Let's Go Cowboy


by R.K. Campbell

photography by R.K. Campbell

July 30th, 2007




This feature is dedicated to my friend Paul who helps me walk the walk and not just talk the talk.


Western Star Leather

I have always been interested in cowboy holsters, guns, and history. As a peace officer I soon learned that many of the tales of the Old West rang true. The gun battles, fights and petty jealousies over business matters, soiled doves and horses (cars today) were played out in much the same fashion as today. The only real difference was in technology. Human beings did not change at all. Nor am I certain the means of snuffing out the other's life has improved either. The quality of modern thugs is not better than that of western bandits and modern peace officers remain for the most part respectable individuals attempting to do the best job they can.

When I first became an armed officer, the revolver was king. A few times early in my career I carried a single action Ruger Blackhawk .45 on duty. It was the only good revolver I owned as the Model 29 Smith and Wesson .44 Magnum I usually carried had been damaged in a brawl. While I was waiting for the rear sight and hammer of the Model 29 to be replaced the Ruger rode in a DeSantis scabbard on my belt. I do not recall having a ballistic inferiority complex. But for the most part my single action gear was for recreation. I have hunted with single action revolvers and found they will take game. When hunting, the demands of a good holster are different than when we are looking for a personal defense holster. Speed into action is secondary to retention. The handgun must remain secure but speed matters but little. Comfort for long periods in the field is important. It is no surprise that holsters intended for use by men who spent long hours on horseback are also good holsters for use in the field.

I have adopted Western style holsters for many reasons. I love the look, feel, and even the smell of quality leather. They work for me and the are appropriate for the task at hand. Recently I have been able to test and use two holsters from Western Star Leather. These holsters are handmade one at a time by John Costanza with tanned American leather. He uses the famous Hermann Oak and Wickett and Craig tanneries. Costanza prefers to use the original patterns to preserve historical integrity but he also has produced a number of fresh designs. Durability is an important consideration.

Many different patterns are available, and variations on the theme. Border stamping and basket weave is an option. The most practical choice for the author proved to be the Ely. I often carry my long barrel single action revolvers in a cross draw rig in the field. Among my favorite revolvers is the Navy Arms Deluxe Model. This is a modern single action with excellent fit and finish. The color casehardening is very nice and the backstrap is of German nickel silver. The internal springs are premium WC Wolff, so you do not have to rush to modify this revolver as you might others. My example is in .44-40. I often recommend the .45 Colt but I have enjoyed experimenting with the .44-40 very much. Recoil is light but the power is there for anyone who knows their way around a loading bench. I have loaded the Magnus 200 grain flat point to well over 1,100 fps with a stiff charge of Alliant #2400 powder. For practice and general shooting chores, the Black Hills cowboy action load is a good choice, breaking just under 800 fps with good accuracy. I often carry this revolver in the field in the Ely crossdraw. This is a comfortable rig that carries a very friendly revolver.

I often carry a 1911 automatic in the field. The rules are different and I often wish to have good retention with a fast draw the last thing on my mind. Just the same, The Border is a holster that would give good results if you try to develop a rapid draw. The Border is a comfortable holster that is a development of the Mexican Loop type holster. It is well suited for field use. It rides low and comfortable the retention loop is more than adequate maintaining security. While The Border is a good holster for field use with any 1911 automatic, I find it especially well suited to my Wilson Combat custom .38 Super. This is one of my favorite show holsters. I keep it clean and occasionally rub it with Neetís foot oil. I think that if  you enjoy quality leather goods, especially holsters, you will enjoy Western Star especially.

Western Star Leather, PO 61137, Boulder City Nevada 89006

Phone (702) 293-3397


Mike Harlow Holsters

A new maker to the author is Mike Harlow. When searching for an appropriate holster for my new Wilson Combat modified .38 Super, I wished to deploy a good holster with excellent speed and retention. Since the pistol is a bit of a show pistol, I wanted something with some show. But I wished to avoid something with all show and no go. The Harlow holster is a good scabbard with excellent fit, finish, stitching and retention. The holster offers just the right angle for a sharp draw. Shoot your elbow to the rear and scoop the pistol out of the holster and you are in business. A speed cut in the front of the holster is a welcome addition. This is a man who obviously knows what he is doing with leather. The tunnel belt loop is secure and the fit on a good holster belt is excellent. Overall I am impressed. I often deploy my .38 Super and while the .45 needs little introduction a pistol spitting out a Cor Bon loaded JHP at well over 1,400 fps should get the attention of those who misbehave. Penetration and expansion are excellent. Overall, I am well pleased with both the pistol and the holster. 


Mike Harlow

Phone (970) 324-2059



Saguaro and the Monster 1911

Tom Dyer is a hard bitten westerner who designs holsters tough enough for real cowboys who sometimes take a spill off their mounts. His work is featured in my book, HOLSTERS FOR COMBAT AND CONCEALED CARRY, from Paladin Press. A few months ago, Tom saw one of my articles on the .460 Rowland decided the holster illustrated was far from satisfactory. He decided that a modern upgrade of the Tanker holster would do just fine. Now, the end product was nothing that would be expected from such a humble beginning. Remember, many of us have come to realize that when hunting with a handgun, chest carry is ideal. This is also a preferred military carry. Carrying under the arm is good for concealment with a lighter handgun but chest carry is ideal when you are carrying a long barreled hunting handgun. The 1911 with a .460 Rowland conversion certainly qualifies as a heavy long barreled handgun. When you are pushing a 230 grain JHP at well over 1300 fps you are getting enough horsepower to really take down large game or to protect yourself if need be. The 185 grain 1400 fps personal defense load supplied by Georgia Arms is also a fine choice.

When the chest holster arrived I was amazed. This is a first class holster with real security. The heavy pistol is carried securely. Since hunting involves deliberate shooting at long range speed of draw is not vital, but just the same from a seated position or in a stand the draw is smooth.

These western style holsters have given the author great enjoyment and pride of ownership. Along the way, they have also performed well in the field leaving nothing to be desired.

Saguaro Gunleather


Tom Dyer

HC 32 Box 2538, Kingman Az  86401

Phone (928) 592-7735


R.K. Campbell

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Click pictures for a larger version.


The authorís .460 Rowland equipped High Standard G Man and the Saguaro Gunleather chest holster- a winning combination.



The compensated .460 conversion from Clark Custom Guns is quite simply one of the better additions to the 1911 tribe to come along in some time. Note the worked basket weave of the Saguaro holster.



The Saguaro chest holster carries just right. This is an outstanding rig that is good enough for who it is for.



A new name to the author, Mike Harlow produces first class leather at a fair price.



The Harlow basket weave is very well turned out, with perfect spacing and no over run.



An important component of a holster designed for a heavy pistol is the proper spine. The Harlow belt scabbard features a strong spine that is thick and strong for stability.



The authorís .38 Super pistol has Wilson Combat night sights and grips and a few internal parts from Wilson Combat as well. Coupled with the Harlow holster, this is quite a rig for field use.



The Navy Arms .44-40 is an outstanding handgun that has served the author well. The Ely holster is a welcome addition.



This craftsman is proud to stamp his name on his goods and the author is proud to recommend them!



Pay attention to the back of the holster and the proper stitching of this belt loop.



The Border is a good field holster for the 1911. This is similar to several designs actually used in the last days of the west and adapted to the 1911. But I doubt cowboys had it so good as far as quality goes.



The maker is proud of his gear, and rightly so. This is a mark of quality on a fine holster.



This unobtrusive mark identified The Border as a western holster for the 1911. Cool. Way cool.