I've often stressed shooting without the aid of the bench. I've written that a tight prone position is very nearly as stable, and that sighting in from the prone position benefits the shooter not only by giving him the opportunity to exercise the position, but also by stressing the six steps to following the shot. It occurs to me that many may not know how to use their slings as a shooting aid, and as such, are not getting the most benefit from position shooting. By using the loop and hasty sling consistently in position shooting, it is my belief that the shooter will begin to see success in his marksmanship, and will no longer want to use a shooting bench for sighting and shooting.

I believe that a sling, and proper sling use, is vital to shooting like a Rifleman. Making hits passed 300 meters, with iron sights, isn't going to happen consistently without a tight sling. For my example, I will describe the proper use of the web sling as issued with the M1 Garand and the M14 (including its semiautomatic variants, the M1A, M14S, M14SA, etc.). This sling was an essential piece of wartime kit for three generations, and is most commonly available made from cotton canvas webbing, although later issue, including the current issue in use by Army and Marine designated marksman M14 slings are Nylon; these are superior to their cotton equivalent, and are well proven. I highly recommend these slings (the cotton and Nylon) over the leather 1907 sling. Many match shooters prefer the leather; and although I agree that they are quite attractive and old school when well made, they are more susceptible to inclement weather, and will rot from hard use. This is not match riflery. This is field shooting. Although it is specifically for the M1 and M14 rifles, you may be able to adapt it to the FAL and HK91 systems. Certainly, the same sling usage applies to all these rifles, plus the AR15 and AR10 rifles. The web sling has four parts (see figure one). They are the spring clip, which attaches the sling to the butt end swivel, the buckle (permanently attached to the sling), for adjusting the sling's length, the sling itself, and the keeper (the buckle that holds the slings adjustment). Attach the spring clip to the butt end swivel with the buckle's loop facing out, away from the stock. The sling's keeper should be on the sling, with its hasp facing inward (toward the stock) and up toward the upper sling swivel. Bring the end of the sling outside, and place it through the upper sling swivel. Lace the end of the sling through the keeper. Now, with the sling in place, you can adjust it to fit (see images).



(Figure 1, disassembled sling pieces)




(Figure 2, assembling the sling)




(Figure 3, assembling the pieces continued)




(Figure 4, attaching the keeper)




(Figure 5, keeper attached)

With the sling attached, hold the rifle horizontally. The sling will hang down from the swivels. Place the thumb of one hand under the grip (the small of the stock) and splay your fingers out making your hand span as far as it is able. Adjust the sling length with the keeper until it just touches your smallest finger. Later you can fine-tune the adjustment from position; but this should get the sling to the right length to start (Figure 6).



(Figure 6, determining proper slack)

There are two basic configurations, and one variation on the second, for using the sling as a shooting aid. The first is the loop sling, used in the prone and sitting positions. To make a loop sling, begin by detaching the sling from the rifle's butt by sliding the spring clip from the rear swivel, leaving the sling attached to the rifle at the front. It is usually easier to perform the next steps kneeling, with the rifle butt on the ground, and the barrel resting on your shoulder (be careful doing this on the firing line with a hot rifle. I once wore a brand for days made by a hot barrel that- very briefly- touched my neck). Hold the spring clip and buckle in your strong hand (right for right-handed shooters, left for left-handed shooter). Now feed some of the sling back through the buckle, forming a loop of material (Figure 7). Twist the sling a half turn away from you (this is very important: turn the sling away from you). The spring clip will now be facing up (Figure 8). Holding the sling in your strong hand (again, right for right-handed shooters). Use your weak hand fingers to grab the cuff of your shooting jacket's sleeve. This will prevent the sleeve from riding up when you put the sling on your arm (Figure 9). Now, slide the sling loop as far onto your arm as possible, even up to your armpit. The USMC jacket has a brachial pad on the support arm sleeve, ostensibly to keep your rifle from moving in time with your brachial pulse. In my experience, placing the sling above the pad will keep the sling from sliding back down the arm in rapid fire shooting. If you have made the loop correctly, it will tighten when you pull on the sling (Figure 10). If not, start over, you have made a mistake somewhere. From position, the sling should be so tight that the shooter will have to place the stock into the shoulder pocket with the strong hand, and cam the strong arm down, forming a good shoulder pocket. If the sling is so tight that you lose feeling in your fingers, it is just about tight enough (not really, loosen it up just a little bit if it is that tight). We will go over that again when we address positions in detail.



(Figure 7, form a loop)




(Figure 8, twist the loop, note that the clip faces up)




(Figure 9, be sure to hold your sleeve)




(Figure 10, the self-tightening sling)

The other sling configuration (and its variation) is the hasty sling, and the hasty-hasty sling. Riflemen use these principally in the offhand, or standing, position. For these configurations, begin with the sling attached to the rifle, as we began for the loop sling. Hold the rifle by the small of the stock horizontally, with the sling hanging below it. Put your support arm through the hole created by the sling and rifle (Figure 11). Reach are far as you can, again so that the sling is up to your armpit. If you stop here, and shoulder the weapon, you have the hasty-hasty sling. If you wrap your arm around the outside of the sling loop, and back inside the sling, effectively weaving your arm around the sling, and back on the fore end of the stock, that is the hasty sling (Figure 12). It is slower to assume, but helps hold the rifle tight to your shoulder. If the sling is tight enough, you will have to place the rifle into your shoulder pocket with strong hand.



(Figure 11, starting the hasty sling)




(Figure 12, Assuming the hasty sling. This is the position for the hasty-hasty sling)




(Figure 13, the weaving the arm through, finishing with the hasty sling)

One of the would-be Rifleman's objectives is to learn to shoot from unsupported positions, using the rifle's sling as a shooting aid. Confidence in using the sling, and in using tight shooting positions, and perseverance therein, will increase the marksman's ability, until he or she can proudly assume the title "Rifleman.
A Rifleman, but not a sheepdog.
Sheep can be controlled by the sheepdog for the same reason they fear the wolf -- they are both predators. The same relationships hold with the general population, the police, and the criminals. Most people are sheep, but you don't have to be. If you have the skills and attitude of a predator the criminals will leave you alone- because they will recognize you as a predator and there is easier game available.