• Red Nichols, Holstorian

Post 49: Oliver Ball had more on his mind than gunleather

Updated: Jun 13

It was John Witty who first 'turned me on to' Oliver Ball whose holsters are stamped merely O. Ball in tiny lettering on the backside of his holsters. They are very 'Texas' in construction and of course, to do him justice I had to find him, too.

He was a Ft. Worth homicide detective and recently made the news again when one of his investigations was reopened; he of course, is long gone himself. More about that in a moment. He lived 1911, which was the year my own father was born, to 1983; and was best known as a boxing referee during his police and leather careers. Some of his work:

The shape and sewing pattern of his belt loops are part of what makes them both recognizable, and 'Texan'; with the clipped tip that is also found on Bedell Rogers work (and others of Texas). That loop of sewing that reinforces the stitching for the belt loop tunnel enables us to recognize his work with no other information including his mark.

That the above holster is a pancake tells us it is from his 1970s period (he remarried in '73 and stops appearing in newspapers in 1975; I expect he retired then). The appearance of knots in the sewing confirms that he had a stitching machine vs handsewing; it's also the first that his mark has been formalized into a single stamp vs the tiny lettering he is known for:

Why doesn't every maker cut that tip off square? Because when the tip is either pointed as on a Bianchi or Shoemaker, or fully rounded as on a Heiser or J.M. Bucheimer, the machine need stop and turn on its awl no more than once; a squared end requires at least a second pause. It's not so much slower as another opportunity to make a mistake and yet most of the work is done on the holster; next stop: stitching the welt and the basic work is done.

These next two are forms of Donihoos, with the first one being a paddle holster in the style of Myres in the same era:

Below is a really extreme carry angle for, perhaps, some form of mounted patrol duty? A car wouldn't much like that extreme angle for sitting or drawing.

I had this one including its belt in my own collection; in person it was an odd finish and I couldn't resist stripping it and dying it black. Notice again the trademark stitching below the belt loop tunnel:

The man himself:

An incredibly horrific torture/rape/murder of a student took place in 1974 and Lt. Ball was on the scene. The tale was resurrected last year when this arrived at the P.D. and the letter was publicized in an effort to get more information. A bit of searching determined that the killer of Carla Walker is considered to be identified but not ever prosecuted for lack of evidence.


© 2019 by Proudly created with