‘1871 Pattern’ Rifle Sling

1871 saw a new pattern of buff leather rifle sling introduced alongside the new 1971 Pattern Valise Equipment and this pattern and minor variations of it were to remain in service until the 1960s. Originally used for combat, by the twentieth century it had been relegated to ceremonial use and in this form was to remain in use until the demise of the No4 rifle. The 1871 pattern rifle sling is made from buff leather and measured 42 inches in length:imageThe sling has been pipeclayed White, the remaining pipe clay now rather fragile and liable to come off as dust in your hands if you manipulate the sling too much. Two pairs of holes are punched through the leather at one end to allow the sling to be secured around the rear sling swivel of a rifle:imageSadly the leather thong that was used to secure this is missing on my sling and so I have substituted a piece of string until I can find some leather strapping of the correct type:imageAt the opposite end of the sling are a pair of leather beckets:imageThe end loop is sewn to the sling, whilst the other is loose and free to slide up and down:imageThe end of the sling is passed through the front sling swivel of the rifle, doubled back on itself and passed through the two loops:imageThe free end is now passed back along the rifle and secured with the leather thong (or sting in this case) as illustrated above. The sling can then be adjusted to take up the slack to present a smart parade ground finish:imageMy apologies for the Gahendra but I do not own a Martini Henry and this is the closest equivalent in my collection, it does however show the concept nicely.

The buff sling was retained long after the webbing rifle sling was introduced and was used for ceremonial parades such as the guards around Buckingham Palace right through until the SLR rifle was introduced when a white nylon sling was issued instead. Here a guardsman in the early 1950s can be seen to be using the buff sling with his No4 rifle in London:imageI don’t believe my sling is an original 1871 example as it is missing a third pair of holes for the leather securing thong, instead it was probably made up as part of a small batch for ceremonial duties in the twentieth century to broadly the 1871 pattern.

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