• Red Nichols, Holstorian

They don't know Jack (Donihoo)

Updated: Feb 20

We -- John Witty and I -- went so far as to consider a revised edition to include the more complete understanding of what a little-known Texas lawman contributed to gunleather history.

He was Jack Donihoo, a post-WWII Dallas copper who measured the distance from his pile of brass thrown from his G.I. 1911, to the bodies of his felony escapees -- to complete his reports.

His holster is actually best known these days as the Bianchi No. 2, which JB credits himself for creating from an eyeglass case. Instead it was Jack Donihoo who created it and he spent more than a decade of his career playing Johnny Appleseed with his design. I have much better images of the Bianchi but this one is its first appearance in JB's 1962 catalog:

At its simplest it could be considered a Threepersons for the automatic. That's not literally true because there really was a Threepersons by Myres that was for the automatic and it was very different; instead Sam Myres' version was like its true competitor in that time, the early Brill for the 1911.

And most makers of the Donihoo holster -- and there have been many that I will list here -- didn't understand what he had accomplished and so left out the second row of stitching at the welted seam. That second row is what created the clamping action of a true Threepersons. So men like JB who made it with just the one row, and like Perkins who started well with two rows and then abandoned them for a single row, simply didn't understand the mechanics of what made a strapless scabbard perform to grip the 1911 but release it with a firm tug on the handle.

This one is by a fellow TX LEO named Becknell; it is very 'Brillallike' because unlike all other Donihoos it has a fender behind it. But at first glance one thinks it's a Bianchi No. 2:

That is, just 'riding high and exposing the trigger guard' is not a Threepersons in function. A Threepersons is better defined as riding as high as possible ON THE BELT -- no fair to say it otherwise when it was Tom himself who simply pushed his holster and gunbelt very low on his hips! -- with the front face of the trigger guard resting on a substantial welted seam that also gripped the frame. We won't be able to add 'with the pistol pitched forward' because we have Tom's original holster and it sets a bit low on the belt and is virtually straight up and down. This is an add for 'Booger Reds', a line of rodeo clothing that had been promoted by Booger himself and then by Tom after Booger's death in 1924. Endorsing such products including Myres holsters and selling his story to dime novelists who saw no harm in embellishing the truth, was how Tom and Lorene made their living. That revolver he's holding is in a private collection today, as is his Winchester; and the holster for the Colt is being reunited with it as we speak.

Back to Jack. Jack was fresh from the U.S. forces fighting in the Pacific during WW2 when he almost literally walked out of the service (Army? Marines?) with his 1911 into Dallas P.D. Of course he began as a patrolman and then he became a detective quite quickly. He even worked the crime scene of the JFK assassination in '63. Who else carried a 1911 on duty besides the Texas Rangers (whose original mission was almost entirely to protect the cattle of the King Ranch vs acting as a law enforcement agency for the State and its border)? Did he carry in condition one? Sure hope he did, early and often and before Jeff Cooper staked his reputation on that carry by the 1960s. We absolutely know that the Rangers, such as Lone Wolf, did so. This image of Lone Wolf looks like a Donihoo but look closer -- it's the Myres with the full hoop of the trigger guard enclosed; too early to be a Donihoo:

In the ideal iteration of the Donihoo holster, the holster rides high enough to get the mag button up close to the top of the belt. This in turn encourages plenty of grip clearance by default. But unlike a style such as the Seventrees' scabbards that need to get the button up above the upper belt edge to conceal, the Donihoo has clearance for the mag button built into it, in the form of a hole:

That's why it's really odd that one of the better-known versions of Donihoo's holster is by Seventrees, because in this case Paris Theodore intentionally placed the pistol quite low on the belt and so placed a hole in the holster's interior to clear it. The writer who created Paris' famous 'bullet hole' catalog, Mason Williams, hated this version so much he wrote a scathing letter to Paris and his second-in-command Steve King and tore strips off him for it not being concealable. King's response to the letter is very much encapsulated in the caption of the catalog page (all the pages were loose-leaf) from the only Seventrees catalog produced, the 1969 version. Donihoo himself was even recruited by Williams to add his voice to the complaint.

The Donihoo holster's chronological appearance appears to be first with Wally Wolfram who used the single row and an uncovered trigger . . .

. . . then JB's who was mentored by Wally . . .

. . . then Neale's which had the double row of sewing and added a trigger cover. This is the best performing design of the Donihoo's; yet covering the guard then only added to the problems of transporting pistols because these were often 'target' modified and so had trigger shoes.

Lone Wolf's, who is Manuel T. Gonzaullas and was Spanish not Mexican, famous pair of 1911s both had shoes that appear to be King Sights brand, and no guards in order to keep the pistols from being twisted away from him. The pistol he carried on his left side had an ambi thumb safety, the other did not. All his guns are in the Texas Rangers Museum in Waco.

Then there were those who of course blindly copied the Bianchi as the best-selling brand, and then the Wolfram because Neale bought out Wally then sold the operation on to Bangor Punta which then formed Smith & Wesson Leather Goods from it; and it was a range that also had once been Colt's. So therefor we see it at the Gould & Goodrich company that evolved from S&W, and Tex Shoemaker made quite a literal copy of Wally's; and even J.M. Bucheimer made the Bianchi version (and perhaps for Colt's). JB for his part, not understanding the second row, solved the lack of retention of the original strapless design by putting a strap on it by '66 (notice the comment from Barry Goldwater who was a big, conservative name then):

And a much older Jack Donihoo with his Bianchi version, early 1960s. Notice the target sights. I do believe he favored a pair of Swenson-customized Colts (Lone Wolf had a pair of customized Spanish 1911s by another gunsmith, too!):

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