I’m going to have to explain a few things before I can properly review today’s product, so please bear with me; I will get there!
I’ve heard slings called the rifle’s equivalent of the pistol’s holster. It’s not a bad analogy, but that only speaks to carrying the rifle. The right type of sling can also improve one’s ability to get hits with the rifle.
What most shooters use to carry the rifle is a simple strap that allows them to carry it over their shoulder. There are also the so-called tactical slings that also allow you to carry the rifle across the chest or back, but those aren’t what we are going to look at here. We are looking instead at slings that brace the rifle to the shooter and increase the steadiness with which the shooter can employ the rifle. This means better hits.
The most common sling of this sort is probably the U.S. M1907 leather sling, which was issued up through WW II and is gradually being phased out for a web carry strap. This style sling is sometimes called a loop sling for the loop it creates that wraps around the bicep. It’s the loop that provides the support that steadies up the shooter and rifle and makes shooting more accurate. Lieutenant Colonel Jeff Cooper, USMC, in his work, The Art of Rifle, notes that the sling takes the weight of the rifle off of the support arm, thus “securing that contact to the support shoulder so that the left elbow is left in its flexed position by the strap itself without any support from the biceps.”
Cooper felt, as do many competitive shooters, that this only benefits the shooter when in a position where the elbow rests on a support, such as the ground, an object, or a support leg. While I hardly have the expertise of Cooper, I feel that I do obtain some help from a sling while in the standing position. Some competitors agree with me, but note that it happens when we are in a less than perfect, offhand position. When one gets into a proper standing position, we get bone-to-bone support that makes the sling superfluous. Personally, I have trouble getting into that sort of position without spending a lot of time and energy, so perhaps that’s why I find the sling beneficial while shooting offhand.
The problem with the M1907 style sling is that it takes time to adjust and get into them. It also takes training and practice to use. If you don’t keep that practice up, you will probably fumble when you try to use it. I know I do. Colonel Cooper, a better man that I am, said it takes five seconds to get into the military sling. In my view (and the Colonel’s), five seconds is a long time, and it would be a lot better if it were less. I also hate to admit it, but it takes me longer than five seconds to get into the M1907. That’s the practice thing rearing its ugly head.
If you do want to use the M1907, I highly recommend M/SGT James R. Owens’ book Leather Sling and Shooting Positions. It appears to be out of print, so used is the only option unless you want the Kindle version.
Some folks use the so-called hasty sling. This can be done with most any sort of strap that attaches on the butt of the stock and the fore-end of the rifle. You simply put your support arm between the sling and the rifle and then slip it around the sling and through a second time by the fore-end. It is harder to explain than to do, but it allows you to tighten yourself up to the rifle and get a somewhat more solid hold. It isn’t as solid as the military sling, but it is a lot faster. There is, however, a far better alternative both for speed and steadiness.
The CW Sling
The CW sling was discovered by Colonel Cooper when he was a guest of Carlos Widmann in Central America. Widmann was using a British sling system, called the Bisley two point sling. The canny Brits mounted a sling swivel ahead of the magazine on the rifle as well as on the butt and the fore-end. Attaching the rear end of the sling in front of the magazine and the fore-end allows it to form a loop that can be locked around the shooter’s upper arm, providing much of the solidity of the military sling. Cooper called it a “marvelous discovery.” That’s strong praise from such an expert, and he christened it the CW sling in honor of Widmann.
For normal carry, the CW sling is mounted on swivels located on the butt of the stock and on the fore-end. When the need arises for greater support, the shooter moves the sling from the butt swivel to the one by the trigger guard. With the CW sling, the shooter is able to obtain a solid position in less than two seconds, which is a big improvement over what can be done with the military sling. In my view, an even bigger advantage is that the CW sling is far simpler to employ than the military sling. While I don’t think it is quite as solid as the M1907 sling, it is much better than the hasty sling.
The Ching Sling
Eric Ching, a gentleman of the first order and an innovator of great talent, saw the CW sling as something to be improved. The problem with the CW is that it had to be shifted from the swivel on the butt to the swivel ahead of the trigger guard to be used for support. Eric felt that slowed the shooter. Ching, who sadly passed away before his time in 2007, was a graduate of multiple classes from Cooper at the Gunsite Training Center and worked with Cooper on his idea.
What Ching came up with was the idea of attaching a sliding short strap to the sling that attached to the center swivel. The sling is then attached to the fore-end and butt of the rifle. This eliminated the need to shift the sling from a carry position to the support position. It saves valuable time, allowing the shooter to take a solid position far more quickly than with the CW sling, while also allowing the shooter to instantly sling the rifle over the shoulder without adjustment. The short strap can be slid backwards to form a loop that functions just as the CW sling. When it is time to carry the rifle, the short strap slides up towards the front swivel and stays out of the way. It is truly a better mousetrap. It might be even faster than a hasty sling, while far more solid.
The Ching sling was originally made by icon Bruce Nelson, who like Eric, passed away well before his time. Geoff Beneze of Beast Enterprise then made them. Geoff was also a multi Gunsite grad and well understood the concept, though he has retired and no longer makes them. Next, Galco began making a leather one, and The Wilderness brought out a web version.
Of all of the current versions, I am most fond of the leather one from Andy Langlois. Andy is a multiple Gun Site graduate, just as was Eric Ching, and it just feels right to buy the sling from a kindred spirit of Eric’s. The other versions are also well made, but there is something about soul, and Andy’s slings have it. The quality of his work is excellent, and the slings make a functional and attractive addition to any rifle.
The Rhodesian Sling
The one drawback of the CW and Ching slings is that they need three swivel mounts installed on the stock. Andy has a friend in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), and the two of them came up with a solution– the Rhodesian sling. The chap in Africa wanted something that would work like the Ching sling for his clients, but they usually didn’t want the third swivel on their rifles. The Rhodesian sling has a loop in the front half that can be wrapped around the bicep. The shooter merely inserts their arm into the loop up to the bicep and shoulders the rifle, just as they would a CW or Ching sling. It is fast and simple to use.
Of the two slings, assuming the rifle has three swivels, I think I slightly prefer the Ching sling to the Rhodesian, but I have used the Ching a lot more. It is possible that’s the reason for my preference, but I also find the Rhodesian has a bit more leather hanging off the front of the rifle than the Ching. Andy says he goes back and forth between the two slings and that you can trim the Rhodesian down, once you settle on the adjustments, so the extra leather really isn’t an issue. I’m still learning mine, so I don’t want to cut it, and I know my cuts won’t be as neat as Andy’s.
Andy gets $50 for the Ching sling and $55 for the Rhodesian. For the money, you get well-crafted slings made of high quality leather. You can choose 1” or 1 ¼” width slings in black, walnut, or chestnut colors. The chestnut is deep and rich, and I really like it. You can also choose brass, nickel, or Cerakoted black hardware. Brass appeals most to me, but the black is probably the best choice for hunting or self-defense.
I should point out that the popular AR-15 platform can have issues with slings. The front sling mount is usually attached directly to the barrel, and the tension of a tight sling can bend the barrel enough to affect shots. There are handguards that free float the barrel to prevent this problem, but that’s not what we find on most AR’s. A loop sling that provides support puts a lot of tension on the barrel, so this is a factor, I suspect, in the demise of the loop sling in our military.
Slings are an essential accessory on a rifle that is to be used in the field. I highly recommend you check these out, especially for a hunting rifle.
I would like to dedicate this article to Eric Ching. He was gracious enough to trade emails with me several times and helped me understand and use his invention. A lot of folks miss him.
Fiebings Acrylic Resolene
I often whine about how badly sweat affects leather holsters in the hot, dank climate in which I live. It eats through the leather’s finish and then soaks through the leather and into the gun inside the holster. I’m outside a lot, and the resulting sweat has caused serious corrosion problems as well as ruined holsters. Initially, many holsters hold up to it, but eventually, sweat wins. I’ve tried a number of waterproofing treatments that I used successfully on shoes and boots, but they never seemed to work as well on holsters. I think there is just too much moisture coming off the body and it’s corrosive. An undershirt helps but doesn’t solve the problem.
I recently made my whine to someone at one of the best holster shops on the planet and he suggested I send my holsters back for another coat of acrylic. As I was about to box a couple up, I decided to investigate how acrylic finishes are applied to leather to see if this is something I might be able to do myself. That could save money and time as well as create independence. That research led me to Fieblings Acrylic Resolene.
I’m not completely sure what is in the stuff, but Fiebings says it is “flexible, durable, and water resistant.” I presume, since the name includes the word acrylic, that there must be some of that in it. At any rate, Resolene is a milky liquid that I used on a couple of well-worn but still loved holsters. Both of them had been saddle soaped, waxed, and oiled, but both were still letting sweat through, so it was either give up, toss them, or try something new.
Since I had used so much other stuff on the holsters, I figured I should try to clean them first. My research led me to Fiebings Deglazer. It is recommended as a prep for the Resolene. It removes old finishes to make the leather receptive to absorbing the Resolene. It didn’t remove the dye, but it did leave the leather clean, porous, and dull– ready for a finish. The Deglazer, by the way, has a nasty smell, so it is best used with good ventilation. After applying the deglazer with a clean cotton rag, I let it dry for a few minutes. The Resolene seems pretty benign, so I spread it with my fingers. It took several coats, but the low gloss finish returned to both holsters. Even better, both have survived range trips and all-day carry without sweat getting through the surface coat.
The Deglazer evaporates quickly, so it seems like it might get used up before the same size bottle of Resolene, which looks like a long-term supply. I have only used it on holsters, but I suspect it will work nicely on most smooth leathers. It’s not for suede, though.
Both products sell for about $8.00 on Amazon in 4-ounce bottles.
– SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Scot Frank Eire