By Jeff Gurwitch
November 5, 2011
For the first few years of my Army career, from 1990 to about 1997, I had roughly two choices when it came to rifle slings in the military: 1) the standard-issue sling designed to carry your rifle over your shoulder, or 2) go homemade. Then, with the introduction of the SOPMOD program in the late 90’s, the M4A1 (Colt M4A1 Carbine) was offered with a combat multi-point sling. At about this same time, there seemed to have been an explosion in the commercial market with regard to tactical slings. Today there are countless slings being offered, from single-points to multi-point slings with every imaginable connection option being offered.
Whether it’s a single-point or multi-point sling, I think it’s important to match the sling to the intended use of your rifle. With that in mind, here are 3 different slings that I have settled on using over the last few years, each chosen for certain features that I think best fit the purpose for which I’m using the rifle.
The Multi-Point sling
The classic multi-point sling, sometimes referred to as a 3-point sling because of how it loops around your body, will still stay on you even with a connection point un-done on the rifle. I think multi-point slings are the most secure when it comes to wearing it for CQB/CQC (Close Quarters Battle/Close Quarters Combat), because it has an inner loop you wear around your body. So, even if a connection point fails, your rifle will stay on you. There are even some models out there where you can unclip the inner loop and turn it into a 2-point sling on the fly if you find it necessary to do so. I’ve used one of these for the longest time. My preferred one is the Mamba Sling by Spec-Ops Brand (Best Made Designs, LLC), I like the Mamba because it has elastic built into it on the back end of the sling that goes around your body, so it gives a little. You can wear the sling snugly around your body and it will give a little when you go to mount your rifle from the high-ready or low-ready position.
The one real drawback to multi-point slings are that they’re what I like to call too “strappy”. You have the sling points going to your rifle and the inner loop around your body. Sometimes this type of sling has a tendency to get hung up on your kit during presentations, which is not what you want to happen in a life and death situation! This can be overcome, however. As with a lot of kit, after a lot of practice with mounting the weapon and many shooting drills, you can minimize this issue, but it’s still something to look out for.
One the plus side, one characteristic I do like about multi-point slings is that when transitioning to your pistol, they stay out of the way. If you are the type of shooter who likes to roll the rifle all the way off to your side to keep it out of the way, multi-point slings unlike most single points, do not slide back to hang center line. I don’t like anything hanging down in the front getting in the way bumping your legs, especially if I’m shooting and moving.
Iraq 2004 Mamba Sling. I liked it because it was secure to the body. I could go with both hands free, but as you can see, it did have the potential to hang up on all the other gear I needed to carry.
Two Point Sling
In 3-Gun competition it’s rare to have to use a sling–but there are some major matches out there like the Blue Ridge Mountain 3-Gun Championship where a sling is needed. For 3-Gun competition, I like using a two-point sling. I find that Kyle Lamb’s (of Viking Tactics) VTAC padded sling works pretty well. It’s simple and has an easy tension adjustment set-up that you can tighten or loosen as you move. With push button quick detach sling swivels, it’s easy to take on and off the rifle as needed. And, if you’re like me and have more than one competition rifle, it’s easy to switch from one rifle to another.
Viking Tactics (VTAC) Sling in use. One thing you want to make sure of is that your front connection point for the sling swivel should be mounted behind your support hand. You don’t want the sling mounted in front, overlapping your hand.
Again, just like the multi-point sling, the two-point sling stays put when you swing it out of the way while transitioning to your pistol. With the easy-to-use tension adjustor, you can really cinch it down to ensure it doesn’t move. In competitive shooting like 3Gun, you don’t have the luxury of doing stationary transitions from rifle to pistol like you would on a square range, shooting on your own. In 3-Gun competition, you’re usually required to move as fast as you can to a new shooting point while transitioning from weapon to weapon. While performing this task, the last thing you want is a rifle bouncing around the front of you banging into your knees and such. That’s why I like the VTAC Sling. The tensioning adjustment method is fast, simple and allows you to keep the rifle out of the way.
There are many methods out there as to where you place your rifle during a transition. Some shooters like to just drop it straight down and let it hang. I prefer to sweep my rifle off to the side so it will not bump my knees or get in the way in case I have to move out fast.
Single Point Sling
If I could have only one sling set up, it would be a single point sling. The one I’ve been using for a while now is the Blue Force Gear simple sling; it’s cheap and sturdy. I like the single-point setup best for CQB; I think it’s the fastest, and unlike the classic multi-point sling, has very little chance of catching on anything when mounting the rifle. I also think it’s the most maneuverable set-up. Since it’s attached at only one point on the weapon (on the receiver end plate), it allows you to pretty much turn or swing the rifle any way you want. You can even butt-stroke somebody if you have to, as you can still rotate the buttstock around using the attachment point as a pivot point.
In this top-down angle photo during a CQB drill, notice how close you can end up to your fellow teammates while engaging targets! One of the reasons I like single-point slings for CQB work is because they’re attached at the back of the rifle near your body. So, there’s very little chance of it catching on anything–unlike multi-point slings that have straps towards the front of the rifle.
As I’ve already mentioned, the only real drawback to using a single point sling is no matter how hard you sling it off to the side or how far you sling it like around to your back during transitions, rifles with single-point slings seem to always find their way back to hanging in front between your legs. If you’re not moving, that’s fine. However, in CQB (or really any tactical situation) standing in one spot and not moving is rare. Additionally, if you are fast-roping or building/structure-climbing using a single-point sling, you will again find that your rifle wants to slide to the front. Having a rifle between you and the fast rope you are holding onto or building you are trying to climb is not the preferred technique.
Single-Point Sling Attachments
I cannot cover single point slings without covering a little on attachment methods. Just as with slings, there are countless attachment methods out there from which to choose. Two that I use are the MagPul Ambidextrous Sling Attachment Point (ASAP) and Midwest Industries (MI) End Plate Sling Adapter. I like the Magpul ASAP first because of price; around $29.95 in most places. I think it’s a good deal. Secondly, I like how it’s designed. It allows you to shoot from either shoulder pretty freely. Personally, I’m not big on switching shoulders, even when going around off-hand cover (with proper technique, you can effectively shoot from left or right sides of cover from your primary side), but I do like having the option of having a sling set up that facilitates shooting from both shoulders if needed.
MagPul ASAP in Action
I actually like the Midwest Industries End Plate Sling Adapter solely for the reason that it clamps around your buffer tube and doesn’t require you to change out your receiver end plate. Using just an allen wrench/hex key, I can remove it easily and mount it on different rifles. If you are like me and own more than one gun, you’ll find the Sling Adaptor pretty handy. On rifles I don’t use as often as others, I just use the Sling Adaptor to move it to whichever rifle I’m using that day instead of buying a mounting plate for each one.
Midwest Industries End Plate Sling Adapter mounted on an Adams Arms 5.56 Tactical Elite 7.5-inch (7.5") PDW (Personal Defense Weapon) tactical AR (AR-15) V-SBR (Very-Short-Barreled Rifle)/Sub-Carbine
Midwest Industries (MI) End Plate Sling Adapter by Itself
One more single point attachment method I’d like to mention is the Daniel Defense (DD) Rear Receiver QD Swivel Attachment Point. It replaces the receiver end plate with a quick-detach sling swivel mount. So, not only do you now have a sling mount that allows you to switch shoulders quickly and easily like the Magpul ASAP, but it also unclips easily. If you have multiple rifles, all outfitted with the Rear Receiver Attachment Point, you can now use just one single point sling for all of them.
Something I would stay away from, especially with single-point sling mounts, is a quick release or any type of hooks with opening gates. Barring a mission where I might have a long air movement over water, I have never found a situation where I’d want to quickly jettison my rifle, i.e., my primary means of engaging a target! In addition, I cannot tell you how many rifles I have seen fall off soldiers while FAST roping and climbing buildings during training over the years because their quick detach lanyards on their slings got caught up and pulled, or the gates on their hooks failed to keep the rifle hooked on.
My advice? If you have some kind off a quick-detach lanyard or loop built into your sling, cut it off or tape it up! If your rifle sling is attached to your rifle with hooks, make sure you tape the gates closed so you can’t accidently push on the gate and un-clip your rifle.
Choosing a sling the breakdown: Whether it be a multi-point sling, 2-point or single-point sling, they all do the same thing (keep the rifle on your body). But, as I’ve mentioned, I do see some being easier to use than others, and some being better in certain situations. One way to help decide on the right sling set up for you is to do a breakdown with each sling type and likely scenarios in which you might employ your rifle.
My rating system below is 1 to 3, with 3 being the highest or best rating for that sling, and for that given situation:
Sling Transitioning / Building Climbing / CQB / Maneuverability
Multi-point 2 2 2 1
Two point 3 3 2 2
Single Point 1 1 3 3
I think you have to look at what you’ll be doing 90% of the time with your rifle. So, using this breakdown to determine my own tactical rifle sling set-up, my preference is a single-point sling. While I might have to FAST rope or climb a building, those are usually just a small part of a mission. While having to transition to a pistol could conceivably happen in a real life scenario, it’s actually not as common in combat as one might think. I know of maybe a handfull of assaulters who have had to speed-transition to a pistol under pressure, and yet I know of hundreds of shooters including myself, that have done all our real world shooting solely with rifles and using good tac-reloads. Therefore I place more weight and importance on having a set-up that facilitates close quarters shooting in CQB/CQC environments.
The Wrap Up
I don’t think there is an “end-all, be-all” answer on which is the best sling type, but if you stick to the mindset of “what will I be using the rifle for 90% of the time?”, I think you can find a sling that best fits your needs and will also help facilitate better shooting.
Photo(s) Credit: Jeff Gurwitch. All photos are copyrighted by Jeff Gurwitch and DefenseReview.com (DR).
About the Author (Jeff Gurwitch):
- Has been a competitive shooter for the last 10 years: USPSA, IDPA, and 3-Gun.
- U.S. Army 3rd Special Forces Group, Ft. Bragg, NC.
- Spent 3 years as an instructor at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School
- Spent 8 years with U.S. Army 5th Special Forces Group, Ft. Campbell KY and did 3 tours in Iraq.
- Graduated the U.S. Army Special Forces Qualification course in 1998 as a Weapons Sergeant.
- Spent 7 years in the mechanized infantry and Airborne.
- Served in First Gulf War (Operation Desert Storm) in Iraq with the 1st Armored Division.|
- Joined the U.S. Army in June of 1990 as an infantryman.
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