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The Evolution of The Holster

Part 1: Way Back When

Like many things in “History”, tools, products and solutions to issues were often, if not generally, created or developed to meet a need, fix a problem, or make things better.

Holsters are no exception.

Eons ago, before firearms became common, probably the most “common” fighting tool (after the development of a club of some sort or a pointed spear made of wood) was the “edged” weapon; often a “sword” of some sort, style or length. Although it should be recognized that smaller knives, daggers, dirks, and things like the sgian-dubh (skein du or skene du) were often tucked into boots, waist bands or hung from some article of clothing (those devices parallel the carrying of smaller concealment-oriented firearms which will also be discussed in later installments on these pages).

Full size swords were often (but not always) carried in and protected by scabbards or sheaths of some kind, which themselves were often attached to a belt, waist scarf, or sash that positioned the weapon for use while generally keeping it out of the way of otherwise daily activities. Often hung from the waist, the “grip” of those weapons (those swords) was generally put in a position where it could be easily reached (quickly accessed) by the wearer/user if or when it was needed.

The convenience, but more so, the ergonomic advantage, of such a location was not lost on the more savvy users.

Especially as those users began to supplement or outright replace such edged weapons with ones that launched projectiles by powder-driven explosive means (that is with firearms) at the threats they often faced when such scientific and mechanical advancements (in those firearms) began to appear.

Some of those early pistols were fitted with clip-like attachments (that were fitted to their sides and paralleled their bores), which were slipped over those waistbands, belts or sashes, in essence, to “hook” it and keep them in place. But this did little to protect such early single shot firearms from the elements. Elements or conditions that could actually render them inoperative. An exposed sword or knife blade might rust and perhaps dull in such environments but generally it could still be employed (at least to some degree) by the wearer. However, a dampened “firearm” might not “fire” at all. Giving those folks, at best, nothing more than an unsharpened club.

So to help limit that possibility and still position such weapons in a useful location, a different approach was taken by some.

Carrying “pouches” were developed to minimize the issues created by the regular carrying of early (again usually single shot) black powder firearms in those days. Pouches that not only offered some protection to the gun but also created a relatively stable means of positioning them on the body, so that the wearer could easily reach them (always “find” them), access them and engage them against any threats they faced.

A perfect example of this (and of addressing the need for sometimes multiple rounds when the technology of the day limited you to a single shot firearm) is a rather famous painting of the rather famous Blackbeard the Pirate.

Edward “Blackbeard” Teach by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris in 1922

Plying his trade in an era when having fighting tools on hand was not only helpful but often necessary (in dealing with victims, adversaries and sometimes his own crew), he foresaw the possible need for more than one shot when the gun technology of the day generally limited him and others to only that.

Yes, there were multiple barrel pistols in those days. And two or three shots were obviously better than just one. But he went a bit further and this is seen in a rather well known and often pictured approach to the issue using the multiple but single shot models he carried.

By creating individual carrying pouches (what in essence, were in fact, very early holsters for those multiple single shot pistols), he not only protected his early firearms from many of the daily environmental conditions those guns would have otherwise faced, but he limited (albeit did not eliminate) access to his guns by others.

But perhaps even more importantly, he also “fixed” or basically “locked down” his guns into positions that, with even limited practice, would have made all of them always ‘findable” and readily accessible to him.

We’re obviously not talking “Fast Draw” in his case but we are talking multiple rounds being available if needed from multiple single shot firearms. (As stated, carrying multiple single shot firearms was how things were done in those days.) This was also a “ground-laying” for the future of most handgun carrying basics.

And that’s what we’re talking about here in this installment and in this series. Problem solving, advancements and progress. Next time we’ll talk about how social and political “advancements” in society led to the need for the more discrete carrying of what will become newer and higher capacity firearms of various sizes as the world moved along and both guns and holster development moved forward.

For next time we will move directly into the history, development and need for Concealment Holsters for both single shot pistols and multiple shot revolvers when the open carry of such things became impractical, less desirable, or outright disallowed by the law.

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