Fitz Special: How Careful Do You Have To Be To Holster THAT Gun?


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The Real Hawkeye
December 23, 2006, 12:22 PM
http://members.aol.com/lindytruth/CAL-gun.jpg
Guess you'd have to look very carefully at what you were doing when you holstered one of these babies.

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dfariswheel
December 23, 2006, 02:24 PM
That's why no one ever made Fitz type guns after Colt stopped in the late 1930's.

In addition to the hazard of an AD, the trigger guard is fairly soft and bends easier than you'd think.
A bump, and the trigger guard can prevent the gun from firing.

Bill Jordon came up with a better idea. His hands were HUGE and his fingers looked like bananas.
He cut a half-moon section out of the right front area on his trigger guards to make a clearance cut for his finger.
This did basically the same thing as the Fitz job, but left about half of the trigger guard to prevent bending or ADs.

In the Texas Ranger museum at Waco, there's a pair of famed Ranger "Lone Wolf Gonzales's Fitz Colt 1911 pistols.
These are profusely engraved and have the fronts of the trigger guard cut away in typical Fitz style.

Every time a magazine published a picture of a Fitz type revolver, Billy Bobs would butcher all kinds of nice revolvers.
In about 1 to 2 months after the picture would appear, these butchered guns would start to turn up in the used gun case at the gun stores.
It took about that long for Bob to figure out that there wasn't any safe. practical way to carry the thing.

The Fitz guns were not intended to be carried in a holster or stuck in the waist band. Neither was safe as Bob quickly realized after ruining a nice revolver.
Fitz carried his guns in his pants pocket.
This was in the day when mens pants pockets were huge, and Fitz had his tailored with stiff, smooth canvas liners so the gun was supported.
Fitz's carry guns were a pair of Colt New Service .45 models.
Fitz was also a HUGE man.

Dr.Rob
December 23, 2006, 03:41 PM
Keep your thumb on the hammer as you holster it... the Fitz was also designed for use with gloves... there are a number of threads on the 'Fitz' Specials here.

Old Fuff
December 23, 2006, 04:10 PM
Perhaps the most famous advocate of cutting out the front of a revolver's trigger guard was the late Col. Charles Askins Jr. As a 1930's Border Patrol officer and later while serving in the U.S. Army he racked up a personal body count that numbered in the upper 40's. He not only modified pocket guns in this manner, but also his regular service revolvers, one being a .38 Special Colt New Service with a 4" barrel and aftermarket King Gunsight Co, vent rib with adjustable rear sight.

Anyway I had the pleasure of meeting him several times on a social basis, and being young and somewhat dumb, I ask him about this practice, as it was supposedly unsafe. He looked at me with some distain and said, "Well you know that there are some things in a gunfight that are a h--l more dangerous the a cut-down trigger guard." :eek:

Another individual with considerable experience of a practical nature, if you catch my meaning, was more illustrative in pointing out the feature of Fitz's design. As dfariswheel pointed out, it was intended for pocket carry, and the trigger guard was cut back so that one could get their finger on the trigger while the gun was still in the pocket. As for the trigger guard getting bent up and jamming the gun, note that when the trigger is forward there is little likelihood of that happening. If the guard was struck a blow while the hammer was cocked that would be a different matter, but it would be something that was unlikely to come about.

Read Col Askins opinion again. :scrutiny:

On pocket versions the hammer spur was bobbed to insure it wouldn't catch in a lining, and when such a gun was carried in other then a pocket, the holster was of the kind that covered the trigger guard (or what remained of it) in its entirety.

I have over the years made up a small number of these guns, mostly for my personal use but a few for carefully selected friends. All were based on Colt’s because the cylinder stop springs location in Smith & Wesson’s make them less adaptable for this application. None of them gave me any problems, nor did they cause any of my friends to have concerns – and that was over a long period of years.

Colt never offered such guns as a catalog item, and the chance of any company doing so today is highly unlikely. But like John Browning, Fitz never did anything without a reason, and he knew exactly what he was doing and why. Among other things he was Colt’s conduit to the law enforcement community during the 1920’s and 30’s, and during the Great Depression he made a big contribution toward keeping Colt in business.

Maybe I should mention that Col. Rex Applegate also carried a Fitz Special for a time while assigned to protect president Franklin Roosevelt at the beginning of World War Two. Maybe his opinion was along the same lines as that other Col. I mentioned…. I could name some more interesting users, but I’m sure by now you see my point.

If not, read what Col. Askins said again…

Jim March
December 23, 2006, 08:58 PM
It would seem safer on a single action trigger.

Nowdays the only thing close is made by NAA...

Old Fuff
December 23, 2006, 09:55 PM
Current Smith & Wesson revolvers (except the enclosed hammer models) have two independent mechanical safeties. Ruger revolvers (single and double action) have one. Same can be said for Taurus. Older Colt double action revolvers on which the Fitz Special was based also had two.

How is a single action, with a fragile notch on the hammer, any safer?

orionengnr
December 23, 2006, 11:28 PM
I am guessing that what he meant was:

It would be safer with an uncocked single action...that way, no matter what is done with the trigger whilst drawing/presenting is immaterial...

until the hammer is cocked.

Kor
December 24, 2006, 12:50 AM
Another point: many of the holster designs contemporary to the heyday of the Fitz Specials did not cover the triggerguard, and thus would have been a non-issue as far as safe re-holstering, as there would have been nothing in that area of the holster to press the trigger back. The thinking of the time when the classic Threepersons, Askins and Jordan holsters were designed was to leave the triggerguard exposed and allow the finger to access the trigger upon first grasping the gun in order to shave time off the first shot from the holster. Naturally, we've come a long way since then...

Another liability of the Fitz modification is that without the front of the guard, in a holster which does not cover the trigger, the trigger can get forced back by all kinds of objects in the vicinity - of course, this can be mitigated somewhat by securing the hammer down with either a thumb-break, hammer-thong, or security strap.

Again, although Fitz Specials were never intended to be carried in a belt holster by their originator, I suppose one could carefully insert the gun into a covered-triggerguard holster with the tip of one's finger placed behind the trigger to block it(in much the same way as the plastic "Saf-T-Blok" is supposed to work on Glock pistols).

Jim March
December 24, 2006, 01:00 AM
Orionengnr got it in one.

If any gun with an SA trigger and the hammer down is holstered, pressure on the trigger doesn't matter one way or the other. So if you Fitzed an SAA or similar wheelgun, so long as you're holstering it uncocked you're good.

With a DA Fitz the act of putting it in a tight holster could crank one off.

Old Fuff
December 24, 2006, 01:44 AM
Another point: many of the holster designs contemporary to the heyday of the Fitz Specials did not cover the triggerguard, and thus would have been a non-issue as far as safe re-holstering, as there would have been nothing in that area of the holster to press the trigger back. The thinking of the time when the classic Threepersons, Askins and Jordan holsters were designed was to leave the triggerguard exposed and allow the finger to access the trigger upon first grasping the gun in order to shave time off the first shot from the holster.

Askins did design a uniform/service holster for the Border Patrol, in which he carried his famous ivory-handled Colt New Service with the cut back trigger guard. It covered the trigger guard area. One user was an Army officer named Patton... :what:

Men of Askins and Applegate's reputation were experienced enough to pick, or have holsters made that correctly fit the revolver and covered the trigger guard (when/if they used a holster at all). Threepersons and Jordan (I knew the latter) carried revolvers in holsters that exposed the trigger guard, but they didn't cut it away as Askins did. Each of these men had their own, and different views on the subject. Threepersons for example favored a shoulder holster.

Naturally, we've come a long way since then.

We have? How so?

The danger of carrying or re-holstering a Fitz style revolver is much like the issue of carrying a conventional 1911 pistol with the hammer down on a loaded chamber. Many can explain the theorical danger, but no one ever cites a case where it really happened. If one dropped the pistol on the muzzle, maybe yes - but otherwise no.

Today we see thread after thread from members complaining about how the double action trigger pull on their favorite revolver is much too heavy, and asking for advise on how to lighten it. Now you're saying that simply re-holstering a gun will likely make it go off.

And I'm willing to bet that none of you have ever owned or carried a Fitz modified revolver... :uhoh: ;)

Dr.Rob
December 24, 2006, 02:15 AM
As I said before, put your thumb over the hammer.

You should do this re-holstering ANY revolver, SA or DA... esp if your holster has ANY kind of 'retaining strap'. The trigger activates the hammer, if you have postive pressure on the DOWN hammer, the trigger cannot be pulled.

Iggy
December 24, 2006, 09:34 AM
deleted

Kor
December 26, 2006, 12:37 AM
Actually I think we have come a long way since then in many respects, although it can be debated as to whether or not that progress is actually retrograde in nature...

As far as holsters, I don't think you can walk into any gunstore and actually find a new holster for sale that does not cover the triggerguard, unless it might happen to be a newly-manufactured reproduction of an Old West design; the conventional wisdom is that holsters with uncovered triggerguards are unsafe, or less safe than desirable. However, by the same token, you can't swing a dead cat on this board and many others without getting a hit on a story about some LEO or citizen CCW who AD's when reholstering with his finger on the trigger - and then wonder if the same thing would have happened with a Threepersons or Jordan holster. Is it better to have your AD on the draw, when you're at least expecting the possibility of firing the gun, or to have the AD when reholstering - as the only person likely to get shot at that point is the "nut behind the butt?" OK, enough thread veer...

I gotta say though, as a citizen CCW in today's society, I'd rather carry in a Bruce Nelson "Summer Special" or "Professional" than a Threepersons belt holster, given the differences in societal fashions and attitudes between now and then...although, a Jordan rig updated with an actual thumb-break, and combined with good situational awareness and gun-retention training, would probably still be good enough to ride the river with if I were a uniformed LEO...

The Real Hawkeye
December 26, 2006, 12:46 AM
Kor, were you thinking of something like this?

Old Fuff
December 26, 2006, 01:27 AM
Don Hume, who was one of three makers authorized to make the holster Bill Jordan designed made a version with a thumb break. Jordan himself carried his revolver with the safety strap unlatched, and only used it under special circumstances. Of course many companies made more-or-less copies of the holster, but they couldnít use Billís name in their advertising.

If one examines holster catalogs of the 1920ís through the 1960ís it quickly becomes clear that the majority of them had covered trigger guards, although without question the Threepersons/Jordan styles were popular. Pocket holsters in particular (usually made to fit hip pockets) had the trigger guards covered.

The ďtrigger guards must be coveredĒ edict came about as a gamersí rule in the 1980ís, and was a reasonable requirement when automatic pistols Ė particularly those based on the 1911 platform Ė came to dominate combat games. Its necessity was less certain when double-action revolvers were used in a non-game environment. I am of course referring to guns not modified in the Fitzgerald style. In any case I donít think that covered vs. uncovered trigger guards make much difference in the time that it takes to draw and present a revolver, but it does allow one to get a more perfect grip on the handle prior to starting the draw. Ed McGivern, used holsters with covered trigger guards, and was undoubtedly one of the fastest, and most accurate revolver shooters of all time.

If covered trigger guards on revolver holsters is the best that can be cited for modern progress we havenít come far.

Baphomet
December 26, 2006, 01:43 AM
... I don't think you can walk into any gunstore and actually find a new holster for sale that does not cover the triggerguard, unless it might happen to be a newly-manufactured reproduction of an Old West design...
You can, you just have to know *where to look (http://www.brigadegunleather.com/m-4.html).

* Not a "plug", even though I do own three of their holsters... (Good stuff, reasonable prices!!)

Kor
December 26, 2006, 01:58 AM
Sorry, Hawkeye - that particular thumb-break holster doesn't look like a Jordan holster to me. Jordan-designed USBP "River" holsters feature a rigid, molded holster body, are canted about 15-20 degrees muzzle-rear(although Bill Jordan said the cant angle didn't make a whole lot of difference, except perhaps in wearer comfort while seated in a patrol car), and have a steel-lined belt loop and drop-shank that positions the gun butt at(but not above) belt level. I actually found a Don Hume-made snap-strap Jordan holster in the used-leather bin at a local gunshop for $10, and a Strong Leather Jordan-copy with covered triggerguard and thumb-break at a different store for $5.

Fuff, I was just re-reading Chic Gaylord's Handgunner's Guide, and had noticed that most of his police duty/plainclothes/CCW holsters had open triggerguards, while his military/field holsters had covered triggerguards. His "Blue Streak" shoulder holster, in particular, actually allowed the wearer to pivot the gun backwards and fire rearwards at an assailant with the gun holstered; he touted it as being a useful technique against a mugger who came up behind you and applied a choke-hold(just an interesting-to-me sidelight). I'll be the first to admit that my knowledge of guns/shooting/holsters prior to the late '80's comes not from first-hand experience, but from reading Jordan, Gaylord, and old Gun Digests....:o

(BTW, Chic Gaylord didn't think much of the Fitz conversions, as he found that his finger tended to slide down the trigger and snag against the tip of the triggerguard-stub when rapid-firing a 2-3 shot burst.)

The Real Hawkeye
December 26, 2006, 10:08 AM
Kor said: As far as holsters, I don't think you can walk into any gunstore and actually find a new holster for sale that does not cover the triggerguard.This is what I was responding to.

Kor said: Sorry, Hawkeye - that particular thumb-break holster doesn't look like a Jordan holster to me.Who said this was a Jordan holster? You said you'd like to find a holster that didn't cover the trigger and had an actual thumb break. Maybe I don't know what you mean by an "actual thumb break."

Old Fuff
December 26, 2006, 11:01 AM
One last word on holsters and then I think we should stop the drift and return to the original subject. If anyone wants to continue to discuss holster design a second thread should be started, and Iíll be glad to jump right in. :)

Charles Askinsí holster was the first to incorporate the metal plate in the rigís shank. It insured that the holster wouldnít lift when the gun was drawn. Bill Jordanís later design was similar, but unlike the Askinsí model exposed the trigger guard, and had a leather plug sewed behind the guard to slightly position the revolver so that the grip faced true forward in a vertical plane, which is another reason the trigger guard was exposed. Lt. (later General) George Patton Jr. adopted the Askins holster for his personal use. These two were personal friends from Pattonís Ft. Bliss days, and that didnít hurt Askinsí army career while he was in Europe during World War Two.

While I was acquainted with Charles Askins and knew Bill Jordan well, I only met Chick Gaylord once in of all places, New York City. He is now known as the father of the current technique of making holsters out of medium-weight leather and molding the leather around the gun, as opposed to making a holster out of very heavy leather with a welt running down the seam. In any case during that visit I learned a whole lot about holster makingÖ ;)

Gaylord didnít care one way or the other about covered vs. exposed trigger guards. He used both, depending on a particular holsterís design and purpose.

To return Ö At last Ö to the Fitzgerald Special. It should always be remembered that it was a custom product at Coltís. The originator didnít intend it for everyone. Even in its own day it was controversial, but it is interesting to note its popularity among a number of well-known gunfighters of that period. It is equally interesting to notice that it did not pile up a record of negligent discharges or being disabled by a bent guard, worrywarts to the contrary. :scrutiny:

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