• Red Nichols, Holstorian

The Eighties called. They want their holster back

Updated: Nov 19, 2020

Who knew that a holster would end up in a starring role in 1983's sci-fi film Blade Runner, and the pistol, too?

But it seems that our hero's holster is a Safariland; and making copies of it is still 'big business' for fans of the film. Experts here will have fun working out the basis of the blaster itself unless one has seen the expose elsewhere (hint: it's a rifle action. And has two triggers. OK, it's a Mannlicher-Schoenauer. Gee, I wanted that as my first rifle when I was all of 13; saw it in the Shooter's Bible):

The forward 'trigger' is called a 'set trigger'. Pulling it first sets the rear trigger to a 'hair' trigger for the shot itself:

Why is the holstered blaster tipped back so extremely? Because it's not really a crossdraw holster, that's why. The tab, and the slot, on the backside of the holster are configured for strong-side draw. Look again at the first image.

It wasn't that long ago that I encountered an eBay auction for a Blade Runner 'blaster'; and then a holster for it, too. Saw the price, which was quite high at about U$500, and thought 'good luck newb'. Then I found these things in the completed auctions, and there were several that HAD sold at these prices!

The above (and below) is Safariland's production crossdraw holster from circa 1983, too. Notice it has a prominent belt slot that is well outside the spring itself.

That made me go looking for more info about this mysterious holster. It turns out that the chap who sells the best of these holsters, buys these Safariland spring shoulder holsters from the '80s that turn up on eBay reasonably frequently. Safariland's original holster is a well-executed design and is beautifully made; and this chap then cuts them down into the Blade Runner holster that is a spring crossdraw.

Earl Clark, son of E.E. Clark who founded Clark Holsters in the 1930s, was at Safariland by then -- Neale Perkins says Earl joined in 1980 -- and Earl's specialty was leather holsters with the spring 'bight' or 'bend' originating at the sight plane of the pistol. Old; even Lone Wolf Gonzaullas had a pair of this type of holsters for his 1911s sans their trigger guards, which were forward draws (below is not his, of which I have only the tiniest, grainiest pics) but rather Audie Murphy's marked 'Nudies' in California but is a Sterling out of Missouri:

And Earl used the method in his better known shoulder holster for Bucheimer-Clark -- that itself was used by Dirty Harry for his 'most powerful handgun in the world' (please use gravelly voice when saying the line. As you would for "I'm Batman").

So that shoulder holster (no, not the Bucheimer-Clark above [which is actually marked Clark and the original Thompson's stagecoach mark] but rather the Safariland shoulder holster shown earlier), becomes this prop holster:

Notice the missing bits from the shoulder holster.

And it turns out it really WAS originally a Safariland holster used in the film; and it's marked as the Model 2000. It's a sort of '6 degrees from Kevin Bacon' sort of thing, given that Earl Clark's design was its basis: it connects Wally Wolfram to John Bianchi to Neale Perkins to whom Earl Clark is connected while being descended from Ed Clark. That's only five. Wait -- "I Am Number Six" ("I Am Number Four" was a 2011 sci-fi film).

The above pic begs for a caption to explain the worried look on Ford's face. Something about a digital prostate exam, perhaps, by one of the replicants he's chasing?

For some reason this particular replica-holster maker leaves out the one-inch slot that is on the backside of the original, and the holster NEEDS it. Easy to add otherwise! Notice that Ford is using his; what else will hold the grip into the body?

The replica below did not start out as a Safariland holster but at least he includes the narrow slot on its backside. Now, does this maker know how to make a spring properly? At least the cut-down Safariland has an ideal spring because it's obvious he doesn't disassemble the holster at all to make his changes. Likely he uses a 'patching machine' (sews in any direction, such as inside a shoe, without disassembling it) after cutting off the extraneous bits. Certainly the appearance of the stitches (not the below one, the earlier one) suggest that.

Here the 'blaster' is a DA revolver for some reason, rather than the spoon-handled Mannlicher rifle action of the original:

The point, and I do have one, is that not only was the original holster really a Safariland; but despite the proliferation of replica holsters to suit the film, there's someone out there using genuine Safariland holsters and converting them into the replicas.

How fun! Now we've heard everything.

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