. A rifle without a sling is like a pistol without a holster. So, since you will no doubt have a sling on your rifle anyway, it might as well be one that can serve double duty for carrying and shooting.

More about that in Part 2.
Nice write up - looking forward to Part 2!
 

Gila

Well-known member
Joined
Jun 8, 2019
Messages
448
Location
New Mexico
Shoot an M14 on full auto and you will come to appreciate a sling. I think we used to call it: “walking the dog”
 

longbow51

Well-known member
Joined
Aug 2, 2020
Messages
622
What I don't understand is why the Ching sling hasn't been more popular; maybe folks just don't want to drill a third hole for sling attachment.

Almost as good as the military sling, but available in an instant.
 
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