Exclusive: Milt Sparks Criterion Holster

By Dave Workman

When it comes to concealment holsters, the name Milt Sparks needs no introduction, but the latest introduction from this renowned Idaho-based company certainly deserves to be shown to handgunners all over the landscape.

Enter the Criterion Model CR-1. Built from Grade A cowhide cut from the bend, which offers a fairly stout finished product, the Criterion is a rig that shows lots of promise and should be quickly embraced by armed citizens and professionals.

What I noticed immediately was how thin the leather is, and it is boned to perfection. Milt Sparks provided me with a model built for a Commander-sized handgun (I have a couple) and a magazine pouch made from the same leather for the off-hand side. Together, they made a handsome couple, in medium brown/cordovan with a superb finish edge to edge.

The new Criterion holster from Milt Sparks is a well-built, handsomely-finished
concealed carry holster that has recently been introduced.

Worn inside the waistband, the Criterion holds a handgun tight to the body and low for maximum concealment.

Eye Catching

As a fellow who has designed and built carry rigs myself over the years, this new Criterion model is truly impressive, and I don’t just toss that term around. I craft holsters by hand, and know what it takes to make a good holster. Obviously, so do the folks at Milt Sparks.

Stitching is first class, with white thread that offsets nicely from the leather. Fit is snug for both pistol and spare magazine, and they rode well inside the waistband of my pants, whether jeans or dress slacks.

Another feature that got my attention was the self-closing, neodymium magnetic belt loop system. Forget snaps that may or may not hold. These magnetic fasteners did the trick, and in my native Pacific Northwest — where if it isn’t raining this time of year, it’s getting ready to rain — these magnets hold.

In an exchange of e-mail with the Milt Sparks staff, I learned the following:

• The mouth band is metal reinforced for rigidity to make one-hand re-holstering possible.
• The design prevents any metal from contacting the wearer’s skin, and there’s a sweat shield of sorts that rises behind the pistol to prevent the gun from contacting skin, too.
• The pistol cants at about 25 degrees, at least on 1911 models, and it rides as low as possible at the waistband for maximum concealment.

The Criterion is offered either with a rough side out, or a smooth side out with black, cordovan or natural tan finish. It is available with an optional shark or elephant band reinforcement and belt loops.

Notice the precision stitching and detail in the boning that form-fits the leather to the handgun

A well-built single magazine pouch came with the holster and this one holds a spare mag securely.

This isn’t a snap, but a self-closing, neodymium magnetic belt loop. It works like a champ!

Hands On

As it came out of the box, it took a bit of work to draw quickly, but that’s pretty much the story with any quality leather holster. I much prefer leather, including horsehide, to some of the other materials used for holsters these days. Leather “marries” itself to a user’s body after a while, which aids in comfortable carry and improved concealment.

The Criterion is available for various 1911 models and Glock pistols, and models to fit other sidearms are on the way, I was assured. Frankly, the 1911 platform is the best semi-auto on the plant for which to build a holster because the lines of that particular handgun make for a beautiful design on the leather. Boxy guns produce boxy holster finishes, and they’re about as attractive as, well, a box. That is not the case with this one!

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