Article by Brad Steenrod
Do I Need a Sling for my AR-15?
The sling is one of the most important – and most overlooked – accessories that every AR15 should have. Basic modifications, like optics, handguards, stocks, grips, or triggers, are great ways to upgrade your rifle, but first, buy yourself a sling.
Well, the average AR-15 weighs between six and seven pounds unloaded. With a magazine full of ammunition, a red-dot or magnified optic, backup iron sights, a vertical fore-grip, and all of the other cool-looking accessories you want, you end up with a significantly heavier weapon. If you were to take that rifle on a hike for a few miles, you’d be ordering a sling on your smartphone before you were halfway through it.
The purpose of a sling is to allow the shooter to carry their weapon in relative comfort without interfering with their ability to use their hands, just like a holster for a pistol.
Regardless of whether you are spending a couple hours at the range, or out hunting all day, the sling is a critical piece of gear that makes lugging around an AR 15 not quite comfortable, but certainly bearable. However, not all slings are created equal – each type has a different purpose, and different positive and negative aspects to consider.
The Single-Point AR-15 Sling
When you mentally picture a single-point sling, think of a lasso or slipknot, but with a clip on the end opposite the loop. To wear one properly, put your head and dominant arm through the loop, attach the clip to the rifle and adjust the length of the sling as needed. The rifle will hang freely in front of you, with the barrel pointed towards the ground.
In close quarters situations, a single-point sling is hard to beat; it gives the shooter freedom of movement, allowing them to aim freely, move quickly, and transition to their opposite (support) shoulder if needed.
When not in use, the rifle hangs within reach, ready for you to grab the pistol grip and bring it to your shoulder. You can also push the rifle to the side in order to be able to run freely.
However, that freedom of movement is a double-edged sword because when you are moving around, the barrel can come smashing into your knees like a battering ram.
You might not experience that particular unpleasantness when casually trying one on, but you will certainly feel it after a day on the range or out in the field. Additionally, the lack of a forward connection point means that you cannot use the sling to brace your rifle against your shoulder when firing.
- Allows rapid access to the firearm
- Unrestricted movement when rifle is in use
- Easy to put on and take off
- Unrestricted movement when rifle is NOT in use
- No added shooting support
The Two-Point AR-15 Sling
The traditional two-point sling is a simple strap that runs between the barrel and the stock of your rifle so that it can be carried on your back, a design that has been around for hundreds of years.
However, modern two-point slings are designed so that the rifle hangs in front of you, with the barrel pointed toward the ground on your support side and the stock near your dominant shoulder. This placement allows the shooter to bring the rifle to bear smoothly and quickly or push the weapon to the side when it’s not needed.
Many have quick-adjust tabs that allow you to resize the strap as you shoulder the weapon, increasing or decreasing the slack to suit your tactical needs. Wrapping your support arm under and around the strap’s forward connection point will pull the rifle against your shoulder, increasing accuracy when engaging far-away targets. The reduced likelihood of bloodied knees while running is also a definite plus.
Unfortunately, that extra point means reduced mobility. Transitioning from your dominant shoulder to your support shoulder can be cumbersome, even with quick-adjust tabs. You will want to practice using those tabs as well because they can be a little tricky to the uninitiated.
- Ease of access to the firearm
- Provides a stable shooting platform
- More control of movement when rifle is not in use
- Less freedom of movement
- Transitioning between shoulders is more difficult
- Quick-adjust tabs make operation a little more complicated
The Three-Point AR-15 Sling
The three-point AR 15 sling is essentially a hybrid of its single- and two-point predecessors. Like a single-point, it has a loop through which you put your head and dominant arm, and the tail of the loop connects near the stock of your rifle; the loop also has a strap that attaches to the front end of your AR15, like a two-point sling. If this sounds complicated to you, don’t worry – it is.
The three-point sling does a few things very well – it secures the rifle to your body, keeps it in place when you are moving, and allows you to transition to multiple different carry positions with relative ease.
However, it is also much more complicated to operate; the shooter may get themselves tangled, or worse – inadvertently immobilize their rifle when it’s most needed. Also, three-point slings have been known to hang up on the bolt release or block the ejection port.
- Ease of access to the rifle
- Best weapon retention capability
- Transition to multiple carry positions easily
- Most complicated sling
- Improper use can result in tangling or restricted movement
- Potential to snag on parts of your rifle
Marksman AR-15 Slings – The Ching, the CW, and the Cuff
Unlike a three-point sling, a Ching Sling actually connects to your rifle at three distinct points – one near the stock, and one both front and rear of the handguard. The conventional front and rear points enable you to carry it like a two-point, and the third – a strap running from the sling to the middle connection point – allows you to pull the rifle tightly into your shoulder.
In comparison, the CW (or Cooper/Widmann) sling is essentially the same as a traditional two-point sling, but with a third connection point available at the rear of the handguard. Using quick-detach mounts, the user can unclip the sling from the stock and attach it to the middle connection point, enabling it to be used as a brace.
These two styles are remarkably similar, and offer the same middle-point stabilizing advantage – the key difference is that the CW lets you choose which connection point you want to use, whereas the Ching does not.
Finally, the Cuff sling is arguably one of the simplest slings designed with marksmanship in mind. It is essentially just a standard two-point sling, but with a simple cuff attached that the shooter loops around their bicep when firing. This enables them to increase tension on the sling without having to deal with extraneous straps and connection points.
AR-15 Sling Materials, Construction, and Installation
Slings can be made from a wide variety of materials, and those have a direct impact on durability and comfort. Just remember, there are a lot of options out there, so do your research on pricing and customer reviews before you buy.
- Leather slings can last a long time and are typically pretty comfortable, but are the most difficult to adjust due to material thickness and friction.
- Padded slings are the most comfortable, but the added bulk of the padding can be off-putting to some users.
- Good tactical slings use heavy-duty nylon and reinforced polymer or metal hardware – they are durable, but not as comfortable as leather.
Your rifle may come with a built-in sling mount – if not, they are inexpensive and easy to install. While your rifle’s stock may have a strap attachment point, many users prefer to connect their strap to mounts attached to the rifle’s top rail. If you are going this route, quick-detach mounts are a great choice, especially if you anticipate heavy use.
So, Which Sling Should I Get?
In conclusion, selecting the right sling is a personal choice that must be based on your specific shooting needs. If you are looking for the simplest sling possible, it’s hard to argue with the single point – there is no learning curve with it, and it gives you the freedom of movement you need in a high-stress situation.
For more stability when in motion, the modern two-point would be your next best bet, and for marksmen, any of the three (Ching, CW, or Cuff) will provide you with a solid shooting brace.
Regardless of what sling you choose, there is one thing you must do once you have it – practice; you need to know how your rifle behaves when it’s strapped to your body. Move around while wearing it, get used to the weight distribution, learn how the rifle moves, and practice shouldering it repeatedly.
The more familiar you are with the feel and motion of wearing your AR15, the faster you will be able to shoulder your weapon – either to take down that deer, or defend yourself against an intruder.
This is especially important for more complex slings. An adjustable two-point sling may take some getting used to, and a three-point will definitely require time for familiarization.
If you aren’t prepared or able to invest the time and effort into in-depth training, keep it simple and stick with a basic single-point or standard two-point, or you can pick up a multi-purpose sling.
One Last Tip
If there’s anyone that knows the AR-15 platform, it’s the US military. As a special offer for our readers, you can get the Official US Army Manual for AR-15/M4/M16 right now – for free. Click here to snag a copy.