Friday, February 24, 2012

Holsters for men are like jeans for women

According to the firearm industry, most shooters are male. (I suspect they overlook a great many ladies with pearl-handled revolvers tucked in their purses, and the bluing worn off their favorite duck gun, because such quiet ladies rarely make new gun purchases and don't wear tacti-cool gear.)

Men approach shopping for clothes rationally, forsaking near-useless and arbitrary sizing systems for actual measurements. This allows them to select a pair of pants (okay, six of the same style and color so they don't have to come back), pay for it, and be off to something more interesting. They sell ammo with information right up front about grains of powder, feet per second, bullet weight, and so on. They have a nifty pull-out chart cross-referencing what model vehicle with what length and available model of windshield wiper, right in the aisle.

So why, WHY does this logical, rational, easy approach go right out the window when they start talking about holsters? It doesn't matter if I'm looking at Blackhawk! or Galco, they'll tell me what kind of holster it is - shoulder vs. tuckable, what gun it'll fit, and right-handed or left-handed... and then leave me completely in the dark as to how that will actually fit on my body. Seriously, people - customer fail!

It's not a new concept to women, though - after all, we are forced to buy clothing that only gives an arbitrary size that does not easily correspond to weight or body dimensions, and varies by brand and styles within some brands. This is why we're still taking three different examples of each type of jeans to the fitting rooms while our husbands have already picked up six pants and are ready to be done with shopping for another year. It's just extremely disappointing to find.

When I wanted a holster for my valentines present, Calmer Half's first response was "I have three boxes of holsters downstairs I don't use. We'll have you try them on so you can see the different options and see if you find something you like." This sounded like trying to figure out what jeans fit by going into a store and trying on at random - an exercise in frustration, temper, and tears that leaves a woman feeling ugly, fat, and still having no flattering clothes to wear.

I went to Kathy Jackson's website, Cornered Cat (an awesome website for self defense from the female perspective), to find information on holster sizing terms. (Unfortunately, the links to photo examples are currently broken, but the information is golden.) Now having terms like Inside WaistBand, Outside WaistBand, Rake, Cant, High Ride, Dropped Holsters... ah, now we're getting into territory that I'm familiar with. In jeans we call this boot cut, strait leg, relaxed fit, petite... specific terms to describe the styles and options, and dimensional ratios.

So armed with information, hot tea, and dark chocolate, I went to the fitting room... I mean, my husband pulled out his boxes of holsters. Now granted, he teaches self-defense for folks with varying degrees of disabilities, so he has a wide range of "this doesn't work for me, but I want to be able to show students in case it'll work for them" - this isn't all "I tried it, it didn't work" or "I don't carry that gun right now." Still... the mound of tried holsters grew high, and my patience grew short. A check online confirmed that holster companies an uninterested person knows about - Galco, Blackhawk!, Uncle Mikes - will happily provide the dimensions of the belt they'll fit, and make sure the holster fits your gun, but provide not the faintest clue beyond a single picture not on a person covering all variations on how the gun fits in the holster, or how that holster fits on a body. No wonder men accumulate boxes and drawers of holsters - it's like buying women's jeans without checking sizing information, based on a picture of them sitting folded on a shelf!

Out of three boxes, we only found one holster that fit me okay, and didn't leave a gun trying to dig into my ribs or standing so far out from my hip I felt like I was trying to imitate a cowboy movie. And that one doesn't fit my new gun well.

So, we resorted to the same thing that many, many, many women have when looking for a nice suit for presenting at the office, or a dress that will flatter them on a night out - we took the best example of the lot, and sent it to a craftsman to have a holster bespoke. If you really want it to fit, and fit well, and look good doing it - get it altered, or get it tailor-made.

If you go to Dragon Leatherwork's page, you'll see multiple pictures of each holster from multiple angles, and to my delight, an actual picture of an actual person wearing it! Even better, it's definitely not an airbrushed anorexic model! He even links to reviews, where people not only love his holsters, they often proudly show them off in pictures - meaning I have even more idea of how they fit and ride.

Sadly, exactly what I wanted didn't line up with exactly what he offered on a web form - happily, after enclosing the best holster out of all three boxes, my gun, and a letter describing exactly what I wanted, he emailed back to say he could do (though it'd take longer.) Having handled other examples of his work, I am thrilled, and perfectly content to wait for him to carefully craft the leather art.

You see, I've already learned that I'm a size mumble in this and that specific brands of jeans. I don't need to repeat the experience in holsters. And what it cost up front? An utter bargain by not buying and bruising my ribs with several bad holsters.

PS - Calmer Half also wants me to put in a plug for Michael's Custom Holsters here, which I'll happily do, because he is awesome and will even rise to the challenge to make digicam or purple glitter on a holster, above and beyond customizing to a body's fit. Do you have any other holster makers you really like?


  1. I was extremely fortunate in that the first leather holster I purchased for my 1911 is a good fit. I didn't realize how lucky until I started reading other people's descriptions of their boxes of holsters.

    Glad you found something you can live with.

  2. Both those guys do outstanding work, and I have AND USE holsters from both of them. (and I have a bag full of holsters too- I can deliver them on my next trip through?)... Your comments are dead on re fit/etc. I've spent the $$ for at least TWO guns on holsters that didn't work and I'm a guy!

    If you want an old school, holster/belt combo, or barbecue rig; Jim/Kenny/Cody Rowe out of Hope, AR do custom work, but they are NOT cheap and that level of quality takes 4-6 months...

  3. and the three boxes of holsters STILL sit in the basement.

    You guys are such gunnies...

  4. Adams Holsters.

    Luke does some really great work, and works with a lot of exotic hides to give some unique appearance to his work.