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Making the Case to Sling Up for Home Defense

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This article originally appeared in RECOIL Issue 42

The Thing About Slings

Any question regarding sling use on a home-defense long-gun used to be simple to answer. Conventional wisdom was thoroughly against it. They just tangled up on things, and who needed to sling up for improved accuracy at the sort of ranges you find in the typical suburban dwelling anyway?

Some people even invoked the experiences of various elite units in the brushfire guerrilla wars of the ’60s and ’70s. “The 27th Elite Regiment didn’t allow slings while patrolling for People’s Army terrorists in the jungles of Backwoodistan!” How exactly this factoid related to defending Fort Livingroom from J. Random Crackhead was left as an exercise for the imagination.

By the mid ’90s, opinions on slings began to shift, largely due to the influence of early firearms training schools like Gunsite and Thunder Ranch, that taught slings were to a long-gun what a holster was to a handgun. In an article reprinted in the Guns & Ammo 1995 Annual, the late Gary Sitton touted the Scattergun Technologies (now absorbed into Wilson Combat) upgrades to his Remington 870 for home defense, and those included sling swivels and a simple two-point sling.

Slings Bad

There’s a certain amount of validity to the anti-sling POV, here, even decades later. Karl Rehn, of KR Training in Texas, discourages clients from putting slings on home defense long-guns. He notes, “Anytime we do armed movement in structures inside the classroom building, where there is real furniture and doorknobs, slings get in the way.”

Held taut against the side of the gun with elastic bands or binder clips (as seen here), the sling is ready if needed and out of the way if not.

Held taut against the side of the gun with elastic bands or binder clips (as seen here), the sling is ready if needed and out of the way if not.

In his opinion, if one is to have a sling on a long-gun intended for in-home use, a single-point works better than a two-point, which bucks the current industry trend. He also notes that to work well without a sling, a home-defense long-gun must be light and well balanced enough to be kept at the ready with one hand while the support hand operates doors, light switches, or phones. As he sums it up, “A gun set up for 15-yard hallway shots may not need all the stuff a three-gun competition gun needs.”

Slings Good

On the other end of the sling desirability spectrum is Ashton Ray, an instructor with 360 Performance Shooting. “A home defense gun never needs to leave the house until it does,” Ray says, “For instance, defending your animal from another aggressive animal.” Context matters, in his view, and not everyone lives in a suburban house or city apartment, which changes the likely chores of a dedicated home-defense long-gun.

For this reason, Ray advocates keeping a sling on the gun with all the slack taken up by a rubber band. The band keeps the sling taut and minimizes the chances of fouling on obstacles.

This stowing of the sling also minimizes another source of fouling that has nothing to do with moving through a structure. Namely, while many people have a home-defense long-gun stowed someplace by itself, probably a majority are stored in a safe or locker with multiple guns. Responding swiftly and decisively to a suspected home invader is going to be tough if the first step is disentangling the gun from the pile of deer rifles and three-gun shotguns that clatter from your safe, dragged by the draping folds of the Blue Force Gear two-point sling on your household AR-15.

Illustrated here is one way to stow a sling out of the way when not in use.

Illustrated here is one way to stow a sling out of the way when not in use.

Mike Doyle, co-proprietor of the Tactical Tangents podcast, also places himself firmly in the pro-sling camp. He bolsters his position by throwing out a couple of hypothetical, yet, entirely plausible scenarios for the defensive use of a long-gun.

“You go out there and nothing is there. You peek around. Your neighbors motion light is on when you go outside, and you decide to peek over the wall, but you gotta climb onto a planter or something,” says Doyle. “Or you go find that dude rummaging through your car in the driveway,” he continues, “plenty of possibilities to make it worth having the option to ‘let it hang.’ If you ever have to go hands on for some reason, having the option is nice … I say it helps more than it hurts.”

It Depends

While the sling issue can be a polarizing one, quite a few trainers and SMEs polled were willing to admit a fair amount of ambivalence on the matter. We reached out to an active duty SOF trainer, who laid out his viewpoint pretty succinctly.

“There’s benefit to a snag-free carbine, and there’s no real downside to just setting/dropping a carbine on the carpet if you need hands free to treat or comply,” he says. “I’ve moved in structures enough in my life to have ‘sling awareness’ and, aside from difficulty of compliance with ‘drop the weapon’ commands, there’s not really a downside for me, personally. Taking hard stances either way is tough without a lot of contextual information.”

Indeed, the word “context” was one that came up many a time in the discussion. What exactly is your expected use case for a home-defense long-gun?

Magpul sling clips not only make it easy to remove or attach the sling...

Magpul sling clips not only make it easy to remove or attach the sling…

If your home is set up with a perimeter that cannot be easily breached without alerting you, no loved ones elsewhere in the house to move to and secure, and the carbine or shotgun staged in some manner of quick access storage in the bedroom, then a sling hardly seems necessary.

The alarm, dog, or breaking glass alerts you to the intrusion; you wake up, grab the boomstick, aim in on the bedroom door from behind some sort of rudimentary cover or concealment, and as sure as you’re positive it’s a real intrusion, you call the cops.

No real need for a sling there.

...they also allow rapid conversion from single-point to two-point operation.

…they also allow rapid conversion from single-point to two-point operation.

The other scenario is the opposite. Suppose you have loved ones elsewhere in the house, children or elderly parents, meaning you have to move out and ensure their safety rather than just fort up in the bedroom and wait for the cavalry.

In most carbine classes, students get used to throwing the sling over their head and shoulder pretty much as they lift the carbine from the rack. Some of the benefits of a sling in this situation, such as improved marksmanship, aren’t going to matter at the length of a hallway, but there are other benefits as well.

One of them is in weapons retention.

Naysayers point out, if you’re maneuvering through a residence and a bad guy grabs your slung gun and yanks it into the room, you’re coming with it because it’s effectively a handle on you.

Conversely, non-slingers claim, if a bad guy grabs your unslung gun, you have the option to just let it go.

Let it go? And then what? Press “Y” on the X-Box controller to switch to your secondary?

This is one of those areas where what makes sense in an environment where you’re moving through a house as a team in a law enforcement or military operation doesn’t translate well to the lone private citizen home defender. You’re not likely able to just let go of that long-gun and switch to your secondary when you’re in your pajamas and bedroom slippers … assuming you’re even that well-dressed.

Here’s the Thing

If you’re unlikely to have to move through the house with a long-gun, entertain the idea of a Magpul convertible sling setup as single-point sling and rolled into a tiny little ball, then secured with a rubber band. This way it’s out of the way for the most likely usage scenario for a long-gun.

Slings are to long guns as holsters are to handguns. If you need to keep the gun with you, but use both hands, there’s no real substitute.

Slings are to long guns as holsters are to handguns. If you need to keep the gun with you, but use both hands, there’s no real substitute.

On the off-chance that you wind up needing a sling, say due to having to stand watch against looters after a natural disaster or just because the cops are taking a while to get there after a 911 call, you can just unroll the sling and pop the alligator clip to turn it into a two-point sling.

This latter hypothetical brings up one last important point: When the police do arrive, they’re likely to be amped up on both caffeine and reports of somebody getting shot. If they say, “Drop the gun!” and you’re slung up, just let go of it and let it fall on its sling.

Circling back to advice from the SOF trainer, he points out, “Though it’s harder to ‘drop the gun’ with it slung than without, with practice you can drop a slung carbine while simultaneously and (most importantly) non-threateningly sweeping it to your hip or rear.” The important thing, though, is to let it drop and not let your hands move toward it in an attempt to be helpful.

On balance, the benefits seem to outweigh the downsides, and the downsides can be mitigated by proper training.

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