• Red Nichols, Holstorian

Post 81: Safariland Was Once a Holster Company

God knows what those things are they make now. Plastic buckets maybe.

Safariland's history of gunleather is roughly divided into two parts consisting of pre-patent, and patent models. Oh, Neale had more than the one patent but it is the SST or Safariland Sight Track that made his range special vs. all other offerings.

SST was a 'neoprene' (unsure what polymer it really was; one wouldn't care except they disintegrated) extrusion with a groove along one side that was also flared outwards. Originally, according to an early catalog of the new Safariland company (1967) the SST was made of leather. I expect the meaning there is that the protoypes were made of three strips of leather: two thin and wide and one thick and narrow to create the 'track' for the front sight. For production the invention was made by creating a profile extrusion of plastic that could be glued and stitched into position. You did use glue, didn't you, Neale?!

Profile extrusion is an almost crude process where the hot polymer is forced through a keyhole that has been shaped for what the buyer wants vs a church key, for example. The hot material passes along a very long water trough where it cools and exits the bath in its final, hardened state; then either cut automatically into lengths or coiled into large rolls. To build holsters the strips are cut to length and also, in this case, some edges are removed to make way for the frame of the pistol and for its entry into the holster. Like ramps.

Pre-patent and patent versions of Safariland holsters can only be told apart from the backside where they are so-marked. Who cares? Helps a collector date them. With the patent filed 30 Jan 1967 and issued 22 Oct 1968, one with only the name Safariland stamped into the backside is either before the patent was filed, or made without SST so a conventional folded design. To celebrate, he divorced his wife in Aug 1970!

Those marked 'patent pending' were made between the filing date and the issue date. At the latter date the stamp changed to 'patented'. All the preceding applies to dating Arvo Ojala's holster sets, too: only his name, then patent pending, then patented. Arvo's has an extra fillip that is the marking where the letters 'No' have been ground off next to the word 'Hollywood'; these are his final sets.

Of course they cheated and used the patented marking on holsters with no forward welt at all, such as this abbreviated pancake style that is better known as a 'slide' holster:

If you asked him today Neale would blame the factory workers. For which he is expected to provide both training and quality assurance inspections. I picture a soccer player proclaiming innocence to the ref . . .

"What? I never touched her!"

The SST is known to disintegrate and I've handled many examples. I've even seen them then replaced by a standard leather welt. And that's the irony of it all: it is only the use of a standard welt that creates the protection for the front sight. And holsters had long been made in two pieces to make that possible: capgun holsters especially. So Neale really didn't invent anything at all, did he? And copyists simply used a common leather welt to build competing gunleather.

The SST went out the window for the switch to Bill Rogers' Kydex construction. Too much sewing. And the extra welt at the front of a Safariland increased the risk of the pistol being ripped out sideways by a bad guy (today they're called 'demonstrators' but back then we knew they were criminals for disarming an LEO to shoot him/her with his/her own pistol; Safariland has been sued many, many times over this kind of thing -- see my post here titled 'Suits'). Safariland went so far as to convert the rear welt to be the folded one, and so revert to having only one welted seam as vulnerable.

Then there are Safariland's folded holsters to which even they knew the patent didn't apply. These are the earliest products and are essentially JB's Safari Ltd. range with the Safariland name stamped into them. They were produced both before Safariland had tooled up for the SST versions, and for a short, early period while both were made.

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