Part two of our continued history series. For part one, click HERE.
“A Historic Utilitarian Design Helps Promote Everyday Carry But Laws And Changing Times In The Past Ultimately Lead To A Need For Concealment”
General use, “open top” belt holsters as we know them, really started to appear in the latter third of the 19th Century.
And generally, but not always, they were “derived” from the (often? most likely?) full flap belt designs that the military had found interesting by the time of, and then during, the Civil War.
Separately, but for the record (although a bit outside the scope of this discussion), the military had already been experimenting with what was called “pommel” holsters for certain earlier (and quite often large and heavy) revolving cylinder, black powder handguns. Rather than weighing down and most likely encumbering their horse-riding soldiers with such weight (that might cause problems riding off at a gallop or even just walking around and not mounted on the horse), the government (and I think some others) experimented with, and issued, rigs that were located on or near (and often attached or connected to) the pommel of a mounted trooper’s saddle, which generally (usually?) located one such gun on each side of the horse and within relatively easy reach of the rider at that location.
Saddle Pommel Holster-
There’s more to it, but you get the picture and the concept helped get those wheel guns “rolling” forward into history.
After the war, westward expansion within the continent exploded. And it became common for men in the field to carry guns for protection. Flap holsters were everywhere and they were often found as cheaply priced
“leftovers” (i.e. surplus) or wartime “take-homes”, that were sold privately or just given or thrown away.
It was not uncommon for someone (or some enterprise) to take such wartime concepts, remove their flaps (if not also remove some portion of the sometimes larger, wider, flared, or almost funnel-like top portions of such designs as well), reposition their belt loops and “straighten”, (verticalize) their belt-born bodies as a result.
In theory, and in some cases, the almost tubular remnant protected the main portion of the gun (its receiver and barrel) from the elements, exposed the grip frame of the weapon for easy access, and had little bulk so it could be worn readily under a mackinaw, wool jacket or barn coat. It could also be worn exposed (and generally, it probably was). And as described here, it was usually fitted close to the body, and as such, it was easy to protect while being carried (worn) “strong” side or, in some versions, as a cross-draw instead.
Not an aggressive or antagonistic-looking design, it suited the often cash-strapped “Westerner” as he worked in the field, rode a horse, panned for gold, dug for silver, or just went about his way not looking for trouble but
knowing that he was “ready” if it found him. But just as the western expansion of America changed in the years following the War, so did the “viewing” (physically, socially, and legally) of a gun on one’s hip. And town after town began limiting, if not outright restricting, the carrying of firearms within their limits.
I’m not a huge fan of many of the supposedly historic, but generally inaccurate, filmings of our country’s growth (especially concerning some of the well-known, cattle, lumber, and mining-related towns of that era).
But in many ways, the drinking, gambling, and fighting, while perhaps not as flamboyant as “seen on the screen”, could be just as harmful to the unarmed victim, as the bar fights, hold-ups, and assaults that we see or
hear about on the “News” every day today.
pensandpatron.com – By David Whittaker – July 5, 2019
So the concealment of one’s “means of carrying a gun around”, suddenly became a legally “controlled” method of self-defense, which led to several solutions. Some of which are still with us today. And some are not.
Regardless of how you carry a gun concealed, I would suggest that a logical process of thought, consisting of experimentation, evaluation, and either implementation, possible redesign, or abandonment of the idea might be something to consider. And you don’t have to be a scientist or an analyst to evaluate your needs.
Going back to where I left off timewise once before, and referencing Mr. Robert Moorefield’s excellent comment about it on the 1791 Holster website, sometimes “waist sashes” were used in “Wild West times” to eliminate any sign of a conventional tell-tale holster and allow the wearer to hide a gun tucked behind it, while still leaving it somewhat accessible. As mentioned by the very observant Mr. Moorefield, I too, have read where at times, Wild Bill Hickock would use one and I’ve also seen reference to his (occasional? regular?) employment of one of those “fingers” or gun mounted, “downward pointing”, belt hooks”, which we’ve discussed before, to engage a sash, like those pirates in the first installment of this series.
codeanddagger.com – on-this-day-wild-bill-kills-in-his-first-gunfight – Lee Ferran
But other people took other approaches to carry concealed when or where “open” positioning on the body was not encouraged, permitted, or lawful.