• Red Nichols, Holstorian

Post 72: Be careful around Mom's heirloom breakfront

All that time I thought a 'breakfront' was a piece of furniture; but by the time I'd joined JB's operation I discovered it had turned into a type of holster. Meet, the original Model 27 'Break Front" that was created to go head-to-head with THE forward draw holster of the late 1960s, the Hoyt.

This one is old and doesn't look much now. I had one of the very first that I ordered from JB's Bianchi Holsters Co. from the defunct (not that I knew it at the time) Safari Ltd with Neale. The complete design with its fold-down belt loop was inspired by the Berns-Martin 'Speed' holster that was not a mass-producible design; he combined the concealed cylinder recesses of the Hoyt with the shape of a Bern-Martin with a spring from his X-15 shoulder holster and came up with the M27.

(Above, Mom's breakfront)

The times then, as they are now, were filled with attacks on officers, the Black Panthers, and the new epithet 'pig'. I understand that all these things are in vogue again in California! What is old, is new again.

The above is the 1971 catalog so released just after I came aboard (they put me in R&D pretty quickly because I wouldn't go home to the wife and child; stayed behind to watch and help John Michler do his R&D work). So starting out in the duty holster department and making plenty o' Model 27s in 1970, the new jacket style had appeared for holsters and we put together this version 2 that is shown in the ad above, too:

Geez, that was an awful design of JB's. The loop is a simple fold that's been inserted into a slot in the backside of the holster, and the loop is between that and the lining that has the cylinder cutouts in it. Well, the stitches tore out, didn't they? All that stress on two rows of linen thread -- it was inevitable:

We didn't know about directional snaps then so notice that the strap is held at the top by a tee-nut; we also didn't know about pronged tee-nuts so chose a slab-based one that couldn't rotate inside the two rows of sewing for the spring.

Oh gosh, the things we didn't know. JB had stopped the spring short of the ends of those stitched tunnels to allow the rear adjustable sights to fit; not realizing that these blunt ends would simply cut through the lining! Eventually they, and the X-15, had springs with the tip ends bent outwards. The legs of the wire form springs were crossed in manufacture to create spring tension so the spring was made with the tips bent inwards and installation reversed them in the holster (sounds odd, but one inserted the tips into the holes in the lining, then twisted the spring in the opposite direction and pushed it all the way in).

Then we came up with this (above) and it wan't much better! It seemed obvious to stitch the leather to the backside of the holster in addition to the 'rivets' to compete with Safety Speed's "got it right the first time but it's patented" jacket loop. We didn't know much about fasteners to that's a trio of Chicago post screws hidden under the leather. Well, the screws loosened didn't they? And couldn't be tightened again because the concealed posts would spin under the leather, eh?

We switched to a tempered steel spring and rivets. Bullet-proof, right? The flaring of the rivets could rip loose over time and the loop could come off. Lost a products liability suit involving that design but the above image is not reflective of that; instead the leather was removed to replace the fasteners.

Changed to this one:

Then finally to this one:

The above image is of a sister design called the Model 350 and shows the reversed rivet that has been 'headed' by a pneumatic hammer; a special and expensive machine that finally 'kept it all together' for Bianchi holsters with the jacket belt loop arrangement.

By then the Model 27 had been restyled and a special size created for the K frame Smith that Bill Jordan had popularized. Prior the Model 27 was in a single size for the N frames that also was 'good enough' for the equally popular Python frames; but PD's objected to the way that the K frame magnums rattled around inside that size. So for LAPD, HPD, and the CHP we created the Model 27K:

Now it had a huge opening at the muzzle to counter the muzzle drag encountered with the prior spring of the M27. But by then, S&W Leather had leapfrogged the design with one that only opened at the uppermost ends, like a Bianchi M9 inverted shoulder holster. So we came up with the M350 and the forward edge of the holster was closed up again.


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