Competitive Shooting

How To Use a Sling as a Shooting Rest

Man firing rifle with sling support

A rifle may be a precision instrument. A properly set up rifle is amazingly accurate out to hundreds of yards.

Firing a rifle from a solid benchrest offers rock-solid stability. However, firing while standing from a field position is another matter.

When firing off-hand, it is more difficult to keep a rifle steady.

The same applies to shotguns when firing with rifled slugs, primarily when the shotgun is used in a tactical role.

While a sturdy well-designed sling is necessary for weight-bearing and carrying the firearm, a rifle sling may also be used to steady the rifle for greater practical accuracy.

While a rifle must be held in a steady firing position, this type of grip may stress the arms.

The use of a rifle sling tightens the hold and allows for a more relaxed firing position.

The result is off-hand accuracy rivaling, and in some cases equaling, benchrest accuracy.

The use of a tactical sling will result in greater control during rapid shot strings.

man firing rifle with sling support
Use several different types of wrap techniques during practice.

Sling Positioning

The proper means of “slinging up,” as it is called, is to first grasp the rifle forend. The support hand is used and the firing hand grasps the handle.

The sling should be looped around the forearm and tension should be formed at the elbow.

Get the rifle butt tight into the hollow of the shoulder and maintain tension.

The sling should be properly adjusted to bring the rifle into tension with the support arm keeping the sling tight.

In general, I find I am more accurate in the beginning of a shooting session when using a sling properly.

At 50 yards, I think I am about 20 percent as likely to hit the target and keep a good group on a pie plate target.

However, as time goes on and the muscles are stressed and stretched from the firing session, the use of a sling compared to my usual tired self at this point makes up to 50 percent difference in effectiveness.

The same is true proportionately at 100 yards. Keep it looped over elbow and tighten the triceps, and you will have similar results.

man firing shotgun with sling support
With practice, the shotgun handles quickly and delivers good accuracy.

Firing Best Practices

When moving to a kneeling position, the sling remains a great aid to marksmanship.

Keep the support-side elbow firmly planted on the knee and keep the sling in tight.

A kneeling position reduces stress and tension and makes for greater accuracy at longer range.

As you move around, the relationship of the elbow, forend and support hand may change, resulting in a different feel.

Keep the tension high and use proper grip technique and breath control at longer range.

I recommend practicing bringing the rifle off your shoulder and getting into the proper sling position as you assume the firing position.

It is much slower to get into a firing position and then attempt to sling up.

There are different techniques based on the chore. Firing off-hand, from kneeling or firing from behind cover will demand certain adjustments.

Shotgun with sling on wood table
Shotguns also benefit from good slings.

Selecting a Sling

If you look over the CheaperThanDirt! selection, there are many rifle slings to fit every need. Some are leather, some are fabric.

These slings are designed as loading-bearing devices. Some are designed to aid marksmanship as well.

A sling for use in competition is more complex, usually leather, and may require a modest break-in before it stops creaking.

Just coat it every week or so with saddle soap or leather treatment and it will break in, becoming more supple.

Stretching the sling from time to time is also a good technique. For tactical use, a synthetic sling works well and may offer less slippage.

Cotton slings are minimal and don’t last very long. A sling with excellent range of adjustment is good.

Leather competition slings are usually hard to adjust and difficult to adjust quickly, but they are excellent for static shooting.

A sling with a greater range of easy adjustment is needed for tactical use, as there are different positions used.

Whatever sling you use, practice. This may easily be done with dry fire. I think that while some like a bipod, bipods are for static long-range fire.

The sling is much more versatile and allows a rigid stance in many field scenarios.

Give them a try and you will find slings are must-have additions to your rifles.

Have you used slings to help stabilize your rifles? Let us know how it worked out in the comments below!

About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.

Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Rifle Magazine
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns

Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (4)

  1. Good article, I have been using the sling as a rest for years going back to the 70’s when I was in the Army. It has always worked well for me.

    Unfortunately, I had a stroke in ’94, which left me with a bit of a tremor in my left arm/hand when I try to hold it still, and it is just on my left. (I also have a tendency to drag my left foot and that is the first side to go when I need to get my boots reheeled and resoled.) If I am trying to shoot offhand, with just the sling as a support, looking through my scope will almost make me dizzy due to the exaggerated movement of whatever power my scope is set to.

    My way of dealing with that was going to Lowe’s, buying two very straight, (I rolled them on the floor to check for straight) 1″ x 4 foot long wooden dowels. I drilled a hole in both of them down about 6″ from one end and put a long bolt, with washers and capped it with a nut and after I checked it for function out some J-B Weld over the end of the nut so it wouldn’t come loose. I found some crutch tips that fit on the bottom side of the sticks and I have used these for a long time. Using those sticks, I have taken deer at distances of a tad over 400 yards.

    Since making these first ones, the 4 foot, I made another using 5 foot dowels and fitted it the same way. I got some camo duct tape to cover each of them. They also work for my crossbow.

  2. Nice article! I think most new rifle shooters,(and some older ones), have never heard of using a sling as a stabilizer. We learned that when training on the M-16. Use the same technique with the AR-15,and my M-1Carbine. Have passed this along to help other shooters. Feedback has always been positive.

  3. Liked the arrival. I have found that most new rifle shooters have never heard of / practiced the technique. We were taught to use the sling when training with the M-16, making it much more stable. Still use it to this day with my AR and M1 carbine.

  4. I started with target slings and padded shooting jackets on Mossberg 144s in 1966 for target shooting.Very rigid approach.That said,Jeff Cooper showed what he called a”ching sling”-like what you’re showing.
    More versatile for general hunting.Note that any of these slings -may-change point of impact because that changed pressure on the barrel.One can also use crossed sticks or those commercial free standing bipods

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