• Red Nichols, Holstorian

To all the Brills I loved before

With apologies to Willie Nelson :-).

This one is by Bedell Rogers.

The Sunday Scabbard that we know best in the version made by A.W. Brill beginning 1912 when he purchased the saddlery of Kluge Bros that year, was a design made by about two dozen different saddlers in the days of early 20th century Texas Rangers. Because it was invented for them under the direction of one of the most famous of Texas Rangers of that time, Captain J.R. Hughes.

A custom initialed Sunday scabbard made for Stan Nelson in the 1950s, by its inventor who was retired in Austin then and called simply 'Rabensburg'. Many initialed Sunday holsters from Brill were made for Texas Rangers and have survived into the present day; they do not have the Brill marking on the cuff or anywhere else.

Sunday scabbards, with the 'Sunday' coming from Ranger Captain Sterling and the 'scabbard' being the term that August Brill called it, were made as if to a written specification. And it's my expectation that Captain Hughes, having had it created for him at LaGrange Saddlery by a 17 year old N.J. Rabensburg in 1907, personally visited all the TX saddlers within a 200 mile radius of his HQ in Austin as Johnny Appleseed.

And I've mentioned all this before; and now think to show you all the known 'brillalike' makers who used the formula that Hughes devised.

That a 17 year old could have created it is not the stretch it seems because Hughes began with the King Ranch holster of his second in command, Doc White, and used a simple concept: make that same holster as small as possible. So using thinner leathers than on the KR, the Sunday Scabbard is that holster with the belt loop folded as high as possible on the belt by cutting away all of the main seam to the frame ahead of the guard, staying with the welt inside that seam, orienting the SA with the rear sight ahead of the front sight (at what evolved into the 'FBI tilt' of 24 degrees as the Threepersons), the fender behind the holster exactly as wide as the holster pocket, the toe of the holster still made as the KR was a lip sewn to the tip of the fender, and the cuff repositioned so that it became the lowermost part of the belt loop tunnel. And a half liner retained from the KR that was to prevent, not wear on the pistol, but wear against the Ranger's pants. The welt was reconfigured to be more than a spacer, but to bear hard against the frame of the SA to the point that a Sunday Scabbard actually swells when the pistol is holstered (same with the DA revolvers but against the trigger guard of the 1911; hence it is not correct to say that either the Sunday Scabbard or the Threeperson 'completely exposes the trigger guard' as claimed by the likes of Col Charlie Askins.

Above is in the 1956 Gun Digest and is one of three articles relied on by Geoffrey Boothroyd to make his suggestions to Ian Fleming about arming Bond; including gunleather. Boothroyd even carried on at length about Tom Threepersons to Fleming because Askins had done so, too.

The first of the Brills had a wide cuff that was very much like the King Ranch cuff; and these were made by Kluge brothers for August Brill until 1932 when Rabensburg was invited back from Llano where he had become mayor (a lousy job during the Depression, stated his predecessor who was August Brill's in-law). N.J. made the cuff much daintier, changed the way the cuff was hand sewn to the fender, increased the number of welts to a minimum of two and up to three, sculpted the body into a statuesque shape vs the straight-seamed shape of the later Myres, and used his own unique carving style.

To begin -- above and below are the early Brills by Kluge. Note the straight main seam, and the way the cuff is hand sewn to the fender (rear view):

Then the later Brill by Rabensburg; note the sculpted main seam and the change to the way the cuff is sewn to the fender. This sewing is a 'signature' by the many different makers of the Sunday scabbard and varies accordingly.

The Sessums:

The Rogers, who were a father/son team working for Sessums then opened their own shop after Sessums died and the son, Bedell, left rodeo:

Not to be outdone, King Ranch jumped in with their own entry:

A different Rogers:

Joe Frank:

L. Huber:

Lone Star in the 1911 configuration that was used by all the makers:

W.E. Lutz:

Buck Steiner for the 1911:

Stelzig Saddlery:

Prosser Martin:


Sam Myres is 'honorable mention' because he didn't closely follow the Hughes formula:

R.H. Voss:

S.A. Wade:

And then there are another dozen makers whose Sunday scabbards are unmarked but are identifiable as different from each other and the marked Brillalikes by having different construction details. I won't show 'em all here.

Notice that with the exception of Austin, all the makers are in different cities around TX in that 200 mile radius:

And -- a reminder that the Sunday scabbards were made for very narrow trousers belts that were not necessarily worn in pants loops that themselves were new at the turn of that century. This one below has hardly enough room for a 1" wide belt between the upper edge of the cuff and the face of the guard where the holster has been folded. Many clues tell us it was made by Rabensburg and so is a 'late' Brill.

For a wide belt, which is uncommon on the Sunday scabbard because it was meant to be concealed, the cuff was not moved down the holster body to make room. Instead the holster was made with the FOLD further from the top of the main seam; because the cuff was structural reinforcement for gripping the pistol frame. Below is an extreme example from Bob Arganbright's personal gunleather collection:

When made for short barreled DA revolvers, the shape of the holster was changed completely to be more like that for the 1911, and a strap always included. These were VERY clever designers who didn't assume that one shape was right for all frame types and barrel lengths:

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