• Red Nichols, Holstorian

Post 85: Thinking outside the box, er, holster

Updated: Oct 12

I'm aware of only one maker who used the unusual construction of W.H. Clay (a note: the men of that era used their initials; his wife would have been known as Mrs. W.H. Clay; and my own father b. 1911 had "Col. P.L. Nichols" on his mailbox in the '50s). This first image is from Bob Arganbright's collection.

Thinking to improve on the construction of the Threepersons, that used a thick leather spacer or welt inside the main seam, he turned that welt on-edge and sewed a sort of box to close the seam. Indeed this is called 'box stitching' and we know it best, as the way that muzzle plugs were sewed into holsters. And in a way, it is the common muzzle plug that has been extended all the way up the main seam, and like the muzzle plug is hand sewn by first piercing the layers with an awl:

Made sense in theory. But not in practice and Clay's holsters are often found with the stitching at least beginning to tear out at the open end of the holster. That's because, as a hundred years of Threepersons holsters showed us, the leverage of the gunman's hand on the pistol handle 'tears' outwards while the belt resists; but a Threepersons can survive this because the sewing is in shear rather than in tension (pulling sideways on the thread vs trying to pull it out.

In fact, lots had to be done to the Threepersons to prevent them tearing out, as they will to this very day -- unless they are sewn with nylon thread of a large cord and a second row of sewing added as the sewing returns towards the muzzle. This latter approach has been used as long as the Threepersons has been around but it's often "not enough".

For good reason, then, the Clay method was not ever emulated and has been consigned to the dustbins of history (how's that for cliche?). His full name was William Henry Clay, he was b. 1857 and d. 1939. He was a Texan but b. in KY and his death was by pneumonia. That is ALL the information I have about the man; but recall from another post that a holster is a book written by its maker. So here is his story:

Safariland, in the late '70s, is the only gunleather company I'm aware of who successfully used a stitcher for this method:

Tex Shoemaker also had such a machine but was less effective with it (notice all the knots, which means the bobbin thread and the knots are not centered inside the leather layers but have all pulled up to the outside of the seam):

Whereas a well-executed muzzle plug looks like this Herret's (by Chet's), which was done by hand. The "K" is it size (for the K frame); imagine trying to sort them out after die cutting if they weren't marked; an electrician has his connectors colored for this reason):


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