• Red Nichols, Holstorian

It has style, it has grace

Updated: Nov 19

Let's see if I can avoid making this too simplistic: the elemental styles of holsters, in alphabetical order. Always be aware that there are variants within each style, much as both Camaro and Mustang are 'pony cars' but one can tell one from the other at quite a long distance.

This one below is a scabbard (which itself is a style that is a pocket that holds the least amount of the pistol, to the waistbelt) of a type called an 'avenger'. It's existed only since the mid-1970s and could be called a 'winged scabbard' but it isn't. It's an interpretation by DeSantis of NY. They're worn on a waistbelt and the name comes from a design out of Bianchi called the Askins Avenger; Askins being a then-noted gun writer:

The ankle holster below, as made by Seventrees of NY; called that because they're worn either at the inside of the left ankle or the outside of the right ankle, for right handers. More popular for what are called 'bugs' or 'back up guns' than for carrying the primary pistol:

The Border Patrol holster; this one made for Colt's and by the peak of its development had a metal shank inside it that runs behind the pistol and up behind the belt tunnel, too. The belt is always relatively wide -- 2-1/4" has been the standard width for a century -- on or near the trousers belt. So-called because variants of it were originated for the U.S. Border Patrol; what's known as a River holster is a variant and not a separate style:

I had fun choosing this one for the image: it's a mini 'buscadero' and is really a term only applied to the belt itself; there is no 'buscadero holster', only holsters that can be worn on buscadero belts. The word was applied to the Texas Rangers in Sam Myres' time and despite a lengthy article I have on file that carries on its supposed meaning, to my mind it means 'hunters' or 'searchers'; as in 'the hunters of men'. The holster is carried just below the gunbelt but nevertheless is attached to it:

One doesn't see many of these from the various makers of the last century but the 'calf' holster was used as early as the 1950s by Chic Gaylord and this one is from a later period from Bianchi. It's meant (I was there when it was invented) to move that clunky weight up off the ankle, to a position where the holstered pistol doesn't hammer away at the leg when running. Awkward to draw it nevertheless will hide the pistol well when the trousers are cut loosely:

It's a car holster! Also uncommonly made because it's uncommon for someone to choose a holster just for the task. A crossdraw scabbard, in left-hand drive countries it places the revolver on the trousers belt well away from a passenger who himself might be a threat, and is pointed to the rear; one can imagine it being fired through the car's seatback. The draw is like unbuckling a seatbelt vs. lifting up and arcing out the pistol. This one is by Seventrees:

Like the car holster this one is a crossdraw scabbard to be worn on a trousers belt, either in the pants loops or not. It's by Chic Gaylord of NY. Notice that in the complete tradition of a scabbard it has no strap. The very best shots, like Ed McGivern whose records were set from the holster, the wearer can simply stand with his left side nearest his opponent and the draw is simply up, twist forward and fire. McGivern proved it to be very fast and he did not ever miss:

The spring crossdraw has long been a major staple of 20th century holster makers. They are the offspring of the shoulder holster and these date back to the late 19th century. Worn on the belt one will see them first from makers like Clark and Hoyt; eventually every maker of the Sixties made a version and this one is a Bianchi in the 'CD' series. The spring in this one is running up the left side and stops about where the snap is positioned. For smaller pistols the belt loops are configured for the trousers, for larger ones they are slotted for wide belts:

Note: the rest of the belt tunnel is a hidden gap in the seam running up the right:

I'm going to call this one a 'Western drop loop' as distinguished from what's known as a Hollywood holster (more about that shortly). Yes it's a natural for the buscadero belt and the 'loop' is always designed to release so that it can be slotted through the belt. This is a sportsman's version as envisioned by Wolfram; the central strap just keeps the elements from flapping apart -- and the multiple holes in the strap are simply for the convenience of its maker!

The common 'flap holster'. These have been used by militaries since repeating firearms were invented in the early 19th century but the below version is for a sportsman and made by Bianchi. For the former the style was adhered to for protecting the actions of the pistols from very adverse conditions; for the latter even a light rain is kept away from that finely blued Python. Typically they are made for, and worn on, wide gunbelts:

It was Dick Hoyt who promulgated the 'forward draw' spring holster. In the 1930s onwards the rush was on to make it possible for LEO's to carry long barreled revolvers in automobiles without having to lift the long barrel very high before pointing to the target. This led also to the creation of the clamshell which is quite disctinct from it. Below is by Tex Shoemaker and like all such, is worn on a wide gunbelt. "Forward" in this case is away from the spine:

Ok, out of alpha order, the 'clamshell'. Closed up it's quite compact; opened up it's a hindrance. And given that it was invented to carry a revolver high but allow the long barreled .44 revolvers of the LAPD to be drawn as easily as a 4", why the heck are the always on low-slung swivels?! One will not see many brown ones as below; this one is by the style's originator, Jewett (as made by Northey as opposed to those of his ex-wife's that are marked Stanroy):

I'm aware of only two makers of the 'groin' holster: Gaylord followed by Seventrees. At least for us blokes there is a natural bulge in the pants there and an enhancement of same, like a padded bra, could only have helped 'meet people'. One might notice that it is suspended from the trousers belt and then deep into the trousers; drawn by unzipping first:

The famous 'hollywood holster' is not the term of derision that it sounds like. That is, although they were used in Hollywood's films, nevertheless they are so-called because their inventor, Arvo Ojala, made them as the Hollywood Holster Co. in, well, Hollywood. The belt is an angular version of the buscadero of which the original was dead straight, and the holster is 'filled' with metal (a layer of steel that prolly should've been aluminum or even polycarbonate because Arvo was an aircraft mechanic) so that the cylinder will turn while the gun is being drawn. Reports from those who've known Arvo said he truly was the fastest draw/fire/hit man ever:

What can I say, they didn't invent it but it's called a 'hunter' style holster. The style is a clone of the holster style that originated with Heiser and was carried on by Colorado Saddlery who then formed Hunter. It's an easy-to-make style that was the original 'entry level' gunleather choice for that reason -- lower cost meant a lower price -- and because it was more accommodating of various pistols than others of its time. The snap-open belt loop was from Brauer and it not really a practical way of taking the holster on or off while wearing it on a belt; on the other hand if the belt is already cluttered with other gear it's an easy way to remove it after the belt has been taken off:

This, properly called an 'advanced inside waistband' holster, is mistakenly thought of as an independent invention of its own. But instead it is the same scabbard shown below it by predecessor Gaylord, but with an important distinction: the strap is placed to allow the holster to carry the pistol at the same ideal angle as an outside waistband holster. This one is by Bruce Nelson (as CLL):

The Gaylord that preceded it, in which the loop is folded down from the holster itself vs. being sewn separately as on the Nelson. In horsehide the Gaylord did not need the added thickness and stiffness that the second layer provided in the Nelson:

The very well known, common clip holster. This one's a Bianchi and is made in thin, soft chrome leather with a clip to keep the cost at an absolute minimum. Like Motel 6 that was so named because the motel charged just $6 a night, this one is a Bianchi No. 6 and sold for $5.95. They're good for hiding, not so good for drawing; the originals had no straps:

There are many variants of the 'Mexican loop' and this one shows the style to be simply -- "has loops formed from, or attached to, the fender behind the holster pocket to grasp it". Much easier to call it a Mexican loop holster as Heiser did (this one is a Colorado Saddlery):

'Paddle' holsters date back to the 1940s. The concept is 'easy on / easy off' without unbuckling the belt first. One sees them on agents, especially the gals, in today's TV cop shows, where they are worn towards the front of an open coat. One would expect, although, they were not so-designed and it is only today's Safarilands that force the agents to wear them at the front near the buckle. This one is a DeSantis that has 'taken the easy way out' -- the paddle itself is simply a piece of leather vs. the injection molded paddles used for more sophisticated designs. The ledge of leather is as it was in the '40s: meant to keep the holster from pulling loose from the waistband (still needs a tightly pulled trousers belt):

'Pocket' holster by Gaylord, the original. A copy from either Seventrees or Galco is indistinguishable without seeing the marks. The notion was to fill the pocket and thereby obliterate the outline of the pistol AND prevent the removal of the pistol from bringing the holster out with it:

No it is NOT correctly called a jockstrap holster! But the name stuck. This one is a Myres and he called them 'Ranger' holsters. One sees them on his buscadero belts because the holster pocket slips out of the cuff, the fender and cuff are stuffed (!) through the slot in the belt (but only the one time) and the pocket reinserted:

The simple 'scabbard'. Holds as little as possible of the pistol, to the belt, usually without a safety strap. This one is by Roy's after he branched out from his pancake:

The best-known scabbard is called the 'Threepersons' after the Texas LEO who popularized it by licensing his name to Sam Myres. When they are made true to the style the Threepersons adds to a scabbard a stout welt in the main seam, the face of the trigger guard is resting on that welt, and a simple belt loop is folded down from the holster pocket. And a closed muzzle. The strap is then optional. This one is by Wolfram for Colt's:

Curiously, it's called a 'halfbreed' shoulder holster. The name comes from Heiser's label for it in the very early 20th century. The spring is in the shape of a 'C' and is slid into one open end of that pair of stitchlines, on the backside of the holster; then the opening is sewn shut. And this one is indeed a Heiser:

The 'horizontal' shoulder holster was created by Gaylord for the NASA reentry capsules as a last resort against capture by the Russians if the capsule was found floating in the sea before the American crews. This one is by DeSantis and heavily influenced by Seventrees including the pouch. The pistol points the muzzle directly away from the wearer, to the rear:

An 'inverted' shoulder holster; this one from Seventrees and the harness is not incomplete. Instead the strap that normally goes around the wearer's back to the other shoulder has been replaced by a garter strap that fastens to the shirt. Clever and not done before or since. More typical of the inverted style is the original that was Berns-Martin's "Lightnin". The barrel is pointed 'up' while being worn, the draw is across the chest:

A 'pouch type' vertical shoulder holster from Gaylord, muzzle of the pistol down. Left handed.

Sometimes called a 'skeleton' shoulder holster, the spring is sitting out by itself in its leather sheath vs. the halfbreed style that has concealed the spring in a full coverage holster. These were known to come with a flap of chrome tanned leather folding from above, over the pistol to protect it from sweat. EASY to lose the revolver from these, easier still with a flat sided automatic. This one is a Lawrence:

The most common type of vertical shoulder holster has a spring of some sort in it; unlike a halfbreed spring this one is a long 'U' inserted from the muzzle end. The most famous of these is the Bianchi X-15 that is still made today, I think. The one below is a Hunter. They're really not meant to be drawn from by dragging the entire pistol out through the spring opening; instead the concept is to tip the upper half of the pistol free of the spring, then lift without also having to lift the complete barrel which CAN be dragged through the spring:

You think it's called a 'Brill' holster but instead it is a 'Sunday' holster we're told by its inventor (1907) and the Texas Rangers who used it. Made by two dozen Texas makers besides A.W. Brill, this one is a King Ranch. It's really a Threepersons with a full fender behind the holster pocket, a cuff around the center that forms the lowermost part of the belt loop tunnel, and the muzzle end stitched to the free end of the fender. VERY hard to make vs. the Threepersons which is very simple:

And not the most obvious example but it is still a 'swivel' holster. The style was used extensively by US LEOs and the long barreled pistols swing from the swivel that has the gunbelt passed through its loop, so that the holster can be swiveled out of the way when riding in a car. This is a very old Heiser and clearly a sportsman's version. Oooh, did I say Heiser? I think it's actually a Colorado Saddlery, note the rolled stamping on the strap:

I've probably forgotten one. I'll check back from time to time with updates.


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