Thursday, July 12, 2012
The west was won by the ingenuity of the people who moved west and found ways to make their life easier. One such form of ingenuity was the ever changing gunleather.
According to period photos the belt holsters began showing up in 1840. The holster held the smaller single-shot pistol, pepperbox, and revolvers. Gun leather was made by eastern manufacturers and brought west by the settlers and immigrants. The belts were considered a specialty item made for the smaller more expensive handguns. The eastern products weren't tough enough or built to function as well in the western lifestyle. By 1850 saddlers began making holsters. They followed the eastern patterns but enhanced them to fit the western lifestyle.
The other popular holsters were hip pocket and shoulder. When towns became "civilized" in the mid to late 1800's the townsfolk didn't want visitors "packing iron". Towns passed ordinances against carrying firearms in town. This was when the hip pocket and shoulder holsters became popular. They could conceal a handgun in a pocket or under a duster. The hip pocket concealed a small derringer in a pocket making it readily available. This holster was more common in the east than the west. The shoulder holster held large caliber handguns. The holster held the gun close to the body, concealing it under a coat or duster. This type of holster was widely popular in the west and appears to have been developed around 1870. It hung under an arm in a vertical position with an oval-shaped shoulder loop. There were three types. The "Texas" developed by Texas shooter Ben Thompson. Then in 1890 a new version with a full back and closed toe was developed to make the draw faster. In the early 1900's a new design called the Half Breed came from the best of the other two versions.