Gear Review: Nathaniel’s Custom Hats NAA Revolver Holster Hat

holster hat

As a new Texan, my first(ish) order of business was to secure a custom-made, felt cowboy hat. As TTAG’s Testing & Reviews Editor, that custom cowboy hat was going to conceal a firearm. This isn’t exactly a normal request, and even Nate Funmaker of Nathaniel’s Custom Hats in Georgetown, Texas, hadn’t fielded it before. Despite making the hats for movies such as Wild Wild West and recreating hats seen in other movies and TV shows for customers who took a shine to them, Nate hadn’t yet attempted a holster hat.

I know, I was shocked, too! Well…not really. In fact, I wasn’t sure Nate or anyone else would or even could do it. And I wasn’t looking for an art piece; this hat would be worn. Much to our surprise (“our” being RF and me, as Robert already owned two Nathaniel’s Custom Hats hats and practically demanded that I visit Nate’s shop as soon as I hit Texas soil), Nate jumped at the challenge. We could see the gears turning immediately, and Nate kicked off a brainstorming session. He’s clearly extremely passionate about hat making and was excited at the challenge and novelty of doing something so far outside of the box and, I fully admit, a bit ridiculous and silly.

A custom-made hat is just that. It’s built and sized exactly for the wearer’s head. The first step, then, is to measure the wearer’s head. For this task, Nate uses the Paris-made, 1895 vintage head sizer seen above.

Spring-loaded fingers adjust to the shape and size of one’s head, moving sharp little metal spikes on top.

A piece of paper is then pressed onto those spikes, creating a head shape map.

This map then acts as the key for the middle of one of Nate’s antique hat fitters. With the dozens of fingers set in their correct places, the hat can now be molded exactly to the customer’s head.

The end result is a hat that fits like a key. Especially if you have a slightly lopsided, lumpy melon like I found I do from looking at Nate’s map. I’ve worn brimmed hats for a long time, but this is my first custom hat. While I’d always need the help of a mirror to tell if my hat was on straight before, that isn’t the case here at all. This hat fits my head ONE way. And perfectly.

Another interesting note is the even pressure all the way around my head. This distinction was immediately apparent as compared to my hats of past. Nate’s hat fits snug enough that I don’t worry about it leaving my dome even in pretty stiff wind, but it doesn’t feel snug. There are zero pressure points.

In the video above, which was live-streamed on TTAG’s Facebook page, Nate walked me through the process of creating a custom hat from a blank. I’d highly recommend watching it. If you’re into “making ’em like they used to” and steam-spitting, antique machinery, it’ll be right up your alley.

I’ll include some photos and brief descriptions of parts of the process below, but the details are in the video.

It all starts out with a blank. These are felted rabbit, rabbit/beaver, or beaver fur. Basically, take the animal pelt, shear off the fur, and felt it dang tight into a sheet large enough to form a hat. The best, nicest hat you can possibly make is 100% beaver felt. It’s extremely durable even when thin and lightweight, repels water and stains very well, and will hold up to literally decades of all-day-every-day outdoors use.

Nate makes hats in all three tiers, whether all-rabbit, 50/50, or all-beaver. His blanks usually arrive looking more like the one above, with a generic head shape already blocked into the thick felt, which he’ll later sand down to the desired thickness.

Blocking a hat means grabbing a wood block of the approximate size and shape of the crown you’ll be making. Some of Nate’s hat blocks are 80+ years old. With the block chosen, the hat blank goes into the blocking machine seen at bottom right in the photo above.

This machine — yes, it’s really old — stretches the brim of the hat as copious clouds of steam are forced up through it. Incidentally, this is where the term “mad as a hatter” comes from, as mercury was used in the making of felt for hats and inhaling mercury-laden steam has its downsides. Anyway, the block goes in the center and can be pressed down by hand or with the help of the lever system on top.

After it’s blocked, the very rough, initial shape of the crown and brim will be set via a handful of different iron setups, including an auto-rotating, spring-loaded job that’s pretty cool.

The brim will also be cut, via various means depending on desired shape, to the correct width. I kept mine nice and wide, as l wanted a functional hat for the Texas sun. It’s mobile shade. At this point the felt has also been sanded down to the chosen thickness (or thinness, as it were) depending on material, hat style, intended use, etc.

Nate has basic molds for most of his popular hat shapes, and various steam presses to help shape and set the hat as close as possible to its final design.

But it ain’t custom until it’s done by hand. Standing over a steam vent, Nate slowly softens and hand shapes every facet of the hat until it’s just right. He steams it and fits it to the hat fitter that’s adjusted to your noggin.

The hat is lined with fabric internally then a leather sweat band, made by a guy back east who makes nothing but leather sweat bands for hats, is sewn in on a vintage Singer machine modified to hold and rotate a hat while following the crown-to-brim junction. My sweat band sports Nate’s logo embossed in gold. Most of his hats will also have “Custom Made For [insert your name here]” in gold lettering, but I went without that touch.

A hat band is added on the outside as well, at the base of the crown. Some bands are leather, some are horse hair, some beaded, some with customer-provided jewels, charms, or other small items of personal significance. Nate’s wife, Kerrie, owns the hat band domain, affixing them to the hats and creating custom ones. She also does the embossing and most of the by-hand and machine stitching.

When all is said and done, Nate and Kerrie have put about 15 hours of labor into your custom hat. Which explains his six-month-ish wait list. Not unlike waiting on ATF approval for an NFA item, actually. Except with Nathaniel’s Custom Hats you can pay a portion up front and the rest on delivery.

Of course, as with most things labor-intensive and custom-made, it ain’t cheap. Though you might be surprised to learn how expensive the raw materials are when you’re using the highest quality possible animal felt, and Nate’s prices give you a good idea of that cost. For a 100% rabbit hat, you’re looking at $495. For a 50/50 rabbit/beaver blend like mine, you’re up to $695. For a 100% beaver fur hat, you’re into it for $895.

If you’re weird enough to want a revolver molded into your hat, add a couple hundred bucks to the tab. Yep, spend $500 to $1,000+ and wait half a year for delivery and we could be talking about silencers instead of hats. Either one should last a lifetime and can be oh-so-worth-it.

So . . . photos!

December 8th update: we woke up to snow! Yes, in Austin.

This shape — the standard, non-gun-holding model is seen immediately above — is a design of Nate’s that he calls the “Lizard Head.” It’s a modified rancher with some additional “mule kicks” in it that give it more interest and a casual style. I gravitated towards it because it looked good even with my normal attire of t-shirt, jeans, and colorful sunglasses. Also, my head is fairly large so most hats end up with lots of plain real estate up front that makes them look bulky. That front dent made a huge difference by breaking up the flatness.

And, of course, the shape and style allowed room for the NAA Mini Revolver. Nate molded the hat so the side scallops sit on top of my head and the revolver is high enough that it doesn’t touch or just barely touches me.

Once the hat was molded to fit the Mini Revolver and the liner was sewn in, Kerrie added two elastic straps to secure the gun. I think a 100% beaver hat could be made thin enough to actually click the gun into like a Kydex holster. In fact, the thickness of many of Nate’s hats is comparable to a Kydex holster and the material, once all set up like this, is almost as stiff. But the elastic band route maintains the use of a nice hat liner and it’s simple and functional.

Yes, I can now simultaneously carry a Mini Revolver both openly and concealed in two very unique ways. I prefer the hat, though NAA’s belt buckle options are fun.

And if it isn’t obvious, this is mostly for fun. I have no thoughts of using this setup for self-defense purposes; it isn’t a paranoia thing as suggested by some Facebook and Instagram commenters. I don’t view it as a backup gun — though NAA’s Mini Revolver is reliable, well-made, and even accurate — and certainly not as a primary EDC. Though it does find itself loaded and ready and on my head quite often.

I suppose if I had to grab it in an emergency, I’d just rip it right out. The elastic straps are sewn through the felt, but with only a few stitches at each end they’d pop with a firm tug.

But, again, it’s mostly about fun and novelty and “because I can.” Because Texas. Because TTAG. My piece of Nate’s handiwork always generates a great reaction when I show people what’s hiding inside. In fact . . .

I wore it to The Gun Collective‘s panel discussion at this year’s NRA Annual Meetings in Atlanta. The video above is cued to an hour and four minutes in when I answered what my favorite gun is. I had already answered the question, actually, but decided to add one more: my NAA Mini. And to show it off inside my cowboy hat, just where it had been that whole hour with the audience none the wiser. I think the cheers and applause say it all. I do love showing off this little trick up my sleeve.

As obvious as it may seem now, looking at photos of the hat from above while knowing there’s a revolver inside it, nobody has ever guessed the secret or questioned the hat’s shape on any level. Partially it’s because I’m six-feet tall, so it’s impossible to get a straight-on view of the vaguely revolver-shaped bulge on top. Heck, even for the above-and-behind view above you’d have to be tall among NBA players or standing while I’m sitting. And it’s still vague enough (and carrying a gun in one’s hat is absurd enough) that nobody would guess “gun.”

From white to black and every shade and color in between (my hat is “Sahara” color) Nate has you covered. Styles, too. Whether it’s a Fedora or a Gambler (as seen on my kindergartner above) or the Lizard Head or others, or something of your own creation, it’s all possible. That, of course, is one of the great things about custom-made.

But not as great as a hat that fits your head like a glove. If you know what I mean. Custom head wear from Nathaniel’s will fit you and only you, with perfectly even pressure around your entire head and dead-nuts alignment. Unless you want it to fit cocked to the side, because Nate can do that, too.

Specifications: Nathaniel’s Custom Hats revolver holster hat

Revolver Fit: NAA Mini Revolver .22 LR with 1-1/8″ barrel (NAA’s .22 Short model would also work, but Nate would need to borrow one to mold off of)
Material: Rabbit felt, beaver felt, or 50/50 blend (which is what I have)
Colors: Tons of options available. My hat is “Sahara.”
Styles: Many “stock” styles available and custom designs are a regular occurrence
Lead Time: typical delivery times range from five months to nine months
Cost: $495 for rabbit, $695 for 50/50, $895 for beaver. That’s normal hats. Add approximately $200 to $300 for custom work like turning a hat into a molded-in holster hat, depending on details.

Ratings (out of five stars):

Style * * * * *
It’s a custom hat. If you don’t like its style it’s your own darn fault. I chose the hat type, the color, the width of the brim, the amount of curvature on the sides, front, and back, the simple leather braid band and its color, how it sits on my head (whether it touches inside the crown or not, how close it gets to my ears, how level it sits, etc.), and which firearm to mold it around and exactly how that gun would sit. It’s five stars because it’s exactly what I spec’d out.

Quality * * * *
With less knowledge I’d give it five stars, but I know my 50/50 rabbit/beaver blend isn’t quite as good as 100% beaver. It’ll still last my lifetime, but pure beaver felt can be thinner and lighter for a given strength, and is more resistant to daily stuff like water and schmutz. Still, good beaver costs good money.

Concealment * * * * *
It “prints” a little on the outside, what with the vague gun-shaped silhouette, but nobody can see it or put together what it actually is. Hats don’t get frisked. I mean, who carries a gun in a hat? That’s insane. It’s as concealed as it is fun to show off.

Fit * * * * *
Perfect. Like it was made just for my head.

Overall * * * *
This hat is one of the most beautifully- and flawlessly-made things I’ve owned. A Nathaniel’s Custom Hats hat doesn’t come cheap, though, and most of the time I love how I had a revolver molded into mine but every now and then I long for a standard model. Well, as standard as a completely custom hat gets, that is. Basically, these are five-star hats through-and-through, but they’re priced out of reach for many. Priced fairly, mind you, considering the cost of materials and the ~15 hours of labor, but a $500+ hat is still hard to wrap my head around.

Side note: It’s apparently a major faux pas, especially in the South (or so I’m told), to wear a felt hat during the summer months. So, after April’s NRA show I had to pick up a straw hat. Nate doesn’t make straw hats, but he does carry a couple brands that he likes. I picked an inexpensive one off the shelf and, in just a few minutes, Nate had hit it with some steam to add a permanent Lizard Head style dent in the front and relaxed the upward curves of the brim. Excellent.

comments

  1. avatar Det. Nick Valentine says:

    I swear just about everything in this article is what us Yankees think of when we think of Texas though we usually think of larger revolvers. Some of those photographs, especially the one with the navy suit, are pretty much what I’d draw if asked to draw a stereotype of a Texan.

      1. avatar Shotgun Sam says:

        Is the hat color Magpul’s Flat Dark Earth?

        I think the weight of the gun would cause it to bounce up and down banging my head when my horse is at full gallop. Plus it would increase the chance the hat would sink. Plus my horse would not like the oily taste of the water when drinking out of the hat.

  2. avatar strych9 says:

    Seems dumb. Ignore the mini revolver for a moment and consider: a gentleman removes his hat upon entering a building. Generally that involves putting it down or hanging it up somewhere.

    This encourages off body carry in a way that may well leave the gun lying around, it could go with a stolen or misidentified hat etc.

    1. avatar Jeremy S. says:

      Hats don’t get removed as much ’round these here parts as you’d probably expect. Besides, any native knows that touching another man’s hat is a good way to get punched in the face or worse. And the second rule of owning a nice, custom-fitted hat is not to give it to ladies who want to wear it for novelty purposes nor let it out of your sight. Gun or no gun, the hat is made for your head and your head only and it’s too much a part of you and too precious to hang up on some rack and walk away from it, let someone touch it, or place it outside of your immediate control. I don’t think the firearm changes any of that. I’d loan the NAA out a million times before I’d let someone borrow my hat. 🙂

      1. avatar Texheim says:

        ” ’round these parts”. You’re trying to hard padna

        1. avatar Det. Nick Valentine says:

          Isn’t that the general theme of this post? All in good fun though. 🙂

      2. avatar BLoving says:

        You’re right about the hat etiquette, Jeremy: if a man picks up another man’s hat the only proper response is for him to return it immediately with a sincere apology. However, if a lady picks it up and places it on her head, I understand that to mean that she is… feeling *particularly*…friendly to that gentleman. 🤠

      3. avatar strych9 says:

        Jeremy:

        I’ve not spent much time in Texas but what you’re saying here sounds like other gentlemen “respect the hat”. That’s fine. It’s the other people out there that I worry about. Especially when there’s a gun involved.

        Some people will steal anything and will do extremely strange things for no apparent reason. A couple weeks ago I noted that I was waiting for the cops to show up because someone hit and ran my motorcycle. I figured it was an accident/drunk.

        In the interim I have discovered, due to my neighbor’s badass security system, that the person who hit and ran my motorcycle did it on purpose and for no reason. They don’t know me, they didn’t have anything against me, they have literally no reason to have done what they did. They just decided that it would be fun so they duct-taped some shit to their car to protect it, backed up and intentionally rammed my bike at four in the morning. Just for funzies they completely destroyed my motorcycle without even knowing who owned it.

        Sorry, I don’t trust people. Especially around nice things. It’s a very nice hat so I would be wary that it might grow legs and, by extension, the gun might too meaning you might be doing a lot of paperwork, especially if some crackhead gets a hold of that gun and shoots a gas station clerk with it or something. (My neighbors are cops, you don’t want to hear the stories I hear over a few beers during our backyard meals.)

        1. avatar Jeremy S. says:

          To some degree you are, of course, correct. There are additional considerations I make when choosing to wear this hat. This is the main reason I mentioned in the “Overall” rating section that sometimes I wish it were a normal hat rather than a gun holster hat. Of course, on a few occasions I’ve worn it without the gun inside, which is certainly always an option.

    2. avatar Geoff PR says:

      Strych, in general I kinda agree on that, but it would be no problem to whip up a leather cover, so to speak, a ‘false bottom-top’, to conceal an unintended display.

      “For this task, Nate uses the Paris-made, 1895 vintage head sizer seen above.”

      Jeremy, you need to make a cropped version of that pic of you wearing that hat sizer as your TTAG pic.

      It looks steam-punk sweet-as-all fvck.

      Only thing to make it look better would be you wearing round goggles with that…

      1. avatar Jeremy S. says:

        LOL. Here’s a pic of Kenny of North American Arms (at the time but no longer) in it. He was in town for the NSSF Summit earlier this summer and, after falling in love with my hat at the NRA Show, decided he needed one of his own. But I don’t think NAA would expense it so he purchased a non-gun-holster version. Just a straight-up, legit, super nice, custom-made cowboy hat. I believe he went with a medium brown color rather than the lighter tan color I chose.

        1. avatar Geoff PR says:

          Quality custom hats – boots can cost some serious bread.

          In the mid-70s my dad had a pair of custom elephant hide boots made for him in Fort Worth. Back then, they cost 500 clams. I’d hate to think what they cost now.

          He’s had them re-soled 3 times over the years, and the elephant hide is in top shape, nicely broken-in.

          The pisser is, his foot size is two sizes smaller than mine, so I’ll never be able to wear them when he passes.

          *mutter*

          Hopefully, you can get to pass that hat down to your son one day.

          (With the gun, only if he keeps his room clean…)

        2. avatar Jeremy S. says:

          No son. I have two girls (5 and 3) as seen in that photo in this post. “Two and through,” as they say.

          I’ve owned a pair of semi-custom cowboy boots for years, btw. Made primarily of bison leather. Made by White’s Boots in Spokane, WA. If you want good boots — especially work boots for logging industry, oil field work, firefighting, etc — you get them in the Pacific Northwest. White’s has made them mostly by hand since like 1900 and they range from off the shelf to fully custom, even including making boots from a hide you provide. Starts at about $375 for cowboy boots. I think mine were $395 due to bison leather and custom size that’s slightly different on one foot vs the other and the specific Vibram sole choice I went with. Sooooooo comfortable. Cowboy boots from White’s is worth a trip to Spokane. Or legit work boots, though those are like $700. While I was there being fitted for mine, there were two guys visiting town to get work boots before shipping off to North Dakota oil field work and one smoke jumper. Practically all those badass smoke jumper dudes in the NW wear White’s, and the oil field guys were told by their foreman in ND that there’s no better choice. Then there’s me, all boots and no cattle haha

  3. avatar Joe R. says:

    Thot Thar’s a darn good hat. Sure beats letting your head make a hat “custom” for you.

    Do you notice (much) the weight of the hat with / without the NAA? The hat stays on, sure, but do the elastic bands hold the pistol securely?

    1. avatar Jeremy S. says:

      I notice it’s there but it only weighs 4 oz so it isn’t a big deal. I’ve worn it morning to late night on quite a few days and it’s a non-issue. My pants are a bit more comfortable without a gun, too, but then I’m without a gun 😉

  4. avatar ATFAgentBob says:

    nice hat but I think I’ll stick with my plain old snap back. Although I do wonder how big one could go with a concealment set up like that… I imagine you could fit a duty size gun in those ridiculous cat in the hat caps.

  5. avatar Guy from Montana says:

    I wonder if he can do a Montana Crease (being as I’m from Montana) with that NAA holster design..

    1. avatar Jeremy S. says:

      Nate loves making the “Classic Gus,” aka the Montana Crease hat. If you watch that Facebook video, he shows one off. It’s a popular design for him. Considering how tall the crown is in the back, I’m sure you could hide all sorts of stuff in there haha.

      Here are a couple Gus hats on his Instagram with the extra touch of a pencil-rolled brim (he uses a pencil iron to curl and set that): https://www.instagram.com/p/BXypCaPBVpu/ and https://www.instagram.com/p/BVBT1kPBjAX/

  6. avatar Mack Bolan says:

    Your hat is printing.

    1. avatar Jeremy S. says:

      We’ve all been there!

  7. avatar william wessels says:

    My hat is off to you!

  8. avatar ironicatbest says:

    That’s a cool hat

  9. avatar IdahoBoy says:

    I have a great deal of respect for Jeremy, and I enjoy many of his posts. But just because you “can” do something does not mean you “should” do something.

    First of all, it obviously prints. Short people won’t notice, but tall folks will wonder why the top of your head is so bumpy wrinkly in the shape of a gun before they put it together in a brief instant.

    Second, retention is sorely lacking. Sure, somebody can sneak in and grab your carry piece from your hip with difficulty, but it’s a lot easier if it’s just sitting on top of your head. Of course, there’s also the remote possibility of a Texas tornado blowing your hat off your head, and your weapon with it.

    Third, I’m very sorry Jeremy, but it just looks ridiculous.

  10. avatar Snatchums says:

    “Still, good beaver costs good money.”

    Giggity

  11. avatar ozzallos says:

    Seems with all that head space you could fit a 380 or something up there.
    Might make it a bit top heavy, however.

    Fun article. Refreshing change of pace. Now we need a new topic: Everyday Hat Dump.

    1. avatar Jeremy S. says:

      I’d have to be awfully desperate to consider a hat dump.

  12. avatar JDH says:

    Well. You can’t say this guy is all hat and no gun.

  13. avatar Twisted Swifter says:

    Enjoyed your post! F’in YEAH!

  14. avatar Defens says:

    I like it! I’d like it even better if it was set up so you could actually fire the gun, through the hat, while it’s perched upon your gourd. But for that, the hat would probably need to be worn by Sean Connery or Daniel Craig.

  15. avatar OODAloop says:

    Dude, way to represent Spokane with the Sharp Shooting shirt! Robin would be proud.

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