Gun Leather for Fun and Profit!

by Gary Howes
Guns and Gunsmiths Editor

Some time ago I asked American Gunsmithing Institute members on Facebook what advice they would give to aspiring gunsmiths. One of the comments I got back (thanks Charles) was to find a “niche” so that you can stand out from other gunsmiths in your area.

So here is an idea for you to add a different service to your shop. Have any of your customers ever come in with an unusual or “classic” firearm and told you that they would like a holster for it but can’t find one? Or would you like to be able to offer leather holster repair services? Maybe you are retired, like to gunsmith in your spare time and would also like to extend that hobby to gun leather?

Recently a friend of mine showed me his old “cowboy” holster. It was basically falling apart and he asked me if I could repair it. Well, it was so far gone I ended up building him a complete new holster. Here it is below:

Leatherwork is a very satisfying, easy to learn and an inexpensive craft that you can do right on your gunsmithing bench with just a few basic tools. It is fun to do, and if you make a holster that doesn’t work well, you can modify it or make a new one until you achieve the result YOU want, rather than put up with the product that another company tells you is what you need.

Here are a few holsters I have made for myself over the last couple of years. Some have belt loops, some have clips, and some have thumb breaks. You can make them as fancy or plain as you like, and even personalize them with your name, initials or other design.

lea-revolv

Simple revolver holsters with belt clips. One has a thumb break and both are decorated with a basket weave stamping.

 

lea-1911b

Decorated 1911 holster with belt loops and thumb break.

 

lea-1911a

Another 1911 holster. They can be as plain or as fancy as you like! All my holsters are also lined with soft suede.

 

You can also make your own accessories. Here is a spare ammo holster, an iPhone holster, and a simple flashlight holster. And of course, knife sheaths are essential to have and easy to make.

lea-acc

You’d be surprised at the number of people who have stopped me to ask about my iPhone holster!

 

lea-knif

This molded knife sheath was made for a friend. He was happy, so I was happy.

 

Like gunsmithing or any other craft or hobby, you can buy just a few basic tools to start and build up your collection as you get better or as the need arrives. The best source for tools and materials is Tandy Leather. They have been around since 1919 and carry everything you need. If you don’t have a store in your area, they have a website with all their products, and quick delivery for online orders.

There are TONS of tools, stamps and other bits and pieces that you can accumulate for leatherwork, but here are what I consider to be the most basic to get you started:

lea-cut

A hole punch and some simple cutting tools are essential.

 

lea-tools

Awls, spacing wheels, edge bevelers can be added as needed.

 

lea-decor

Stamps and a swivel knife can be purchased a few at a time. Tandy Leather carries hundreds.

 

lea-snap

You’ll need a punch set for setting rivets and snaps.

 

lea-org

A compartment box like this will keep your rivets, snaps, buckles and other hardware sorted.

So, if you want to offer something unique to your customers, or simply do what I do and make holsters for yourself and friends, consider gun leatherwork. Believe me, it’s very addictive, and even better, you don’t need an FFL or other license.


9 Responses to Gun Leather for Fun and Profit!

  1. Outstanding work! What a craftsman! Maybe I should have paid more attention to my grand father when he was busy repairing and restitching and reconditioning baseball gloves.

    • Thanks Dan. It is both fun and rewarding. And I can some of it on the coffee table (don’t tell my wife) while I’m watching the soaps.

      • Very impressed!!! They all look so amazing, well built and professional.

        It always seems that extra knife pouches and flashlight holders are needed around here, especially ones that fit on thick belts.

        Great article Gary. Hope you still do this hobby.
        Cheers

    • Thanks Floyd. It is the first cowboy holster I have made and was a lot of fun to figure out and build. Most importantly, my friend was very happy with it. Because he is a friend I gave it to him at no charge. I’ll never get rich with that attitude!

  2. Outstanding work, Gary!

    I also do leatherwork and quite a few of my gunsmith customers want a holster as well. Unfortunately, I just don’t have time to do as much leatherwork as I’d like; but I hate to turn down a customer. I solve that problem by putting a fairly high price tag on a custom holster. If a customer is willing to pay that much, then I will find time to do it; otherwise, back to fixing guns.

    I’ve been doing leatherwork since the 1970s and Tandy Leather has been my go-to source as well. I am fortunate in that there is a Tandy Leather store less than 15 miles from my home; but they sell everything online for those who don’t have a local store. In fact, if you order online, they usually ship your order from the nearest store rather than a central warehouse and the store gets credit for the sale — kind of a different system.

  3. Great Work!
    I love custom leather work… I have built a couple of saddles in my youth (and repaired a lot more) but I couldn’t seem to make any money doing holsters. I built a shoulder holster rig for a scoped Remington XP 100 once, which was quite a challenge, and I netted about 3 bucks an hour (1973)
    Still a lot of fun.
    I encourage anyone to learn the skills of forming and carving leather!
    Thanks for the post.

  4. As a starting gunsmithing with a background in leatherwork I thought that I would not want to showcase the leatherwork. With so many other skills to develop it would take away from gunsmithing. However, while admiring the new revolver of a friend I was asked to make a crossdraw holster. I now have 3 on the bench. It is also something that can be worked on while sitting at a gun show.

    Not sure how it will eventually fit into my new career path but it is another arrow in the quiver.

    That is some very good work you have done.

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