• Red Nichols, Holstorian

Gun grabs - expanded

Updated: May 23

I'm not speaking of your current politics over there, but the earliest report of a gun being taken from an officer that 100 years ago launched the first security holsters to prominence. It was 1922 NYC, and the holster was the Audley.

The error was made early, to rely on gunleather instead of the guns to resolve the problem of very bad people wanting to do very bad things to police officers. Again, not about your current politics over there - ha! - but criminals who armed themselves with officers' guns then used them against police and citizens.

It's January 1922 and NYC is in the thick of it. A bit more research then shows me that Inspector-General Alfred Thor retired the very next year (!) leaving us with this mess.

All of us in the '70s then got sucked into that with the forward draws for revolvers that supplanted the trigger guard locking devices on Audleys, evolved through the clamshell of Jewett,, and ended up with such as the Hoyt and the Bianchi 'Break Front' (it's two words; when one word it's your grandma's furniture).

The very first of the Bianchi Model 27s were actually a melding of the Hoyt and its cylinder recesses, with the general configuration of the Berns-Martin, and the spring of the Bianchi X-15 shoulder holster (named for the rocket plane; I made heaps of models of it as a kid).

It just got worse with the Rogers monstrosities such as the crazy one that had to be yanked backwards to draw; I spoke with an officer on the street in those days and he said he had to draw from his Safariland 070 three hundred times to 'break it in'. And he still left both snaps undone, which is how I came to strike up a conversation with him in the first place.

The pistol slides in -- the auto was as common as the revolver because it was for both military and police applications -- against the spring loaded latch. The latch shifts out of the way as the pistol is seated then snaps back into position. To draw: push the button, to quote the Pussycat Dolls' song. A second metal piece is a reinforcement around the holster's midriff; this keeps the holster itself from doing the shifting.

Frank Audley was born IR in the middle of the 19th century and earned several patents, the best known of which was followed by his company's bankruptcy and then by his his death. The challenge was taken up by inventor Ferdinand Franz who worked for H&D Folsom Arms that became known as the Folsom Audley; followed by JayPee also in NYC (J.P. for John Parlante, get it?) and Courtlandt Boot Jack that made the first of the Colt-branded gunleather. Poorly.

Things just never got better for our men and women in blue. Bill Rogers kept pushing the holster as the solution, and officers just kept getting shot with their own pistols -- because the onus was not ever put onto the gun makers where it belongs.

You LEOs are still not safe. Maybe those nice people in Washington will help with this one? Mrs. Pelosi? Anyone? Buehler? What's that you say, Mrs. Pelosi, you've diverted all the LEO funding to give guns to Democrats?

On auction sites one will encounter Folsom Audley holsters more often than the original Audley-only marking. H&D Folsom Arms, which appears to take its "H&D" from Henry and David who were the sons, not of the founder but of the founder's sons, was more than just an arms merchant. Folsom was also heavily into sporting goods that included fishing and hunting guns and equipment; notably shotguns and fishing rods.

Anyway, that same brochure of 1926 shown above has a second page devoted to the then-new Thompson submachine gun:

And it appears that H&D Folsom Arms ran into 'a spot of bother' with the Thompson, straightaway -- the very next year that was 1927:

That is, I'm expecting that the reporter didn't know the diff between a 'machine gun' and a 'submachine gun', which term was invented for Thompson itself as the first of its kind. So I expect that these were Thompsons. Notice in the Folsom brochure that the ones on offer have double the rate of fire of civilian Tommy guns; it was the 1919 version created for WW1 that had a cyclic rate of 1500 rpm(!).

The Many Faces of Audley, in roughly chronological order:

The provisions of Francis Audley's will left all the intellectual property to his family -- wife and sons but not the daughter -- and the valuable holster patents to just his oldest son. That big contract with NYC, even if it was not a single contract but rather a directive that the officers individually visit his shop (which was literally across the street from police HQ then) would have caused the bankrupted business to recover quickly. And very likely the big announcement was the impetus for it to be acquired by Folsom Arms out of Audley's bankruptcy.

Folsom Arms changed its own name 'early and often'. The first time was at the outbreak of WWII in 1942, to Universal Military Accessories (under which they made the M1916 Army holster that nevertheless was marked 'Folsom'); to Universal Tackle and Sporting Goods in 1949 (logical after WWII ended but I guess they didn't see the Korean war coming); back to H&D Folsom Arms Co. Inc. just months before son H. Lloyd Folsom died; then removed the word 'Arms' from its corporate name in 1968, likely because of the strong anti-war sentiment of that very year (I was a uniformed, armed guard during the various riots and other unrest of that time; even got to be called a 'pig').

1956's address, above, likely is a factory location for 'whomever' was using the Audley name then. The lines are blurred among Audley, Folsom, Service Mfg., Courtlandt Boot Jack, and JayPee at that very moment. Service Mfg became better known for its 'junior cowboy and cowgirl' holster sets of the 1950s, both under that name:

And as 'S-Bar-M' (Service-Manufacturing, get it?) under which branding they competed successfully against Keyston Bros for what was a huge market until the spy TV and film productions went and spoiled it all:

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