I suppose rifle slings are like concealed carry pistol calibers, everyone has their favorite selection and can justify their choice in at least 3 paragraphs. Just like pistol calibers (and probably even more so) the choices in rifle slings are far and wide, with so many configurations/materials/attachment points you can usually walk through 3 or 4 aisles in a gun store which are solely dedicated to slings. Before I continue on I should probably narrow things down a bit, define the parameters of this article so that we are all on the same page. I’m going to be writing about sling configurations for any of the most popular patrol rifles, be it an AR15, Mini14, AK47, EBR or even a 10/22 in a tactical stock. There are many other rifles out there which fit into this category but I’m sure you get the idea.
Let’s go ahead and hurt some feelings right out of the gate, we’ll discuss the old USGI black sling that attached under the M16A2.
This sling variant has a few uses but in general I consider it almost completely worthless. It’s good if you want to hang your gun over your shoulder while walking through the woods or maybe while marching in a parade (i.e. a division level pass and review), but in standard configuration it has almost no real purpose. While shooting from the prone it does allow you to wrap your arm in the sling in order to lock your support hand tightly against the gun, but unless you are shooting in competitions this probably won’t matter to you. I’d recommend leaving this sling (and the M16A2) where it belongs: in the 1980′s.
Next on the list is what some refer to as the wolf hook sling, a single point attachment sling which clips on to the buttstock of a gun and to a point on one’s body armor or kit. You release the sling by way of a plastic clip making it a fairly simple piece of equipment to use.
While there is no doubt some people love this configuration and have successfully used it in real world operations I personally do not like it. From my experience this sort of sling usually ends up being used by someone who likes to let their gun hang freely down by their side, maybe one hand resting lightly on the pistol grip. Think entry control point guard with no situational awareness and the incorrect posture (read: not appearing to be vigilant) while on duty. There is a bit of impractical that goes along with this sling as well. If you take an M4 and mount an optic to it, put a 30 round mag in it, mount a light and a PEQ15…well it starts to get a little on the porky side. Having all of that hanging from one attachment point on your kit means it will continuously pull your kit over/down which can be more than slightly annoying.
Next on the list: the single point sling. These slings usually attach directly behind the upper receiver on most rifles and have a quick release clip (or plunger). They hold the rifle tightly to the body, providing over the shoulder support while still allowing one to quickly put the rifle into action.
These are great slings for the range and for urban operations but it has been my experience that in other areas they fall short. For patrolling I prefer a two point style sling over the single point and even something as simple as slinging the rifle across your back to do work or eat chow becomes awkward if you only have a single point configuration. Better than the wolf hook or parade sling? Absolutely but there is still a better option.
Still within the realm of practical but an improvement over the single point: the multi-mission sling available from Magpul. It really is the best of both worlds, a single point sling which can be converted to a two point sling in the matter of seconds by simply utilizing a quick release clip.
I should note that in addition to the sling you must have the right attachment points on your rifle, usually the standard sling mount under the front sight on the M4 will suffice for the clip pictured above. The concept is simple in that you unclip if in the single point configuration and relocate (and clip in) for a patrol configuration, still utilizing the over the shoulder carry which allows you to put the rifle into action quickly if need be. The sling is very sturdy and well made and is very user friendly when adjusting the sling.
The Bottom Line
Make sure you have a good sling on your rifle, one suited for the mission you will be performing and one that meets all of your personal criteria. While I really like the Magpul sling(s) and have a few of them your results or experiences may vary. Share your thoughts below in the comment section!