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Another One Bites the Dust -- the Lewis spring shoulder holster

Updated: Sep 4

Like an ancient sacrifice, a rare (uncommon?) Lewis shoulder holster with the vertical springs has given up its body parts for science. Or religion. Or my whim.

Above, note the post and screw that stabilized the twin, independent springs running vertically within that stitched sleeve. Tightening the screw tightened the clamping force of the holster, to allow a happy medium for retention and drawing.

I've been in the biz for 50 years and had never handled one! But from images I could see that it had a pair of springs giving a result similar to the final Bianchi X-15 that itself began its reign with a single spring.

Unlike the Bianchi the pair of 'legs' are two separate springs, placed side-by-side. The Bianchi is/was a single spring bent from one length of piano wire to create paired legs. Conversely, unlike the Lewis, the Bianchi was meant to be stabilized inside the holster by the paired legs; and these legs were bent well past each other to create spring power. Temper them properly and they'll keep their strength a half century (more!) and the blue tips of the Lewis springs tell us they are tempered. No post and screw assembly as on the Lewis.

Which half century is what this Bianchi spring accomplished. I mean, I was there but the spring is JB's own innovation:

Below, the test rig I used to open the spring gap to 1", which is the thickness of the 1911 slide. Not as arbitrary as it sounds because it's the minimum thickness these holsters were made for. When I tightened the post screw assembly just as tight as I could with a hand screwdriver, the opening in the holster produced 10# force at 1" opening. That's a reasonable baseline and the spring opening 'pops' when pulling a finger through it. If the spring in YOUR shoulder holster doesn't 'pop' then it's 'pooped'.

Above, that Bianchi X-15 in my test rig is from the early '70s and so is 50 years old -- yet the spring is 'as-new' and the strongest of all I tested; 15# I recall.

And the Lewis fits the L frame so nicely that I'm going to say it was for a Python; which would then suggest the holster was made after the Python was introduced in 1955. Works for me; from my documentation it appears that Lewis got running in earnest in 1945 at War's end and lasted into the late 1960s. The 'Colt 357' would've fit just as well then:

Images above and below, the plates used to form the cylinder recess have left outlines on the wetted leather showing that they extended only over a limited area to accommodate at least 4" barrels. This one's a 6". The blackened area implies the leather was formed against a steel platen of the machine (wet veg leather 'hates' steel/iron and reacts by blackening).

That cylinder recess (the Bianchi #2800 had two) was formed using a single plate that had a half cylinder placed on it, then a second plate with a 'window' placed over the leather and the combo pressed. We used a hydraulic press at Bianchi because we had 'em; the mightiest machine there was air-over-hydraulic and had a very large platen for the big stuff.

Notice also that Lewis, known for making duplicates of Clark spring belt and shoulder holsters (and pouch holsters, too) went his own way with the harness. Instead of using a pair of 'ears' as Clark did and makers have ever since, Lewis used a 'Y' yoke and then placed it on the outside of the holster body. This one, then, is left-handed as confirmed by the belt strap that belongs on the backside. Neither Lewis nor Clark nor Bucheimer-Clark ever worked out, as Bianchi did, that the belt strap s/b only at trousers belt level; so by attaching their belt straps at the muzzle it moved downwards on long barreled revolvers -- resulting in this sag away from the body (yes, that's even a Clark, in an early 1930s magazine article from Popular Mechanics):

END OF EXPERIMENTS WITH SPRUNG VERTICAL SHOULDER HOLSTERS. Might take up the cudgel with the inverted shoulder holsters such as the Berns-Martin Lightnin' (weak) and Bianchi 9R-2 (strong). Am also on the lookout for a low-priced Hoyt forward-draw just to disassemble and show off the remarkable way its spring is shaped and inserted.

Read more in my book titled "Holstory -- Gunleather of the Twentieth Century -- the Second Edition" that is available at and printed for you/shipped to you in USA.

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