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Something You Thought You Knew But Didn't

A tight-fitting holster that 'needs break-in' is not what you thought it was: if it's been wet-moulded as has been the practice since the '60s, and hand detailed as has been popular since the '70s, your maker BUILT IN your problem. And if your maker doesn't know any better STILL, tell 'em you DO.

How did they fall into this trap? Because they believed that hand detailing was created for pistol retention. IT WASN'T. It was created to eliminate wear on the pistol's finish, if the pistol could shift around inside the holster and the high spots in the metal rubbed on the rough interior leather. Wet moulding by hand is a hundred years old (H.H. Heiser of CO) and hand detailing is fifty (Chic Gaylord). The latter was promulgated as a method of positioning the pistol in exactly the same place every time, buttressed by choosing a holster with a tight fitting belt loop to match your belt. Then it was SPEED OF RELEASE that Gaylord touted and he did not ever mention retention (which, you have to admit, is an assumption with any holster when they're worn right side up; gravity, you know).

Beginning in the Sixties while Chic was still in business (barely) the ne makers took their lead from such as Seventrees and Gaylord, and moulded deeply into the ejection port of autos and into the trigger guard pocket on both pistols and revolvers. But neither man was a trained holster maker:

Above is a K.L. Null ankle holster, likely from the '70s. Ken got his start making Paris Theodore's gunleather for him early that decade. Paris has acknowledged that he knew nothing about making holsters and only started his holster range as a front for his lethal weapons biz (supplying CIA death squads).

I stopped doing this (moulding into the port and guard) decades ago when I worked out that when the holster hardened under hot air drying -- especially horsehide -- trying to draw the pistol smoothly instead grabbed. What did it take to remove the 'grab'? Filling in the ejection port and trigger guard on my pistol moulds. Problem solved and I was able to guarantee my cowhide and horsehide holsters would maintain a perfect fit for life. Completely flush and smooth at the ejection port and the guard (no press was used, either):

Horsehide from my Berns-Martin marque above, cowhide as Red Nichols Holsters below.

But below, a paddle holster by Angell for Seventrees. Notice his initials:

Horsehide being so stiff after drying, then exaggerated the problem. And nearly NO other makers ever worked it out: today a holster from every maker from Galco to Sparks to Bianchi will have the trouble built-in for you. Why? Because no gunleather maker in operation today ever learned anything more than was the state of the art by the Nineties, when all industry innovation had stopped. Below a Sparks:

And below a Galco made just late last year. Notice that as is standard practice, the hand tool that is being used to push the wetted leather into the trigger guard, incorrectly called a 'bone' regardless of its material (Bianchi used the two ends of a broken motorcycle lever):

Above is not properly called 'boning'. Chic Gaylord, who coined the phrase, instead was referring to slicking the rough leather interior of his holsters; he used a nylon plastic piece mounted in a hand drill (remember when these were corded?!) being spun inside the wet leather. He revealed all in a 1959 newspaper interview (that he himself may have written!).

I was (pleasantly?) surprised to see in Galco's videos and in their products that they use no presses in their moulding. Even Sparks and Bianchi use presses first to do the hard yakka, then detail afterwards. The markings inside some Seventrees and a business plan both show that Seventrees used and budgeted for rubber-padded presses; this one's been moulded in a press twice -- once on a Smith, once on a Colt. Marks like these are not left behind on holsters that have been only hand-moulded; note especially the two makers' different rear sight markings:

Heck, it was these presses for leather holsters that was the so-called 'breakthrough' that Bill Rogers claimed in his method patent for moulding Kydex holsters! Which he didn't mention to the Examiner else his patent wouldn't have issued. Or that his glueing method was already disclosed in his paddle holster patent. Fraud, baby. Far too late now.

Above, fresh from moulding a Berns-Martin Australia shoulder holster, my casting is filled in flush in two places and the rail is built-in (Galco's is removable for the moulding process).

This knowledge is why the commercially-available moulds for Kydex holsters also have these areas filled in flush with the rest of the pistol. Kydex, like horsehide, is unforgiving whereas cowhide after LOTS of use will eventually give way. You call this process 'breaking in'.

By all means check your box of holsters :-). Below, vintage Safariland:

Read more in my book titled "Holstory -- Gunleather of the Twentieth Century -- the Second Edition" that is available at and printed for you/shipped to you in USA.

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