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Apple of my Eye -- The Bianchi #9R Shoulder Holster

Updated: Feb 13

After my three adult children, of course: the Bianchi No. 9R-2 shoulder holster. Although, full disclosure, because I'm a Trump voter they don't speak to me! Merry Christmas? Below, the early 9R-0 by JB, at right the 9R-1 here still pat pend. The scale will fool the eye because the 9R-0 is for the S&W 2-1/2" K frame that is itself larger than the 9R-1 for the S&W 2" J frame:

The 9R-2, for which mid-70s I blended the best of the Berns-Martin inverted shoulder holster called "Lightning", with the first of the sprung Bianchi No. 9 holsters that was called the No. 9R with internal recesses from the Model 27, is a prized and valuable vintage shoulder holster found often on eBay. Somehow i bought mine inexpensively and I held out because it, and my B-M Triple Draw, surely will be dissected to show the differences in their guts.

I promptly hand-tested the spring pressure, which to my experienced hands appeared to be as strong as the day it was made. So I then put it in my spring holster tester (couldn't resist, I call it The Rack) which I created as a result of the Lawman fiasco (I won, they lost) and the spring opening at one inch yielded a 14# resistance (pressure). Repeatable because Bianchi springs, like all gunleather springs until Lawman lost the plot, were factory tempered after bending.

Which spring for the No. 9R-2 in the 2-1/2" K frame is quite complex because it is also bent around the adjustable rear sights then into a hammer guard.

Notice that although the holster is nearly 50 y/o the finish is pristine. Agreed it wasn't used much, but neither has it kicked around in a bucket of bolts since it was made. The two-piece configuration of the shoulder harness, overlapped and stitched in a circle, was JB's innovation. We had a special sewing machine that was programmed to do the circle sewing automatically, then cut the threads! Bucheimer-Clark promptly copied it for the No. 15 :-).

I put it through the 'snap test' (below using the X-15) that all shoulder holsters must pass when they don't have straps, such as a 1930s Clark No. 15 holster. Lawman's 21st century version of this latter holster failed instantly -- the pistol sailed out of theirs on the first 'snap' for lack of a true spring -- while the originals from Bucheimer-Clark all passed. As did the Bianchi X-15 and X-2000 shoulder holsters. And even a 1970s Lawman passed the snap test!

Above, a half-century old Bianchi X-15 cannot ever lose a 1911 from the grasp of its spring; the dual spring originates at the muzzle so traps it, then requires the pistol be lifted out.

As did this No, 9R-2: number of snaps to dislodge the revolver completely from the No. 9R-2: revolver hit the 'pavement' at TEN snaps. The minimum that was the standard for the Bianchi No. 9, then the No. 9R, then the No. 9R-1 and final 9R-2, was five snaps. I haven't been able to test the Berns-Martin (my registered U.S. trademark today) for lack of a pistol.

Above and below, my Berns-Martin after and before refinishing. It's just Fiebing's Tan Kote, rubbed in without cleaning or wiping, by using a sheepswool pad.

Buy the vintage Bianchi 9R (with the screw assembly), 9R-1, and 9R-2 with confidence. That little screw you see in it is unrelated to spring tension; it is a fixed leverage point near the revolver's muzzle to duplicate the hand-sewn leather welt inside the Berns-Martin (Martin was a harness maker by trade, which men defaulted to hand sewing when harness machines were incredibly expensive in gold terms). THAT'S WHAT THE SNAP TEST TAUGHT US: THAT THE B-M WELT PREVENTED THE MUZZLE FROM ROTATING INSIDE THE HOLSTER, AND SO KEPT THE REVOLVER FROM BEING EJECTED. So we duplicated that functionality by using a post and screw inserted through the walls of the holster and a rubber grommet.

Below, the only known, surviving example of the first No. 9R design WITHOUT the screw and post assembly. Complaints were had almost immediately, with at least one officer losing his revolver when he landed his jump over a fence 'in pursuit'.

Below, ALL the spring shoulder holsters tested or reviewed in my shop this year. The Lawman was tested prior and is not shown, but I've many images of it in its failed state! It was then disassembled and round-filed as the junk/toy holster that it is. The B-M is untested yet its spring is quite stout for a 1930s design with this one made in the 1950s:

Above L-R: Bucheimer-Clark No. 15 1960s, ditto, then 1970s; Lawman 1970s; Bianchi X-15 1970s then X2000 1980s; Lewis 1950s; Bianchi 9R-2 1970s then Berns-Martin Lightning 1960s.

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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