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Care and Feeding of Holster Owners

Updated: Apr 24

Researching horsehide holsters -- I love the stuff and am a fairly recent convert -- I ran across this FAQ page that is on the Kramer website. Greg Kramer is a former DeSantis employee as was Michael Punzone of High Noon Holster (a friend, who died only a decade ago).

Some of what's on the FAQ is true, valid and useful. Some of it is NOT and must be ignored! Think of this post as a Mythbusters of Gunleather's Old Wive's Tales.

Above: what causes a long lead time at this maker and the likes of Sparks? High quality? High demand? Bullshit. The shop is too small, employee wise; and the maker either doesn't want to get bigger or can't find workers. I'm not criticizing their small size, but don't even suggest that one's limited output is 'will not sacrifice quality for quantity'. The finest makers in the world have hundreds of craftsmen.

Above: good advice about the waxing. The vintage holsters that you may have in your collection can be up to 125 years old and have had no care at all! The rest of that, about keeping the holster stiff, well, oils were not ever applied to soften holster in the first place: it was to weatherproof them, and strengthen the fibres inside against cracking and tearing. Explained to me by the owner of Hermann Oak.

Yeah it is! As far as dates, horsehide was best known as being the stuff of the Sam Browne belts that were adopted for WW1 but rarely, maybe even never, encountered in holsters until the late 1950s when Gaylord began touting it. And 'non-porous'?! How does this maker think water penetrates the leather for wet moulding? What horsehide gives you is a perfectly smooth interior layer -- like a baby's bum because it has been 'pasted' at the tannery -- and it dries STIFF like plastic but only when hot-air dried.

Above: true, as far as it goes. 30 year old holsters? How about 150 year old holsters, made in 1882 and sold at auction early this century -- Newton & Andrews, the predecessor the famed El Paso Saddlery closed since 1902:

This is neither new nor news! Hard-tempered leather holsters appeared in the Fifties and were popularized by the likes of Bianchi in the Sixties; it was a hard-fought battle to convince the oldies to accept stiff gunleather. Are they hard-molded to retain the pistol? Absolutely not, have a look at my wet moulding blog posts for the real reason: to position the pistol the same way every time for the draw, and to eliminate finish wear on the pistol.

Above, I don't disagree with this. But it IS possible to wet fit your holster again -- but you will surely ruin the existing finish and likely the holster if you're untrained. Which you are or you wouldn't be buying Other People's Holsters. It's nice, that Kramer will reform your holster. For a price. Plus postage. And a long delay if it's your daily holster.

Above, this is one of my two pet peeves. We'll get to the other one, too. It is ABSOLUTELY FALSE that bagging your pistol and inserting it into your holster will make it looser. Simply put your pistol in the holster, directly, and get the same result! The bag is a 'leftover' from the days when owners were first advised to grease their pistol before inserting it into a soaking wet holster for moulding (see my blog post about the ancient advice for wet moulding and you'll even see the changeover from grease to bag). The thickness of the bag has NO EFFECT and I dumped a contributing editor who insisted on spreading this bad advice that is an insult to our intelligence.

ALL gunleather except the old, cheap IWB clip-on holster is made of veg (bark) tanned leather, usually cowhide. On the other hand, ALL suede lined gunleather since the 1960s most especially Safariland's SSL has been lined with the 'evil' chrome tanned split leather! You want to absolutely ruin your pistol in a holster? Put it in a wet veg (bark) tanned holster. It will rust and corrode within a half hour. But chrome tanned leather won't: doesn't absorb water!! It just rolls off.

"Suede' is a brushed finish and not a tannage, and a maker who doesn't know this is a noob. What's used in shoulder harnesses is properly called a 'split', which is a chrome-tanned layer that was split off a full-thickness hide then 'sueded' on both sides. Why is it chrome? Because if it were veg tanned it would tear like paper! Nope, the reason splits are used is because they are CHEAP, otherwise your maker w/b using thin, full-grain calfskin, pigskin, 'roo skin (I did), goat skin -- the list of thin, strong leathers with a full grain is large.

Above, EVERY maker since the 1970s has used nylon thread (well, many use a synthetic in the same class, such as polyester). It was developed for WWII use in parachutes when nylon itself was brand new (for WW1 they didn't have parachutes!) and first came into use in the Fifties by Gaylord. We at Bianchi adopted it as standard mid-70s. Do natural fibre threads rot or break? Absolutely not, here's an ancient Heiser 457 (introduced 1937 for the FBI) and with the one I owned but cut apart at the main seam: I couldnt' even get the cut threads out of the holes, much less tear them away as 'rotted'!

This is that 'other' old wives' tale that really peeves me. You'll need a stiff gunbelt if your holster maker has designed his holster to carry your holster too high on the belt. So the pistol is being carried above the centre of gravity, and they are not compelled to do this. Nowadays with big double stack mags the effect is really exaggerated. But the sheer WEIGHT of the pistol does not dictate a stiff belt, it's the holster that forces you to one. I tested my holsters on a genuine WalMart belt: no droop no sag, with an excellent holster. Who makes these claims? Makers who also sell belts :-).

I agree with this advice. Completely. The days of the wide belt were the 1970s when everyone esp the Hippies wore 1-3/4" belts. And it was a significant upgrade from the 1960s when everyone wore a 1" wide belt! If it's stiffness you want in a belt, it's in its WIDTH not in its length. Metal reinforced? Might as well buy a length of hoop iron and wear it as a belt, for all the sense that makes.

Wear it! The belt will take on the shape of your hips and fit you better than ever, and will dry naturally. The old cowboys would ride their horses complete with tack into the river to soften their leather gear, then let it dry in situ. They even believed that leaving the Colt SA in the holster was a benefit: rusted the screw into position so they wouldn't loosen while firing it.

We have a saying here in Australia: 'yeah, nah'. The above is NOT the FBI carry angle, first established early in the 1900s when there was no FBI but we DID have the Texas Rangers: the Brill that generally had a 25-30 degree carry angle. This holster was then adapted for Tom Threepersons and in the 1930s it was Sam Myres who introduced Tom's holster to be adopted by the FBI for their new 357 Magnums. If you buy a 10 degree angle you won't be able to tell it from a straight drop on your belt, while you're wearing it.

Above, a 10 degree Berns-Martin Australia from my bench. Below, a 25 degree Myres, the genuine article worn by Jerry Campbell beginning mid-1930s:

Below, the man himself -- Jerry Campbell showing off the Thompson in one of the many demonstrations for the public that he and Jelly Bryce did for the general public circa 1940 while Director Hoover was promoting his force's gunfighting skills. Notice his Myres' angle and that his belt is far too narrow for the holster's belt loop -- or is it? His mate Jelly bragged on his Myres holster for its resulting ability to tilt on the belt for a faster draw to the target.

Above, somebody's been reading old Bruce Nelson catalogues or articles. I knew Bruce and he didn't create this notion; rather it was the combined efforts of Gaylord, Angell and Theodore circa 1967 when Bruce then copied the early Seventrees prototypes that had been sent to Bruce's mentor, Jeff Cooper (a Seventrees director). No one has ever had to deal with a holster that required a change in gripping after the draw, since the days of Myres. Instead, a better definition would be that the holster does not interfere with the knuckle of the second finger; to wit Bruce himself:

The claim is irrelevant to revolver holsters anyway.

Hmmm. Here the author is thinking of 'sueded' or 'split' lined holsters. Agreed that the purpose of wet moulding is to keep the pistol from moving 'round. But linings have their place: they came to the fore early last century when the inside of an unlined holster was quite rough. Perkins' SSL was a con job; his 'orthopedic suede' was a a chrome tannage with a particular 'boarded' grain used in braces for the disabled esp. polio victims of the era. Here's a gorgeous Myres, lined with calfskin.

It's a science, baby! But you wouldn't know it from the above FAQs. "Busted".

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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