Thursday, July 28, 2011

New Custom Leather

Shortly after I started carrying, I switched to the Hi-Power mentioned previously in this blog. I wanted something that made the gun easy to conceal over the bowling/work type shirts I tended to wear. The Galco Combat Master fit that bill - a high-riding OWB holster with a significant cant, meaning the gun tucked up underneath my arm and was easy to draw.

Over the past 4 years, the holster has served me well, but over time it has become more relaxed and floppy, not holding the Hi-Power tightly to my side like it used to. I had resolved to get another holster of the same model to replace it. A little over a year ago I went to a party over at Christina's place up in North Texas, where I met Michael from and About this time he'd jumped into the entrepreneureal unkown, starting his new business making holsters. He'd brought samples of his wares, which were passed around the party during gun show & tell.

Fast forward 7 months, and Michael's business had really started to pick up. He'd done some interesting custom holsters, with some particularly cool IDPA/IPSC race holsters. My holster budget had expanded a bit, and I started thinking about what could be improved from the Galco. The most prominent area for improvement was stiffness. Just like my boots and pants, I'm not easy on holsters. I'm a pretty solid and big dude, and the things I wear need to be well-made and durable, or they're garbage in short order. I'd read about horsehide leather, with its wear and moisture resistance, and its exceptional stiffness. The problem is, horsehide is not in common use in the United States, and there's no real source for domestic horse hide. Because of this, mass-produced horsehide holsters simply don't exist.

This is where Michael comes in. I'd seen on his site that he deals in some exotics, most notably stingray. So we got to talking in IRC one night, and I ask about the possibility of getting a horsehide holster made for my Hi-Power. He'd not worked with horse leather before, but seemed eager to check his supplier and get me a quote. A few days later, we figured out pricing for a holster and magazine carrier to my specifications, and I gave him the go-ahead. Since he'd never worked with the material before and I wasn't in a hurry, I asked him to take as much time as he needed. Over the weeks, we corresponded back and forth about his impressions of the material and his efforts putting together test items. Along the way, I added on a request for a flashlight scabbard as well.

For the holster itself, my requirements were simple: a high ride and cant, similar to my Galco holster, with beefed up belt slotting (the Galco slots had stretched out over time, I wanted to avoid that). The mag carrier, on the other hand, had to be a completely custom design in order to hold two magazines and ride at the 7:30 position that I needed. He was able to come up with a design that created a back channel for the belt to ride in, while keeping the carrier high and close to the body.

When Phlegmfest started to roll around, we found that we would both be attending and my order would be finished shortly prior. So, a personal handoff it was. I arrived at the party, and Michael handed me my new holster, mag carrier, and flashlight scabbard. To say that I was pleased with the holster would be an understatement. Every request had been met, and my expectations exceeded by a great margin. This was a serious piece of leather. It rode beautifully on my belt, fit the Hi-Power perfectly, and kept the gun snug to my side. It was the most solid holster I'd ever seen. Likewise, the mag carrier was a VAST improvement over the Safariland carrier I'd been using.

Unfortunately, as I started to wear my holster back home, I found that the glue between the layers of leather was starting to come apart. I corresponded with Michael about this, and he was quite disconcerted about this development. I took some photos for him, and upon review he insisted that the problem be made right. I mailed the holster back to him, and he found that the issue appeared to be with the glue itself not correctly bonding to the leather, and that the holster would have to be remade entirely. Without going into too much detail, some testing was done with a different glue more suited for horsehide, and he constructed a new holster for me in short order.

The new holster arrived a few days ago, and I am quite pleased - both with the quality of Michael's leather work, and his commitment to great customer service. I got the mag carrier and flashlight scabbard (both of which I've been using since Phlegmfest) together with the holster for a photo shoot:

Here's a couple more photos of the holster:

If you're looking for some custom leather, drop Michael a line. I can't recommend him enough. Both his quality of workmanship and his customer service are top notch.