Tuesday, October 12, 2010

HOLSTERS AND THEIR HISTORY

As a lifelong shooter, Texan, law enforcement employee and outdoorsman, I've done a lot of pistol toting. Even when I was a kid still in second or third grade, I'd be checking out the holsters and the guns that fit them. My dad would let me use some of his holsters for my around the house adventures, and I came to like a quality leather holster at a very early age.

My father's friends, the vast legions of Houston cops and deputies and lawyers and firemen and private eyes and prosecutors that were his buddies personally and professionally over his career as a lawyer, also brought with them holsters that I saw. Back then, lots of lawmen who didn't wear a uniform wore fancy basketweave or floral stamped patterns, with matching belts and cartridge/mag holders. Sometimes they were real fancy and covered to match a pair of expensive boots the fellow had.

Lots of those old timers from anytime before the 90's, they took their gun leather in Houston, Texas seriously. They didn't do a lot of changing when they found a holster that worked well with whatever they were carrying. They might change guns AND holsters, but not holsters on the same gun. They'd look pretty careful like at various leathersmiths in Houston and find sort of what they wanted and then get some good holstermaker like over at Stelzig's to make it for them and their favorite gun.

That's the cool kind of holsters to find, the one-off handmade holster. Usually ornate in some way, but they can be just as pretty if they are unadorned as if they are intricately stamped. I have several, and when I can find one at a decent "non-collectors" price, then I try to get my hands on them. Sometimes I don't like them and resell them, and sometimes you get lucky with older holsters.

And it's a hobby that's possibly with a low amount of expendature. I haven't made any money buying and selling holsters, in fact, surely I've come out on the spending end of that. But it more or less can pay for itself, buying and selling and trading holsters at reasonable rates, not as a collector but as a end user, one who appreciates fine gun leather from the past for a few meager dollars.

I wrote recently about finding bargain bin holsters in gun shops and the like, and lemme talk more about the startling revelation that sprang forth from Billy Ray's lips as we discussed the holster bargain barrels, boxes, bins and drawers that gun shops often have.

So this dude that I have been hanging out with for thirty years, this man named Billy Ray. He's the godfather of one of my children, and we've done just about everything two friends do over the years together. We've played in bands together for decades. We fished and hunted and traveled and hung out and taken road trips and just all kinds of things for decades.

A large part of that hanging out and trekking and doing all the stuff we've done involved shooting firearms, buying firearms and ammo, finding places to shoot weapons if we were not at one of our family places where we could shoot. We've been to untold numbers of guns and sporting goods stores that sell guns and accessories, and even a hardware store on the old Carthage city square that sold ammo back in the early 80's.

So the remarkable Billy Ray was gifted with one of THE INSIDER holsters to use with his larger autos. And I was detailing the story to him about that holster and the nice Roy's Leather holster we found for El Fisho Jr.'s single action cowboy .22 pistol, and showing him the bargain finds, and he says to me:

"Where do you find these holster bargain places in these stores?"

Billy Ray hisself, in sober condition, has been with me on numerous occasions where I have either rummaged through or bought a used or surplus or NOS holster from a bargain bin in all kinds of gun stores large and small and in sporting goods stores. How many times have I asked salesmen at old gun and sporting goods stores if they had a box of holsters anywhere they couldn't sell, or holster parts.

Recently, I found a NOS Askins Avenger 1911 holster and got it for $5.00, new in box and frozen in time from the early 1980's this way. Sitting in a box in a gun store in a small town for years and years until it was finally pushed away into a drawer to make room for the latest plastic and nylon holsters.

But to say, when that NOS holster came out of that time capsule it had been in, ah, that leather smell when the plastic box was opened was just the way I remembered new Bianchi products back in the day. Their brown leather holsters always smelled very, well, leathery and nice.

When I think about old holsters from my childhood that my dad and his friends had, and their gunbelt rigs and the like, that makes me think about going shooting back then, and how we didn't go usually to Oshman's to get ammo, either K Mart or an out of town Gibson's but just as likely, the local convenience store.

I can remember when Seven-Eleven, Utotem and other convenience stores in Houston everywhere sold ammunition, right there next to the cigarettes. That was in the 60's as a kid when I can recall that going on at the stores near our house in Houston, and I know it continued on in rural areas up into the seventies at least. Go get cha' a pack of cigs, a coke and a box of bullets. I remember a convenience store in Splendora, Texas made of cedar that sold all kinds of ammo, a great selection of pistol, rifle and shotgun ammo at great prices. We'd often stop there as a kid on East Texas jaunts and pick up ammo for shooting.

So such are the memories that come to mind when I think about shooting as a kid and the way things were back then.

I'm interested in hearing about brands of holsters, particularly those made in Texas by smaller leathersmiths or in other places that are particularly great holsters. I know lots of the names, and want to start a post listing names of holstermakers past and present, as a resource. Nothing fancy, just basically a link page for holsters old and older.

There's lots of names out there. Some of them are still making great holsters, like El Paso Saddlery. A lot of names have faded into the past, and I for one would like to be aware of the history of some random holster I might encounter at an auction site where nobody knows anything about the holster. I'm sure there are groups out there as well involved in collecting holsters, and that's great. But I'm looking for very reasonably priced bargains from folks in America who made and sold a lot of holsters during the latter half of the 1900's.

1 comment:

  1. Here's a holster history source:

    http://www.vintagegunleather.com/company-marks/index.html

    ReplyDelete