• Red Nichols, Holstorian

Post 82: Nichols Innovation

Updated: Oct 12

The first, and only, independent design consultancy to gunleather makers, was my Nichols Innovation company 1990 to 2000. While researching and then writing my master's thesis at Pepperdine Uni in 1989, while the rest of my classmates were wanting to set up a maquiladora in Mexico (I did that anyway, while they were still figuring it out), I identified a tiny, tiny market niche: mid-sized gunleather makers whose owner didn't have the time or the interest to create new products but were getting smashed by the bigger ones that had their own staff for that.

It worked well for a decade; at which point the players got old and their companies changed hands. "Market consolidation" it's called. The writing was on the wall when my two dozen clients started having trouble paying their invoices; which didn't mean they didn't have money. It meant they were changing their priorities for the accounts payable department.

I took a hint and went looking; and ended up proposing to Hellweg Ltd. in Australia that they deploy their knowledge of Kydex manufacture as competitors to Safariland. Together we had a big market advantage: the exchange rate. We also had a huge market weakness: Hellweg and Co. preferred making body armor for the ADF and surrounding countries and Kydex was all too hard. Can't blame them; trying to break into a market that's overseas is rough, and I went on to other things (a dozen years in retail, at the coal face).

When I came up with the idea for Nichols Innovation it took some salesmanship to get my first few customers.

Albert at Hellweg International:

Bruce at Assault Systems that became Shooting Systems:

Gene at DeSantis Gunhide:

Kamuran at Aker Leather:

Rick at Galco:

And as time went on,

Stallion Leather:

Greg at Adirondack Leather (became the US Armed Forces' XM14):

Bob at Gould & Goodrich:

Ernie at Hill:

Greg at Shurkatch:

Strong (no images):

Some of these designs gained a bit of notoriety:

And others were licensed to makers like Don Hume and High Noon; below is not leather but an all-polymer (including the suede!) laminate called NichoLaminate:

Bit of custom work:

And all of the above followed by copyists:

When I could return to gunleather in Australia, first:

Red Nichols Holsters:

Then Berns-Martin:

That was all on top of my earlier work for Bianchi Holsters (THAT's a really long list); where I suppose I never did think of myself as working for them as with them :-). A designer absolutely needs to avoid doing what he or she is told to do by the client; and I was reminded of that when, in a moment of weakness, I listened to a client about his customer wanting the mag button covered and the ultimate LEO consumer was shot after his mag ejected. Too soon old, too late smart :-).

"So I took off my hat, and said 'Imagine that, me, working for you?'. Sign, sign, everywhere a sign . . ."

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