Does Your Rifle Need A Sling?

Short answer: Yes

Long answer: Yeeeessssss

In all seriousness though, there are very few times where you shouldn’t have a sling on your rifle. If your rifle is a safe queen, a sling can catch on other guns and cause some tangling, which may scratch the finish.

If your sling is a pure plinking gun, and never used for anything else, a sling is optional.  Not really a detriment, but not a lot of benefit either.

3-Gun competition and PCC at a USPSA match are gun games that might actually be better off without s sling. A sling could hold you up for a moment, and that could be enough to significantly alter your score and placement. I’d avoid a sling in those two events.

Other than than the instances above, I really think you should have a sling. Here’s why:

Safety in Movement

In my hunter safety course I took years and years ago, they put a heavy emphasis on moving through the field with a weapon safely. The idea of people just traipsing through fields and woods and over crevices, streams, logs, washouts, and just generally uneven terrain with loaded weapons is a little bit scary. They heavily emphasized ways to reduce the dangers associated with this style of movement for good reason. Those reasons are still valid.

When you have a sling on your rifle or shotgun, moving while retaining positive control of the weapon requires fewer hands. Just plain old walking around doesn’t require even a single hand anymore. If you place the sling from one shoulder to the opposite hip, you can walk around without any hands on the gun and still have positive control over the weapon. If you place one of your hands on the weapon in this style of sling carriage you can do some very vigorous activity and still retain positive control over the weapon. Stuff that would require two hands to maintain control of the weapon, like sprinting, now only requires one hand on the gun, sometimes zero. You can now have at least one if not both hands completely free with which you can use to maneuver over obstacles, to deal with the environment around you, or even just carry other things.

A sling is mandatory when hunting

If you want to move safely with a weapon, over anything besides smooth, flat man made surface, a sling is critical.

Stability in Shooting

A sling is also useful for more than just safely getting from one point to another. People have learned how to ‘sling up’ a rifle to actually help them shoot better. It seems that this used to be very common amongst competition shooters back when competitions were, ironically, more static affairs than they are today. There are a lot of shooting slings that are made for the sole purpose of ‘slinging up’ and shooting, being able to also carry the gun is a by-product, or after thought, of their design.

A 1907 sling. A sling specialized for shooting. There is an entire technique for putting it on.

Using a sling to shoot better is a dying art. I am not one of the practitioners, merely someone who is aware of it. I’m still trying to learn it as well. There are some people who are doing their best to keep it alive.

The Art of the Rifle blog is a very good place to learn more about it. There are a bunch of articles teaching the technique of slinging up and getting stable. If this interests you, that’s where I’d go first. He also sells slings in his store, i

Steve Fisher, of Sentinel Concepts, is another one of those practitioners. In his rifle classes he usually covers at least some very basic instruction on how to use the sling to increase your stability when shooting.

Weapon Retention

This, in my opinion, is really the most important reason to have a sling on your gun. According to surveys, most millennial-aged gun owners, and new gun owners in general, purchase their weapons for self defense reasons. For a self defense gun in a sling is mandatory.

The first rule of a gunfight is to have a gun. If you are in a fight and someone takes your gun from you, you have violated the first rule of gun fight. Police officers have what are known as retension holsters. The police officers carry their guns on the outside of their belt in view of the general public. They have to have a way to hold on to that gun. When holstered, the holster holds onto the gun for them. After drawing the gun, cops have certain weapon retention techniques that they use to ensure they don’t lose their weapon in a hand-to-hand fight. I don’t want to have to explain how that would be very bad for police officer.

If you have a home defense gun, and that gun is a rifle or shotgun, then you should be similarly concerned with holding on to that gun in some sort of fight. Inside of your house there is not a lot of distance so if you are going to get into a fight with somebody it is most likely going to be very close, if not at arm’s length.

One of the benefits of a sling over a retention holster is that a sling holds onto your gun even when you are firing it. A retention holster can only hold onto a handgun while it is holster and while it is holstered it is not it usable. A rifle or shotgun can be fired while still attached to the user via the sling. This gives a slung rifle or shotgun yet another inherent benefit over using a pistol for self-defense.

If that person that you are fighting with grabs ahold of your gun, you don’t want them to be able to just yank on it and take it from you. That would be violating the first rule of gun fighting. A sling gives you that protection. If somebody grabs onto the end of your muzzle and yanks on it or uses it as a three foot leveraging arm against you, that gun is basically tether to your body. Wherever they try to take that gun, you are going to go along with it. Now that person may be able to shove you around, especially if they have some sort of strength or weight advantage, but they will not be able to move you away from your gun if it is literally tied onto your body.

Home defense gun, with retention device.

If you are serious about your home defense rifle or shotgun, you should put a sling on it and learn use it. If you are going to run a sling on your home defense guns you need to practice with it. There is a bit of learning how to throw the sling on. To figuring out where you like it. To getting it adjusted properly for you.

Once again, I am not the person to really ask about that, but there are a lot of resources both in person and online. Those resources are much easier to find than practitioners of the above art of using the sling for stability. It shouldn’t take you very long, if you are serious about it, to find someone who knows about this aspect of sling use. Go find them, learn from them, and be safer in the future.


Get a sling for that home defense gun. It’s a very versatile, robust addition that really makes a rifle or shotgun much more usable. There are few good reasons not to do so.

One of those good reasons is that a sling can get all tangled on stuff when not being used. Thankfully, there are solutions to that as well. There are sling storage accessories that hold the sling to the body of the gun when stored and keep it from hanging onto stuff. The two I know of are the Bubba Tab ($15) and the Sentry Strap ($35-$40). Accomplish the same thing different ways, so it behooves you to look at both and see which one fits you better personally.

As to what sling you should have on your rifle, I’m not going to tell you. There are a ton of options out there, and most of them are pretty good. I run a Magpul 2-point, but that’sa result of circumstance more than anything else. If you go with a Blue Force or Viking Tactics sling, you’ll be just as well off.

A sling, not the sling.

Wrapping Up

I hope you guys have had a beneficial and useful quarantine period. My state is starting to open up and life is starting to go back to normal around here. What will never go back? We’ll have to wait and see. I wish you guys and gals good luck & good health.

Stay safe, and I’ll see you next Friday. -S_S

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