Old West Reproductions
No. 135 Outdoorsman Holster
Rick Bachman of Old West Reproductions is famous for his top quality gunleather, an homage to the Old West, the “Wild Bunch” period and early 20th century Western gun gear. He also does some modern stuff. Our editorial director, Roy Huntington, is a huge fan of Rick’s work.
I got to test his latest, in first prototype form: the No. 135 Outdoorsman. It’s a chest holster inspired by the WWII vintage “tanker” rig—which Old West Reproductions produces in a way that’s authentic to the original design, but evincing much better workmanship and material—yet definitely improved in design.
The original Tanker had a safety strap that snapped over the back of the grip frame of a 1911, effectively depressing the grip safety. While this constituted no safety problem to a soldier carrying the pistol with empty chamber, it can give cold chills to some who wear their 1911 with a round up the spout. No matter how you carried the gun in your Tanker, the strap could get caught between the web of the hand and the backstrap of the pistol, binding the draw.
What Rick has done with the 135 Outdoorsman is move the safety strap to a more logical position, up at the hammer area. This prevents binding of the draw, and intersperses solid leather between the hammer and the firing pin of a cocked 1911, which many find to be of additional comfort. He has also eliminated the Tanker’s back-flap of leather, allowing a much surer drawing grasp on the gun.
It’s intended for open wear, of course, hence its name. The harness goes over the gun-hand side shoulder, allowing the handgun to be placed anywhere from high on the chest to down at the waist in a cross-draw hip location. I found mid-chest to be pretty comfortable.
Back in the late 1970s and early ’80s, Tom Campbell was famous for a chest holster of his own design, and it was so fast he shot his way to the tier of IPSC competition with it. The standard start in the game then was “hands shoulder high,” and Tom’s hand got to the S&W 9mm or .45 on his chest faster than other competitors’ hands could get to the guns on their hips. This was the rationale of the Tanker holster in the first place, since a tank commander with his chest up out of a narrow turret hatch would have a heck of a time getting to a hip holster, but could instantly access the chest holster named after his MOS.
The Outdoorsman holster is suitable to its namesake’s needs for similar reasons. Consider the fisherman up to his thighs or even waist and wearing waders, or the cross-country hiker in winter who might find himself waist deep in a snowdrift. The camper zipped into a deep-cold-rated sleeping bag a bear mistakes for a lunch wrapper is another outdoorsman who’ll find an Outdoorsman ideally positioned for fast and ready access.
My friend Frank James, a farmer by trade and gun expert by avocation, has written that he likes a shoulder holster for Magnum revolvers when he’s doing chores on the farm, at least in part because when he’s under a truck or tractor performing repairs, the gun is easily accessible. That should be at least as true for the Outdoorsman on the chest of an auto mechanic supine on a creeper under a vehicle when a handgun suddenly becomes a necessity.
Frankly, it strikes me that a pistol in such a rig kept beside the bed would be lightning fast to throw on in a home defense situation, leaving the hands free for telephone, illumination device or long gun.
The prototype was cut for a 4.25″ 1911. I wore it around the house for a day with a loaded, cocked and locked Ed Brown Signature Model in that configuration. I subsequently wore it to back up my hip holster while teaching a class in California. During that test, it alternately held my loaded Springfield EMP 9mm and an Odin Press dummy of a 1911A1 that was used for demonstration purposes. While the snout of the full size pistol peeked out from the bottom of the holster a bit, the ability to take subcompact, Commander size and longer guns of the same type definitely added to the Outdoorsman’s versatility.
Workmanship was excellent. Crafted of Hermann Oak leather, saddle skirting steerhide with a proprietary treatment that Bachman is understandably reluctant to share, the test holster’s edging, stitching and tooling were impeccable.
My one criticism was that there was some shifting of the holster. This was the only comparison in which the original Tanker holster beat the 135, since the old design has a belt loop to stabilize everything in place. As soon as I brought it up, Rick told me he had already come to the same conclusion and was going to make the Outdoorsman with that feature. It was a down to earth attitude that I appreciated after dealing with too many artisans who wanted to call the thunder of the gods down upon any who dared to question their perfection.
The Outdoorsman is now available for popular autos and revolvers, and can be custom made for the less common models, with a price of $145 in the handsome Antique Russet color you see on the prototype in the photos, or $155 with the handsome tooling visible on the test sample. If you prefer plain black, it’s an additional $20 to cover the hand-dying of the leather.
Old West Reproductions
446 Florence S. Loop
Florence, MT 59833
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