Home 1911 Pistols The Golden Age of Holsters

The Golden Age of Holsters

Back in the day, holsters were so bad, the thought was to modify the gun for better carry.

While attending the 2019 NRA show, I saw a company that I haven’t thought about a very, very long time. Actually I wouldn’t have been surprised to hear they have gone out of business. And that company is ClipDraw. 

Clipdraw Booth at NRA 2019

Now before all you internet experts pile on with the gotcha-game, let me school you about how things USED to be. And to understand the past, you have to look at it through the eyes and minds of the folks who lived it. As a group, we learn nothing by projecting backwards. All that accomplishes is over-simplistic judgement and dismissal. It’s the stock-in-trade of intellectually lazy people. 

So let me begin…

In the 1980’s, such things as point shooting, speed-rocking, and the “FBI Cant” were the absolute ultimate expression of a “Pistolero” who knew his stuff. The professional. The expert. The teacher. The thinker. That guy was unassailable in his creds. Dare I say he was an “operator” before operator was cool? 

Speed Rock Pistol Training
The police speed rock for upclose encounters. We used to teach this. All it did was get cops knocked on their asses.

And here’s the cherry on top: That guy 9 times out of 10 carried a 1911 of some kind. Usually a custom job with the name Swensen, Hoag, Behlert etc. Why? Because that’s what the really cool gun guys did. 

But things change…

There was a time when everybody thought 3:30-5 o’clock was the safest way to prevent someone from taking your gun. 

There was a time when, “They all fall with ball”. 

There was a time sights didn’t matter. 

There was a time when you could cut the front of your trigger-guard off, put the name “Fritiz” in the gun’s name; and not only was your gun better, some even said it was faster and safer!

Fitz Special revolver
The Fitz special. Cops carried these and lawyers approved. Today…everybody would be fired and sued into bankruptcy.

Then time marched on. 10mm beat itself to death. 40 came and went. 9mm came back. Hollow-point technology improved. Plastic framed guns actually lasted LONGER then many steel framed guns. Hi-viz sights showed up. Double-stack mags didn’t mean the gun had to be big and jam. Stainless steel guns STOPPED galling. Custom leather holsters with waiting times of months or even years were supplanted by better Kydex holsters that could be made in hours if not minutes. 

The holster revolution sped up evolution by generations. Previous designs that would walk the earth for decades like some kind of brontosaurus were supplanted by newer designs that might have a life cycle of a year or even months before an “update” was released with lessons learned. 

ASP 9mm Pistol
ASP pistol. Super rare. Why? Nobody who actually carried a gun for a living could afford one! More people have seen the Loch Ness Monster than have seen one of these.

Eventually this change worked it’s way to gun carry forward of the hips. AKA Mexican or “Felony Carry”. Electronic timers showed it to be faster on the draw than 3 o’clock and was thus renamed, “Appendix” carry. And a whole new class of products quickly filled the void. 

Let’s pay attention to the last two changes…

If you NEEDED to carry deep concealment your choices were a hammerless pocket revolver, some custom ASP pistol everybody read about in magazines but couldn’t afford, or a 1911 with a Clipdraw stuck on the side of it. 

Back in the day, holsters were so bad, the thought was to modify the gun for better carry.

I am not defending the Clipdraw. Not anymore than I am defending the speed-rock. We made due with what we had. And if it must be known, a 1911 with a thumb-safety & grip-safety was “generally” successful in getting the job done: hiding a gun and having it not accidentally go off in the user’s pants or pocket. Especially in what is known now as Appendix carry. 

Was it optimal? No. Was it safe? By today’s standards, no. But none of this changed until Kydex came along and custom holsters exploded in availability. Back then, a good holster was likely a hand tooled affair. And very few people waited months for a shop to make their “custom holster idea” only to discover it was dog-dung. 

RCS Vangaurd
Video killed the radio star. And this killed the clip draw.

You wanted a holster? You went with a known design or format. It was a sure thing. 

Only when Kydex came on the scene, did the holster industry really start getting creative. Today, every city and small town has at least one Kydex shop that will do anything for anybody.  Fast and cheap to boot. 

So where did all the clip-draws go? What did them in? Funny thing…it wasn’t even Kydex that did that deed. It was plastic. Molded plastic. The Raven Concealment Vangaurd 2, to be specific. 

I saw the Clipdraw on the table and I didn’t dismiss it with disgust. Actually it brought back quite a few memories. Not all good. Some bloody. But I made it home. Today, you live in a golden age of holster designs and availability. 30 years ago, we made due with what we had. 

The Clipdraw wasn’t the original sin. It was the bastard child. The real dog shit was holster technology. And that didn’t start to improve until as late as the 1990’s. I hope you appreciate the goods days. Because you are living in them. 






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