Part IV: Chic Gaylord and Al Georg
By John Taffin
Let’s look at two men who advanced the concept of concealment holsters and handgun hunting—an almost unheard of affair—way back when.
Today we are blessed with dozens of well thought out holsters designed to effectively conceal all manner of double-action revolvers from the little 2-inch snubs up to the large N-Frame Smith & Wessons. It was not always so. All of today’s successful holster designs owe their existence to the father of the modern concealment holster—Chic Gaylord—who from his modest little shop in New York City supplied concealment leather for all manner of law enforcement and ordinary citizens.
One of Chic’s favorite big bore sixguns was the Colt New Service 5-1/2-inch .45 Colt.
An example of this fine old sixgun rests on John’s well-read copy of his book.
A look at standard holsters, especially police duty holsters, from the late 1940’s and early 1950’s reveals just how shoddy many of them were. They not only did not hold the gun properly, it was not unusual for them to actually come apart as weather took its toll on the stitching. Chic Gaylord changed it all. Gaylord built premium quality holsters of the best leather and workmanship that effectively concealed whatever the choice of firearm happened to be and did it safely and securely. He made sure the holster fit tightly on the belt and often attached a strap to the holster which also attached to the belt so there was no movement. Many of his holsters were boned tightly to the gun or fitted with a safety strap of some kind so there was no possibility of any handgun loss no matter what the activity.
Gaylord was a big man and one of the things he did to illustrate the effectiveness of his holsters was to conceal a baker’s dozen defensive firearms while dressed in a loosely fitting suit. Holsters carried guns in pockets, waist belt, leg, crotch, shoulder holster, anyplace he could strap one of his creations. I remember as a kid seeing him on TV demonstrating this. His shop was continually visited by agents and officers with special needs such as the detective who complained his Detective Special did not command enough respect with some of the hoodlums he came up against and too many times he would wind up having to struggle with them. Gaylord’s answer was a properly constructed concealment holster for the more substantial S&W .357 Magnum. The free-for-all problems stopped. One of Chic’s shoulder holsters carried a double-action revolver which one detective found he could shoot behind without removing the gun. It saved his life.
Many of Chic’s holsters will be found in his book Handgunner’s Guide (1960) along with some of his ideas of proper double-action sixguns. He especially preferred 3-inch barrels over standard 2-inch lengths on small pocket revolvers and one of his ideas was what he called the Metropolitan Special with a 3-inch barrel, ramp front sight, birdshead grip and Tyler T-Grip adapter. He would probably like the more modern S&W Model 60 .38 Special with the heavy 3-inch under-lugged barrel. His favorite big-bore double action was the 5-1/2-inch Colt New Service .45 Colt for which he designed several secure holsters. One of his best creations was what he called the Federal Speed Scabbard, boned tightly to hold a 4-inch S&W M&P .38 or similar revolver.
Gaylord’s own words described the Federal Speed Scabbard: “With a properly fitted scabbard you should be able to turn the holster upside down and shake it without the gun falling out. At the insistence of some FBI agents, I designed a scabbard to fulfill the requirements of their job. It is much higher, placing the cylinder directly at the belt level, which puts the widest part of the gun in the narrowest part of the body. I cant the butt of the gun to conform with the line of the body and to afford a fast grip and line the gun up for fast draw. The barrel of the gun, fitting snugly against the hip, keeps the butt snug against the body. I put a coat protector guard over the hammer, which, combined with the gun butt’s being hugged into the body, minimizes wear on the lining of jackets. The holster is formed so snugly around the gun, bulk is reduced to the minimum and a tight friction fit results. The belt loop fits tightly on the belt, so no motion of holster and belt or gun and holster can cause discomfort. A much faster draw results because of the absence of slippage. This is the most practical concealment rig for plain-clothes use. Holsters of this type can be made for almost any double-action gun with barrel not exceeding six inches.”
Al Goerg designed this shoulder holster specifically for handgun hunters. This one fits John’s
S&W 6-1/2-inch 1950 Target Model .44 Special. Goerg was a real pioneer of handgun hunting, even
taking an Alaskan Dall ram (below) with a 6-1/2-inch S&W .44 Magnum.
Al Goerg was a pioneer handgun hunter and is the author of a very rare book titled Pioneering Handgun Hunting self-published from photocopied, typewritten pages in 1965. Not satisfied with handguns as they were, Goerg modified handguns by using the almost unheard of practice of scoping revolvers and custom-made single shots. This was in the days before long-eye-relief scopes and Thompson/Center Contenders. Goerg’s single-shots were rifles turned into pistols using the old Remington Rolling Block as a basis before it was declared illegal. The .257 Roberts single-shot pistol was one of his favorites. Wanting more penetration out of his ammunition and the ability to precisely place his shots led Goerg to modify both ammunition and sights for his S&W .44 Magnum. To hollowpoint bullets Goerg added a round-head brass screw and the Goerg Spearhead bullet was born. This was in those days long before sixgunners saw heavyweight hardcast and jacketed bullets available for the .44 Magnum.
The addition to the .44 Magnum of the Weaver K1 scope by Goerg was the beginning of all the grand long-eye-relief scopes we have today from so many scope makers. Goerg was the first to really use a scope for hunting and to subsequently publicize its use. He also designed what is still one of the best hunting rigs going, the Goerg Shoulder Holster which is available today from Gary Reeder. Lightweight and with a minimum amount of leather, it is obvious this outfit was designed by a hunter.
Using his scoped S&W double-action sixguns in .22 Kay-Chuk and .44 Magnum Goerg took both small and big game and wrote wonderful articles for the magazines of the time. None who have ever seen it will forget the beautiful picture from 50 years ago of the head of Goerg’s Dall Sheep with his scoped .44 S&W. Goerg also took elk, caribou, mountain goat, black bear, moose, cougar, wild boar, deer, all with scoped handguns. He would certainly enjoy seeing the acceptance of and the proliferation of scoped handguns today.
Al Goerg was 53 years old when he died in a plane crash in 1965 in Alaska. When his plane was found, it had been looted of all of his guns, cameras and equipment. A friend, Bob Cole, said of him: “Al Goerg had helped to carry handgun hunting into a new era. He hunted with animal cunning, seemed to thrive on dangerous situations and his methods were basic and effective. As a result of his writing people were losing the old gun-on-hip, offhand shooting ideas about handguns. He made many realize a handgun with a scope is a fine hunting weapon, handier than a rifle and a little more challenging.”
At the first Outstanding American Handgunner Awards Foundation Banquet, Al Goerg was recognized posthumously for his great contributions to handgunning.