Get a Rifle Sling with Some Cling
Dr. John Woods 11.10.14
Sometimes a topic seems so simple that we laugh at the title. This could be one of those ideas. I mean, a rifle sling is a rifle sling, right? All they were designed to do is tote a rifle over the shoulder. What could be so complicated about that?
Ask yourself this one simple question. Are you happy with the rifle sling you have on your primary hunting rifle? Do you even pay much attention to how well it functions at the job it was created to perform? Does it bear the weight of your fully loaded hunting rig with a reasonable level of comfort and security? Has it ever slipped off your shoulder causing you to drop your rifle? Yeah, I thought so.
Certainly, a rifle sling should carry the weight of your hunting rifle securely on your shoulder. Most hunters simply throw the sling installed rifle over the shoulder and hike on. I suspect most hunters pay little attention to the performance of their rifle sling until it starts digging into their shoulder and collar bone after they have shifted it from one shoulder to the next back and forth several times. Are there better approaches or better materials to make rifle carry more comfortable and stable?
Personally, I hate a rifle sling that constantly slips off the shoulder, causing me to grab the rifle quickly or otherwise find it lying in the mud. A few years ago I was coming down the ladder of a 16-foot tripod stand with my unloaded rifle slung over my shoulder. During the process of changing hand grips on the ladder rungs and body movement shifts coming down the ladder the rifle sling came off the shoulder and escaped my grip in a nanosecond.
My favorite Browning deer rifle dinged down the metal ladder and landed barrel first into the muddy ground. The rifle stuck perfectly vertical down with the barrel into the mud about eight inches. With great despair I inspected the gun only to find a small scratch on the scope, but no dents. Back at camp, I scrubbed the barrel thoroughly with a brass brush and re-lubricated it, and then I wiped down the whole rifle rig.
Then I unattached that lousy nylon sling and threw it away. At that moment I initiated the search for a better sling that had some gripping power to secure my rifle against my hunting clothes and body. (And just in case you are curious, I was surprised the rifle continued to shoot ideal groups at the target range without any changes after the drop.)
A standard nylon sling is a poor excuse for an accessory to carry a heavy hunting rifle. Now, on a lightweight .22 rifle like a Ruger 10-22 or something like that, a simple nylon sling works. I cannot argue against a nylon sling being tough and durable, but it is also slick and easily slips off the shoulder. And it’s somewhat abrasive and uncomfortable, especially for those common slings that are only an inch wide.
Narrow leather slings also fit into this same category to my way of thinking. Now I do own and use a couple of 2-3 inch wide leather slings, one with a wool fleece type facing that carries a rifle well and is pretty good about staying in place on the shoulder, but there is no stretch to it. Some hunters and target shooters like the old fashioned Army type leather sling with multiple holes and a claw type hook adjustment. It’s just not for me.
The newer “rubber” type slings like a Quake Industries Claw sling seem to serve pretty well. I have had some issues with them once they get wet in a light rain or mist. They are easy to grip in, and the polymer pad is non-slip and stretches for added comfort during long carries.
Some fabric slings made of cotton, nylon synthetics, or polyesters that feature a gripping surface sewn down the center of the sling work pretty well, too. I have one of those I use solely on my Remington 11-87 turkey shotgun and it does well.
Of all the slings that I have tried over the years and now use almost exclusively on all my regular bolt action and AR hunting rifles are made of elastic neoprene. The brand I buy is Vero Vellini in different widths and colors. The end tabs of these slings are over sewn with leather for extra durability and appeal. Bar none these neoprene slings are the most comfortable I have used in all kinds of hunting, east and west in both good and bad weather. They stretch and give with any body movements and can carry a 10-12 pound rifle rig comfortably all day.
Sling attachments come in all types, too. Unfortunately, my all-time favorite Uncle Mike’s one-inch sling attachments without the screw down lock are no longer made as far as I can tell. I like the old type push button sling swivel that rotated the end piece to the side so the bar could be slipped out of the swivel stud on the rifle.
I always installed these swivels in opposite directions so each end of the sling “pulled” against each other. I never had one come open or off inadvertently. If I could find some more of these old style swivels, I would buy them in a minute.
As it is, the newer type swivels have the locking screw down security caps. There really is nothing wrong with these, though occasionally I notice they do unscrew themselves with use. These screw locks can be fidgety to unlock with wet hands or gloves.
Also, I prefer metal sling swivels to anything else. They make ABS plastic and hardened nylon types, but I have had them break and warp so I no longer use them. Metal ones do require inspection for rust. A simple brushing with a bronze/brass gun cleaning brush and some oil fixes that in a couple minutes. Also adding a couple drops of oil periodically to the swivel installed into the rifle stock stud will prevent them from squeaking.
So, you thought a rifle sling was a simple deal huh? Well, they are if you find one that works for you and provides all day carry comfort and rifle security. Trust me you don’t want to have a hunting rifle rig slip off your shoulder on an expensive western elk hunt and bang the whole thing off a big rock. Been there, done that.