• Red Nichols, Holstorian

Touched by an Angell

Updated: Dec 5, 2020

This particular holster is at once well-known, and obscure. If one is a real gunleather aficionado one has seen at least the images. And for the longest time even we so-called 'experts' thought this holster was a Seventrees. Styling, made in a single piece, for the M39? Of course it's one of Paris'.

Except it's not his; it's an Angell. Robert Angell was a hop, skip and a jump from Seventrees in NYC and at the very same time: late 1960s and early 1970s. In one missive from Paris' publicist Mason Williams, Mason said about a design 'just copy the Angell' in seeking to perfect what we know today as a Donihoo holster:

Ah yes; here is the reference (above) and the holster that Mason is complaining about (below). Paris ignored him and his advice and Paris' holster description reads very much like Steve King's rebuttal letter to Williams:

It's the design best know to us today, as the Donihoo holster (see another post here about Jack Donihoo). Again, I've not ever seen the Angell itself but Jack was definitely playing Johnny Appleseed with his design to all the makers of the 1960s. Why not Angell, too?

Angell's holster is a clever effort at a 'retention holster' using the mechanics of the leatherwork vs. separate springs and clip devices. The 'stopper' that enters the trigger guard looks quite like a 'foot' for the base of a case, leather or otherwise.

It is, of course, crazy-dangerous. The plug is configured to rest behind the trigger, as it does in a clamshell to prevent the pistol being fired in the holster. But like the clamshell, that position also engages the trigger as the pistol is being holstered! Bang. That it's rare in the clamshell is because the pistol (this one's an auto) is laid into the holster while the holster is open; while the Angell, well . . .. So the rest of us, in using the guard to retain the auto, put that plug ahead of the trigger and provided a stop to keep the pistol from going into the holster far enough to fire it.

We do have Angell's patent on file. It's been awhile since I've read through it and yet I have to think that this particular holster is intended to be a crossdraw; given the negative caster of the carry (front sight tilted ahead of the rear sight) and the positioning of the release of that flap for the extended trigger finger. As such the trigger guard of the pistol would free itself from that 'stopper' and then from the flaps; quite naturally, with a swipe away from the holster at the waistline (it's a belt holster that surely was adapted into an inverted shoulder holster; or even derived from one as was Paris' one-piece inverted shoulder holster)(remember that at this precise moment, PPK aficionados are coming to grips with the realization that they couldn't get inverted shoulder holsters for any auto from James Bond's maker, Berns-Martin).

As a crossdraw, then, the extended trigger finger would flip off the securing strap, just as it did for the Berns-Martin Speed Holster that was instead a forward draw, and the Bianchi Break Front forward draw that emulated it.

The backside of the holster shows an effort by Angell to individualize his stitching pattern, as a 'signature' that was differentiated from both Gaylord's and Theodore's; both men being NYC gunleather makers, too. A Gaylord is done as below:

And the Seventrees is different and as below:

In the main the holster pursues the same fetish, if I may call it that, for making the holster entirely from a single piece of leather; and it appears that even that reinforcing mouth that fans of Bruce Nelson thinks he invented (he didn't) is folded from the holster body, then stitched back onto it. The first image in the series is the one that shows this best from the front side; otherwise the folded-over flap obscures it.

The article about Angell above, from a 1983 Handguns Annual, revisits the obsession with using a single layer of leather and without any sewing to hold it all together. Paris did this too; so was his designer actually Angell? One wouldn't even suspect it, had Williams not suggested that Paris 'copy' (i.e., stick with) the Angell. Below is a Seventrees with not only his later maker's mark (the original mark was a palm tree) but also his signature stitching for the belt loop's closure.

When Lou Alessi made his move to copy Paris' designs (all he accomplished, actually), he also chose a different 'signature' stitching; his result (below) is Seventrees all over (likely he thought he deserved it because he carried a grudge against Paris for not selling him the Seventrees operation):

Sure, reversing the stitching pattern was going to fool everyone, eh?

So far, despite having located the life details of Gaylord, Theodore, and even Alessi for my Chronology, Bob Angell has eluded me. It's a reasonably common name in NYC; and so far, not enough information to say, "A-ha! Gotcha". So until he comes into focus with little bits of information from one source validating the others as we were able to do, for example, with Ed Lewis of Lewis Holsters in L.A, Mr. Angell remains a mystery for us. It'll happen if someone tries again at some point.

This image below is new to me and is from the article that exposes Angell as Gaylord's assistant; and it shows the styling and construction that we now think of as Seventrees and not Gaylord. Note the rear fold and one-piece construction of the holster at left, and the configuration of the sewing on the holster at right. Even the 'sight channel' of Paris' best-known holsters has appeared, making these 'late' Gaylords -- by Angell:

In the context of the times we want to realize that such men as wore these were unconcerned with scratches on their pistols from these snaps, or any sound as the pistols were being drawn, or even the challenges of holstering. By this time the pistols have gone bang and there is light and smoke and lead dispersed equitably into the scene; so who cares? Certainly not the likes of Bond, nor the dead.

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