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A blast from the past

Discussion in 'Handguns: Holsters and Accessories' started by Iggy, Nov 21, 2010.

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  1. Iggy

    Iggy Member

    Dec 24, 2002
    A recent thread on another forum featured pictures of custom holsters and rigs and got me to remembering my youth and the men around me as I grew up.

    As a kid, I remember seeing fleeting glimpses of belt guns in high ride tooled holsters containing what I would later learn were S&W and Colts of different flavors.

    These were carried by detectives, investigators, federal, and state agents under suit coats and led me to day dream about what those rigs had seen.

    At other times I would see old time sheriffs, uniformed patrol officers, game wardens, range detectives, and just plain cow hands with holsters bearing 38/44's, Registered Magnums, Troopers, Pythons, and such.

    These rigs were the predecessors of the beautiful BBQ rigs we often see in various threads today and in the albums of the guru's on the S&W forum.

    Those men in suits were using high ride holsters that came down from the design of Texas Ranger Tom Three Persons. Tom took his idea to S.D. Myres in El Paso Texas and the holster is still produced by many holster makers today. They are still popular today as shown in the picture thread on the forum.

    Another Ranger, Lee Trimble, came up with a transition from the old Mexican loop holsters of the days of the Rangers patrolling on horseback to a duty holster better suited for riding in cars. He took his ideas to Art Brill in Austin and the rest is history. These two styles of holsters are still popular with Texas lawmen today.
    Both the Three Person and the Austin holsters styles are made today by El Paso Saddlery, and some members of this forum.

    Dave Keith, a regular denizen of the S&W forum and one of the posters on that thread featured rigs that he has made for his own use over the years, and continues to make today. Throughout his career, Dave has followed in the tradition of those old time Texans and carries the same guns in the older style equipment he has made and modified to his own needs.

    These pictures led to my visiting with Dave about his rigs, and comparing notes about our times behind a badge and the equipment we used.

    Dave is hanging up his badge and shootin' irons at the end of the year, but he isn't quite ready to settle back in a rocking chair just yet.

    He won't be going into any kind of full production, just a few special orders in hopes of earning enough money to keep him in ammo.

    Dave sent me some holsters to try out and comment on when I had put some miles on them. I have been sharing the duties with Jeff (WYO), a fellow member of the S&W forum over in Laramie.

    Dave's been a rancher, a hunting guide, and in law enforcement over the last 30 years. I haven't been in LE for over 30 years, but he said he wanted the opinion of an "ol hoss that had wore harness for a while." To say that I was flattered is an understatement.

    Here is a pair for N and K frame S&W's among others he sent me to try out. I let Jeff get hold of that holster for a 31/2" N frame and never saw it again.

    When they first arrived I was surprised how light they were. I am accustomed to belt holsters made of skirting leather that are thick, rigid and heavy. These holsters are light and trim and easy to carry. I guess a good analogy of the finished product would be to compare a heavy work boot to a dress "Roper" style boot. Light, strong and dressy.

    Dave says,“ By selecting and using the best part of each hide. Using only the shoulders and the back to make one of the toughest and sturdiest holsters for each ounce of leather weight possible. Not one ounce of flank or belly hide goes into one of my rigs, period.”
    He glues the layers together with the grain going in different directions which gives it additional strength on the same principle as plywood.

    Dave uses the thinner leather but does it in an efficient way. The back of the "pocket" and the back flap are two layers of leather laminated together. This creates a smooth side out surface for both the gun and the back of the holster that is in contact with the wearer.

    The front side of the "pocket" is two or three solid layers of leather depending on the style, which provides a smooth side out surface against the gun which reduces wear on the finish of the gun. This also provides a smooth side out surface for tooling or stamping to give the holster that ol timey style that harkens back to the good ol days. It also provides the same rigidity as a holster made of heavier leather without the additional bulk or weight.

    If you choose to wear the holsters on a regular pants belt as I do, upon request, Dave will cut a slot in the back flap so you can run your belt through the pants loop thus preventing the typical belt sag if you don’t use the loop. This alleviates the need to skip a loop or move the loops on your pants to make the holster ride right on your waist.

    When Dave makes the holster he can adjust the muzzle angle and how close to the body you want your gun to ride by the shaping of the back flap. That's why these holsters will be custom built to the buyer's desires.


    Here a Ranger rig he has been packin' around for a while.

    As these will be built to the individual’s needs, the price will vary, but I can tell you this. The prices he estimated are less expensive than the ones being mass produced in Texas today. The stitching and stamping on his holsters is on a par with some of the custom holster makers working today and beats the socks off of a lot of the mass produced holsters that are available today. Dave takes an extra step and tools in a depressed line in the leather so that when he stitches things up, the stitches are below the surface of the leather, thus preventing the stitches from wearing out due to abrasion. His designs also do not allow any stitching to come in contact with the gun. This can leave stitching tracks in the finish of your gun. There is always a leather between a gun and stitches or snaps. He also incorporates tension screws in many of his designs so you can adjust the holster tension to suit your needs and tastes.
    The price he quoted for border stamping or basket weave was just plain cheap by my estimate. Floral tooling will naturally be more expensive, but durn sure worth it in my opinion.

    1911Front.gif LH1930Austin.gif
    Dave also makes holsters in either the the Brill (Austin) or the Three Person style holsters for 1911 Automatics too. I suspect you could talk him into making a matching belt and spare ammo carriers if you talk nice.

    I received this holster for a CCO just this week and I am plumb tickled with it.

    Jeff and I have been wearing Dave's rigs now for a couple of months. Jeff used one of Dave's holsters to pack a 1911 on a hunting trip in northern Wyoming recently. He suggested that I emphasize the fact Dave will put retention straps on his holsters for those that anticipate wild and woolly activities outdoors.

    I have one of Dave's holsters with a retaining strap and found it to be totally secure bouncing around on the ranch on a horse and an ATV. About a month ago, I was packing a S&W model 58 and cow decided that she and I should go through a barb wire fence, and she insisted that I go first. I'll put that little squabble up against any wrestling match I ever had with a drunk back when I packed a badge. Even in that little tussel, my gun remained secure in Dave's holster.

    If you are interested in a purty fine looking BBQ rig, or a darn nice traditional everyday totin' rig, you might want to contact Dave at keith44spl@yahoo.com and get your name in the hopper for when he settles down and starts putting out some dandy rigs.
    To keep from using too much bandwidth, I have created a photo album featuring more of Dave’s work. Please take the time to check it out.
    http://s130.photobucket.com/albums/p246/Iggy25/Keith Holstes/
    Seeya down the trail,
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2010
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