Crazy for holsters

Crazy for holsters

If the gun fits, buy it!

By Dennis Adler

In the Old West not everyone who carried a gun wore a holster. Some men just tucked the pistol into their pant’s waist. Others who wore a cartridge belt and holster often tucked a second gun behind the belt. The rig I am wearing in this photo is an exact copy of the holster and belt worn by Tom Horn. It was copied from the original by Alan Soellner of Chisholm’s Trail Leather. It was originally used for a feature on Tom Horn in Guns of the Old West. Here it plays host to a pair of 5-1/2 inch Umarex Colt Peacemakers.

I hesitate to tell you how many holsters I have. Let’s just say that if I ever end up on an episode of Hoarders it is going to be because of holsters. I am not alone in this, there are, and this is the truth, people who collect holsters, not guns, just holsters. They buy guns, but only to put in the holsters, that’s where the term “holster stuffer” comes from.

I have purchased holsters, off the rack, as it were, and I have had holsters custom made to fit specific guns, I have commissioned reproductions of original western holsters to be made for articles (which is altogether different because I got paid to do that), but I have also done this just for my own satisfaction. I would dare say that there are some holsters out there today from certain makers that would not exist if I hadn’t been the instigator of its design and manufacturing. There is even one out there today surreptitiously named after me. But before this becomes a holsters anonymous meeting, there is a point to this as it relates to CO2 air pistols.

This is a custom-built holster for a 7-1/2 inch Colt Peacemaker made by TrailRider Products in Colorado. It is a 100 percent accurate reproduction of a Miller-Fachet holster which was designed in the period between 1878 and1881 by Capt. Edward G. Fachet, Company Commander, Co. G 8th U.S. Cavalry. Capt. Fachet wanted an open top holster for use by the company troopers. This was a butt rear design and the U.S. military still favored a butt forward holster. It was never officially adopted by the U.S. Cavalry but many of its features appeared in several other holsters of the 1880s favored by civilians. It was a perfect fit for the 7-1/2 inch Umarex Colt Peacemaker and the cartridge loops also worked with the pellet-loading cartridges.

Build a Custom Airgun

Authentic air pistols should fit authentic holsters

And this is the thing, when a company builds a reproduction of an actual firearm, it should be an exact copy with the same dimensions so it can fit the same holsters as the original gun. But it doesn’t always turn out that way. The slide is a little wider, or the triggerguard, or the frame is an 1/8th of an inch taller because of the CO2 system, it’s one thing or another and that’s all it takes for the gun not to fit the holster. Historic guns like the Umarex Colt Peacemaker are so close and leather just forgiving enough that they will fit any western holster, old or new, which is probably a windfall for holster collectors; CO2 holster stuffers now exist!

Another interesting pair of western holsters, also made by TrailRider Products is based on the holsters worn by Jesse James. The double holster rig has one holster for crossdraw and one for strong side draw. Holsters like these cost much more than the CO2 pistols they can hold but add a far more realistic look to your guns than contemporary western holsters made of thinner leather and with stamped rather than carved details. Pictured are an Adams & Adams hand engraved Umarex Colt Peacemaker and the prototype for the Schofield Texas Jack CO2 model.

When a CO2 pistol fits the same holster as its centerfire counterpart I give it extra points in my book because that is one of the essentials of using a CO2 pistol for training, not so much with Colt Peacemakers as say the HK USP, Glock 17 Gen3 and S&W M&P40, but even with the Single Actions for honing your fast draw and shooting from the hip skills. But the holster has to fit.

This is a one-of-a-kind holster copied from an original one-of-a-kind holster featured in the number one book on western holsters, Packing Iron by Richard C. Rattenbury. The handcrafted reproduction was made in Spain by Garcia Brothers/45Maker which specializes in historic western holsters. This extraordinary leather fringed rig has been featured multiple times in Guns of the Old West as well as in Airgun Experience. It also fits the 7-1/2 inch Peacemaker.
Sometimes recreating a famous gunbelt and holster has nothing to do with Old West history and more to do with cinematic history. The famous Duke rig worn by John Wayne in numerous films is duplicated today by John Bianchi Frontier Gunleather. It is a perfect match for any of the John Wayne Special Edition CO2 Peacemakers sold by Pyramyd Air. (The Red River D belt buckle was recreated by Alan Soellner of Chisholm’s Trail Leather)
One of the secrets of a good holster design is a proper fit. For the Umarex Colt Peacemakers, the Schofield and Remington CO2 models, Chisholm’s Trail Leather makes an exclusive line just for Pyramyd Air.

Breaking new ground

You don’t have to be a holster collector to appreciate the extra effort that goes into making a CO2 model a perfect match for its centerfire counterpart, and when that comes down to holsters, especially with either very modern handguns like the Glock and HK models or very old style European, Russian, and British pistols, like the Webley, the German Walther, and Russian Tokarev, Nagant and Makarov pistols, holsters are actually abundant. That these air pistols are accurately scaled to fit original and reproduction holsters makes them all that more enjoyable.

There is an interesting carryover in the American West, the period from the turn of the century to the early 1900s when Single Action revolvers were sharing holsters with new double action revolvers and the Colt Model 1911 semiautomatic pistol. Before 1911 military style flap holsters became common, western saddlers fabricated single action style holsters to accommodate the .45 ACP Colt semi-autos. This is another rare one-of-a-kind design taken from the pages of Packing Iron and handcrafted in Spain by Garcia Bros.
A striking contrast from handcrafted leather to stitched canvas but it is appropriate for one of the most talked about WWI and WWII handguns, the British Webley MK VI, which is among the best selling CO2 models today. A gun of this exacting quality (built by Webley and based on the original 1915 blueprints) deserves a proper period holster. Pyramyd Air offers two, an original leather style belt holster and the often favored canvas field holster (shown). A MK VI CO2 model needs a holster to complete the historic look.
Other famous German firearms not only hold a place in history but in the world of CO2 models, and the Umarex Luger P.08 Parabellum is crafted well enough to fit in original and reproduction WWII design holsters like this P.08 model from World War Supply.

Even the majority of airgun enthusiasts who don’t have the matching centerfire models can enjoy the full airgun experience by having the correct holster. While I doubt that holsters are a placebo for better packaging (the horrid blister packs that too many nice air pistols have been relegated to), a holster is a great alternative, especially if you have a small collection you want to display. Even if you have a decent box with your air pistol, like the Webley MK VI, having it in a Webley holster looks a lot better!

The military flap holster used in WWI and WWII was an adaptation of Single Action military flap holsters from the 19th century. Superb reproduction like this example sold by World War Supply are made to fit .45 ACP models but also perfectly hold the more accurate to the original 1911 CO2 models like the Air Venturi John Wayne Commemorative 1911A1. (Holster shown has an altered antique finish to match the gun)

While I can only speak to my own passions, I know they are shared with a lot of Airgun Experience readers, and holsters can honestly be 50 percent of the enjoyment of owning an authentically-made air pistol. When Umarex unknowingly built one of my all time favorite handguns as a CO2 model, (I haven’t yet convinced them to build guns that appeal specifically to me) the Mauser Broomhandle M712 presented an unusual problem when it came to holsters.

If one CO2 model defines building legendary WWII handguns it is the c.1932 Mauser Model 712 Broomhandle, the singularly most valued German handgun of its time with a detachable box magazine. The Umarex select-fire model is a 100 percent match, making it imperative that a proper period correct holster be made for it. That task fell to Chisholm’s Trail Leather which reproduces an M712 holster for Pyramyd Air.

The gun was perfectly sized to fit original and reproduction leather holsters and the wooden shoulder stock, but not with the magazine inserted. All commonly built holsters and stocks (original and new) were based on the standard fixed magazine Broomhandle design. The M712 presented the same problem for Mauser in 1932 as it did when the M712 CO2 model came out a couple of years ago. Mauser made special wooden shoulder stock holsters with deep magazine wells, a handful of leather rigs were made with everything from a cut away section with a removable magazine cover, to open bottom rigs and awkward looking holsters to fit. There really wasn’t much of a standard. All of the original M712 holsters that can be found are very expensive, as are original 20-shot Broomhandles and the M712 models which are still classified by the ATF as a Class III weapon. Just keep adding dollar signs as you read.

The holster is based on original designs (there were several types) to accommodate both the 20-shot Broomhandle with fixed magazine and the improved M712.

After over 20 years writing about western guns and holsters and quite a few modern handguns, I developed working relationships with some of the top holster makers in the world, so when the quandary of the Umarex Mauser Model 712 presented itself, I turned to Alan Soellner of Chisholm’s Trail Leather in Georgia, because Alan has recreated some of the greatest western holsters in American history, and he had begun dabbling in WWI and WWII era holsters around the same time the M712 CO2 model came out.

The cutaway side allows the pistol with magazine inserted to be safely holstered. It can be worn with a shoulder harness (as shown) or using the heavy duty double stitched belt loop.

With an M712 in hand and a lot of research, he came up with the holster pictured, which is offered today in a black finish version through Pyramyd Air, and yes, if you happen to have a Class III license and own a real M712 or 20-shot fixed magazine Broomhandle, the holster fits the original guns, too. You’ll also find a few custom-made Chisholm’s Trail western holsters on the Pyramyd Air website for 7-1/2 inch and 5-1/2 inch Peacemakers, the Schofield and Remington Single Actions, which again are interchangeable with the actual centerfire pistols.

The 1911 is a 108 year-old design still built today and as good as ever. Proof of authentic build is evident in this Sig Sauer WE THE PEOPLE which is a perfect fit in an original John Bianchi Speed Scabbard designed in the 1960s. If a 1911 fits this holster, it fits every 1911 Government Model holster. That being said, leather is forgiving, injection molded holsters, like the Blade-Tech are not. The Sig 1911 is a perfect fit, assuring this CO2 model is 100 percent correct!
Modern CO2 pistols that are well made and copied in fine detail from their centerfire counterparts fit the real holsters. Shown at top left the Umarex M92 A1 with a Galco Beretta holster, at top right the Umarex S&W M&P40 with a Safariland injection molded Level 2 locking holster, at bottom left a Sig Sauer licensed P226 X-Five BB model with a Galco P226 holster, and bottom right a Swiss Arms TRS 1911 with a Galco 1911 Fletch thumb break belt holster. If the guns fit (and they do) you have lots of holster options.
The same can be said for the new Sig Sauer M17 CO2 model which is a 100 percent fit to actual M17/P320 rigs like this belt holster and shoulder holster made by Galco.
The ultimate statement in authenticity for training is a competition pistol like the well established Tanfoglio Gold Custom. The CO2 model perfectly fits into this actual Safariland Gold Custom competition rig. The CO2 magazines also fit perfectly into the magazine carriers. As good as it gets!

This is what great holster making is about, especially with today’s ever expanding assortment of CO2 pistols. Fortunately, most of the guns are only new to the world of air pistols, and the holsters have, for the most part, preceded them by years, if not decades. When the manufacturer does it right, as so many are at present, the gun and holster combinations are just as authentic, adding a whole new level to enjoying the Airgun Experience. See you on Hoarders

7 thoughts on “Crazy for holsters”

  1. During a visit to a flea market I found an old military holster to accompany my Swiss Arms 1911 “friend”, the one that now has no letters on the polished slide and still needs the support of my palm on the magazine to be reliable. I tried to upload a photo but it seems that I am not very handy with technology.

    • Bill, nice holster find. What is stamped on the backside of the holster? If the stamping is still visible it should read JT&L 1917. This was the WWI design. JT&L was one of the major suppliers of military holsters to the U.S. governmant. It could also be marked US WARREN LEATHER GOODS 1918. Enger – Kress and Boyt are other makers during the WWI and WWII eras. Nice job on defarbing your slide, too!


      • I’m afraid that the stamping is not visible. I will try to recognize something when I get back to the country house where I keep these. Thanks for your comment on the polished slide, don’t forget I owe you royalty fees.

    • I’m not sure just how many suppliers the U.S. military had for holsters up until 1985 when the Beretta 92 was adopted and the majority of holsters were developed and manufactured by Bianchi International. Your holster is in very nice condition. Thanks for showing it.

Leave a Comment