Without trying to take anything away from the big holster companies, some of the best gun rigs have always been made in the smaller shops. Even people like George Lawrence, S.D. Myres, and A.W. Brill, started out in small shops, often building and repairing saddles as well as holsters and cartridge belts.
There is a simple reason for this. The guys who built saddles knew how to select the best leather and they knew how to stitch it together so that the rig would hold up under long usage. In fact, stamping and flower carving was started by the saddle makers as a way to show the customer that they were using only the best leather. These skills were transferred over to the gun rigs that they made for customers who knew and understood quality.
Now, while you may associate good quality, carved holsters with the West and Southwest, I have to tell you that I’ve recently come across a master holster maker in—of all places—Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Of course, I’m talking about Mike Barranti, of the Barranti Leather Company.
Mike’s holstermaking skills go back to his childhood when he decided to build his own rigs for his cap guns. He’s been hooked on holster making ever since. Mike cites Skeeter Skelton and Elmer Keith as two of his early influences, with their preference for good guns and good leather gear.
The two holsters that I have pictured above are copies of the popular A.W. Brill holsters that were made for Texas Rangers, and other Southwestern lawmen, back in the 30’s, 40’s, & 50’s. Mike has not only made a faithful reproduction of this popular holster, but he has carefully fit each holster to hold my 2 1/2” Model 19 and my Colt .45 Commander. He used good, thick leather and proper stitching to build holsters that will last for years. The basket stamping, done at my request, just gives them a classy, old-time look that I enjoy.
You’ll have to visit Mike’s website to see all of the various styles of holsters that he makes. And you have to understand that his is a small shop, so expect to wait a bit for your holster to get finished. The wait will be worth it.