I recently got a question,
“To sling or not to sling? I recently was talking to my uncle and what it was like on Iwo Jima and some of the other islands he saw combat. He mentioned that as soon as the Marines got off the beach they ditched their rifle slings. So I started to ask other people that have been in combat, WWII, Korea and Viet Nam . The general consensus is slings are for “in” camp or marching. In actual battle they hated the thought of a sling on a rifle. The overall response was “there is a thousand ways a sling will get you killed”. They said things like “it makes noise no mater what you do” “it gets caught on everything; especially when you are under fire and running for cover” “it is such a nuance it is not worth having”. I thought about that and then I started looking at pictures from WWII, Korea and Viet Nam and most of the guys “in the shit” did not have slings. It looks to me “grunts humping it through the bush” do not use slings but at base they have them. Any thoughts on that? Steve”
This is a great question! I have been sitting here thinking about this after
reading your query. As Phil has pointed out there has always been a
love hate relationship with the sling and the rifle combo. I am by no
means saying any veteran is wrong or not, guys in combat do what they
want to make their life as easy as possible.
As Phil has pointed out, in the 80’s there was a major bifurcation
of tactics that occurred. The conventional Army was still training and
fighting with the tactics and procedures that evolved during Vietnam.
With the emergence of the ‘new terrorist” threat the Special
Operations community was evolving to meet those new threats focusing
on counter terrorism. With that focus came new weapons. Most notable
the adoption of the MP5 with it’s three point sling for close quarter
battle. These modern counter terrorism tactics have driven the
adoption of the sling as a required piece of gear. Try to imagine fast
roping out of a helicopter, driving a car, managing your night vision
device, communications equipment or placing a charge on a door without
a sling on your weapon. You would be required to place it some place
safe probably out of reach and therefore useless to the operator when
Murphy rears his head. A sling is simply a holster for a rifle, and on
today’s battlefield soldiers skills and tactics are more complex than
ever. Just take into account the fact that every rifleman on the
battlefield is also trained as a first responder to a wounded comrade.
It is not just the medics responsibility to treat wounded anymore.
Today the rifleman has a wide variety of sling types to chose
from. Gone are the days of the leather rifle sling (which is an
awesome shooting tool) as well as the black nylon parade sling I was
given in the late 80’s which was absolutely useless for anything other
than the drill field or stacking arms. Our choice for slings here at
TPA is still the 2 point adjustable sling verses the single point
because it gives the shooter more control and stability concerning his
rifle when the shooter has to use his hands for something other than
I hope this answers your question my brother. See you soon.
Senior Tactical Instructor
Texas Pistol and Rifle Academy