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Nighthawk Custom Alligator Holster By Southern Trapper

Made for Nighthawk Custom by Southern Trapper, the Alligator Holster features natural character, expert stitching, and is easily convertible from OWB to IWB carry.

Nighthawk Custom Alligator Holster By Southern Trapper

The Alligator Holster’s naturally textured outer layer was expertly stitched to a cowhide backer and finished with a suede lining. Conversion from OWB to IWB requires installing a pair of steel clips (provided) through the holster’s belt slots. $380 (Photo by Michael Anschuetz)

Included with the Nighthawk Custom Bob Marvel Model 1911 sent to Guns & Ammo for review was a complete carry rig: Alligator holster, spare magazine pouch and belt. The base-model pistol starts at $4,499. When the optional Interchangeable Optic System (IOS) is spec’d for $350 and a Trijicon RMR Type 2 adjustable LED reflex sight installed for $699, the entire order totals $5,548. If you’re spending that much on a handgun, you’re not going to tote it in a Kydex holster. Nighthawk Custom knows this and offers hand-crafted leather to carry anything they sell.

Nighthawk Custom commissions Southern Trapper to custom create holsters for any model and configuration: Rail, light, red dot — anything. The custom box advertised “Made deep in the south where we hand wrestle alligators,” and “sustainably sourced and humanely harvested exotic leather goods.” Whether a holster was cut from steerhide or an exotic, they are all finished with Flex-Guard sealant for durability. Holsters are wet molded with 2 tons of pressure to perfectly contour its form to the gun, but the side-effect is stiff retention until it wears in.

Nighthawk Custom also offers Southern Trapper’s single- and double-magazine pouch. These are available in either cowhide or an exotic layer sewn to a cowhide backer. When ordered with the holster, the finish of the leather matches perfectly. Spare mag holders will accept any single-stack M1911 magazine and are designed for use with a 1.5-inch belt.

No carry rig is complete without a purpose-made gun belt. A single-ply belt does little to support the weight of a holstered handgun. A loose, saggy rig can put your life at risk if you find yourself in a critical situation. Wearing a gun belt that properly supports a holster and mag pouch is important. Southern Trapper’s gun belts are constructed with two strips of leather, glued and stitched.

The outer layer of Guns & Ammo’s sample featured the upgraded chocolate-colored alligator leather, while the inside was a natural tanned cowhide. Stitched with black bartack for reinforcement, the two thick layers of leather were beveled and finished with black edge dressing.

Alligator Mag Holder
The Mag Holder from Southern Trapper complements the alligator holster in color, style, fit and quality. Mag Holders are available as single- or dual-magazine pouches. $130 (Photo by Michael Anschuetz)

Southern Trapper’s Story

Southern Trapper was founded by Dane Schemel, or “Capt. Bligh.” While on a different career path, Schemel made a beavertail wallet using a leathercraft kit for a 7-year-old kid in a mentor program (who later sold it for $1). Schemel realized his entrepreneurial spirit and started the company in Charleston, South Carolina. Southern Trapper made men’s wallets using the often discarded and stiff beavertails from trappers. Since 2013, Schemel expanded his craft to include holsters, rifle slings, belts, guitar straps and other goods using a variety of sustainable leather resources.

Nighthawk Custom’s alligator holster, spare magazine pouch and belt are made from wild alligator skins sourced through national wildlife programs and harvested by hunters across the southeast. 

Interestingly, the size of the squares in the leather indicates where on the alligator’s belly skin the leather was cut from. The smaller squares seen on the mag pouch feature soft and ornate patterns. Such pieces come from flexible areas such as the legs, neck, arms and shoulders. The longer, center-section of the alligator’s belly is more armor-like featuring large and stiff squares. Southern Trapper uses the latter pieces on the outer layers of the holster and belt.

Alligator Gun Belt
Available with different buckles, widths and dye colors, each skin is hand selected from the tannery. $325 (Photo by Michael Anschuetz)

45-Day Carry

Guns & Ammo’s sample Alligator Holster was fitted to Nighthawk Custom’s Bob Marvel edition M1911 with IOS. G&A’s stainless-steel pistol was Commander-length and chambered in 9mm. Out of the box, holster fit was extremely tight. As Southern Trapper instructs, these holsters need to be broken in. The fitment was so stiff and tight, initial draw times measured 3 seconds, which were dangerously slow. I continued to gradually break in the rig by placing the unloaded pistol into a plastic bag and inserting it into the holster for 24 hours periods. After a number of days of repeating this process, the holster did stretch a little. I practiced draws daily during office hours with an unloaded pistol to condition the leather. After some 20 days, I was comfortable enough with my sub-2-second drawstrokes to qualify this setup for G&A’s performance evaluation. During 45 days of everyday carry, the Southern Trapper holster was slow to relax its fit. At the range, my best draw times averaged 1.8 seconds from concealment. For comparison, my typical holster evaluation produces draws in the 1.25- to 1.5-second range.

During this period, I focused on testing the stylish alligator rig as an outside-the-waistband (OWB) holster under loose, button-down shirts. However, Southern Trapper cleverly provided a pair of spring-steel over-the-belt clips that users can attach to the holster’s belt loops for inside-the-waistband (IWB) carry. I’m still searching, but I haven’t found a leather holster that uses the belt-loop slots to mount IWB hardware. There wasn’t enough time to confirm the functionality and durability of the dual-carry conversion, but it remains a notable feature that makes this holster more versatile than most pricey exotics.

Southern Trapper’s dual-carry Alligator Holster is a fine product worthy of investment. (It’s even backed by a 100-year warranty.) Be warned, the investment requires time and patience for break-in before carrying it. This isn’t unfamiliar to experienced leather holster wearers. Once worn in, you’ll have a snug, heirloom-quality rig to complement your favorite handgun.

Alligator Holster Dimensions
Viewed from above as if worn on the hip, with the gun holstered the alligator rig's overall dimensions are 1.56 inches wide by 8.64 inches long. (Photo by Michael Anschuetz)

Nighthawk Custom Alligator Holster

  • Materials: Alligator belly leather (outer); cowhide (backer)
  • Carry Type: Outside the waistband (OWB) or inside the waistband (IWB)
  • Retention Type: Level 1 (friction fit)
  • Adjustability: No
  • MSRP: $380
  • Handgun Fit: Commander (tested) or Government Model 1911 pistols
  • Accessory Rail Accomodations: Yes; reflex sight cut, rails and lights (optional)
  • Postions to Carry: OWB or IWB; 3 o'clock to 5 o'clock (right hand)
  • Average Time to Attach: 1 minute, 30 seconds (OWB)
  • Comfort Rating: 5/5
  • Concealment Clothing: Untucked button-down shirt (tested) or jacket
  • Average Draw-to-Fire Time: 1.8 seconds (avg. of five clean draws producing A-zone hit at 21 ft.)
  • Manufacturer: Southern Trapper, 843-501-2771
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