-->The following is a tutorial on the holster making process. I photo documented the process I used to make a holster for a friend's sidearm. The arm in question is a Beretta PX4 Storm in 9mm. I'm breaking this down into a series of posts, as it is a long and involved process; stay tuned, this is just the beginning.
Step 1- Planning
The first step in any project is planning. The 6P's apply here as much as anywhere (Proper Planning Prevent Piss Poor Performance). In this case, it involved establishing the purpose for the holster, the end user, and the natural tendency of the shooter.
Purpose- The main purpose of this holster is general carry, usually while camping, out in the desert, etc. There are a number of different reasons to establish this. Building an open carry holster has a different set of requirements than building a concealed carry holster. Concealed carry dictates that the firearm is held very close to the body, with as little visibility (printing) as possible. Building an open carry holster allows the gun to stand further away from the body, which is much more comfortable, and allows easier access. The gun will, of course, be a great deal more visible as a result. Another factor is retention. Concealed Carry holsters are often open top affairs, without any retention other than the fit of the holster. I have used some holsters that were little more than a neoprene sock with a plastic belt clip. I was running around the yard with the dog one day, and my sidearm fell out. Not ideal. Open Carry holsters more commonly have a solid retention device. I find this has a number of different purposes. Mechanical locks, such as the Blackhawk Serpa or the Safariland ALS, are strictly for retention, to keep people from 'getting grabby.' This is a concern for all carriers, but more of an issue for LEOs, who are more likely to be grappling with an assailant (y'know, part of the job description and all). Thumbbreak and strap style retention is a less expensive way to go about this, with a few additional features. One feature is that more of the sidearm is covered. I tend to think that a full thumbbreak strap which covers a majority of the sidearm tends to look a great deal less threatening. A third style is full flap covers. A lot of older and specialized military holsters use this design, and it involves an additional feature- protection from the elements. In the real world, this style of holster is most common for hiking, to protect the sidearm from the elements as well as from brush, trees, etc. As the purpose of this holster is to use while camping, generally in the dry, and recreational shooting, we elected to go with the thumbreak open holster.
The End User- One of the things that can set a holster apart from the rest is fit. Its important to note that not all people are the same size and shape. Depending on who will most commonly use the holster, it will fit better with a certain amount of outward angle, or a higher/lower ride on the belt, a different angle of cant. Style of dress makes a difference; locating the belt-line of one's pants is very important to proper angle and height. Also, a holster that fits one person perfectly may be the wrong cant or the wrong position for a taller person, with longer limbs. In this particular instance, I will not that the end user does not habitually carry this firearm (this is the first holster for the user) so there are no real examples of what works/ doesn't work for them. This comes into play a little bit more in the next facet.
The natural tendencies of the shooter- This is the part where I lump in all of the end user's personal preferences. For example, some shooters have an aggressive stance that requires a steep cant, some shooters don't like the look of pancake holsters, some shooters prefer a cross draw or some other belt position. Of course, color and finish are attached to this as well, but I consider those firmly secondary to function. As mentioned before, this particular shooter has not had a lot of experience wearing a sidearm. Generally, prior to this, the firearm was removed from the original hard case, loaded and fired, and returned to the hard case at the end of the day. This meant that there were very few personal preferences that were actually known beforehand. They had, quite literally, no idea what the wanted in a holster. This lead me to a discovery that has helped me to build better holsters... the placement photo.
This is Post One of several, for the Next Step click here!
For Part 3, try this one!
*Edited to add link