Give your lever action rifle an RLO Custom Leather makeover

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Not long ago I unearthed my Winchester 30-30 out of the safe where it had been sitting lo these many years. I purchased it in Decatur, Georgia, where I snuck off from a family reunion and headed to a pawn shop. Yes, I was playing hooky and perusing guns. (What was the world coming to?)

And there it was, a beat up but lovable Model 94 Winchester.

Don’t ask what possessed me to buy this rifle.

Perhaps I wanted a piece of old Americana. After all this classic has seen service from the time of the Indian Wars to the WWII. 

Right out of the box you can readily see the craftsmanship that went into the sling.

Then there were the movies where it had been featured with everyone from Clint Eastwood to the Three Stooges.

How venerable can you get? 

I purchased the rifle and had it shipped to Hawaii.

At any rate, I figured it would be fun to shoot and would be a perfect pig hunting tool. Lots of wild pigs here. They were brought over by the original Polynesian voyagers and eventually inter-bred with escaped domestic piggies.

I wanted to handload for the ’94 so I got the proper dies, powder, bullets, cartridges, etc for my 550 Dillon press. Then I promptly forgot about the rifle.

More accurately, I got distracted by other shiny things.

Years passed and suffice it to say, I decided it was time to take the Model 94 to the range. So I loaded up a few plinker rounds with plated bullets. All I wanted to do was reacquaint myself with this rifle and hit a gong.

Surely if Annie Oakley could hit a quarter that someone tossed in the air, I should be able to whack a 14” diameter steel plate at 100 yards.

At the range the rifle was a blast. It’s a carbine and not all that heavy so it was quite manageable.

However, after a short time, that Model 94 started feeling mighty onerous. 

What was the problem?

Pretty simple. Unlike my “modern sporting rifles” it didn’t have a sling. 

I needed to rectify this.

There were several slings out there but they all necessitated drilling of holes. I didn’t want any of that so I kept on looking and stumbled onto RLO Custom Leather. RLO is the brainchild of a fellow named Rick Lowe who resides at the interface of firearms and leather.

The harness is secured on the buttstock by two snaps. The hardware such as the swivel is first class. A “Chicago” screw is used to adjust the strap.

His products include scabbards, knife sheaths, slings, stock covers, cheek risers and the like. He makes accessories for bolt action rifles and shotguns as well as lever guns. He has products for manufacturers ranging from CZ to Winchester.

Based in Bronson, Florida, Mr. Lowe got started making sheathes for his own custom knives. His work got attention and before you know it he was designing leather rifle accessories for the Mosin Nagant, Mauser and SKS. That in turn led him to making slings for Henry, Winchester, Marlin and other lever action rifles.

Rick’s gift to rifledom is that his slings utilize a “no-drill” design.

Instead of adulterating the stock with screws and the like, he uses a harness on the buttstock. In addition to the harness and sling strap you get hardware such as swivels, a magazine tube clamp and a hex wrench. 

After the clamp is added (see photo below) it’s easy to put the swivel end of the strap.

You can either order the product from his distributor, a company called Brass Stacker or you can go directly to creator’s workshop, RLO Custom Leather.

My RLO sling arrived in a simple white box from USPS.

Upon opening the box I knew that it was hand packed and handcrafted. There was a good feel to know that it was fabricated in someone’s shop, not some soul less factory overseas.

As a side note, this is one of the great things about the firearms industry. There’s still room for an entrepreneur with a good idea. Hence the opportunity for people like Rick Lowe.

So back to the product.

Essentially, all you need to do is place the harness over the butt stock and snap it on. There are two snaps which secure the harness. Likewise, the tube clamp is easily attached with a screw. (They provide the Allen Wrench). 

The next step is to attach the swivel by means of a spring loaded pin. Finally, adjust the (1 inch wide) strap length by means of a “Chicago” screw. There are three adjustment holes approximately 1-1/4″ apart.  I needed to add an extra hole, which was not a big deal.

The tube clamp is easily added by tightening a screw. The allenhead wrench is provided by RLO. Adding the sling takes only a few minutes.

The whole thing will take you all of 20 minutes to assemble/attach on a bad day. The sling is available in Chocolate Brown, lighter Saddle Tan and Charcoal Black. All are made from quality 5/6 ounce veg-tan leather hides.

The ergonomics of the sling were excellent and instead of wearing me out at the range, I could shoot my old lever gun all day.

So what do I like about it other than the utility?

Without getting too anthropomorphic, the RLO sling adds a kind of personality and individuality to the rifle.

At $88 it’s not going to break the bank.

Whether it’s a Winchester, Marlin, Rossi or Henry, a strap makeover will add a different dimension to your lever action rife. The sum of the parts does make for a greater whole. More importantly it makes the old 94 more user friendly.

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