Richard Gallagher started The Famous Jackass Leather Company in Chicago in 1969. In the beginning, he made holsters out of horsehide and built a solid reputation within a decade before changing the company name to Galco in 1980. In 1983, Gallagher moved his operation to Phoenix, where Galco products are made today. The Original Jackass Rig — now known as the Miami Classic — was a shoulder holster first created in 1970, which elevated Galco into the national spotlight when actor Don Johnson wore it regularly as Detective James Crockett on "Miami Vice." Since then, Galco remains an industry leader with armed citizens and law enforcement, adding saddle leather, nylon, Kydex and exotics to its legendary line of horsehide.
Many gun owners are unaware that Galco offers a growing line of fine leather goods for sportsmen. From recoil pads for rifles to shotgun shell box carriers to field-grade rangefinder cases, Galco sells high-quality dark Havana leather and khaki cotton duck in functional form and classic style.
20-Day Safari Africa remains an unforgiving proving ground for gear. Not only is the environment unpredictable, but calamity can also spawn as equipment fails.
For this unique carry rig evaluation, I ordered several pieces from Galco's Sporting Collection for two 10-day hunts. The first safari was a plains game hunt in South Africa, and the second was a 10-day Cape buffalo hunt in Zimbabwe that was complete with the opportunity to pursue plains game. In those hunts, I continuously wore Galco's Field Grade Seven Hole Sport Belt with either a Stalker folding 10-round cartridge case or a Safari Five five-round folding cartridge case, depending on the game being hunted.
For several days of the buffalo hunt, I wore Galco's Field Grade Culling Belt. Originally developed for culling herds of dangerous animals in old Africa, the culling belt remains a popular choice with contemporary African hunters for its historic romance. Galco's belts are made of durable khaki cotton duck and Havana brown leather. The cartridge loops can carry 20 rounds of calibers between .375 and .500, and on this adventure, I filled those loops with 20 rounds of .375 H&H: 10 rounds of solids and 10 rounds of soft-nose bullets. This is the minimum caliber appropriate for this culling belt and the minimum that Africa's Professional Hunters (PHs) will typically allow clients to hunt the Black Death. However, Galco's culling belt requires some honest self-assessment. If your belly rolls over your belt when you sit, I'd recommend that you secure such cartridges intended for dangerous game in Galco's Safari Five folding cartridge wallet. Inevitably, you are going to find yourself crawling on your hands and knees or on your stomach when approaching a nervous herd of buff. A less-than-fit hunter will unknowingly lose a cartridge or two — or more. Not only are you potentially losing unfired cartridges that cost $5 or more, you may find yourself facing an ornery buffalo with rounds missing on either side of the belt's brass buckle. If you can wear the culling belt without jettisoning cartridges, it will prove extremely comfortable while offering the quickest access to rounds that you may need to reload in a hurry. Dangerous-game hunters often load softs for fast expansion on one side of the culling belt and solids on the other side when hard-hitting penetration is a must.
The Safari Five and Stalker are Galco's folding cartridge wallets that deploy quickly with the help of gravity. Wearing them on a belt positions them intuitively for access. The 10-shot folding Stalker model deploys in the same manner but is secured by two brass snap buttons. These wallets are made from Latigo dark Havana leather and feature individually stitched cartridge loops. I've also used these carry rigs with comfortable success while hunting elk and other North American big game, so they are not limited for use on African game.
Many hunters adopt African carry when hunting the Dark Continent, which is to control the barrel of the rifle in front of you and support the stock on your shoulder. The idea is that you'll maintain awareness of where the rifle is pointed and can quickly point it elsewhere if a guide or tracker crosses your path. However, certain times call for a rifle to be slung over the shoulder while on a stalk or retreat, and for those times I recommend Galco's Tapered Rifle Sling, which is a cobra-style sling that attaches to 1-inch swivels. These are ambidextrous, lined and given a nonslip, rough-out leather backing so they won't slide off your shoulder. Though I often evaluate other slings, I find that I'm drawn to using the same cordovan-colored sling on most hunts.
When carrying a rifle to and from a lodge, at the range or during transport in a vehicle, the case you select for a safari should bear lightweight, protective and rugged qualities. For each scoped rifle I've taken to Africa, I've transported them within Galco's Field Grade Zippered Scoped Rifle Case. Like the culling belt, this case is constructed of khaki cotton duck and trimmed with dark Havana leather. The materials and brass hardware are water resistant and tough enough for Africa's field use. The inside is lined with acrylic fleece, which is only a drawback if you don't protect your glass with scope covers. (You'll be cleaning lint from your lenses each time you remove your rifle and unprotected scope.) On the outside is a spacious exterior pocket, which proved useful for holding a box or two of ammunition or similar sized pieces of gear. There are cases to fit short guns up to 40 inches in length, and cases that accommodate longer guns up to 48 inches.
Galco certainly offers a breadth of field solutions that have proven handy and difficult to match in quality. For 20 days in Africa, these products helped shape my experiences. Not only will they remain treasured bring-backs from those hunts, but I also look forward to taking them back on future safaris. For these reasons, I continue to recommend Galco's carry rigs.
For more information, visit www.galcogunleather.com.