• Red Nichols, Holstorian

At Milt Sparks Holsters, we proudly make our products the same way everyone else does

Updated: May 5

I don't mind promoting the Sparks people, despite my having to sue them for defamation a few years ago. At least they stopped defaming me! That Ken Hackathorn chap, though, not so much :-( They did get rid of Tony Kanaley, though, right after the suit :-). Which I think they pretty much had to given the trouble he caused them.

A YouTube appearance I only recently discovered reminds that the folks at Sparks Holsters use no techniques or equipment that is any different from the Bianchi Holster operation of the 1960s that preceded Uncle Milt when he started out in the '70s. Thankfully we sophisticated operations significantly at Bianchi since that time; but it looks like Sparks managed to catch up with the '70s at least:

I especially get a kick out of their moulding presses -- not the first time I've seen them in their shop -- which give the lie to the company's claim that they hand mould their holsters for buyers. This is the very methodology used by Bianchi; then by Safariland that sprang from it; then by Rogers to claim as his invention in his Kydex laminate patent! If we'd only known that scamp had already disclosed his vulcanizing process in a prior patent, then he'd've gotten nowhere with this one . . ..

The video shows two of these presses. Why is the holster with the casting inside it, inside a plastic bag? Because the porous rubber pads will otherwise leave an ugly, grainy look on the leather itself and one will see this most often on Kramer horsehide holsters. Should we tell 'em that they could save on bags if that rubber had a 1/4" thick layer of polyurethane sheet of the same shape over the porous rubber? Naaahh, let's let 'em figure out that polyurethane has no pores and neither tears nor takes a permanent marking from the holsters.

Bianchi's early presses, this image from a 1976 Gun World article:

Why is the stitching machine being shown off in the video? Because we all show them off for tours of our factories; making a holster is otherwise a damned boring display! The machine used at Sparks is a Landis that is the Randall that is the Cambell -- and used by all gunleather makers in the 20th century -- Bianchi, Jackass, Sparks, Safariland, Shoemaker. There wasn't much else at hand. A Galco image of same:

But didn't Milt Sparks himself invent everything in gunleather? Oh, oh. No, he didn't:

For example, the Askins Avenger of 1976 (here in a 1977 catalog) that was invented at Bianchi Holster to compete with the then-new Baker pancake's patent. Hackathorn still displays his weak grasp of holster design when he claims it to be a copy of Bruce Nelson's crude crossdraw; which it is not. And Bruce's instead is derived from E.E. Clark's 1930s crossdraw! Simpleton. I'd have watered down this post if an FOH hadn't recently sent me yet another false claim about this by Hack (this time in a video).

And the Sparks copy of the Avenger that he claimed to be the Nelson crossdraw? Here it is in 1988 that is a decade later:

That itself is nothing like the crude design of Bruce's that is derived from the Clark; here are the rough cardboard patterns he used to make them from. The awl hole pattern is where the little tab for the belt was to be placed (he could've been extra clever and places the slots directly through the holster, then molded a belt tunnel into the holster itself):

And his simple holster (below) that only works in crossdraw and isn't even stitched properly (stitches arevfailing because the knots are exposed since new):

"CLL", above and below, was Bruce's original venture that was Combat Leather Ltd (both Seventrees, and Safari, used the 'Ltd' appellation in Bruce's time).

Look, there is no denying Sparks Holster's accomplishment in operating a viable business all these years.

Above: be honest with yourself; is that crude holster at upper right REALLY what you thought a Nelson crossdraw looked like? Kanaley says on 1911Forum (2003) that this image is from a pre-1976 catalog (I collected all his images during the lawsuit; I doubt it's still there).

But have any ethics or honesty been used -- ever -- since Milt founded his company on the back of Andy Anderson's three debilitating strokes in 1972? By Milt? By Kanaley? By Hackathorn? Least of all that Sparks makes its holsters somehow differently than any other garage maker?

They don't. They just just deliver 'em really, really slooooowwly and always have. Unlike everybody else.

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