While serving as a clandestine advisor to suppress Communist insurgencies in Mexico and South America shortly after World War II, Lt. Col. Jeff Cooper, former Guns & Ammo contributor, met Eduardo Chahin from El Salvador, who used an interesting minimalist holster lacking any material past the triggerguard. Cooper was intrigued and is known to have brought back at least one.
By the time Cooper started working with the then-new Colt Commander in the mid-1950s, he envisioned pairing the shortened-slide variant of the Model 1911 with this simple holster design. On his return to the U.S., Cooper took the concept to Milt Sparks, who was, at the time, making holsters in Idaho. The collaborative effort resulted in the Yaqui Slide.
The original Yaqui Slide holster that Cooper brought back differed from most contemporary variations in that it did not have tension units. Galco was the first to add adjustable tensioning screws to this design at the request of a Gunsite rangemaster in 1992. The tension screws allow for a custom fit to the firearm and drawstroke. Today, most manufacturers' interpretations of the Yaqui holster feature some sort of an adjustable tensioning feature.
The simple Yaqui design presents a near-vertical carry angle that makes it a very fast-draw holster. The Galco Yaqui model utilizes a neutral cant. Another interesting feature with the Galco Yaqui is that the model for large-frame pistols will generally accept other similar-size handguns.
The original Galco Yaqui is attached for outside-the-waistband (OWB) carry by belt slots stitched fore and aft. As with most Yaqui holsters, the 1 3/4-inch belt channel on the back of Galco's Yaqui features an oval cutout, allowing the user to thread a belt through the holster's loops as well as a pants loop. A different model offers the use of an OWB paddle system for quicker installation. Galco indicates that the belt-loop model currently outsells the paddle design five to one.
The holster body is constructed from thick saddle leather with a bump inside to assist in securing the pistol. Its slight forward cant does help speed up the draw and is said to help prevent the pistol from being snatched from behind. This is a Level I retention holster, but the tension of fit and the open-slide design work effectively.
If the pistol is drawn with pressure pushing forward or pulling rearward, the pistol's slide resists being drawn against the canted leverage. A smooth drawstroke, however, will allow clean extraction of a pistol with a standard-profile front sight.
The Galco Yaqui's open-muzzle design is handy for gun owners who find themselves needing to carry the same-model handgun but with different barrel lengths. The Galco Yaqui is available in either right- or left-hand configurations and is offered in tan or black.
The Galco Yaqui remains popular with law enforcement detectives and plainclothes police officers. Though it can be concealed with long jackets and overgarments, the Galco Yaqui is most frequently seen being worn at the range or by citizens in states such as Arizona and Texas with commonly practiced open-carry laws.
Three models of the Galco Yaqui were ordered for this review: one for a Model 1911, another multigun design for wider semi-automatic pistols and a third with a paddle. The same-colored 1 3/4-inch gun belt and a pair of friction-fit spare magazine pouches were also ordered from Galco to complete the carry rig. To illustrate the company's a la carte custom services, I had my samples embossed with the Guns & Ammo logo.
Fit and finish was first class, and after 45 days only minimal abrasive wear can be seen inside any of the holsters being evaluated. Cracks can be seen on the belt where stress from daily wear has been applied, but it is holding together far better than most simulated-leather belts containing a cardstock or nylon core. I'd argue that any sign of wear on the belt doesn't detract from this rig's appearance but adds a bit of "been there, done that" character.
The Galco Yaqui holster did little to protect the guns, however. A CZ 75 and Glock 17 were carried for a few days in a large-frame Yaqui model, which left rub marks, indicating that finish could wear with extended use. This holster design and large-frame pistol combo handles well, but it should not be used by portly fellows due to a high balance from the weight in the grip that comes with double-stacked magazine capacities.
Belly fat will push against the grip, which could shove the pistol's frame diagonally away from the body and create the risk of ejecting the pistol when sitting in any seat having an armrest. Another week was devoted to carrying a full-size Colt Series 70 Government Model under a long jacket, which presents another consideration in that the long slide would occasionally hang up on the aftermarket front sight or dustcover during the drawstroke.
If you are used to using a canted holster, I suggest that you practice your drawstroke with this one at the range before changing rigs and wearing a Yaqui.
Another point of consideration is that, although you won't experience the usual wearing of finish at the muzzle end of a blued handgun, the Galco Yaqui does rub bluing from the frame near the front triggerguard where the tension is applied.
The Galco Yaqui really shines with Commander-style 1911s. For 30 days, a custom 1911 from Republic Forge was carried, which features a 4 1/4-inch barrel in a Damascus-steel slide atop a bronze Cerakote frame. This Cerakote finish remains unaffected by daily carry, a real testament to the quality of this type of finish.
Jeff Cooper once said that when you take out your pistol and walk without it, the holster doesn't really appear to be there. He was right, which could be important if you're heading into a building or place of business where the carrying of a handgun is prohibited.
For OWB carry, I would have no reservations in recommending the classic Galco Yaqui for use with Commander-length slides on a 1911. Short and simple goes a long way.