By Jack Furr
The following information about leather gear (holsters, belts, magazine pouches) and other ancillary gear of the concealed carry permit holder as well as the professional law enforcement officer has come to the author over a 20+ year career in law enforcement and training LEOs, military and civilian personnel. Much of this time was spent while working at several prominent training facilities within the U.S. In Arizona I worked alongside a man whom I consider iconic in holster design and development…Mr. Bruce Nelson. When time permitted, we talked about these designs, the materials they were made of, how it enhanced draw performance, security, the ability to re-holster one-handed, leathers that were strong, durable and light. It was an important education in what constitutes a professional carry system by a professional law enforcement officer, holster user and superb holster craftsman . . .
There are realities that must be faced when you venture into the area of armed conflict and your choice of a carry piece and system of transporting that firearm and other necessary gear. Gunfights are a nasty business and you really don’t want to be involved in one. Unfortunately, there are times when a fight is unavoidable.
Your fight will be like no other. It’s doubtful it will be static and you’re very likely to end up on the deck. That being said, some holster makers have made it a point to seek out those who have survived a gunfight in-order to gain information that could assist them in a superior design. Sadly, many others have not.
So what properties does a well-executed holster, belt and magazine pouch have and how do you go about selecting them? What should they be made of? What holster makers do you check out, and what questions do you ask of them?
In my opinion and the opinions of several other well known armed professionals – men such as the late Col. Jeff Cooper, Thell Reed, Clint Smith, Louis Awerbuck, Chuck Taylor, Scott Reitz, Raymond P. Coffman, Bill McLennan and many others – your rig should be made of a superior grade of cow or horse hide. Of course, there is ballistic nylon and Kydex, too. These materials certainly have their place, but I doubt if you will see one of the men mentioned carrying anything other than real leather for serious social purposes. Why is this you ask?. Because they know S_ _ _ and they have spent the better part of their lives armed and testing various carry systems. What about cost? A professional carry system will cost at a minimum, one-third the cost of your handgun. You should not allow price to deter you from getting the very best that your hard earned dollar will purchase. How much is your life worth? You can pay just as much for a poorly designed holster, belt and magazine pouch as you can for one of a superior design.
Here are important nuances of selecting the superior designed holster, belt and magazine pouch. All components of your carry system should be crafted by the same maker/person. The professionally crafted gun belt will always be cut on the bias…meaning it will be contoured to fit the wearers hips…we are all alike but we are all different. The subtle curve will assist in the even distribution of the weight of the handgun and extra magazines and it will help alleviate any lower back issues when you are armed 24/7. Magazine pouches should be cut low enough for the shooter to grasp the magazine for reloading with a proper index and have dynamic friction-fit for retention.
The buyer and ultimate end-user…you, should be aware of the following before making this significant and potential life saving purchase. Holster belt loop and magazine belt loop must be of the same dimensions as the belt. This is to prevent unnecessary movement in your carry system. You want your holster, magazine pouch in the very same place on your body each and every time you go out into the world. The armed professional and those who have had the experience of professional training have ingrained a kinesthetic draw-stroke that is repeated each time that the brain receives the proper stimuli and their holstered handgun should be in the same place each and every time as should your extra ammunition for the handgun.
Critical elements of a professionally designed holster:
* The angle of the holster as it rests on your hip is of vital importance. A straight-drop designed holster is the most efficient…economy of motion. Unnecessary movement takes time…time is critical in a fight for your life. FBI cant/rake muzzle to the rear is less economical and causes the shooter to crouch which also takes valuable time and is less efficient.
* The second knuckle of the middle finger of the firing hand should index under the trigger-guard as a full and final firing grip is obtained . If the holster you are using now will not allow this…get another holster. When ordering a new holster be certain that this holster will allow this proper indexing.
* A professionally crafted holster of superior design will have a covered trigger-guard for semi-auto’s and revolvers
* Premium professional grade holsters will have been hand boned to the outlines and shape of your individual handgun. The maker will use antler or other material to shape the wet holster to the exact lines of your pistols frame, slide or revolver barrel and cylinder.
* You will not find any suede or other material used as a lining in the interior of a professionally crafted holster. Suede linings collect grit and other debris and do slow the draw.
* Professionally crafted holsters, belts and magazine pouches will be stitched with the finest material available and all stitches will be uniform and in-line. It will be stitched heavily in all areas subjected to stress.
* Lastly, it will be dyed or left in a natural color and treated with a sealer. Natural colors are the most desirable and easily maintained. Edges will be burnished and dyed to complement the entire rig. No oils will ever be in evidence on a professionally crafted holster as it creates softness and softness is undesirable.
This personal carry system will completely define the role of the handgun that is carried in it. You are the one that will determine the role your handgun will play…especially if it is defensive The handgun must be with you at all times and it must be presentable from concealment efficiently and smoothly…”smooth is fast.” This carry system should be undetectable when concealed properly.
Attempting to encompass all these critical design elements into a true combat holster is a design challenge that only a select few have mastered. Many of the holsters offered in today’s market can meet one or two of the above requirements, but the majority disappoint in doing them well.
It is recommended that you do your homework prior to investing in a personal carry system for your handgun. Difficulties will arise in locating a local gun shop who stocks professional one-of-a-kind leather gear. If you are computer savvy…check out various makers of leather gear…ask specific questions of that maker. Ask about his background and if anyone influenced his designs. Ask if he is a shooter or has been a competitor and you just might learn something of value before placing your order. All true professional gunfighting leather makers will have a wait time, so, expect it and the wait will be justified in the final example of their art.
Over the years several professional holster makers have continued to provide superior holster designs to those who demand them. One of the younger makers recently retired from law enforcement who was influenced by the late Mr. Bruce Nelson is Erik Little of Buffalo, Wyoming. Erik’s design and execution are outstanding. Milt Sparks is still producing top quality leather in their shop in Idaho and Thad Rybka’s leather is sought out by many who insist on the finest.
Firebase Academy LLC
Professional Small-Arms Training & Tactics