CHAPTER 6, Parts 10 and 11: Slings and Accessories
For Cooper, a non-negotiable feature of a Scout Rifle was the type of sling the rifle was to be equipped with. He favored the Ching sling and the C.W. sling. The Ching sling was a sling crafted by Gunsite instructor Eric Ching. It attached to the rifle at three points. It utilizes the common, front forend attachment, the rear attachment on the belly of the stock, and a third attachment point just forward of the magazine well. Cooper preferred the Pachmayr recessed sling attachments because they did not protrude from the stock and because they permitted fast on and off. “Three flush sling-sockets should be included, to accommodate either the C.W. or the Ching Sling.”51
The C.W. Sling, which was the forerunner of Ching’s creation and used only two attachment points at a time. The one most forward and the one just forward of the magazine well were used when the sling was in the shooting mode. The most forward or middle attachment, and most rear attachment points were used when the sling was used in the carry mode. It was pioneered by Carlos Widmann of Guatemala, but according to Cooper it was an old British system. After it was demonstrated to Cooper he wrote about it in an article for NRA’s American Rifleman entitled, The Only Way to Sling, “Immediately some thoughts occurred. The system does not need loops and keepers. A single strap will do. A cobra strap, reversed, is ideal, if given a half-twist forward to keep the leather smooth against wrist and forearm.” Continuing, Cooper raved, “This system is truly a “great leap forward.” I have been in need of it for a lifetime.”52
Other similar versions of this type shooting sling have been offered. Galco Gunleather offers the Safari Ching Sling but I can find no reference where Cooper mentions it. However, it essentially serves the same purpose as the Ching Sling without the center attachment point. The same can be said of the Rhodesian Sling. Andy’s Leather offers the Rhodesian sling and it allows for the same use as the Ching or C.W. Sling, without the center attachment. By the way, Adny’s Leather also offers a Ching sling and a C.W. sling.
All of these slings have two things in common. They allow for the securement of a very stable shooting platform in any position where the support arm is supported. They are also practically worthless as a carry strap. Yes, they will allow you to carry a rifle on your shoulder but for that endeavor you would be just about as well, and as comfortably equipped, with a string.
Cooper believed in the shooting sling and he believed in its quick attachment/detachment. Some Cooper disciples argue it is a mandatory element of the scout rifle, others feel it is an option. I doubt Cooper would have went to the field with a Scout Rifle – any rifle – that was not so equipped. And too, Cooper felt the final weight of a Scout Rifle should include the sling.
Not to toot my own horn but, with the help of Galco I devised an alternative because all of the shooting slings already mentioned work so poorly for carrying the rifle. Let’s face it, in reality a rifle is carried much more often than it is shot. Now while some might/should carry a rifle in a ready-like position, the truth is you cannot do that comfortably for a very long time, and in reality, there is no real need to carry a rifle ready most of the time.
I decided to make my own that would work just as well for shooting as it did for carrying. Using the backwoods ingenuity I learned from Grandpa, I cobbled together a functional prototype and during a trip to Gunsite Academy showed it to Mike Barham of Galco Gunleather. I urged him to consider its utility and to at least make me one. A few weeks later he called, asking if Galco could borrow my sling and tinker with it, saying, “It might be something we want to make.” Given Galco’s reputation for quality gear, I was excited this might lead to more than just a hillbilly-engineered strap.
Soon Galco sent a sample, much better assembled than the contraption I’d concocted, and asked what I wanted for the idea. I suggested rifle slings for life. They foolishly accepted, I assume because they had no idea how many rifles I own. Galco sort of named the new strap after me, and the RifleMann sling was introduced at the 2016 SHOT Show. (In hindsight I should have asked for a royalty – every time I ask fora new “free” sling, I find they are sold out!)
As a Carry Sling
There are essentially four methods for using a sling to carry a scout-like rifle. American carry is where the rifle is supported muzzle-up on the left or right shoulder. The RifleMann sling assists with this method marvelously because of a thick padded section lined with suede to hold it in place. With European carry, the rifle is braced with the support hand in front of the body, sling on the support shoulder. It might be best described as reverse American carry and the sling’s wide, padded section again helps with comfort and security.
African Carry, where the rifle is supported muzzle-down on the non-shooting side, is also popular. The wide suede section at the other end of the RifleMann sling keeps the rifle in place when carrying in this manner too. Cross body carry might be the most useful because it keeps both hands free. The RifleMann sling works exceptionally well in this application because its quick adjust feature let’s you cinch it tight, preventing wobble or bounce while dragging a deer or negotiating rough terrain.
As a Shooting Sling
There are two ways to use a sling for shooting support. You can use the loop – Ching style – method on your support arm or use a quick adjust – sniper/triceps – technique on your shooting arm. When shooting with forward rifle support or support for your shooting arm, the sniper method generally works best. If you can brace your support arm, the Ching method can be just as effective.
The RifleMann sling has an extra strap adjacent to the wide padded section to allow for Ching-like shooting support. It’s quick adjusting feature enables utilization of the sniper technique. A Galco R&D engineer commented, “Using the triceps part of the sling, you can keep yourself very low and put only a minimal amount of yourself above cover/concealment, and still have that super stable shooting platform. When Resting on something or using cover in a blind I think the triceps [sniper technique] wins out over more conventional slings.”
Most importantly, the solid and tight sniper technique greatly enhances off hand shooting. I’ve found is that the triceps method will even stabilize the standing, unsupported position. So well in fact, getting hits on 12-inch steel at 100 yards with one arm is not difficult at all.
As a Three Point Sling
If you prefer the original Ching system, but also like the easier carrying features of the RilfeMann sling, that’s doable too. You simple undo the secondary strap on the forward section, reverse it and the buckle, and attach it to the center attachment point. In essense the RifleMann sling will allow you to carry or sling in any manner you like.
I’ll admit I’m a traditionalist at heart and prefer a leather sling. However, the versatility, comfort, and shooting stability of the RifleMann sling far outperforms any leather sling I’ve used. It adds about six ounces to the weight of a rifle, not counting the swivels. Would Cooper have approved of it? I doubt it. Will it do everything a C.W. or Ching sling will do? Without question.
Chapter 6, Part 12: Accessories
This brings us to the eleventh and next to last elemental discussion regarding Scout Rifles. These are the things Cooper felt were desired but not necessarily mandatory. Here we will also address the subject of magazine capacity.
These two features are the disappearing bipod and the butt magazine. Cooper considered the bipod to be, “…most useful in mountain hunting, whereas the butt magazine is most useful in Africa – where things can get ragged suddenly.”53 He goes on to offer that both would increase the difficulty of the rifle making weight and I cannot find where either accessory was ever listed as a mandatory requirement for a Scout Rifle.
In 1989 Cooper suggested, “A butt magazine, Gunsite style, is a great help in some circumstances, but adds a half a pound to total weight.” and, “The Clifton disappearing bipod has many advantages. It also adds a little weight.”54
This “butt magazine” of the “Gunsite style” Cooper mentioned is actually what has come to be known as a cartridge trap. It is positioned in the belly of the stock and allows for the storage of five or so loaded cartridges inside the stock. Some consider this a great way to store extra ammunition while others think it the ideal location to store a full load for a rifle that is kept handy but unloaded. The cost effective alternative to the cartridge trap is a leather butt cuff to store ammunition. It too increases weight, but is not near as clean looking and it somewhat prohibits the comfortable shooting of the rifle from both shoulders.
The Clifton bipod was engineered by Brent Clifton and was a crafty affair that allowed for a non-adjustable, but slightly pivoting, bipod to be completely stored inside the forearm of the stock. Cooper liked this arrangement but also commented, “It has a couple of bugs to be worked out, but it has more promise than anything of the kind we have yet seen.”55
Cooper rarely mentioned magazine capacity with regard to Scout Rifles. We can only assume this was due to the restrictions placed forth when working with this or that action type. Incidentally, Cooper did desire a higher magazine capacity when he was building Super Scout IV, a rifle he would ultimately use for dangerous game. However, Super Scout IV, though it looked like a Scout Rifle, was not a Scout Rifle in the general-purpose theme that is the underlying guideline for the entire concept.
As late as 2000 Cooper wrote, “For normal work, a rifle does not need a lot of ammunition on board.”56 This comment was in reference to the extension magazine available for the Steyr Scout Rifle, which holds 10 cartridges, as opposed to its standard load of five.
Cooper was adamant that a Scout Rifle should have a magazine cut-off, meaning; there should be a provision allowing for the rifle’s magazine to be held in reserve while the rifle could be loaded with single cartridges. As an alternative Cooper offered the option of a magazine with a double detent. This would permit the magazine to be inserted partially and still permit the single loading of one cartridge at a time into the rifles chamber. As adamant as Cooper was about this cut-off or double detent, he never dwelled on actual magazine capacity.
In 1981 Cooper wrote, “We have several versions [detachable magazines] available, some include a detachable M-14 20-round magazine. Magazine capacity may be convenient but we feel that the magazine cutoff such as that in the old 03 Springfield is a superior device. With a magazine cutoff it is possible to use a weapon as a single-shot, with full magazine in reserve for emergencies at the flip of a switch.”57
Cooper was fond of the Krag rifle with its magazine cut-off and in 1986 wrote, “You can hold the magazine in reserve while single-loading. And it is so beautifully machined as to be unsuited to The Age of the Common Man.”58
Most interestingly, as of today the detachable magazine has become a staple feature of the modern commercial Scout Rifle but it was not a feature on any of Cooper’s prototype Scout Rifles. Not only has the detachable magazine become a fixed feature of most any modern interpretation of a Scout Rifle, it has become near universal in most modern bolt action rifles, to include those used for long range.
There are times when I’m afield I appreciate the benefits of a detachable magazine. If you are getting in and out of a vehicle a lot, it is convenient. One of my favorite actions for the bolt-action rifle is the one designed by New Ultra Light Arms. This is a blind box design and is used by Forbes because the structure of his stock is moderately dependent on the absence of a floor plate or magazine opening. A floor plate is in reality much more versatile but it does add weight. Both however I feel are superior to the detachable magazine because the rifle does not need an accessory to function. In other words, if you drop or lose your magazine, you could have a problem. With a blind box or floor plate that is never a worry.