Every once in a while, people on the Michigan Airsoft Forum post asking what sort of sling they should get. The answer, of course, depends on why they want a sling in the first place. Seting aside such imponderable answers as "my friends have slings and I feel left out," we can identify a few major reasons to use a sling.
On free-floated real steel weapons, slings can also be used to help reinforce the shooter's position. They can basically lock the angle of your supporting arm. This requires a different style of sling than most tactical purposes, and would be of interest only to truly dedicated snipers. If you really need information on how to use a sling for increased accuracy, try Google, or marksmanship forums.
In real combat use, a sling might also help the wearer retain their weapon. Airsoft games rarely allow physical contact at all, and I think I can safely assume no event will allow players to steal one another's weapons.
Why do I separate standing still from moving around? To be effective while moving around, the sling must naturally position the weapon close to the wearer but out of the way. In particular, it must not dangle in a way that would let interfere with the user's legs.
We can also identify three main types of slings:
The single point sling, as the name suggests, connects to the weapon at one point, usually toward the rear. This design keeps the the sling simple and small. Because it doesn't connect to the front of the weapon, the single point sling creates almost no difficuly in maneuvering the weapon. Worn high on the strong side and low on the weak side, it allows the user's primary weapon to fall naturally to the weak side when released, thus allowing for very fast transitions to a sidearm.
An interesting variation of the single point sling lets you clip the weapon directly to your LBE. This minimizes any inconvenience from the sling - it doesn't even have to wrap around your body. The bad news is it's a little harder to make them work perfectly when you transition to a sidearm. You'd have to clip on to your weak side, which in turn requires a longer sling to let you shoulder the weapon on your strong side, which in turn means that your replica will tend to hang rather low. Alternately, you can move the clip closer to the strong side, making it more controllable, but more likely to foul your draw. Nothing is perfect.
The weakness of the single point sling can be seen the moment you try to move with your weapon dangling from one. It provides no control over the muzzle side, which tends to bounce off your leg unless you devote a hand to keeping it in place.
If the single point sling attaches at the back of the weapon, where do you think the next obvious place would be? That's right, the front. Two point slings come in two flavors. The conventional shooting sling that just attaches to the weapon's sling loops is easy to find (or cheap to make) and works great as long as those sling loops are in the right place. For some designs, that's great. For others, like the AR-15, it makes tactical carry impossible. The AR-15, slung by the loops at the bottom of the stock and gas block, wants to be upside down. Few shooters find this desirable. If you fall into that majority who prefer to carry their weapons right side up, you need a two point sling that includes adapters to reposition the sling loops.
Assuming you can find one, this design is simple and works well all around. Worn high on the weak side and low on the strong side, the weapon (assuming the sling loops are on the top or side) will naturally fall to hand. Properly adjusted, it keeps the weapon above the waist, where it won't impede locomotion. If you need to transition to a sidearm, you can release your primary weapon and it will hang neatly in front of you. It may not drop to your weak side as neatly as it would if you had a single point sling, but it generally won't interfere.
If the two point sling has a drawback, it's that it fixes the muzzle of your weapon at a set distance from your weak shoulder. Unusual firing positions, especially trying to shoot off your weak shoulder, will be considerably impeded. Even fancy two point slings intended to make it easier to do that, like the Vickers sling from Blue Force Gear, suggest pulling your strong arm out of the sling first.
The three point sling still only touches your weapon at two points. The third point is you - the three point sling loops all around your body. This offers slightly more control over the weapon than a two point sling. It also creates a sort of reserve of webbing, which means you can get a much larger range of adjustment and more ways to wear a three point design. Other than the improved control over the weapon offered by the extra loop (and slightly different geometry that results), the three point sling behaves very much like a two point sling.
The bad news is that three point slings run a strap between the front and rear sling loops. It's not good to reach for the controls on your weapon's side and get a handful of tactical nylon instead. The loop wrapped around your body can hang up on your gear. Unless your sling is equipped with some sort of quick adjustment buckle, it's impossible to fire off your weak shoulder with a three point sling fitted. In short, three point slings make you pay for their flexibility and control by creating significant encumberance issues.
Larry Vickers wrote an article about why he likes his adjustable two point sling better than all the alternatives. It's hard to argue with him; on the other hand, it'd be awfully sad for him if he managed to get his own sling design into production and then had to admit that he liked something else better.
The folks at Specter, whose slings I rather like, have a guide showing six different ways to carry a weapon with a three point sling. I haven't tried them all, having never had to climb a mountain during an airsoft game.
On a somewhat different note, if you just can't figure out how to make sense of all this, you can always cheat. Blue Force Gear make the SOC-C Convertible Sling, which lets you buy one (expensive) sling and then mess about with its buckles to set it up as a one, two, or three point device. Even if you don't feel like buying an expensive sling, their web site is a fun surf.
You've come this far, so now I'll give you the short version. Given that airsoft guns don't eject shells, and most of them don't require you to use a bolt release, the three point sling offers outstanding control while standing, moving, or transitioning, and offers adequate flexibility when equipped with a quick adjust buckle. I prefer one for any game where I'm going to have to walk any distance to my start or respawn location. For CQB games, where the entire game takes place in a single building, I resort to a one point sling, because they give me the best options for maneuvering my weapon.
I use a two point sling on my PTW, because I need clear access to the bolt release, but I honestly don't like it so much. Contrary to expectation, I find that the two point sling gets hung up on my gear, while the loop around my body for a three point sling finds a groove and sits happily there.
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Even shorter version: single point sling for CQB, three point sling for outdoor games.
$Revision: 1.5 $ $Date: 2011/09/21 20:03:50 $