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outside the belt

And to double your dose of gun porn today… about a month back, I teased you with a close-up picture of… something. Dirtcrashr had a very close guess, but he missed on part of it. Today, you get the rest of the picture… of something else:

Strictly speaking, that is not the same, exact item that I took the close-up picture of last month… but it is, pretty much, the same thing.
The long story made short is that I purchased an outside-the-waistband holster from Little Bear Custom Holsters (specifically a “Small Hoplon“) about two months back, with the request that it be made for my PPS, it have a black leather body, and blue-grey stingray accents. About a month after the order, I received a holster, went to test it with my PPS, and promptly realized that there was almost no retention of the handgun at all – when I rotated the (empty) handgun and holster upside down, the PPS just about fell out on its own, and a single shake was all it took to dislodge it completely.
I gave Dave (the proprietor of Little Bear) a quick phone call and email, and after a lengthy conversation concerning the construction of holsters, how everything fits together, and where the tension is (and should be) generated, he signed off with a promise to make me a new working holster, at no cost, this time with a little different design and 100% horsehide rather than cow leather (check out this explanation for the differences). Once the problem was isolated, he had no hesitation, whatsoever, about replacing the holster, and even refused my offers to return the old one to him so we still came out even.
About three weeks later, the above holster arrived.
So what is the difference between that holster and the one I first received? Well, take a look at these pictures:


The biggest difference, and the reason (I think) the new holster works and the old one did not, is that the stingray skin no longer covers the trigger-guard indent, which is pretty much where most of Dave’s holster’s tension is created. Stingray, while looking great and being damned-near bulletproof (it has a tendency to destroy sewing needles, from what I understand), does not hold a form in the slightest, and actually ended up pulling the leather back up out of the indent, reducing its grip on the gun. On the newer holster, Dave corrected this before-unencountered problem, and created an even larger indent on the front and back, ensuring that the PPS locks in place and does not come out – and, honestly, I have not been able to shake, jimmy, or rattle the handgun out of the holster yet. Additionally, the horsehide is a little thicker and a lot stiffer than the cow leather, and had a slightly different finish on it (the old holster is really that much more shiny). Finally, Dave took a little more material out around where my middle finger grasps the grip, allowing me to hold on better when drawing (I got spoiled with my first holster, which leaves around a solid inch available there).
The end verdict? Well, I have only had the newer holster for about a week now, so my view on it may change over time as things break better into place. However, it carries the PPS quite comfortably in the 3:30-4:00 position, it is easily more comfortable than my inside-the-waistband holster from HBE Leatherworks (but comparing comfort levels of IWB and OWB is not exactly fair), its passive retention is amazingly strong and it locks into place with an audible snap (despite having no active locking system), and it looks pretty darned good. Even though it is an OWB holster, a single shirt untucked over it conceals it and my pistol perfectly, without any printing (for reference, I measure at about 75 inches and 170 pounds, though I tend to wear comfortable (read: ‘loose’) clothing), and yet, due to the ride hight, it is relatively easy to get to. Stitching is doubled-up where it needs to be (or would help), and both the horsehide and stingray skin are well-edged and relatively well formed. Summation: a good, solid holster that was worth the money, and looks pretty darned good, actually.
Additionally, I have to give Dave a good amount of credit for taking note of a customer’s dissatisfaction with one of his products, sitting down with the customer to isolate the problem, and then replacing the defective product, no questions asked, once it became apparent that repair was not an option. That kind of customer service should be standard for all industries these days, but, sadly, it is not, and Dave definitely deserves recognition for it. As for the faulty first holster, I honestly think it was due to the stingray’s inability to hold demanding shapes, and was a problem he had never encountered before (being a relatively new holster fabricator), and I never would have thought of. The first holster being disfuctional is a ding, but the efforts to which Dave went to correct it more than compensate for it – in the end, a two-month turn-around for a custom, exotic-skinned holster really is quite good these days.
In short and in closing, based on the quality of the end product and his dedication to his customers, I cannot help but to recommend Dave at Little Bear Custom Holsters for the leather-cladding needs of your firearms – he may be new, he may be small, and he may not have the name recognition of some of the “big” fabricators; but he is affordable, he is enthusiastic, he is remarkably dedicated to customer satisfaction, and his end products are worth their costs. Works for me.
More pictures (all pictures are clickable to big-ize):


10 comments to outside the belt

  • http://booksbikesboomsticks.blogspot.com/2008/10/lifes-great-mysteries-437196.html
    This post came to mind! When I see somebody open carrying I look at the gun to see what they’re packing. I think with your holster I’d overlook the Walther entirely, and say “OMG is that Stingray?”
    Beautiful holster!

  • Tam

    Thank you, thank you, thank you.
    If the gun is being carried in the open, at least as much attention should be paid to the holster as to one’s other garments.
    O/C’ing a Fobus holster is like wearing f’ing Crocs in public.

  • While stingray is good-looking and tough, its beads sure do create (for me) an ugly line of stitching. I wonder if the better way wouldn’t be a series of rivets and adhesive? My eye follows that meandering line and makes the (incorrect) assumption that this was inattention to detail.
    Reminds me: I’ve got to get a good plain black holster together for a wedding next month. . . .

  • Is that what happened? I was looking at the stitching and at the uneven bits of white showing around the edges, and I couldn’t figure out why the accent would be put on that way. I’m glad I didn’t say anything rude about the maker’s skills.
    I think my solution would be a bit of leather or cloth “frame” running around the edge, if you were married to the idea of the rayskin accent. Maybe that wasn’t doable here, but if you rolled a bit of black silk (or maybe something tougher) all around the edge of the rayskin, then stitched through it with that black cord, the stiching would be a lot less visible.
    Of course, it’s always easy to let someone do all the hard work and the engineering, then come along and suggest a different way to make the decorative accent!

  • Or you could just carry the shit out of it, and let it get that nice used look.
    That’s my vote, and EXACTLY what I’d do!

  • Weer’d and Tam: Great minds think alike, I guess ;). Oh, and that is exactly what I will be doing, Weer’d.
    Matt G and Don Gwinn: My understanding (based exclusively off conversations with Dave) is that stingray is notoriously difficult to sew through, and has a horrible tendency to devour sewing machine needles, due to the chitinous beads that give it its look. I could be mistaken, but I believe Dave told me that he has developed a system where he sews the stingray onto the leather from the back of both, which might result in the occasional bead being knocked off in the process (and the creation of the uneven line Matt talks about). Not being a seamstress/holster fabricator, I cannot say as though I am up-to-speed on the finer points of skins and affixing them together, but if you all have any insights/suggestions/experience, I am sure Dave would be quite interested in hearing from you, given his newness to the field. At this point, it seems as though he is still in the learning/experimenting phase, so any assistance would probably be appreciated. I guess there is a reason that stingray is not one of the more-common “exotic” skins for holster work.
    In reality, the close-up nature of the photography probably exposes more flaws than it should – when on the belt and viewed “normally”, the holster really does look pretty good, I promise. Maybe I should put up some pictures of that… It is a holster I would wear, which, in my book, is better than a fit-for-framing holster I would be afraid to scuff.
    In the end, this is a $70 holster, and comparing it against holsters that run $100, $120, $140, and beyond simply is not reasonable. As we gunnies are likely to know better than some, you get what you pay for, and considering my expenses, I am satisfied with the product. One day in the future (when I have a 1911 to go in it), I might get a nice, dressy, expensive OWB holster, but for the time being, I am content with this one – it works, and, in my opinion, it is better than “just black”.

  • quote of the day

    As written by Tam in a comment here: Thank you, thank you, thank you. If the gun is being carried in the open, at least as much attention should be paid to the holster as to one’s other garments. O/C’ing…

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