Product Review: "Quick-Cuff" Sniper Sling

-- by Kent W. Gooch, CWO2, USMC (ret)

While on active duty in the Marine Corps, a substantial portion of my time behind a rifle was spent on known-distance rifle training and NRA-style competition. Countless hours of training were spent on dry firing and snapping into various rifle-shooting positions, all aided with one version or another of a loop sling. In fact, loop slings are as much of a part of Marine Corps rifle training as smudge pots, data books and dry fire circles. Most Marines have a love-hate relationship with them but those who shoot the best love loop slings and learn to use them to their maximum advantage.

Aptly named, a loop sling uses a loop in the rifle sling through which the support arm is placed. The shooter then tightens the loop on the arm and then uses the support arm hand to brace the rifle. This allows the shooter to relax the non-firing arm's muscles and takes the weight of the rifle and results in a better, more stable position as muscle tension is reduced. Because the loop sling provides such good support for the rifle, it is widely used by NRA and international rifle competitors and, of course, the United States Marine Corps.

In its current form, the loop sling has been around in one form or another since the early 1900s. The issue M1907 MRT ("mildew resistant treatment") leather sling could be used both as a loop sling and as a carry sling. As service rifles changed so did the slings that were issued with them. With the introduction of the M1, the Leather MRT sling was replaced by a cotton sling which still enabled the user to apply a loop sling but only after the sling was unclipped from the rear sling swivel. The fact that the sling had to be unclipped slowed down the speed in which the loop sling could be employed. This fact, along with the advent of the TRAINFIRE rifle marksmanship program, had a great influence on the fact that the Army has almost totally stopped teaching loop slings. The USMC continued teaching loop and hasty slings in their rifle marksmanship program even with the introduction of the M16A1 and its woefully lacking, double "M" buckle sling (although we still figured out how to make a loop sling out of it for training). The Marines believe in the loop sling for training so much, that USMC issued M16A2s have a different sling than the US Army. While the Army rifles still have the same sling as the M16A1, the USMC M16A2 sling is basically the same sling as was issued on the M1 Garand.

Though the loop sling makes for a steady shooting platform, it is slow to apply and, if applied incorrectly, will result in "sling palsy." The shooter's non-firing arm becomes numb from the sling pinching the brachial nerve and cutting off the blood supply to the sling arm. It should be obvious that these are not good traits for tactical operations. Indeed, tactical shooters scoff at loop slings as mere "bulls-eye" bull hockey, with no applications for tactical situations.

Because of the loop sling's limitations and tactical operators' general disdain for them, operators tend to overlook the advantages of the loop sling. This is a shame as the loop sling concept does have many advantages in many situations that far outweigh the sling palsy problem. A loop sling makes the rifle a part of the shooter. When the rifle recoils, the recoil energy is absorbed better by the body, resulting in reduced muzzle flip and the rifle's recoil is channeled to the rear. The sling, when properly used, reduces recovery time between shots and enables the shooter to acquire bullet impact when using a scope. (Note - Not a good technique for novices as they sometimes forget to watch the reticle long enough resulting in inadequate follow-through.) When combined with some sort of artificial support such as a sandbag or rucksack on which the support arm is placed on the position is rock solid.

The loop sling has seen combat. In World War I, Marines used loop sling-supported positions, when engaging the enemy at long range (Fix Bayonets, Capt. Charles Thomason, USMC). Moreover, there are remarks of Marine Gunner Chuck Julian, who ran the Range Unit at Weapons Training Battalion, Quantico. Some of you may know Gunner Julian; he used to run the NRA Law Enforcement Rifle programs. Gunner Julian had enlisted before most of us were born and had seen rifle techniques come and go. One day in 1982, during sustainment training for range coaches, Gunner Julian stated that he had used every position in the book, with and without loop slings in combat. I believe him.

For years I had considered designs for a tactical version of a loop sling that would allow the shooter to quickly apply the sling, but would not cause his arm to go numb in the process. I envisioned a sling that would provide stability in situations where the sniper or tactical rifleman couldnt get a bipod high enough or any other situation that might preclude the use or transportation of a separate firing support. In other words, kind of a modern, product-improved version of the M1907 MRT issue sling.

Late in 1998 I was approached by a San Francisco area police officer on the Internet who had been working on a tactical version of a variant of the loop sling of a cuff sling. The variant, known as a cuff sling, differs from the loop sling in that a strap is fitted to the shooter's arm/shooting jacket, with the rifle sling clipped onto the cuff. When he is done, the shooter unclips the sling and loosens the arm strap.

The police officer, Mike Miller, a long time member of the Bay Area Rapid Transit Authority Police, and a sniper and firearms instructor for the agency, had a concept for a functional, tactical cuff sling. Miller contacted me and asked me if I would like to check out his prototype. I was very interested. Miller's original design was a modification of a leather M1907 MRT sling and was pretty crude as most prototypes are. I say prototype, but I should note that Miller had been using one of his slings for years in his duties as a SWAT sniper. Miller worked on the sling, making significant improvements to the sling, using ballistic nylon and FASTEX buckles. In its current form, Miller and Tactical Intervention Specialists call the sling, the "Quick Cuff Sling."

The quick cuff is in two parts, the cuff and the sling. The cuff can either be sewn into a ghillie suit/jacket sleeve or worn only when needed. (If a couple of belt loops were sewn into the jacket sleeve it would keep the sling from sliding down the arm when not in use.) The cuff is positioned high on the arm, above the biceps, to reduce the likelihood of pulse beat being transferred to the rifle and to form a good triangle shaped support with the lower and upper arm. If the sling is too low on the arm it will not provide maximum support. The sling, of course, is attached to the rifle. (Tactical Intervention Specialists makes the sling for a number of different rifles.)

To use the sling, the shooter snugs up the cuff and positions its fastex buckle over the biceps which will ensure that the sling pulls straight off of the arm which will reduce pinching on the biceps and pulse beat from the brachial artery. The cuff is made of ballistic nylon and tightness is quickly adjustable using Velcro. The female fastex buckle is secured down when not in use by another flap of Velcro or an elastic loop depending on the model. The shooter then grasps the forestock of the rifle with his weak hand, and clips the male FASTEX buckle which is attached to the rifle sling into the female buckle on the cuff and assumes the desired firing position.

You might be looking for more instructions but besides adjusting tension thats it. Tension for the cuff and hasty sling is pre-adjusted when the sling is first attached to the rifle. Fine tension adjustments can then be made once in position if required and if time allows.

Shooting from various supported and unsupported positions and using an Armament Technology AT1-C24 (weighing 15 pounds), I found the sling to be quite comfortable. I used a military issue leather glove with liner on my non-firing hand and my modified BDU/ghillie top and never experienced any problems with discomfort. As stated earlier recoil and muzzle flip were reduced quite a lot allowing sight picture to be maintained throughout recoil. Importantly, my shot placement improved over using the more traditional M1907 loop sling and without the arm numbness.

I found the sling interesting, but wanted to get some additional feedback. I showed the sling to Rod Ryan, President of Storm Mountain Training Center. Ryan spent several years in the Special Operations side of the Army as a sniper and, later, with Washington, D.C.'s Metropolitan Police Department Emergency Response Team. Though his initial reaction was typical of most Army/LE-trained snipers, in that he was skeptical, Ryan warmed up to the sling after trying it out with his AT1-M24. The Quick Cuff also works well with the tactical carbine. Students at Storm Mountain have used the sling as a CQB carbine/shotgun sling and it retains the weapon in a muzzle down configuration when transitioning to a sidearm. Another feature of the sling is its ability to also be configured for use as a hasty sling and a standard single strap rifle sling.

The Quick Cuff isn't merely a shooting aid; it's also a functional carrying sling. Worn as a tactical, "around the torso" carbine sling, the Quick Cuff permits the sniper to carry his rifle uncased when he must climb or rappel. The sling can be "snugged down" quickly, keeping the rifle from flopping around while negotiating obstacles or hostiles.