Despite Their Simple Design, Weapon Slings Are Still an Essential Piece of Equipment

Sometimes the simplest accessories can make a huge difference, and that applies to your weapon as much as anything else. One of the most popular add-ons in the last few years has been the original Magpul loop; the rubber gizmo that fits to the bottom of magazines to make them easier to get out of a pouch. That’s a classic example of a low-tech piece of kit that just does what it’s supposed to, every time. Another good example is the humble weapon sling.

When I started my military career as a UOTC officer cadet, the standard rifle was the L1A1 SLR, better known to US shooters as the “inch-pattern” FN-FAL. This was an excellent weapon – powerful, robust, easy to maintain and, thanks to sand-clearing grooves, even more reliable than the original metric FAL. The sling was a piece of crap though. It was a simple nylon strap that fitted through swivels under the gas block and on the bottom rear of the butt, and it was impossible to use it to carry the weapon in anything like a ready position. Some people resorted to hastily-made remedies like looping the sling round the neck of the butt so the rifle would hang, muzzle down at their side, but the simplest solution was just to take the damn thing off, tape up the swivels to stop them rattling and carry the rifle in a rugged, soldierly manner.

SlingUnfortunately, the need to keep at least one hand free for your weapon made life tricky when there was any other work to be done, unless you wanted to tuck it under your arm like the lord of the manor taking his shotgun out after a few pheasants. When the old mechanical musket was finally replaced by the L85A1 bullpup, there were howls of dismay at the new weapon’s flimsiness, unreliability, abysmal ergonomics and anemic 5.56 round, but we did like the sling. It was fitted to the left side of the butt and forend, and it had a quick-release catch that turned it from a two-point to single-point sling in an instant. That meant you could strap the weapon out of the way when you had work to do, then release the buckle, aim the rifle and – assuming it worked – engage the enemy.

When you’re choosing a sling, the main options are single point or two point. A single point sling attaches to the butt; it holds the weapon to your body, but gives you full control over it. The down side is that unless you keep a grip on the rifle it will tend to swing around when you move; it’s possible to do other tasks with a single point sling, but it might not be a lot of fun. On the other hand, they’re ideal for patrolling.

A two-point sling will hold the weapon more securely, but the old style – like the original M16 sling or the L1A1 type – doesn’t offer a lot of flexibility. If it’s loose enough to let you aim the weapon, it will be flopping around; if it’s tight enough to hold it securely, you’ll have to unsling it to fight. More modern ones like the L85 sling are convertible; you can carry the rifle securely across your chest with two points attached, or release the front point and either let it hang down your side or carry it in a ready position. They’re often called three-point slings.

Compared to a lot of modern equipment, slings are practically Stone Age – it’s just a length of nylon strap with a few fittings – but getting the right one will make your life a lot easier.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Fergus Mason

Fergus Mason grew up in the west of Scotland. After attending university he spent 14 years in the British Army and served in Bosnia, Northern Ireland, Kosovo and Iraq. Afterwards, he went to Afghanistan as a contractor, where he worked in Kabul, Mazar-e-Sharif and Camp Leatherneck. He now writes on a variety of topics including current affairs and military matters.
Fergus Mason

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