June 02, 2023
Elmer Keith inspired both handloaders and handgun hunters through his exploits and writings. He often reported on developments for the .41 and .44 Magnums, often calling attention to his namesake bullet molds. The pursuit to deliver maximum energy and velocity from the hand of a skilled shooter was typified in the controversial story where Keith put down a client’s wounded mule deer from 600 yards using his .44.
Dick Casull and Jack Fulmer were among those who hunted with handguns. In 1958, they set a goal of shooting a 230-grain .45-caliber slug at 1,800 feet-per-second (fps). They customized a Colt Single Action Army with a 7½-inch barrel, and a Bisley. Though their goals were met, the pressures eventually blew out the single actions’ cylinder walls and ripped apart the topstraps. They turned to a gunsmith to fabricate a new revolver frame using five-shot cylinders instead of six, and a 4140-alloy steel barrel with 1-in-24-inch-twist rifling. The story was related to Guns & Ammo’s readership through P. O. Ackley in the November 1959 issue. The cartridge was called the “.454 Magnum,” and Ackley noted several “one-shot kills” on deer with complete pass-throughs at 100 yards. Some 38 years later, the round was commercialized by SAAMI as the “.454 Casull.”
Several handgun manufacturers attempted to bring to the mainstream such magnum firepower in semiautomatic form, several with an assist from Hollywood. You might recall Clint Eastwood’s character “Harry Callahan” using the .44 Automatic Magnum in “Sudden Impact” (1983), and Eddie Murphy’s “Detective Axel Foley” investigating a robbery to find a modified “.308 rifle shell cut to fit the .44 Automatic” in “Beverly Hills Cop 2” (1987).
“Welcome to the holster club.” Open the shoebox and that’s the message that greets the buyer of a Craft Holsters product. Inside, the package contains your new holster in a perforated bag, a break-in guide, sticker, membership card and an explanation of your club benefits. Log into your account at craftholsters.com and all the benefits are applied automatically. It’s straightforward. Benefits include free shipping on orders costing more than $99, a 10 percent loyalty discount on all future holster orders, and a lifetime warranty. You are also encouraged to design your own custom-made holster from scratch with the help of a master craftsman through the company’s Custom Shop. How did we get here? I simply went online and ordered a Panther-model outside-the-waistband (OWB) holster for a SIG Sauer 1911 with rail and 5-inch barrel.
The break-in guide was helpful. Leather is a natural material that sometimes needs to be broken in before its first use. There are many ways to achieve the same result, but Craft Holsters recommends starting with denatured alcohol applied to stiff parts of the holster. Then, push the pistol into the holster with some force and let it sit overnight. The leather will stretch. If you’re the type who prefers visual instructions, Craft Holsters has posted excellent videos on their website and YouTube channel.
Craft Holsters also encourages leather holster users to clean and polish leather regularly using soft fabrics and soaps designed for leather. The Premium Care Kit was put together to support an intimate bonding experience with your gear. Into self-grooming? This holster is for you.
As cooler weather arrived, I turned to wearing a Model 1911 in a leather OWB rig. The Panther (CH015) is canted in a fixed position for behind-the-hip carry, which helped ensure concealment. The holster was made in Italy, and the smooth leather grain and stitching oozed “premium.” Craft Holsters also sells Falco and Vega products, but the Panther OWB is one of Craft Holsters’ in-house designs. At the time of this writing, I’m investigating more about the company’s story and will expand on it in a future review.
With the holster broken in, it fit the 1911 like the proverbial glove. At the range, draws from concealment were typically a quarter-second slower than from a Kydex holster due to the tight, hand-tooled grip the leather has on every curvature of the slide, rail and frame. The muzzle is open, but the leather slightly bevels around the contour of the muzzle for complete enclosure. At the back of the holster is a partial sweatguard that rises up to the back of the rear sight. The design of the top of the holster and around the triggerguard is perfect to support a full firing grip, and the fixed belt loop slots accept 11/2-inch-wide belts. My only criticism of the Panther OWB for the M1911 is with the groove for the thumb safety. It was molded to carry this pistol with the hammer forward, trapping the thumb safety in the off position. (Most of us carry a M1911 with the hammer “cocked” and the thumb safety in the up and “locked” position.) The holster can still be worn with the pistol cocked-and-locked, but the sweatguard is pushed out. An additional piece of leather is sewn to the top of the holster to reinforce the mouth. This detail prevents the holster from collapsing and supports easier reholstering.
Wearing the Panther OWB holster for 45 days was a immersive experience. In keeping with the care and maintenance regimen, I felt encouraged to create a more familiar relationship with the gun and the holster. Subscribing to the program isn’t the dreaded charge-my-card-every-month-without-me-remembering type of club. It’s more like a community who embraces the same “carry quality, carry every day” mantra.
Customer service has been excellent, too. When I email Craft Holsters support, I get a thoughtful reply in less than 48 hours. The Panther OWB carried comfortably, still looks great and remains a perfect fit.
Have a holster that fits just right? Let us know by emailing us at GAEDITOR@OUTDOORSG.COM, and use "Sound Off" in the subject line.
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