Right handed bolt handle, charging handle, and the Sling

Discussion in 'General Firearms Discussion' started by lklawson, May 13, 2014.

  1. lklawson

    lklawson Staff Member

    I'm pretty convinced that right hand/right side bolts are a hold over from WWI and earlier Military shooting doctrine.

    Here's why I write that: The Sling.

    The Military Sling I believe culminated in the M1907 Sling but it was just a minor refinement of earlier slings, and then the WWII era "Web Sling" which was, in many ways, a simplification of the 1907.

    The point of these, and earlier, slings was to brace and steady the comparatively heavy rifle, reduce fatigue, and improve accuracy. Both the 1907 and the Web Sling allowed the soldier to cinch the sling to his brace arm (the left, usually), and then basically "lock" the whole thing into the shooting position on his shoulder. It was such a firm and secure lock that the soldier could dramatically enhance his accuracy while standing or sitting (I think it was Cooper who claimed it was something like 30% more accurate). It was also such a firm and secure lock that the soldier could work the bolt action without loosing downrange field of view, looking through the sights from what old manuals and authors claim. This also worked in conjunction with the commonly taught rifle grip of the time, which was to keep the thumb of the trigger hand along the stock, parallel to the line of the barrel.

    There was also a variation called the "Hasty Sling" which is what most of us today think of when we thread a carry strap/sling, wrapping it around our support hand forearm. This, apparently, is not as secure as the cinched in loop but is still better than free hand.

    It was standard for WWI era soldiers to be taught both the cinch style sling and the "Hasty Sling" for steadying rifles and it commonly appears in instructional manuals of the period. I.E.:
    • Rifle Marksmanship, War Department, Document No. 1021, Office of the Adjunct General, U.S. Government Printing Office, 1921
    • Ira Louis Reeves, The A B C of Rifle, Revolver and Pistol Shooting, Franklin Hudson Publishing Company, 1913

    Prior to the wide scale acceptance of metallic cartridge firearms, the use of the Sling as a device to aid in steady shooting was known, though, apparently, not in common usage.


    But, in any case, the standard doctrine since well prior to the WWI era and lasted up through WWII and later, was for highly accurate fire, and the sling was a very important part of that. The loss of rate of fire due to having to work the action with your trigger hand was considered acceptable (even desirable, as in one of the supposed advantages of the Krag-Jørgensen was its smaller internal magazine which would force soldiers to conserve ammunition!) in trade for increased accuracy.

    However, a left handed shooter could never ever (EVVAH!) work the bolt action of a right-handed bolt while properly using a sling. Lever Actions are difficult to use with a properly mounted sling firing position. The standard Military assumption was that everyone is either right handed or will just have to suck it up.

    I honestly believe that this explains why the action on an M1 Carbine is on the right hand side instead of the left. And the same goes for the AK series too. I've heard shooters complain that action is on the right side but that it's faster to do mag changes by swapping the action to the left and using the brace hand to drop-n-swap the mag, then yank the bolt. Sure it's faster... IF YOU'RE NOT USING A SLING TO BRACE FOR ACCURATE FIRE! And when you look at the changing military doctrines, particularly the intended role of the AK (shorter range, suppressing fire), then yeah, it makes perfect sense. But the role of the Springfield and the Garand were for longer range, accurate fire and the M1 Carbine was a product of the times, a "little brother" in the mind of tacticians of the time to the M1 Garand and thus to be used in the same manner.

    Peace favor your sword,
    Last edited: May 13, 2014
  2. Rachgier

    Rachgier Administrator Staff Member

    My 4095 bugs the shiznit out of me for having the left side charging handle. I'm just too ADHD to try and solve the problem myself.

    USMC Marksmanship when I was in taught the Hasty Sling and Sling Loop methods with the M16, and having the TDC charging handle allowed for lefties and righties to do it effectively. To this day, with or without a sling, I still drop my trigger hand for mag swaps, even on my 4095. Feels odd reaching over the top to do it, but I've been able to get it to a fairly smooth movement.

  3. lklawson

    lklawson Staff Member

    I think the right hand conversion handle is out of production now anyhow.

    I can totally picture it. ...along with a scowl on your face as you reach over top :)

    Peace favor your sword,
  4. tallbump

    tallbump Supporting Member

    That's funny, I have shot a 995 several times and LOVE that the charge handle is on the R. To me, with a pistol grip, it makes sense.

    But, I did not take into account the sling. That really changes my perspective.
  5. duster066

    duster066 Supporting Member

    From that write up I can see where my old school training came from. A time when hitting what you are shooting at was valued over slinging lead to keep heads down. The guns couldn't shoot fast anyway, and there was no industrial production and resupply of ammo as we know it today. Very interesting article.
  6. Rachgier

    Rachgier Administrator Staff Member

    You do realize that the stock placement of the charging handle for all HP carbines is on the left, yes? Or was that just a typo...
  7. lklawson

    lklawson Staff Member

    It really is fascinating. Where there's a will, there's a way. The British "Mad Minute" had men shooting aimed fire at 300 yards and scoring 30+ hits per minute, using the Lee-Enfield bolt action.


    One round every 2 seconds, working the bolt, not counting reload time (10 round internal box, thus 2 reloads).

    But the Lee-Enfeild is known to have one of the smoothest actions and it loads really easily from stripper clips, from what I've been told.

    No way they could do that if they dismounted the rifle from the shoulder to reload. It had to stay up there, which means it must have been done with a sling.

    Peace favor your sword,
  8. Rachgier

    Rachgier Administrator Staff Member

    I was talking to my grandmother this evening and this thread popped in to my head. My grandfather was left handed and had shot left handed his whole life, so I asked her what he did when he was in the service. She said Grandpa told her that when he told the shooting instructor that he was left handed the instructor basically replied, "not anymore, son."
  9. tallbump

    tallbump Supporting Member

    Yes, typo sorry. I never understood why many are on the Right. I like that it is on the left.

    But with a pistol grip, i thank that makes a difference. To me you retain pretty good control by holding the pistol grip in your R hand and switching mags and working the charging handle with your left hand.

    But for something like an M1 with no pistol grip, but having a sling I can definitely see using your right hand being advantageous
  10. Rachgier

    Rachgier Administrator Staff Member

    Just checkin'. For me, its a matter of being able to keep "the bridge" when I shoot. My front hand stays welded to the front grip, it never drops out of my shoulder pocket, and I still maintain full control of the rifle. I'm just so used to it after firing a bolt-action rifle from an early age that it's basically ingrained in to my system that you keep your front hand glued to the stock and work with your trigger hand. Also, when firing prone, if not using a bag, bipod, or other object to support your barrel you would and up dropping your barrel in the dirt or end up having to shift your position in such a way that it would affect your ability to continue glassing downrange at your target. Even if I do have a supporting structure for my barrel when prone I end up tucking my left arm across my chest, under my right arm, and hooking my thumb in to my armpit to provide additional stability for the butt of the rifle
  11. USMC_VET

    USMC_VET Supporting Member

    i'm a southpaw but while i was in Bootcamp in the Marines i was taught how to shoot my M16A1 right handed and to this day i still shoot right handed even though i'm left handed

    also just like Rachgier mentioned this is how i shoot prone or bench rest with my .308 bolt action

  12. tallbump

    tallbump Supporting Member

    That makes perfect sense. Come to think of it, I have fired either a pump shotgun or the 99 more than other rifles, like bolt actions. So for boht of those, the trigger hand stays on the gun.

    The one time was shooting the bolt action though, yeah, obvious I needed my R hand to work the bolt. And that's a great point about the muzzle dropping if you're prone. No muy bueno.

    I guess it's all a matter of perspective and what you're shooting. And how you're shooting.

    Like, for a 3 gun competition, I would think having your R hand on the grip and working a charging handle with your Left would work better, as I don't know if running and using he sling hold would be practical. Maybe it would though, I have never tired running and gunning.

    I have only shot shotguns and or rifles about half a dozen times, so my experience is very limited. And I have no formal training WHATSOEVER. I will acknowledge I am at that stage more of what I think would work vs any real world, practical application.
  13. lklawson

    lklawson Staff Member

    I have a buddy (one of my WMA students) who told me last night he took his Enfield boltgun to a 3-gun. Everyone else there was running 5.56 AR's. When he started shooting he was working it so fast and accurately that he quickly developed a crowd of curious (and amazed) spectators who came over to see which guy had snuck in a big boy AR chambered in some .30" cal without them noticing.

    When you learn how to run it right, you can get some near-semi auto speeds. But the Military doctrine of the time when Enfields and Springfields ruled was for accuracy FIRST, FOREMOST, and ALWAYS. Accuracy trumped speed and missed rounds were considered wasted rounds from a Rifleman.

    Peace favor your sword,
    Last edited: May 14, 2014
  14. tallbump

    tallbump Supporting Member

    See, that's awesoem. I totally respect that.

    I thing, in a SHTF situation I would prefer a bolt action over a fully autoany day, for accuraccy. (Unless I was severely outnumbered).

    I get the importance of accuracy.

    Again, my "knowledge" and experience is severely limited. That's why I love this place, becuase there is so much to learn and so many different perspectives.

    Interestingly, when I play a Call of Duty type game, I much prefer the sneaky sniper type of style vs the run and gun.
  15. lklawson

    lklawson Staff Member

    I hear you. It, in all honesty, made me reconsider my long-arm choices. I ended up deciding to stick with the AR for a number of reasons. The two biggest ones were, I've got the AR & ammo and I already sold off/gave away my 3 surplus bolt guns (K98, Mosin-Nagant Carbine, Enfield No. 4 MK I*), and I've got a girlie-man wus shoulder that doesn't particularly appreciate shooting rifles with a real man's recoil.

    But I had to seriously reconsider. The guns are cheap (cheaper than an AR anyhow). The ammo is more-or-less plentiful and cheap (and surplus can still, sometimes, be had). They can be super accurate. Rate of fire and be near semi-auto speeds if you train for it (but I don't). And the proper use of the sling can take some of the weight away when having to hold it.

    That's a pretty impressive list and if I didn't have an AR I might consider adding a bolt gun to my long arms and either manning up on the recoil or trying to find ways to mitigate.

    Peace favor your sword,
  16. Rachgier

    Rachgier Administrator Staff Member

    I drop my trigger hand to reload my shotguns too. For me, there is also having muzzle control drilled (read as beaten) in to my head as a Marine. The act of of rolling the shotgun to one side or the other to insert more shells either singly or with a speed loader tube, is just awkward with the trigger hand. With a shotgun, for me, the mechanics of using your front hand forces you to reach across your body to go from shell pouch/holder to loading port where as using your trigger hand its a same side, simple, and much shorter motion if you have shells on the stock, sling, or hip pouch on the same side. I'm sure there are others who find it completely natural and easier to do it the opposite way too.

    That's the beautiful part about discussions like this. You can be a complete FNG, take a bit of abuse for it, and get some tips and tricks from some of the more experienced guys. I would say, since you're admittedly green, to trying both ways in practice. Live shells in the shotgun might be a range only practice type event, but if you have a few spent shells, you can use those to practice with. I have a dozen that I stuffed with old t-shirt scraps from making dust rags and hot glued the front of the hull closed so it functioned like a live shell.
  17. Rachgier

    Rachgier Administrator Staff Member

    USMC_Vet has a nice .308 up for sale. I could also alleviate the problem of you owning an AR hampering the justification of owning a bolt action.
  18. lklawson

    lklawson Staff Member

    I appreciate your willingness to throw yourself on that grenade for me. ;)

    But it doesn't address my girlie-man shoulder.

    The referenced WWI era manuals offer that I should stuff a folded up towel or something for padding and just suck it up and stop being such a wus. :)

    Peace favor your sword,
  19. Rachgier

    Rachgier Administrator Staff Member

    Ever consider a padded shooting jacket or vest? Some of the jackets even come with nifty elbow protectors now for when you try to go prone and it takes you half an hour to get up...
  20. lklawson

    lklawson Staff Member

    Honestly? No, the idea hadn't really occurred to me since I moved away from the heavy calibers.

    I had, quite honestly, kinda sworn off rifles in anything more stout than .22LR, 9mm, or .30 Carbine but then the above mentioned buddy insisted that I shoot his .308 AR. I reluctantly agreed, steeling my resolve and rubbing my shoulder in preparation. But Stoner really knew what he was about and my buddy's AR had a few extra recoil enhancements on top of that. It was a dream to shoot and I had to immediately reconsider my personal ban on "rifles in a real man's caliber." I eventually ended up with a S&W M&P-15 Sport and have been very happy with it (until I have to buy ammo ;)).

    Sounds nice. But did I mention that I'm cheap too? ;)

    Maybe I should look into it more closely. The self-same buddy just gifted my son a Carbine length, Mauser action, .308 and a crap ton of blue plastic "gallery" ammunition. He and I need to take it out and run it through the paces. I could pick up a box of regular .308 and experiment with "what and where" padding.

    Peace favor your sword,