Thursday, July 23, 2015

No, Rob, that is not how you use a Ching Sling.

Grr.  I have thus far found some things to like about Rob Pincus, especially his general educational style, and I find myself wanting to find more to like.  Today, purely by accident, I happened across this link to a Personal Defense Network video which is titled "Scout Rifle as a Self or Home Defense Weapon".

Well, wouldn't that be cool.  Let's watch!  And there he is, displaying what is clearly a custom rifle on what looks like a Rem 700 action, complete with Ching Sling, intermediate eye relief glass, reserve irons, and even a butt cuff.  And he launches into an explanation of the Scout concept in his own presentation style, even leading with Jeff Cooper's name as the principal force behind the concept.  Cool!

The geek in me - sure, call me a Scout fanboy if you will - cringes a little at a few of the details, but they're mostly minor.  He stumbles through the utility of a fixed magazine within a concept that values compactness over capacity, he holds the rifle like a carbine, he only runs the bolt from the shoulder when intending multiple shots, and he never even mentions the ability to reach way out there.  Okay, so he's primarily a "defense" guy, and tends to stick to his primary audience.  I understand that grousing on things like that would be more fanboy than fundamental.

But I must conclude that he has absolutely no idea what the point of the Ching Sling is.

At about 3:40 on the timeline he starts the demo of the sling, taking pains to point out the "extra connection", and then...he simply ignores it entirely, using exactly the textbook "hasty sling" technique that the Ching Sling was conceived to improve upon.

Jeff Cooper often wrote about how surprising it was to him, to discover how few people actually understood the shooting sling at all any more.  A true shooting sling, to him, was more important than  a glass optic on a rifle, because "the glass only helps my seeing, but the sling helps my holding".  I can remember first reading that as a young man, and going to the trouble to test myself with what he said--and it is true.  I can hold fully a third better when locked up with a sling, than from the same position without one.

The shooting sling works because it steadies the "gun mount" that is comprised of the ground, your body, the sling, and the rifle.  Anatomically, the most effective way to do this is to take responsibility off of muscles, and give it over to bones.  A "hasty sling", in which the arm is simply snaked around the rifle's carry strap, provides a small amount of tightening, but it is absolutely not the same thing as having your skeleton locked so tightly to your rifle that you can relax all muscles without your sights moving.

And only certain positions work with slings.  (Offhand is not one of them.)  In order to get a solid lockup, both elbows must be supported--remember, bone, not muscle.  Prone is obvious, and sitting;  the one that is not obvious but is surprisingly effective is the squat.  (Kneeling doesn't get full value out of the sling because the strong-side elbow is still flying around in the air under muscle power alone.)  The thinking here is that if you really need the precision of a sling, then you have time to get into a steadier position;  if your need for speed is truly such that you don't have time to loop up, you probably shouldn't be bothering with a sling at all.

Which brings us back to the Ching Sling.  It is the pinnacle of design for a shooting sling that can also be fast.  (Hell, the old-fashioned military loop sling provides excellent lockup, if you take the time to get into it.)  The key to effective lockup is that you must have the sling pulling exclusively forward on the support arm, as high up on the tricep as you can get it.  Then, with the support arm elbow both under the rifle and resting on the ground (prone) or knee (sitting, squat), and the strong-side elbow resting either on the ground (prone) or knee (sitting, squat), with a properly adjusted sling and a good position, you really can achieve a lockup that will allow you to relax the muscles in both arms without moving the sights.

There are still people around who understand the military loop sling and the lockup it provides.  It's no joke, right?  But it's not fast, even with competition cuffs, and an ideal sling would be both convenient as a carry strap, and fast as a shooting sling.  IIRC it was in the 1980s that Cooper first happened upon the idea of a "speed sling" from his friend Carlos Widmann in Guatemala.  (Here's an American Rifleman reprint of his essay on that discovery.)  Its only drawback was that it was clumsy to move back and forth between shooting mode and carry strap mode:  for a shooting sling that could lock up essentially as fast as you could acquire a position, it was a shame to have to pick between modes.

That is what Eric Ching solved with his invention of the sliding-strap Ching Sling.  You have the lightning-quick, solid lockup of the two-forward-stud Widmann system, and the carryability of a main strap spanning the two conventional studs.  Its performance really is rather remarkable, and Cooper was rather forceful in specifying it as part of the Scout concept.  A Scout is a rifle which can be used either across the room or hundreds of yards away, and way out there, any of us can benefit from a little help holding steady;  the Ching Sling makes it possible to get a loop-sling quality lockup while you are getting into position.

So it's a bit perturbing to see someone as trusted as Rob Pincus discussing the three-point sling on a scout rifle, with apparent reverence...and demonstrating instead a two-point conventional hasty technique.  In a position that doesn't really benefit from a sling in the first place.

He's right that the Scout concept never caught on in the mainstream.  Thing is, I suspect that at least some of the reason why that is the case, is that so few people seem to understand the concepts.  "It's too short;  it won't work at range" say the riflemen.  "It's not semiautomatic," say the tactards.  "Scope's not powerful enough."  "Looks funny."  "Won't shoot as far as my specialized sniper rifle."  "Won't shoot as fast as my specialized tacti-carbine."  And, "What's that short strap thingy for?"


We know what it's for.  Cooper wrote about it many times.  It's all right there in The Art of the Rifle.  It's no secret.  And yet it's no wonder that it hasn't caught on, if this is the way it's presented.

Anyway, harumpf.  I was hoping for better.


Paul Bonneau said...

Not sure why you said it doesn't work in offhand. IIRC we used the military loop sling in offhand also. Yeah, the elbows aren't on the ground or on bones, but it's still better than no sling.

Kevin Wilmeth said...

You don't get lockup in offhand, because the gun is held up by muscle power. Sure, one can get a bit of muscular steadying that way, but It's nothing like the support of leather on bone on terra firma.

If I have a shot with a time requirement that is so fast I cannot drop at least into squat, it's sorta by definition a snapshot, and I don't even think about a sling--either it's close enough for me to make the hit unsupported, or I'm changing my position muy pronto. On the other hand, if I really need support in order to guarantee the hit, I can be locked up and in squat in less than two seconds, with a Ching Sling. (Cooper talked about one second, but I'm that fast only occasionally. :-)

In a weeklong rifle class at Whittington some years ago now, we did a drill as follows: on the signal to fire, engage a 100 yard Pepper Popper specifically from offhand, then change to the position of your choice and hit a second Popper at 200, and finally change position again and hit a third Pooper at 300. What we found, as a class, was that the most efficient way to get the fastest hits was to drop into squat (getting into the sling along the way) for the 200 yard hit, then to go forward on the knees into prone for the 300 without quitting the sling. This proved to be conspicuously faster than what most of us had figured would work best--after offhand, go to sitting and then to prone. Squat is not as steady as sitting, for sure, but you get into it so much faster that you can just take a little extra time on the shot and--at least out to 200--it will be enough.

I was raised on "hasty", and as an adult came to understand the military loop before trying the CW experiment and then eventually meeting the Ching Sling. I know how long it takes me to get into the military loop properly, and I also know that it's not easy to be doing something else (like slamming into a position) while looping up, with or without keepers. If I need better support under time pressure and I don't have a speed sling, I'm going to take a more supported position to guarantee the hit.

(Now, like anyone else, in some specialized case where perhaps I need to stand up to shoot over grass, I too will take any advantage I can get, and I'd fully agree with you that the military loop or Ching or CW slings--anything that actually binds the arm to the rifle--would be superior to hasty or no sling.)

Paul Bonneau said...

Yeah, I was not saying offhand makes much sense compared to other positions; just that if for whatever reason you are using offhand, Ching or military loop works better than not using it.

Besides speed, Ching is better than military loop because you don't feel like you are putting your arm into a tourniquet. That always bothered me.

The drawback of all these kinds of sling use is that they might cause barrel-stock contact if the free-floating channel is not large enough.

I do like squat position (I've heard it called "rice paddy prone"). Probably doesn't hurt to stabilize it a bit by backing up against a tree, although I admit I haven't experimented with that in any controlled fashion.

Anonymous said...

Yet once again a supposed "FIREARMS EXPERT" who in all actuality is a rank always immediately cycle the bolt from the shoulder. Always. And he is using the Ching sling completely sling required for what he is doing. He has the keeper placed in front (towards the muzzle) for the second sling (from second swival) it should be behind to "STOP" the short strap from moving rearward. and it does work BEST if BOTH elbows are merely gives the "FEELING" of tighter lockup when shooting offhand.

I would expect a person to teach to figure this out on his own.