'True Custom ' tm
All the little makers call themselves 'custom' makers. They aren't, of course, unless taking a standard holster from their stock and shipping it to you is somehow 'custom'.
Instead the word 'custom ' means 'made for you and only for you'. In this way it is quite like the word 'bespoke'.
Red Nichols has been designing/inventing/building true custom holster products since the late 1960s before he went 'pro' by apprenticing to the great John Bianchi (aka .JB.) beginning 1970.
To express your interest in commissioning a 'True Custom' build, please only contact him directly. Price is "on application".
Before joining JB while still in his late teens, Red did more than accommodate his big brother's request for a holster and mag pouch for the Browning Hi Power.
For the holster Red invented the world's first 'finger release' (vs. a thumb snap) for auto-matics.
For the pouch: the now-iconic 'Clip Grip' that overcame the weaknesses of Anderson's speed pouch. Soon afterwards the Clip Grip joined Bianchi Holsters' range.
Quite a bit more exotic, were the silver-encrusted sets for his new boss, John Bianchi.
At left is a cut from John's book 'American Legend'. Below is from Guns & Ammo magazine.
In it, JB refers to Red as a 'master craftsman'. An insult! Red is a master gunleather designer; craftsmanship is easily mastered, design mastery is rare.
After which, who could resist a commission from fast and fancy trick shooter Joe Bowman of Texas, for a 'walk and talk' set with swivels built into it so he could set down for interviews?
In the present day, Red has accepted commissions for 'Brillalikes' -- which are faithful Brill replicas that are made, not from photographs, but using patterns made from disassembled Brills of the early 1900s.
'Exotic' leathers have been part-and-parcel for Red's gunleather since the turn of this century.
And most recently, the world's first 'thumbhole' shoulder holster made of horsehide, ostrich leg, and kangaroo lining leathers. Under Nichols' Berns-Martin (R) brand of course (Bond's shoulder holster famously was a B-M).
Just a few years ago a collector commissioned a half-dozen sets from the 'junior cowboy and cowgirl' era -- which was Red's childhood -- of the 1950s. Red was able to draw on his large collection of original capgun holster set patterns and hardware to build them authentically.
This 100-piece master set of patterns is now back in USA, in the hands of a master toymaker. With genuine 1950s hardware to match, in Red's 'liquid nickel' finish ('so glossy it still looks wet')
A pair of Red's 'Sidewinder' triple-curved belts with polycarbonate stiffener -- commissioned to be faced entirely in ostrich leg leather.
The trademark shape is very difficult to make -- yet it is your assurance that it is genuinely by Red Nichols himself.
It's a 'Fighting Shell' with a few twists. It's one of twenty identical holsters commissioned for a major 'smith's 1911 project, and is of cowhide vs. horsehide, and it's 'overstamped'. Overstamping is a hand process that Red developed earlier this century, in which the holster is first detail-molded to the pistol and then stamped last, into the moulding lines themselves while the pistol mold is still inside.
In 1912, a boy was born in Texas who would inspire a holster design that would be made by many designers in the 1960s. His name: Jack Donihoo, a Dallas detective so hard-bitten that since 1945 he measured from his pile of brass to the body after a 'capture'. For these reasons the style is called a 'Donihoo'.
Created by Red specifically for a future Bond film, this custom iteration of his Charade shoulder holster features the famous Berns-Martin logo front-and-centre. The holster is unlined horsehide, trimmed in ostrich leg as is the harness, and Bond's PPK is retained by the dimple into the trigger guard that was pressed into the leather with a steel ball after detail molding to the Walther. The finish is 'naked': no color but sealed nonetheless. Shades of Goldfinger's gold-painted playgirl.
Watch for this unique Charade shoulder holster in a forthcoming issue of American Handgunner magazine
A rare instance of Red re-visiting one of his early designs. This commission was for a horsehide version of his 209 holster for Bianchi and using his latest harness design from the Charade and Mr. Lucky.
It is elastic loaded like the original, which itself emulated but did not copy the early Wolfram design, which itself was a simplified Berns-Martin 'Lightnin' shoulder holster. In this design the holster is not inverted to hang from the muzzle, but is angled to carry the revolver at 45 degrees and away from the shoulder.
The drawing hand falls naturally to the grip and the change in leverage adds retention for the inverted revolver.
Lots of skill required in its design and in its construction, and so very expensive. Designed as a one-off, one-of-a-kind for this customer.
At near right: the Bianchi version of 1963 in b&w,
At far right: the Bianchi version of 1983 in color.
Above right: the Nichols version of 2019 has an added hammer spur guard.
Cylinder recesses are 'like, so last century' and were used first by E.E. Clark and then by R.H. Hoyt in the 1930s for shoulder holsters; to flatten them and add retention.
The recesses in Red's 'Fighting Shells' are open at the top instead; they're only there to reduce bulk -- and because horsehide really, really doesn't appreciate being told to mold around the big .44 revolver cylinders.
Normally there is only a single cylinder recess in a Fighting Shell, in its backside next to the belt itself. THIS one has another recess in the outside.
If they hadn't come out of the True Custom side of Red's business they would have been given a name: 'Fighting Stars'.
A pair of separate commissions that arrived at the same time inspired this 'buzzsaw' approach to pocket holsters, that allows the holsters to be worn in both front and rear pockets and rotated to the ideal angle inside them.
Easy in, can't rotate inside the pocket, don't pull out when the pistol or magazine are drawn.
Require the stiffness of thin horsehide to make them work!