The M1A is almost the same as the classic American M14 battle rifle, in service from 1959 to the present. The only difference is the largely unused select-fire feature. The M14 was an upgraded version of the M1, the rifle General Patton called “the greatest battle implement ever devised.”
The upgrade involved rechambering it from .30-06 to .308 and fitting a larger detachable box magazine.The Germans and Soviets had already noticed the merit of transitioning from battle rifle to lighter assault rifles.
With Eugene Stoner’s AR platform already waiting in the wings, the adoption of the M14/M1A has long been surrounded in controversy. Love it or hate it, the M14 still serves the US military abroad today, while representing a fascinating stage in American firearms history.
Comparison of the Best M1A Slings
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Why You Need a Sling?
Some shooters are interested in the period-correct military kit. Others have lugged their M1A around the bush for a couple of hours and have realized that, by today’s standards, it’s heavier than the average Howitzer. Either way, a sling is the way to go.
A sling is to a long gun what a holster is to a handgun and more. A sling should allow you to stow your weapon in a safe, secure, and comfortable way. It should also leave both hands free to switch to your sidearm, climb, attend to an injury, or complete other tasks.
At first, top brass feared that the new rifle’s 20-round magazine, in contrast with the M1’s eight, would promote lazy marksmanship and ammo waste. To address this, the military issued slings, which a soldier could use to help hold the gun steady much longer than otherwise, even in prone position.
Types of Slings
Sling design has come a long way since then and, while effective, the method above has fallen out of training regimes and general popularity. Today, there are three main categories of long gun slings, with a few other oddball options out there as well. Each serves different purposes and use cases, with different pros and cons in both carry-ability and shot stabilization.
Single-point slings run over one shoulder and under the other. A short lanyard or length of webbing attaches to the firearm where the buttstock meets the receiver. These are best for short-term use, in specific roles within a tactical urban combat team, whether military or law enforcement.
The main benefit of single-point slings is the ability to transition between shoulders to shoot around obstacles. You will most likely see these attached to an SMG or carbine such as a light, short M4.
The primary downside of single-point slings is that they allow the firearm to flop around. This impedes your ability to use your hands for something else or to run without holding on to your gun.
With the firearm laying across your chest (shifting it behind your back isn’t much better) your muzzle is likely to flag your lower appendages. Worst of all, letting your rifle go in order to, say, whip out your sidearm will often result in a sharp wake up call to the groin. Such a blow from a 12-pound scoped M1A is not recommended unless you always wanted to sing a few octaves higher. Even with a SOCOM 16 M1A, single-point slings and M1As make an odd couple.
Two-point slings, on the other hand, include those that the military issued with the M14/M1A and the vast majority of slings used today. They include the traditional carry sling on grandpa’s hunting rifle and a wide variety of modern quick-adjust options. If necessary, with very little practice, these allow you to switch shoulders almost as easily as with a single-point. Meanwhile, they offer much greater versatility.
A good two-point sling will allow you to carry your long gun in a variety of positions: muzzle up, muzzle down, across your back, across your chest, over one shoulder, or across your torso. Strapped across your chest, you can shoulder your firearm in an instant. If dropped, it falls against your torso, well away from your groin, and generally without flagging your feet.
Many two-point slings include features designed to aid in shot stabilization. If not, you can use a ‘hasty sling’ by wrapping the supporting arm around and under the sling before supporting the fore end.
Many experienced tactical firearm trainers will tell you that the correct way to use a three-point sling is to throw it in the garbage. Three-point slings are falling into disuse due to their needless complexity. They actually attach to two points on the rifle, on the left side for right-handed use and vice versa for left-handed users.
From the forward attachment, usually ahead of the forward grip, the sling runs back along the side of the long gun before feeding through a D-ring at the butt. It then loops back around to attach to itself, usually ahead of the magazine well. This loop goes around your body, if you can manage to get into it and out again without tangling or hanging it up on your other gear.
Three-point slings peaked in the 1980s. Since then, advances in two-point sling design have rendered three-point systems obsolete.
Review of the Best M1A Slings
With all this in mind, and with one eye toward military tradition, here are four of the best and most comfortable slings for the M1A. If you happen to have an M14, an M1 Garand, a Ruger Mini-14, or another similar rifle, these recommendations are also valid.
1. Best M1A Tactical Sling: STI 2 Point Rifle Sling
The STI 2 Point Rifle Sling resembles the USGI sling issued with the M14/M1A in the ‘60s but is constructed of cutting-edge tactical materials. The tangle and chafe-resistant tube webbing has been tested to 4000 pounds and features heavy-duty stitching.
Although the webbing is bomb-proof, you may find that it offers little lateral grip on your shoulder. It does not come with sling swivels or other 1.25” attachment hardware. Thus, attachment instructions are rather lacking, although there are YouTube videos to help.
The extra quarter-inch over the standard width is worth it for spreading out the M1A’s considerable weight. The strap features a thumb loop for quick, easy length adjustment, which maxes out at 55 inches, accommodating almost everyone.
STI has a 100% customer satisfaction guarantee and an excellent reputation for customer service. Although the sling does not have a shot-stabilization feature like the military-issue USGI sling, it can serve as a hasty sling.
Many users find that this sling performs as well as slings that cost two or three times as much. If you’re looking for a roughly period-accurate look with very reliable, modern materials and design, this is it.
The width increases the comfort in carrying a heavy rifle like the M1A. With the 100% satisfaction guarantee and unequaled customer support from the team in Kansas, you can’t go wrong with the STI 2-point sling.
2. Best M1A Tactical Sling Runner-up: Tech Sight's M1/M14 Cotton Loop Sling
For authenticity, this reproduction of the original USGI M14 sling is perfect. In the 1950s the military replaced the leather M1907 with the lighter and simpler USGI model. This sling is constructed of stiff cotton webbing which is light and strong.
Unlike its leather predecessor, the cotton webbing dries as fast as a soldier’s clothing. It also provides very good lateral grip, tending to stay on your shoulder. As indicated above, it is worth learning how to use this sling, not only for carrying your M1A, but also for shot stabilization. There are plenty of videos on YouTube to help you.
Although the steel cam buckle offers much quicker adjustment than older slings, it is not ‘quick-adjust’ in the modern sense. You probably have to take the sling off to adjust it.
Like the STI model above, the 1.25” width spreads the weight a little better than a standard one-inch sling. Among the reproduction USGI slings out there today, this is a great value, quality option.
For authenticity, this sling is hard to beat. The cotton webbing is more long-lasting than you might imagine and offers excellent grip. The shot stabilization feature is interesting to learn, but even if you never use it, this is a well-designed, light, and effective sling.
Adjustment is easy, though you won’t be able to do it on the fly or with your weapon shouldered as you can with the STI above. Even if I had another more modern sling for tactical drills, I would keep one of these around. This is the combination that our troops took into Korea and Vietnam.
3. Best M1A Leather Sling: Black Leather Military Style Sling by World War Supply
This is a reproduction of the venerable M1907 sling that was a standard issue until the 1950s. These reliable leather slings remain popular today and are even required in the national shooting matches held at Camp Perry.
Although the M1907 sling was never issued in black, I try to get all my leather products in black to prevent discoloration, so I appreciate this black leather offering. Otherwise, this model is true to the later WWII-era design with steel hooks rather than brass. These are attached to the 1.25” leather strap with copper rivets which will never corrode nor fail.
Setup is more complicated than with the cotton USGI sling above. Unlike the USGI, you don’t need to remove the buttstock attachment to use the shot stabilization loop.
Setting up and attaching these slings is probably a skill that every gun-loving American should be able to do blindfolded. Leather is a sentimental choice for many, but it will also last a lifetime. It also offers better lateral grip on your shoulder than almost all nylon webbing.
This is probably the most common leather sling design in the USA. It can be difficult to understand how to set it up, adjust it, and use the stabilization loop.
Nevertheless, this is an enduring American classic which will be around for decades to come. If you’re not too worried about exact military replica accuracy, black never goes out of style.
4. Best M1A Leather Sling Runner-up: M1907 Military Style Leather Rifle Sling, Brass Hardware Dark Brown by World War Supply
This sling is almost identical to the one above but is constructed of brown leather, like the original military slings. The hooks, frogs, or dogs as you may call them, are brass, much like on the pre-WWII M1907 slings, and are attached with copper rivets.
Many people prefer the look of brass, which, regardless of aesthetics, is more resistant to corrosion than steel. As with the black version above, these are some of the most popular slings in the USA. However, they demand some time to learn how to set up and use.
Again, this sling is as American as apple pie. It goes together with the M1A like Lewis and Clark. If you have trouble setting it up and adjusting it, there are thousands of tutorials to be found through Google and YouTube.
5. Best M1A Leather Sling Second Runner-up: Specter Gear 2 Point Sling
Another modern nylon webbing design, but extra-wide at 1.5”, this sling offers great adjustability. Rather than using the sling swivels on the bottom of the rifle, it uses its own Velcro wrap-around strap system for attachment.
The sling attaches to the left side of the rifle for right-handed use, or to the right side for lefties. Quick-adjust is offered by a spring-loaded self-locking steel cam with a lanyard, which comes in standard or braided for extra grip.
The nylon is lightweight, which may not be to everyone’s taste, but comes in four color options. One key draw of this sling over others listed here is that it features an emergency release buckle in case you need to get out of your sling for any reason.
This sling offers a quick-adjust system and an emergency release buckle on a side-mounted, two-point design. This is everything you need in a modern design.
Given its extra-wide webbing, the lightweight design can be great for lugging a heavy rifle such as the M1A without adding unnecessary weight. If you’re not stuck on that mid-20th-century military authenticity, this is a great choice.
It’s important to choose what works for you. You may be sporting a SOCOM 16 M1A with an aftermarket tactical stock and quick-adjust nylon sling. You may prefer that full-length, ‘60s walnut & steel look with a classic reproduction sling. Contemporary quick-adjust slings are simple and effective.
Military replicas look cool and offer time-tested shot stabilization techniques. Weight is the main reason the M14/M1A was only standard issue for about five years before being replaced by the M16/AR-15. That weight means that a good sling is a vital accessory for this venerable battle rifle.