While weapon holsters in general have been around since medieval times, gun holsters as we know them have only been around since the 1800s. Interestingly enough, many of the gun holster designs and styles you see today still look pretty similar to the ones used throughout history.
The Purpose of a Holster
The most obvious reason to have a holster is to keep your weapon secure and close at hand. However, they were also originally intended to protect firearms from the elements and ensure the safety of the wearer.
The Evolution of Gun Holsters in the United States
The Westward Expansion and development of the frontier lands also brought on developments in how weapons were made and carried.
It's important to note that, prior to the American westward migration, gun holsters were being used by militaries all over the world. While the idea itself wasn't new, the styles, materials and ornamentations developed out west were.
The Pommel Holster
This style of holster was originally used by the military and later adapted for civilians in the early 1830s. The pommel holster was important because the pistols that were most often used were bulky, so being able to carry them draped over the front of a saddle allowed safer, easier access.
Shortly after pommel holsters became common for civilians, belt holsters became popular. The most common styles were the Slim Jim, Mexican Loop and the Buscadero.
This style was also called the California due to its popularity in the "wild frontiers" of California and Montana. It featured an open top for quick access and a snug, curved design to protect the firing mechanisms from moisture.
This is also the first style of holster to feature brass or silver decorations and hand-carved detailing.
In the early 1870s, gun belts became bulkier. This meant that holsters needed to be more adaptable to both the various belt sizes and weapon sizes. This style of holster features a roomy, flexible belt loop and a single piece of leather backing with slits to adjust the fit.
These holsters had many regional variations, each with their own distinguishing features and ornamentation.
This is what used to be the "Hollywood cowboy rig." Famous favorites like Roy Rogers, Hopalong Cassidy and The Lone Ranger wore this belt and holster combination exclusively.
This style of holster is much different than its predecessors. The gun belt can hold one or two holsters, and it is cut to hang low across the hips. This allows the wearer to draw comfortably even when the arm is fully extended.
Shoulder and Hip Pocket Holsters
Around the late 1800s, it became necessary to be more discreet when carrying, so the hip pocket and shoulder holsters became more popular due to their easy concealment.
Even today, updated versions of these styles can be seen in the Concealment Express inventory. Though we use updated materials like Kydex and mold our holsters to perfectly fit specific weapons, many of the design features used throughout history are still just as useful in the present.