I’ve always appreciated a “quality” holster. I know what holsters I like, what works good for me and where to get the “good” ones. (Having older shooters to provide advice on gear saves a lot of headache.). But, I never knew much about holster history. When discussing holsters – and sometimes debating - older gunmen would mention names like Brill, Myers, and Heiser. I knew these were holster designers and makers, but never understood how important these and other gun leather-men were to the evolution of leather we carry today. That is until I got a copy of “Holstory: Gunleather of the Twentieth Century,” by R.E.D. Nichols and John Witty.
The May ‘19 issue of Guns magazine has a review on “Holstory” – which stands for “holster history.” I contacted Roy Huntington at FMG and asked him about the book. (It’s a little expensive for a book, so I couldn’t just buy it on a whim.). Roy, listed in the book as a contributor, gave Holstory high praise. He also advised me to check out Mr. Nichols’ gunleather. I contacted “Red” by email to inquire about getting a copy of “Holstory” for review. A few days later the book arrived, plus a fine, nice looking model G1955 “To Catch A Thief,” Avenger style holster made by Red for my Browning Hi Power.
“Red” – Richard Edward Dale – Nichols is a “rocket scientist” of holsters. He started as a designer/maker with Bianchi in 1970. In the 90’s “Red” began Nichols Innovation, “the first consulting-design service to the holster industry.” For over a decade he guided companies like Aker, DeSantis, Galco and dozens more on how to make great holsters. He’s now crafting fine leather gear in Australia. John Witty, Nichols’ partner in crime, is a holster expert who owns a huge collection of quality leather and related material like catalogs from the first seventy years of the 1900’s. He’s also “Red’s” representative here in the states for both Holstoryand leather gear.
In Holstory, I learned where concealment holsters began. A Texas Ranger company was “dismounted” and assigned to Austin. The Ranger’s long barreled Colt Single Actions riding on belts full ammunition, rifles and normal “trail” gear caused concern among the citizens. It was decided that the Rangers needed to carry concealed and the “city holster” was born. This is the beginning, but there was much more to come.
From here Holstory carries us through the evolution of the carry holster and those who influenced its design. For example, a lot of early designs did not cover the trigger guard of either revolvers or semi-autos. Today this would be considered crazy and unsafe. Holstory also includes high quality photos of this evolution.
I mentioned Holstory is a “little expensive.” But if you’re interested in handguns and gun leather, which you should be, it’s well worth the money, and not as expensive as other books I have enjoyed less. You’d also do well to check out “Red’s” leather gear, and you’ll his work for sale on “the ebay.”
It’s important to have great gear, and understand the history of how it came about. Knowing this history allows us to share it with younger shooters who are coming up. This is important. Every aspect of the story of firearms is an amazing one, and it’s important we ensure this heritage is remembered, shared and practiced in the future.
Tiger McKee is director of Shootrite Firearms Academy, located in northern Alabama. He is the author of The Book of Two Guns, AR-15 Skills and Drills, featured on GunTalk’s DVD, “Fighting With The 1911” and has regular columns in Gun Digest and American Handgunner.