You may recall from my last article that shooting prone without a rest or sling to aid me was extremely difficult for me. My groups were much worse. My experience in sitting was quite different than my experience in prone without the sling. My sitting position tended to support itself much better, and was qualitatively much closer to my experience with the sling than the sling vs. no sling in prone.
My clothing was messing with both the sling and non-sling sitting positions. In particular I was wearing very warm boots that I bought for when I need to be outside and not moving around much. The thickness of the boots was unfamiliar, and the snow didn’t seem to offer as much of a solid pad for optimum lateral stability.
Shooting without the sling demanded more of me than shooting with the sling. I had to time the release of the shot more carefully, and I had to be more aggressive on the trigger to make it happen at the right moment. My recent work in the standing position was very helpful in this regard.
I was pleasantly surprised to see six of the shots in such a nice, tight cluster. Incidentally, this is a bit better than my group in the same position in October.
The extreme spread of the non-sling group was 38% larger than the sling group. The mean radius of the non-sling group was 67% larger than the sling group. The disparity between the numbers is because most of the sling groups were grouped in a tight cluster right at the point of aim, and the extreme spread number only counts the worst two shots.
As with prone, shooting without the sling was more physically demanding. That, coupled with a normal length shooting session in cold weather, had me a bit worn out by the end. I experienced a strange phenomenon in which my trigger finger was getting passive. The “auto fire” seemed to have shut down, and I would see a perfectly good sight picture come and go without the gun firing. In fact, I actually felt my shoulder buck instead of the shot firing in one instance, near the end. You can also see that one shot went pretty horribly askew.
The First Experiment:
In December, in the midst of all my standing work, I tried the sling/no sling experiment with my AR in cross ankle sitting. I got different results!
In this case, the extreme spread of my sling group was 20% larger than my non sling group. The mean radius of the sling group was 14% larger than the non-sling group. I was more than a little shocked by that result.
What it means to me is that there is probably a continuum of how much a sling will actually help that depends on a few things. The weight of the rifle is probably pertinent. The Noveske is much lighter than the FN.
I believe that the intrinsic precision of the rifle matters, as the sling will not squeeze blood from a rock. In other words, if the rifle’s absolute baseline group size is larger than the difference between the shooter’s absolute level of precision in the sling and non-sling group,random dispersion could cancel out any ability to clearly see the difference between the two. It was that aspect of the groups that convinced me to use the FN, so I could see the results with more precision.
Related to the above, I also believe that the more skill the shooter has, the more he can make do with less. After practicing standing for two months, getting into a steadier position and using the same skills of deliberately steadying the hold, timing the shot to coincide with an acceptable sight picture and applying a high degree of follow through made it possible for me to use skill to compensate to a degree for the lack of a sling, especially in a rifle that isn’t so precise as to let me see the exact differences. I think that a few years ago my non-sling group likely would have been significantly worse under exactly the same conditions with the same equipment.
Of course there is more than one way to skin a cat, such as a sitting position that uses no sling and beats the above conventional seated position, sling or no sling. I’ve also done this experiment in standing, and hopefully I’ll be able to get kneeling in as well before the month is over.