Dell’s Leather Works


19th Century Friction Sling (Enfield Rifle)

U.S. Regulation Issue Musket Sling

[Replies to Micheal McElhinney from Wayne Moug, Subject: '53 Enfield Rifle Sling]

Mr. McElhinney,

Following our conversation yesterday, I had the opportunity to check a few more secondary references in our library.

Mike Chappel illustrates an Enfield sling in the Osprey Men-at-Arms Series #107 book, 'British Infantry Equipments, 1808-1908'. Plate C includes elements of the equipment wore by British troops in 1854 including the sling, which is shown as a single length of leather with a fixed keeper at one end and a sliding keeper, the other end has four holes and a hide 'string' to lace through the holes. This is the one I believe you were describing.

The 'List of Changes of British War Material in Relation to Edged Weapons, Firearms and Associated Ammunition and Accoutrements, Vol. I, 1860-1886', compiled and published by Ian Skennerton in 1980, has a single reference to a musket sling on page 67.

2232  Musquet Slings    20 Nov 1871

Sling, buff, Infantry, for long rifled musquet.
Sling, buff, Infantry, for short rifled musquet, Serjeants.

Having lower end when passed through guard swivel fastened by a white horse-hide thong instead of a brass buckle.

So, it appears that in 1871, coincidently the same year the Martini-Henry was introduced into service, the buckle on the sling was removed. Unfortunately, it still doesn't definitively indicate when the buckled sling was introduced, although it most certainly had been by 1866 [see reference sent yesterday, which is below].

It may be that the buckled sling had a short 'official' lifespan in the late '60s but more information will be required for the Civil War period.

I'll continue to keep an eye out for references.

Wayne

Please note that the two references, 'List of Changes...' and 'Arms and Equipment....' cited are reprints of period official publications.



Mr. McElhinney,

Regarding your query as to specifications on the musket sling suitable for the '53 pattern Enfield in the 1860s, I can provide the following information.

The book 'Arms and Equipment of the British Army, 1866', edited by John Walker and published by Greenhill Books in 1986 lists (p. 49) two types of musket slings as being issued to the army, one in black for rifle regiments and the other in buff for Guards and line regiments. Plate XV illustrates two slings, a buff musket sling for serjeants, and a black musket sling (presumably for the rifle regiments). Both slings are of the same dimensions, 3' 9" in length and 1-1/4" in width. The thickness is not noted. There is an additional sling shown in Plate XVI, titled buff musket sling. It has the same length as the other two. The width is 1 and ?", the fraction being illegible, but it would probably be the same as noted for the serjeants and rifle regiments as the swivels should be the same. All three illustrations show a buckle and two 'keepers', one fixed and one sliding.

Research carried out on behalf of the Halifax Citadel National Historic Site of Canada by Mr. Douglas Anderson of Glasgow, Scotland, in the early 1980s gave corroborating information. In his report he provided the following (report not paginated). RIFLE SLING Buff leather 1/8” thick, 1-1/2" wide and 3' 9" long the sling had a 3/4" wide buff keeper sewn on one end. There was also a loose keeper of the same size and a rectangular brass buckle 1-3/4" x 3/4".

I believe earlier patterns of the musket (rifle) sling would have been of similar dimensions but did not have the brass buckle, using friction and the sliding 'keeper' to tighten it in place as required.

Should I come across anything more relevant to your question, I will pass it on.

I hope this information is of some help to you.

Wayne Moug
Military Curator
Parks Canada


NATIONAL ARMY MUSEUM
Royal Hospital Road
Chelsea, London
SW3 4HT

25th September 2004
Our Ref: 8730.7/KRM/ed

Dear Mr. McElhinney

ENQUIRY: MUSKET SLINGS

Thank you for the information and the three musket slings, which are comparable with the ones produced here for re-enactors. One difference is that our ones are rough both sides and early ones are prepared with oak bark tan as we are not sure when more modern tanning methods were introduced. I have given the slings to our education department to use on their various displays.

As far as the slings used by the British Army on the Pattern 1853 Rifle Musket, they were sliding loops with the guard swivel fastened by leather thongs. The samples you sent are of this type and all our re-constructions are the same. At some point, probably after the Crimean War and before 1860 a brass buckle was used to fasten the sling at the guard swivel. The sliding loops would have been retained to adjust the sling. Obviously the brass buckle was not that effective because on 20th November 1871 (List of Changes 2232) the guard swivel end of the sling reverted to fastening with a white horse-hide thong. This system remained in use with the Martini-Henry, which was introduced about that date.

Musket slings provided for the American Civil War by British contractors may well have had buckles, as I said British haversacks, which always had button closures, turned up in America with buckles. There is also the possibility that Civil War Enfields had their slings manufactured in America to different designs.

I hope this information is of help.

Your Sincerely,

Keith Miller
Head of Department
Department of Weapons, Equipment and Vehicles

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