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Making an M1907-Style Rifle Sling
by Roy Seifert

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Disclaimer:  This article is for entertainment only and is not to be used in lieu of a qualified gunsmith.  Please defer all firearms work to a qualified gunsmith.  Any loads mentioned in this article are my loads for my guns and have been carefully worked up using established guidelines and special tools.  The author assumes no responsibility or liability for use of these loads, or use or misuse of this article.  Please note that I am not a professional gunsmith, just a shooting enthusiast and hobbyist, as well as a tinkerer.  This article explains work that I performed to my guns without the assistance of a qualified gunsmith.  Some procedures described in this article require special tools and cannot/should not be performed without them.

Warning:  Disassembling and tinkering with your firearm may void the warranty.  I claim no responsibility for use or misuse of this article.  Again, this article is for entertainment purposes only!

Tools and firearms are the trademark/service mark or registered trademark of their respective manufacturers.

Now that I’ve restored a Springfield 1903-A3 drill rifle to shooting condition (refer to my article Reactivating a Springfield 1903-A3 Drill Rifle) I wanted to put a military-style sling on it.  This would be both for looks and for function.  During WWI and most of WWII the official sling used by the U.S. military was the M1907 sling.  This is the sling that looks like someone dropped a bowl of noodles onto the rifle because it has multiple overlapping layers of leather.  This sling can be used to both carry the rifle and provide support in different shooting positions.

Research on the Internet brought up plenty of information about the installation, use, and care of the M1907 sling, as well as numerous suppliers of original or “authentic” replicas.  Just about every shooting supplier on the Internet offered a replica sling, and there were many original WWI or WWII slings for sale, especially from online auction sites.  I decided to purchase a replica at what I thought was a reasonable price, but was very disappointed when the sling arrived.  It was much wider than 1 1/4” inches so it would barely fit in the sling swivels, and it was covered with some type of colored hard finish which would not take any oil.  Rather than send it back I decided to use the hardware from it and make my own sling.  I drilled out the copper rivets to remove the frogs, and cut the stitching on the short strap so I could remove the ring.

I’ve been crafting leather now for over 33 years as an extension of my shooting hobby.  In the late 1970’s – maybe 1979 – I read an article in Guns and Ammo magazine where the author showed how to make a custom leather holster.  That year my wife bought me a leather crafting set from Tandy Leather and I’ve been making leather gear ever since.  Tandy Leather was absorbed by The Leather Factory and became Tandy Leather Factory (TLF).  They still produce leather crafting kits; a good basic one is #55509-00.  This skill has come in handy especially since it’s so difficult to find holsters that fit handguns that have additional accessories attached like lasers.  Refer to my article Making a Custom Leather Holster for a Taurus® 24/7.

The M1907 sling is made up of seven parts:

  • 1 short strap
  • 1 long strap
  • 2 keepers
  • 2 claw hooks called frogs
  • 1 ring

I found a general description of the sling on the Internet which gave me some broad specifications.

“The short strap is about two feet long, an inch and a quarter wide, and quarter inch thick.  [This is way too thick!]  A claw hook [frog] fastened with three strong rivets is at one end and a metal ‘D’ ring is sewn on by means of a loop on the other end.  Between these two pieces of hardware are 16 pairs of punched holes.  This is the end of the [sling] that attaches to the lower sling swivel of the rifle. Until 1938 the metal parts were made of blackened brass.  This was replaced by Parkerized steel, although some parts manufactured during World War II were blackened steel.

The long strap is about 46 inches long with a claw hook, also called a ‘frog’, on one end and the opposite end, the feed end, rounded off.  The sling weighs in at about a half of a pound.  Ten pairs of holes start from the feed end and progress toward the center with another 18 pairs originating at the claw end.  This leaves about 16 inches of unpunched leather in between.  The long strap also includes two three quarter inch wide leather loops known as sling keepers which are used to keep loose ends tidy and the sling snug around the shooter’s arm.  It is [attached to] the forward sling swivel.”

One other reference indicated that the short strap measured 1 1/4” x 24”, and the long strap measured 1 1/4” x 48” inches.  The short strap requires an extra 2.5 inches to make the loop to hold the ring, so all together I needed about 75-inches of 1 1/4” leather.  Through trial and error I discovered that the short strap needed to be 22” for the Springfield 1903-A3, and 24” for the M1 Garand.

Because I couldn’t find original drawings or complete specifications for the sling I purchased a WWI “relic” from ebay for $7.00 including shipping.  The keepers were missing and the short strap was torn in two places; however the metal hardware was intact which I can remove.  I used this 1918-dated relic to get the measurements I needed.

Choosing the Leather
Leather is sold by thickness but it is measured in ounces.  One ounce is 1/64 of an inch.  8-9 ounce leather makes the best rifle slings; 8/64 = 1/8 which is half the thickness of 1/4 as stated above.  TLF sells natural cowhide leather strips in different widths and lengths, all are made of 8-9 ounce leather.  Their longest strips measured 72 inches which was perfect for what I needed.  I purchased one 72-inch strip 1 1/4” wide #4530-00 which gave me enough leather to make the sling.  It is my understanding that the original military slings were made of raw leather and frequently oiled to give them that deep, rich brown color, so I decided to make mine out of natural leather and would apply my own oil and finish.

Another good choice for sling leather would be latigo leather which has already been oiled.  TLF sells these in 72” lengths #4764-00 and they are also made of 8-9 ounce leather.  Latigo leather can leave oil stains on clothing so it needs to be sealed with some type of finish to prevent the oil from leeching out onto clothing.

Making the Straps


I cut a 48” strap from the 72” blank and rounded one end leaving one end squared.  I will attach the frog to the square end.  That left a 24” strap with square ends that I left alone.  I will attach the second frog to one end, and the other end will be split and folded over to make a loop for the metal ring.

Punching the holes


In order to get the holes properly and evenly spaced I created a template from heavy card stock.  After measuring the relic sling I spaced holes 1/2” apart, with
1 1/4” between each pair of holes.  The template also provided the pattern so I could round off one end of the long strap.


I started marking holes 3” inches from the frog end of the short strap; refer to the specification drawings above.  I used the template to mark the locations of the holes using the pointed end of a modeling tool #8039-06.  I moved the template so the holes at the end were centered over the two marks I made previously, then marked the next set of holes.  I used a 3/16” x 9/32” oval hole punch from the oval punch set #3005-00 to punch 16 sets of holes.  On the long strap, I punched 16 pairs of holes 1 1/4” apart starting 2 3/8” from the frog end, and 10 pairs of holes 3/4” from the round end.


I took my grooving tool #8069-00 and adjusted it to 1/8” and cut a stitching groove completely around each strap.  This gave it an authentic, professional look.


To give the strap a rounded edge I first took my #3 edge beveler #8076-03 and beveled both the front and back edges of both straps.  This removed the sharp, square edge of the leather.  Then I took a small wet sponge and moistened the beveled edge, then rounded the edge with an edge slicker #8122-00.  This process also gave the leather a finished, professional look.


The last 1 1/2 inches of the loop end of the short strap I split to 1/2 the thickness so I could fold over the leather.  I split the flesh (rough) side of the leather, not the smooth (hair) side.  I used my Heritage leather splitter which apparently TLF no longer sells.  Their Craftool version is a fairly expensive tool, but you can do the same with a skiving tool #3025-00 or a single-edge razor blade. 

Finishing the Leather
There are many types of leather finishes available including dyes, waxes, creams and lotions, and even varnish or lacquer.  Based on my research, original M1907 slings were made of unfinished leather, but treated with neatsfoot oil to make them supple and to provide some protection against drying out.  Later slings were treated with a mildew-resistant chemical, but I don’t plan to have my sling out in the rain.

Neatsfoot oil will discolor the leather, which is exactly what I wanted.  One resource on the Internet showed how one coat of neatsfoot oil turned the leather to a rich brown color, but it seemed for my leather one coat was not enough.  Even after three coats of neatsfoot oil, once the oil dried the leather returned to its pale, but somewhat darker, original color indicating it would take many coats of oil to get to the proper shade.


In order to get the color I desired I poured some neatsfoot oil into a plastic bowl and submersed the leather into the oil.  I didn’t let it soak, just left it there long enough for the leather to change to the color I desired.  I removed the strap and wiped the excess oil off with a paper towel, then hung the strap up to dry.

Once the oil dried I applied a coat of Fiebing’s Aussie Leather Conditioner #2199-00 which contains beeswax.  This sealed the leather to prevent any oil from leaching out of the leather and made it somewhat waterproof.  It also made the sling slide through the sling swivels and keepers easier because of the wax finish.

Attaching the Hardware
Although I used the hardware from an existing sling, Brownells sells the frogs #084-270-006WB.  Ryan Loeppky, a reader of The Kitchen Table Gunsmith found an unusual source for the sling rings.  Ryan discovered that Home Depot sells a steel chain that the individual links are the correct size for the ring.  The model number is 806446 #2/0 Steel Straight Link Chain store SKU# 263436.  I found it in the aisle that sells bulk chain for $1.15/foot.  Their web site states this must be purchased in the store, which makes sense since they are going to cut it off of the bulk reel.

Photo courtesy Ryan Loeppky

Ryan cut the two adjoining links to separate one link.  He polished the weld so it wouldn't cut into the leather, then sanded off the zinc plating.  Finally he cold-blued the link so it would match the frogs he purchased from Brownells as described above.  Because the link is welded this makes a very strong sling ring.  Thanks Ryan for sharing this great idea.  

Once the leather was finished I attached the hardware I removed from the poor quality sling.  I laid the frog on the square end of each strap, marked the locations of the three rivet holes, then used my rotary hole punch #3240-00 to punch the holes for the rivets. 


The frogs were attached to original M1907 slings with copper rivets.  I used small, black double-cap rivets #1371-13 to attach the hardware.  I used black to match the color of the hardware.  I inserted the stem of the base through the frog and into the leather.  I set the cap onto the stem through the back of the strap using my rivet setter #8105-00.  I set the cap deeply into the back of the leather strap so it was flush with the leather.  In this way it wouldn’t drag against the other strap.


I folded the split end of the short strap, installed the ring, punched two holes, then installed two of the black double-cap rivets.  The loop was sewn on original M1907 slings but I decided to use rivets because they’re easier to install.

The M1907 sling has two keepers to help keep the straps in place.  I cut two strips of 8-9 ounce leather 3/4” wide by 2 1/2” long.  I grooved, beveled, and slicked each strip as previously described.  I split both ends to 1/2 the thickness; the end that would lay on top I split the flesh side, the end that would lay on the bottom I split the hair side.  I split the ends because I didn’t want the keeper to be so thick where I riveted the ends together. I soaked each strap in water for about 30-seconds, then wrapped it around two thicknesses of sling strap.  This wet-molded the keepers to the proper shape so they fit perfectly and would be nice and tight.

Once the leather dried I dunked each strap into neatsfoot oil, wiped off the excess, allowed it to dry, then applied the leather conditioner.

I wrapped each keeper around two thicknesses of sling strap as I did before and marked the outside end where I wanted to punch the two rivet holes.  After I punched the holes, I again wrapped the keeper around two thicknesses of sling strap and marked the inside end and punched the rivet holes.  Once the holes were punched I attached two of the black double-cap rivets to hold the keeper together.

Attaching the Sling
Ok, so now that I have this “spaghetti” of leather, how do I attach it to my rifle?  It’s really not so difficult once you do it a couple of times:


Step 1:  Run the hook of the short strap through the rear sling swivel so the ring is against the rifle and the hooks of the frog are facing the rifle.


Step 2:  Put one keeper onto the long strap so the rivets are on the back (non-stitching groove) side of the strap. 


Step 3:  Feed the round end of the long strap through the ring of the short strap so the front (stitching groove) side of the long strap is against the rifle and the hooks are facing the rifle.  Note the orientation of the long strap in the above photo.


Step 4:  Feed the round end of the long strap through the keeper you installed in step 2 above.

Step 5:  Attach the hooks of the short strap into the first set of holes below the frog of the long strap.


Step 6:  Put the second keeper onto the long strap so the rivets are on the front (stitching groove) side of the strap and against the rifle.


Step 7:  Feed the round end of the long strap through the front sling swivel, then back through the second keeper you installed in step 5 above.


Step 8:  Attach the hooks of the long strap to any hole in the rounded end of the long strap.  I found the third set of holes from the rounded end worked best for me by loosening the strap and inserting the frog into the set of holes so the strap was loose enough to sling the rifle over my shoulder.

Adjusting the Sling
The sling can easily be loosened or tightened (dressed) by pulling on the inside and outside sections of the long strap in opposite directions.


Referring to the above photo, pull the outside of the long strap towards the muzzle, and pull the inside of the long strap towards the butt to tighten the sling.  Pull the outside of the long strap towards the butt, and pull the inside of the long strap towards the muzzle to loosen the sling.  (The beeswax conditioner I applied to the leather makes this fairly easy to accomplish.)

Using the Sling for Shooting Support
The purpose of the sling is to not only allow you to conveniently carry the rifle, but to also provide additional support in the prone, sitting, and kneeling positions.


Step 1:  Loosen the sling, then remove the lower frog and attach it to the second or third pair of holes on the frog end of the short strap.  This keeps the strap anchored and prevents it from flopping around.


Step 2:  Move the upper frog to an appropriate pair of holes in the rounded end of the long strap.  For me I found I didn’t have to move this frog at all.  You will have to experiment to find what pair of holes and sling adjustment works best for you.


Step 3:  Move the lower keeper up the strap to expose a loop of leather.


Step 4:  Rotate the sling 1/2 turn to the left for a right-handed shooter.


Step 5:  Place your left arm through the loop and pull the loop up above your bicep.  Tighten the keeper so the leather loop stays in place.  Tighten the upper keeper close to the upper sling swivel.


Step 6:  Place the back of your left hand against the sling and grip the stock close to the upper sling swivel.  The sling should be fairly tight, but not uncomfortable.


Step 7:  Once you have attained the prone, sitting, or kneeling position move the butt of the rifle to your shoulder.  You should have to push the butt forward against the tension of the sling to get the butt to fit snuggly against your shoulder.  The sling should be tight in order to provide proper support.  If I had a shooting jacket and glove there would be no space between the back of my hand and the sling in the above photo.


   © Copyright 2012-2015 Roy Seifert.