Modern firing lines create an unusual mix of enthusiasts, whose ages, backgrounds and interests provide a real snapshot of the “melting pot” that made this great nation. Yet, shooters resign themselves to using the same off-the-shelf gear as the person in the next lane—fraternal twins, identical in taste by convenience. Some things can’t be changed, but holsters aren’t on that list. Here are some tips from pros if you’re considering custom “leather.”
Galco Gunleather has been making holsters in hundreds of different sizes and shapes for decades. The company has grown since its modest beginnings as the The Famous Jackass Leather Company, and today you’ll find its rigs at sporting goods dealers near you. Yet, the company has not abandoned its roots.
“We’ve been doing custom work essentially since the company was founded in 1969,” said company Media and PR Manager Mike Barham. “We offer a broad enough line of standard-production holsters that the needs of most users can be met with a stock holster. However, we’re also very happy to work with those gun carriers—under 2 percent—who need something other than an off-the-shelf item.”
As for material, “We make a lot of exotic holsters, and they’re beautiful pieces of art in addition to being practical carry items,” he said. “We offer shark, stingray, ostrich and alligator in exotic hides in holsters, ammo carriers and holster belts.”
DeSantis Gunhide’s custom work is also roughly 2 percent of its business, according to company CEO Gene DeSantis. When ordering, “We entertain all of the requests,” he said, “however, we will only go forward with those that really make sense to us.” Once everything is in the works, you can expect to see your personalized holster,“…usually in two to three weeks or less.”
The company’s been in the business for 40 years, and has grown to employ more than 200 people. Due to its volume, “We buy in sufficient quantity so we can dictate the exact tanning that we require for our products,” DeSantis said.
He’s reluctant when it comes to exotics. “Unless you’re in an open-carry area, no one really gets to see the beautiful exotic skin that your holster is made of. We have made exotic holsters out of such things as elephant ear, sharkskin, snakeskin and American alligator, but using such exotics on the outside of the holster tends to make it a weaker product overall.”
Dennis Badurina, owner of Dragon Leatherworks, averages a seven-week turnaround, although during heavy demand—typically the holidays and tax season—it can take 10 to 12. “We offer an industry-only ‘customizeable,’ which is to say we have our standard designs that are available in plain black, but each holster page on our website allows for multiple options for the customer to chose/change the holster to their liking, essentially making each one a unique, one-off custom rig.”
If you’re looking for something striking to match your BBQ gun, “Almost anything is available,” Badurina said, “as long as it doesn’t violate CITES (Committee on International Trade in Endangered Species) Title 1 or Title 2 animals.”
When it comes to thumb breaks, he’s not a fan. “A properly made custom rig will be made to fit one gun only, and therefore does not need a thumb break to retain the firearm. Thumb breaks are needed for loose-fitting or fast-presentation holsters…”
Leather’s not the only option, either. The numbers from Projectile Combat Kydex indicate personalized polymer is growing fast. Forty to 50 percent of the company’s business, according to owner Rex A. Burgess III, is customized and out the door in seven to 10 days. The four-year-old firm tailors color, texture and hardware to your preference.
Regardless of his selection, his last word of advice rings true. “[H]ave a good platform to mount the holster to—meaning a good belt.”