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MGySgt USMC (ret)
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Folks, the GOOD USGI leather slings used in WWI through WWII and Korea and right up to present day with NM shooters ALL are either original or EXACT reproductions of the M1905/7 rifle sling.

Now there are a BUNCH of ones made in large quantities that go from poor to downright junk. So, how do you tell if the slings are poor to downright junk, or GOOD slings?

1. Low price USUALLY means you are going to get a poor or junk sling. If the sling costs less than $ 30.00, then it won't be a GOOD sling. GOOD slings usually start at over $ 60.00 to 65.00 and go up in the 80's and 90 dollar range. However, price ALONE doesn't mean a whole lot.

2. IF the holes in the sling are ROUND, then don't walk but RUN from those slings. Round holes work loose in no time and then the sling hook won't hold in it correctly and pop out easily. Original GI slings and exact reproductions have holes that look like a rectangle with the long side laying down, but the ends are curved so they won't tear out with use. Sling hooks take a long time to wear out with these holes.

3. Carefully examine the quality of the sling hooks. USGI slings and exact reproductions had/had thick brass or thick parkerized steel hooks. Poor to bad quality slings have plated or thin hooks and they will bend or crack with far less use than good slings. Now, you have to see a few real slings to get an idea of what good sling hooks look like. UNFORTUNATELY, some of the poor to junk slings have good parkerized steel hooks, though.

4. Carefully examine the Sling Keepers for snug fit and the quality of the sewing. Sling Keepers are the leather loops that hold two thicknesses of leather in the sling together and help tighten the sling. USGI sling keepers were sewn by a quality leather stitching machine that gave nice looking stitches and fit VERY snug when new. ALSO and even better, some USGI sling keepers were hand sewn and that lasts longer than machine stitching. JUNK sling keepers are just stapled together. Poor quality stitching will mean a poor or junk grade sling.

5. WHERE the leather was cut from the hide is VERY IMPORTANT and so is the quality of the tanning process. The problem here is even if you are an advanced leather worker, it is sometimes difficult to impossible to tell that when the sling is new. Some times a funny smell will tell you the tanning process wasn't good, but most people don't have the "Nose Knowledge" for that. Grin. What is very difficult to tell by eyeball and not real easy to tell by feel is where the leather for the sling was cut from the hide. Poor or JUNK slings will be made from the Belly Leather that will bend, twist and distort way too soon and easily. ONE thing to look for though is if the rough side of the leather has loose looking "flakes" on it, then that is NOT well processed leather for a leather sling. It could have been good leather, but it was not skived or thinned correctly by cutting.

OK, so how DO you know you are getting a GOOD sling when you order one? Well, I probably don't know everyone who makes high quality slings but I can recommend Richard Turner of Turner Saddlery http://www.turnersling.com/index.html and Les Tam from Hawaii http://www.lestam.com/. We bought a LOT of Turner slings for THE Marine Corps Rifle Team because the quality was so good.

Many guys who do WWII reenacting have started out with the cheaper leather slings and even though they don't shoot live rounds, they have found the cheap ones don't hold up to make it worthwhile to buy the cheaper leather slings.

OK, I'm going off topic here. There is a synthetic sling that has all the good properties of a leather sling with hardly none of the bad ones. That is the AWS All Weather Sling sold by Turner. A fair number of Virginia High Power shooters use them and most recommend them highly. I got one and was impressed by it and loaned it out. Haven't seen it in a few years and the guys using it really like it. http://www.mcssl.com/store/turnersaddleryinc/catalog/category/5360061
 

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Awesome thread and great info as usual, Gus. When are you writing your book?!
 

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Thanks again Gus for another topic. We should put together a collection of your posts on this forum and call it something like Gus Fishers thoughts on many things. I'd bet it could be published. I know I'd buy it.
 

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I seriously just bought a leather sling yesterday!!!! It's a leather WW1/WW2 repro. I guess since I only paid 20 bucks I should look for those things mentioned above. Although I will say it was quite a chore getting those hooks through the holes, maybe I just got a good deal.... It had sat on a shelf and been marked down after all.
 

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I concur. I bought a cheap leather sling from fleabay before I didn't know any better. Later on someone turned me onto Turner slings. You can't even compare the two. Buy once, cry once. Grab a Turner or Ron Brown sling, or if you can wait, a Les Tam sling.
 

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Funny you should post that, Gus. Just yesterday I found a beautiful tooled leather sling I bought for pennies a few moves (decades) ago and lost in storage for years and years. It was already antique when I bought it from a store that was closing, sold by Browning Belgium, and is/was still in the box, full grain leather of the kind you just don't see anymore, with solid brass fittings, you can tell. Now all I need is another Olde Style firearm to put it on! (The other one I own is even nicer and is on my early model Ruger 10/22 that has nice wood and good hand checkering.)
 

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I've owned 3 good quality leather slings, ... a Les Tam, a Turner, and one of Brownell's "Competitor Plus" slings, which was actually pretty nice too. The Les Tam was unbelievable quality, ... beautiful, hand made, and BEEFY. The
Turner I got was one of the 1907 reproductions which was true to the original in every respect that one could conceive of. The Brownell's was the least expensive of the three, but still a pretty nice sling.
 

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I have both a leather Turner sling I purchased at the South Store with my first Garand, and one a tan Biothane (AWS) Turner sling I purchased from midway 2 weeks ago for my SOCOM.

Both are great quality, but I will say I actually like the leather sling on my Garand better. Can't really tell why, but it just feels more comfortable to me. That being said, the Biothane is a really nice and tight sling that I think will last me a long time.

The Biothane also smells kind of funny, but familiar. I just can't place where I know the scent from.
 

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I've got the Turner and Turner "No Pulse" slings. Two thumbs up!

I think I've read somewhere, where the AWS had some stretching issues over time..was there cracking issues?? don't remember where it was though, some other forum probably.
 

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MGySgt USMC (ret)
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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
OK, a little background.

I bought a T/C .50 cal Hawken Rifle when I was home on Boot Camp Leave in 1972. After I got out of ITR and in school to become an Armorer, I went to the Tandy store and bought a buckskin colored cowhide split and some soft leather lacing and made a shooting pouch. It was pretty, but it sucked in use because it too easily folded in on itself. (Later on I used it as a storage bag when hung from the Ozan in a full size Lodge (Tipi) we co-owned with another couple as that was all it was good for.) Then MSgt Mike Gingher first took me to the National Matches of the NMLRA in Friendship, IN in 1974. There I got to carefully examine some original shooting pouches and a whole bunch of really fine replica shooting pouches. In the 70's, I visited Colonial Williamsburg to "suck up" as much knowledge as I could on working leather from the Saddler's Shop because I was otherwise "self taught." In the mid to late 70's, I hand sewed Buckskin coats, leggins, trousers and two Squaw Dresses. I also began making replica's of 18th and 19th century cartridge boxes, sword and bayonet scabbards and hangers and other things - especially after I got to view more original pieces.

While I was the Junior Armorer on THE Marine Corps Rifle Team in 1975, one time when there wasn't much to do, I got to looking at the worn sling keepers we had. So I asked permission to try to repair some of them. The senior Armorers did not believe they could be repaired, but allowed me to try. So I took ones that were loose and/or the stitching had worn loose and began experimenting with them. I cut the stitches and took them apart and made a wood form to "wet block" them on, then hand sewed them up after they dried. The shooter who was the first to use it, loved it, so I became the Unofficial "Sling Keeper Fixer" and was even jokingly accused of trying to run a saddle shop from the back of the Armorer's Van. In those days, we still had some slings that dated to WWII or Korea, so they were the best GI leather slings.

When I was the Team Armorer at Edson Range in the late 80's, I repaired some of Team's sling keepers and even made a few pieces of slings. I KNEW the holes were supposed to be sort of oblong as described above and did it by punching two round holes and then cutting a straight cut across the top and bottom of the holes. HOWEVER, that takes a LONG time to do it and of course they originally cut the holes with special stamping machines. Then I met Richard Turner who was then a SSgt in the MP's and just starting out making slings on the side. We talked about what was needed in a GOOD rifle sling and he bought the machine to stamp cut the holes correctly. When he got going on it, I STOPPED making copies of M1905/7 rifle slings because it took way too long to make them completely by hand.

One day he called me and was very excited, he had found an Army/Navy store that had NOS QUALITY USGI leather sling keepers and it was not far from the LA Fairgrounds where the Great Western Gun Show was held for many years. When we got together later and he showed them to me, I confirmed they were the good ones and I eventually bought maybe a dozen or two for our Team and to keep on hand because they were so cheap. Richard later went back to that Surplus store and asked if they would give him a "Quantity Price." He was SHOCKED when they showed him a 55 gallon drum that was almost FULL of them. Though not every one of them was NOS, the majority were and there were hardly any bad ones in the barrel. So, he bought the ENTIRE BARREL of them for a price that was unbelieveably cheap and he used them for many years before he ran out of them and had to go back to making them himself.

I remember Richard talking about the first time he paid for an entire cow hide to make sings from and how he was nervous about spending that much money. I've watched his business grow over the years and am really glad a fellow Marine and good man found a business to run after he retired from the Corps and has done well with it.
 

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Good slings and good hardware.....

Pic #1. Brass frogs were used from the start of 1907 sling production up to mid WWII when brass bacame short, they measure .120 thick and were blackened. These frogs are old and well used as the blackening is gone and there very dull. I do not know where they originated there unmarked but I suspect there were suplied to Rock Island as they made alot of leather items for Uncle Sam.

Pic #2. These frogs are steel and painted black there stamped with a circle 'B' they come from Waterberry. Waterberry has been making steel frogs sense WWII. There .110 in thickness. Turner slings use the same frogs and there parked black maganize, Brownells also uses the same frogs on there comp plus sling and there just painted black. The leather is much better with the Turner.

Pic #3/4. Are from a unknown WWII contractor, there also .110 in thickness and are zinc parked, the ends of the frogs are very sharp/pointy no I didn't sharpen them thats the way they were you can still see some of park on there edges. My Grandfather gave me his old sling that he used in the Marine Corp from when it was issued too him untell he retired, the leather was all black, cracked and rotted from storage so I salvaged the frogs.
 

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More sling stuff....

Pic #5 These frogs came off a cheap MRT marked sling from Cathy Ent the leather was white and very dry right out of the bag, this sling had no year stamp just the MRT. The frogs are .099 thick, very thin compared too the older frogs. There were blued in finnish and prone too rusting quickly. The holes for the copper rivets are all drilled cattywhompuss. I had them sandblasted to remove the rust and the blueing I just haven't had them reparked yet. Not all US Gov't contracted slings are created equal. I have seen a few contract slings that used Waterberry ('B') frogs, I just don't remember who they were.

Pic# 6 are the same copper rivets used from the entire production, you can get them from Tandy Leather I don't remember the size but #4 sticks in my head. The copper is dead soft and the shank needs too be trimmed in lenth so there not as pronounced above the body of the frog.
 

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Gus, I don't mean to hijack a thread, but is there any reason to spend the money on a top notch leather sling on a truck gun. The USGI nylon seems to be fine for everything I need it for. Thanks
 

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Gus, I don't mean to hijack a thread, but is there any reason to spend the money on a top notch leather sling on a truck gun. The USGI nylon seems to be fine for everything I need it for. Thanks
I'm not Gus, but the VN era nylon slings will slipout under the pressure of the clasp. Thats how they earned the reputation as the widowmaker of slings.

YMMV.
 

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MGySgt USMC (ret)
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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Pic #1. Brass frogs were used from the start of 1907 sling production up to mid WWII when brass bacame short, they measure .120 thick and were blackened. These frogs are old and well used as the blackening is gone and there very dull. I do not know where they originated there unmarked but I suspect there were suplied to Rock Island as they made alot of leather items for Uncle Sam.

Pic #2. These frogs are steel and painted black there stamped with a circle 'B' they come from Waterberry. Waterberry has been making steel frogs sense WWII. There .110 in thickness. Turner slings use the same frogs and there parked black maganize, Brownells also uses the same frogs on there comp plus sling and there just painted black. The leather is much better with the Turner.

Pic #3/4. Are from a unknown WWII contractor, there also .110 in thickness and are zinc parked, the ends of the frogs are very sharp/pointy no I didn't sharpen them thats the way they were you can still see some of park on there edges. My Grandfather gave me his old sling that he used in the Marine Corp from when it was issued too him untell he retired, the leather was all black, cracked and rotted from storage so I salvaged the frogs.
Phil, I really appreciate the pictures and information. You added a great deal to the knowledge we can pass on to other forum members.

I appreciate the information Echo Grunt and you added on the Brownells slings. I have noted they have adverstised/sold them in every catalog for decades, but never saw one that I'm sure was one of them, funny thing. Just never happened to run across one.

You also reminded me of another commercial sling I've often run across and should add to this thread. They are always a dark reddish brown and the leather and holes are always pretty good. However, they have thin/cheap brass plated hooks that wear out quickly. Some of these were placed on collector or old military guns so many decades ago that a lot of people THINK they are GI when they were not. Thanks for reminding me.

I also managed to salvage at least one complete set of the two brass hooks and brass ring from an original 1907 sling, plus some other few mostly steel hooks. Always thought that maybe I might make one last copy of a 1907 sling with them if I ever got an O3 rifle again it would look correct on.

Good info on the rivets. Two decades ago I also found some of the correct rivets in our almost ancient Pleasant's Hardware Store in Downtown Richmond, VA.
 

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MGySgt USMC (ret)
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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
I'm not Gus, but the VN era nylon slings will slipout under the pressure of the clasp. Thats how they earned the reputation as the widowmaker of slings.

YMMV.
Phil is EXACTLY correct about that. Those green VN era nylon slings would slip from the keeper even just when you were marching at sling arms. The ONLY thing they were good for was they would not rot, but they were so bad for everything else, we just considered them junk.

EVERYONE in the Marine Corps was taught to get the OD green woven slings for field use and especially for Annual Requalification in my early years in the Corps. I purchased one in the early 70's and permanently marked the sling for Offhand, Kneeling, Sitting and Prone Positions. Had to remark it for use with the M16 and used it each year for Requalification until I made MSgt and was no longer allowed to Requalify with the rifle. Still have that sling somewhere in some of my old gear.

After the green nylon VN era sling, Rock Island decided we didn't need a rifle sling that could be adjusted for shooting, so they came out with simple black woven nylon sling with an "M" buckle on each end and was only intended to be used as a carryng strap. What a POS that was! I guess they got enough bad feedback on it that they kept the woven black nylon material, but went back to the older sing keeper design. These would slip when using them on the rifle range, but were not bad for field use.

Even though I was issued these newer slings as they came out, I never used them and always used my Green woven cloth sling. Always figured that IF it rotted or wore out, I would use a second one I got from somewhere. That sling is on my Walter Mitty Rifle and is the type I recommend to those who don't want a leather sling.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Guess I should admit something about USING M1907 Leather Slings that surprises many people. I have never shot competition, was never taught how to actually use leather slings for position shooting and I have zero experience using them. Now that's funny because I've repaired a bunch of them and even made a very few exact reproductions, BUT I have to carry a photo copy sheet of how to put the things on rifles because I've never used one for shooting.

The shooters always had to take the slings OFF the rifles when they handed them to us to work on except for when we just cleaned the gas pistons. Yeah, I've caught a bunch of good natured kidding about handing a rifle and a sling back to someone and telling them that they had to put the sling back on. I usually told them, "Look, I BUILT the rifle for you and you don't expect me to SHOOT it for you, DO YOU?!! Yeah, I can repair and even make slings (if I have to do it) and I hope you don't expect me to use the sling for you either!" Grin.

If THAT "did not fly," then in later years I told them "No, I don't know how to use these New Fangled Leather Slings. However, in the OLD Corps, I got LOADS of experience using leather slings for the Brown Bess or the Enfield Rifle Musket!!" That got a bunch of looks of surprise and even some thoughts the old Top was pulling their leg UNTIL I made a point to bring them in every now and then and show the slings attached those guns. THEN I told them, "Don't talk to me about the OLD CORPS unless you can show me the rust stains on your hands from the Iron Ram Rods!!" GRIN.
 

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Phil, I really appreciate the pictures and information. You added a great deal to the knowledge we can pass on to other forum members.

I appreciate the information Echo Grunt and you added on the Brownells slings. I have noted they have adverstised/sold them in every catalog for decades, but never saw one that I'm sure was one of them, funny thing. Just never happened to run across one.
Gus, I have never used the Brownells Comp plus sling, but the Wife has on her Ar. I can tell you this it was waisted after 4 mos of shooting. The leather would strech like a big black leather rubber band and no I didn't put any secret sause on it either. The leather had a very spongy feel I know that sounds odd but its true it started off at 52in and you could strech it out to 56in. The hardwear was the same as what is used by Turner Saddlery(Waterberry 'B') so I cut them off for use with better leather at a later date. If I can pick them up for cheap at the gun shows sometimes there worth snapping up just for there hardwear.

The Cathy Ent. MRT sling, was very dry out of the bag and as you can see from the pic's this sling had very thin hardwear. After a very thin treatment of mink oil the whitish leather turned a very nice russet brown like a well used sling aged by years of honest use, tanned with hand oils. MRT slings don't use the best grade of leather but they have that correct look with correct frogs, even there leather is a step above the Brownells. The sling that this hardwear was removed from came off a sling made in the early 90's. I have seen older MRT slings with the Waterberry 'B' marked frogs and they used a better grade leather overall.

Both Slings the Cathy Ent. MRT and the Brownells were 52' in lenth, for avg sized shooters there too short too be used correctly on adult sized rifles, if your going too use one on a Ar/15 there even shorter as the sling swivel is two inches higher up the forearm so your too short sling is now even shorter.

One sling I didn't talk about is the Turner AWS. I guess everyone has there pet peeves, I can't stand them!! Yes I tried one, It didn't feel right. Very grippy and you almost need to have 3 hands too work the thing pinching the keepers does help them to slide. Yes I know they don't strech or slip, but you shouldn't feel roped down or trusted up either when a sling is adjusted the right way. My .02

Quality frogs/hooks will have the thickness of about two dimes stacked up and just a bit more, if there as thin as 1 dime pass on that sling the hooks could bend/flex and pull/slip out of the slings eyelet.

A great starter sling thats fast and very easy too adjust for use is the old standby green cotton M1 sling, there cheap too buy and easy too find so there often overlooked as just a gun strap.
 
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