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Relive Old West Gunplay and Period Dress, with Your Own Cowboy Alias

Western Gun Holsters: A Brief History

western gun holstersWeapon holsters have been recorded to be around as early as biblical times. David had a pouch (a shepherd’s bag) on his waist to carry the stones that slew Goliath. The western gun holsters that we know today, however, had their first appearance in the early 1800’s. Nothing much have changed in their form and style since then.


What is a gun holster for?


After purchasing your gun, a gun holster is more likely the next important item on your buying list. There are several reasons why you will want to get a gun holster:


A gun holster was originally created to protect guns from dust and the elements.

It makes your weapon close at hand for easy (and quick) access.

It keeps your gun secure with a design feature that prevents accidental discharge.

It ensures your safety.


Developmental stages of the western gun holsters


The Louisiana Purchase in 1803 doubled the size of the country, triggering the great migration to the west known as The Westward Expansion. Other factors like the California Gold Rush, the passage of the Homestead Act, and the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad all contributed to the move to the west.

By 1840, millions of Americans were able to became prosperous after securing frontier lands during The Westward Expansion. This introduced new developments in firearms design and manufacturing. This also brought changes in how guns were carried.

The creation and use of western gun holsters wasn’t a new item then. Before the great migration westward, gun holsters were already employed by defense forces around the world. Though the concept wasn’t original, the gun holsters that developed in the west stood out for their designs, adornments, and materials.


Pommel holster


western gun holstersThe pistols manufactured in the 1800’s were mostly large and heavy and the pommel holsters were often the preferred means of carrying them. The pommel holster, which had its origins in Europe, allowed gun owners to carry their firearms mounted across the front of the saddle within quick and easy reach. In the United States, this holster was initially employed by the U.S. Army. It was later adapted for civilian use in the 1830’s.


The belt holsters


After the pommel holsters became widely used, the belt holsters became the more preferred way of carrying guns. The popular styles of the period were:


The Slim Jim


Designed by gun leather artisans during the California Gold Rush, this holster style came to be known as the “California Pattern” and was considered the first true Western holster. Being the first to feature intricate handcrafted detailing, as well as silver and brass ornamentations, the Slim Jim laid the groundwork for all the future western gun holsters. Its flapless open top feature allowed fast access to the weapon. It also has a deep form-fitting pouch that followed the outline of the gun’s trigger guard and loading lever. This feature was designed to protect the gun’s firing mechanism from dirt and moisture.


The Mexican Loop


western gun holstersGun belt styles became larger and more cumbersome by the early 1870’s. Due to this,gun holsters of that period needed to be capable of adapting to the different firearm and belt sizes. The Mexican Loop consists of a scabbard made from a single piece of leather that retains and supports the loops in the holster’s frame.

It is speculated that the Mexican Loop’s design originated from the southwestern United States or the northern area of Mexico. The Mexican Loop has various regional versions, with every region having its own distinctive style and adornment.


The Buscadero


The Buscadero differs in style than those that came before it. The gun belt is fashioned to be draped low across the hips and designed to carry single or double holsters. In this manner, the wearer can still conveniently pull out the gun even with the arm completely stretched out.

western gun holsters

This holster style is filmdom’s favorite rig for their cowboy heroes. Household names like Rawhide, The Lone Ranger, and Roy Rogers wore the Buscadero with their belt in all their adventures.


Other holster variations


The passing of strict gun laws during the late 1800’s made discretion essential when one was packing a weapon. Due to this, shoulder and hip pocket holsters were created. They became a favorite item then since they allowed guns to be in a concealed yet accessible position.

Pocket holsters (then referred to as hip holsters) were used by businessmen and bankers to hide Derringers and other small guns. Shoulder holsters were a favorite among gunfighters and lawmen because of their easy concealment and fast draw of larger caliber guns.

Both shoulder and hip holsters have developed better versions over the years, since the start of the 20th century.






  1. I’m looking for holster left hand holds bullets around back of belt 45 colt pistol.

  2. Ci have purchased two holsters from Elpaso saddlery, very good work.omment *

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