The Internal-fit Holster

Apart from PSD personnel, deployed to such war-zones as Iraq and Afghanistan, the majority of Close-protection operators carry their firearms discreetly.
This is due to the fact that political, diplomatic and executive VIPs usually prefer that their bodyguards keep firearms and ancillary equipment out of view. Also, the task of the BG is to blend in with the VIP environment.
In this article we are going to discuss my favourite holster for this role, the internal-fit belt holster.

THE ORIGINAL, AND WORST
The first such designs were dreadful, and were shunned by serious shooters

Problems were numerous. Firstly, they were attached to the belt by a spring-clip, which usually failed….. so that when you drew your pistol with the holster still on it, which is hardly conducive to accurate marksmanship!
If, by chance, the holster stayed on the belt, there would often be a big ball of suede stuck on the front sight, as it gouged the material on the draw. Finally, reholstering was tricky, as the empty holster squashed flat under belt pressure. This is especially critical in BG operations, when, for example, embussing after an attack, tactical safety requires reholstering before diving into the vehicle.
BRUCE NELSON
The internal-fit holster was resurrected by Bruce Nelson, a California state narcotics agent, and talented holster designer, who corrected the above problems.
Firstly, he used a leather loop, with snap-fastener to secure the holster to the belt. There was no way this holster would pull free on the draw. Later on the on-way snap was introduced, which was even more secure.
Because pistols used tactically were being produced with prominent, high-visibility sights, it was important to avoid the front sight blades from gouging through the leather. Nelson added “sight rails”, two leather strips parallel to the bore, which provided a channel for the sight to clear the leather. Other manufacturers moulded in a plastic “sight track” to their holsters for the same purpose.
Finally, the mouth of the holster was reinforced with added leather, plus a liner of spring-steel, to allow one-handed, eyes-off reholstering.

{Summer Specials from Sparks]

Bruce Nelson called his design the Summer Special, and manufactured under licence by Milt Sparks, it because a best seller among cognoscenti. It still remains the classic design.
After retiring from law enforcement, Bruce Nelson set up a private range in the mountains near Tucson. A steady stream of trainees, from the nearby special training facility at Marana, made the pilgrimage up the mountain to order custom leather from the man himself. While Marcus Wynne was at Marana, firstly as a trainee, then later as an instructor for the Federal Air Marshal Service he ordered several items from Bruce, including a custom sheath for his fighting knife. When I was at Marana in 1991, Marcus tried to phone Bruce to set up a meeting but he was away at the time. It’s still a regret that I never got to meet him, as he tragically died not long after.
ADVANTAGES
A holster needs to blend security, concealment, accessibility and protection into the optimum package, and, in my opinion the internal-fit holster, also known as the Inside pants [ISP] or, inside waistband [IWB] does this better than any other.
Most internal-fit holsters are meant to be positioned over the master-side kidney, in the natural hollow, often known as the “FBI position, although Bruce Nelson preferred the frontal “Appendix position” when working undercover as a narc. The FBI position tucks the butt of the pistol into the body and is very discreet. The covering jacket rides up when bending, or reaching, and this can “flash” a conventional holster. With the internal, because the bulk of the weapon is hidden within the waistband there is very little signature.
Some people find the internal holster uncomfortable, and, in truth, I avoided the design for quite a while for this reason. However, I tried a British copy of the Summer Special, by Bruce Stephens and found it was much more comfortable than it looked, I bought it, and it was the first of many for me.
I soon ordered another from Milt Sparks, for my compact Star PD .45 auto.

[Author with Star PD in Sparks Summer Special]
Price Western Leather, a British company, asked me to design some holsters for them. Among the designs that were produced are a modified Internal-fit holster, and a velcro belt specifically designed for close-protection personnel.The modifications to the holster incuded a pair of belt loops, for added stability on the belt, and a thumb-shelf on the body-side.

[Price Western holster and pouch]

Another UK company Horshoe Leather produced excellent designs, from Andy Arratoonian. He also incorporated the thumb-shelf, which can be seen on this photo.

The twin belt loops can staddle a trouser loop, thus locking the holster in position very securely, essential in violent confrontations, tactical debussing etc. The thumb shelf protects the clothing from the shape edges, such as the hammer, and also allows the thumb to exert useful leverage during the draw.

Andy had his own version of the double-loop, which worked very well. Here it can be seen on the holster he made for my H&K PTM8, which is, in my opinion, the best on the market for the Heckler.

[Favourite pistol in favourite holster, with favourite ammo]

[Den firing MP-5 with P7 in Horseshoe holster]

In the early 1990s a young designer Gary Brommeland emerged on the scene. His rigs attracted attention from expert gunwriters, such as Dave Spaulding, and became sought after. Unfortunately, after only about a year, he gave up the business. I was fortunate to obtain one his products, and it really is a masterpiece of leathercraft.

[The beauty of leather as crafted by Brommeland]

Massad Ayoob, noted for his firearms training and writing turned his hand to holster design, with two unique creations. His LFI Special, produced by Ted Blocker eschewed the conventional belt-loop, opting for a velco-faced leather-tab, which mated to velcro lining inside the belt. This allowed a range of cant/positional adjustment, as well as easy on/off action.

[Mass very kindly sent me this example of his LFI/Blocker rig]

The second design was the Rearguard, which had an offset loop to the rear of the holster. Although it looked a bit wierd it worked very well. A factor was the excellent cowhide and superb workmanship og Mich Rosen who produced the work.

[Mass showing his "Ayoob Rearguard" holster with a S&W Sigma]

By the way, Mitch specializes in making holsters from a variety of exotic skins.

{Massad with both of his designs]

At an IALEFI Conference I met Greg Kramer, a holster maker from Washington state, who specialized in using horsehide, rather than cowhide, for his products. He very kindly sent me a batch of his products, and quickly won me over to horsehide. If you consider the lifestyle of horses versus cows, you may realise why horsehide is such a strong, rigid material, ideal for weapons scabbards. Greg doesn’t use snaps to fasten his loops, on the basis that eventually they wear out. Since he intends his horsehide holsters to serve the user for life he selected Chicago screws to fasten the loops, which shows a rare work ethic.

Since then, Kramer has been my favourite holster for everything except the H&K P7. Greg doesn’t believe that the Heckler, which has a high centre of gravity, lends itself to an internal-fit holster, and despite my pleading refused to make one. He did, however, send his superb on-the-belt sideholster for the P7, which will be discussed in a subsequent article. So, I continued to use the brilliant Horseshoe Leather rig for the Heckler, while carrying the SIG-228 or Glock-19 in the Kramer.

{SIG-228 in Kramer horsehide holster]

I still wear a Kramer belt everyday. Usually it’s one of the horsehide items, but I also have a Sharkskin model, which is both practical and visually pleasing. Greg’s products are used by several tier-one entities.

[Author on VIP Protection task, in hotel, with Glock in Kramer holster and belt]

Noted Combatives instructor and writer Kelly McCann ["Jim Grover"] has long been a user of Kramer products. He recently designed his own version of the internal-fit holster for Greg to produce.

Kelly McCann still deploys to hostile environments, running PSD teams, so his equipment selection has to be spot-on.

The wave of the future seems to be plastic holsters, made of Kydex, or, carbon-fibre. When these first appeared their weakness was the attachment to the belt, but this problem has been long solved. I’ve used holsters from Bladetech quite a bit, and like them a lot.

{Author with Bladetech and H&k P7 overseas this year]

For the working bodyguard, dressed in business suit, or, blazer and slacks, the internal-fit holster will allow covert carriage of the handgun with total discretion, until it’s needed.Because the BG must fit in with the VIP during a wide range of work, travel and leisure activities, one type of holster will seldom cover all eventualities. A subsequent article will discuss “specific-to-task holster selection.

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Links

Milt Sparks

Price Western

Horseshoe Leather

Ted Blocker

Mitch Rosen

Kramer Leather

Bladetech