Fitted Leather Holster




Introduction: Fitted Leather Holster

I have a Colt Model 1911 .45 Caliber pistol that I wanted to put in a holster. I had seen formed holsters and thought I would give one a try. I made the holster a few years ago, so I will step through the process. Please let me know if you have questions.

Step 1: Forming

This is very heavy weight leather, probably about 8 oz (just under a quarter inch thick). I cut two squares that would cover the pistol. When I had the two pieces cut, I soaked them thoroughly with isopropyl alcohol.

(LESSON LEARNED: If I were to do it again, I would use water. The alcohol REALLY dried the leather out, which forced me to put a lot of Neatsfoot oil on it at the end)

When the leather was soaked, I put the gun in a plastic bag, and sandwiched it in between the two pieces. I then put the whole package into a vacuum bag and removed the air. This caused the leather to form right around the pistol. Then I used a deer antler to bring out the detail around the edges. With the bag sealed I taped the bag around a coffee can. This provided the form/curvature so the holster fit on my hip.

When everything was secure, I cut the bag open and this allowed the leather to dry, which allowed the forming to become set.

Step 2: Assembly

When the leather is dry it comes out like a big square with a gun outline in the middle. At this point, glue the two halves together. I use Barge Cement, but E6000 would also work. The important part of this step is to ensure that the two outlines line up perfectly. Use clamps while letting the glue set, or you can vacuum bag it again.

With the holster glued, it is time to layout the shape of the outline. The important part is the layout of the belt loops so the holster is in the proper angle when worn.

When you have the angle correct, freehand the desired outline with a pencil. When you have the outline complete, to include the belt holes, cut it out with a razor blade (or you could use a band saw). I drilled the ends of the belt loops with a 1/4 inch drill bit, and then cut the slots between the two holes.

When the final shape is completed, layout the stitching with a pencil. With a leather stitching groover, follow the lines to create a small channel for the stitching. You can use an overstitching tool to layout the spacing for the stitching, then I used a 1/16 inch drill bit and drilled all the holes.

Step 3: Sewing

I stitched over and under, and then came back through the opposite holes so that there were two passes over each set of holes. You can see the technique in the second photo.

To finish the look and give it more strength I drilled four holes and fitted them Chicago screws (from Tandy).

When it was completely sewn, and screws were installed, I finished the edge with a chamfer tool. To clean up the roughness of the cut, I sanded the edge with a belt sander. This really gave it a finished look.


The final step is moisturizing the leather with Neatsfoot oil. This really darkened the leather.

The project was not as difficult as I thought it would be, and it was very satisfying to have completed. Best of luck.

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    18 Discussions

    Punch indexing holes through the leather while it's stacked so you will be able to line them up easier next step. Holes should be in area you are going to cut off or will need a hole. Probably need to punch holes just after removing from vacuum bag BEFORE separation. Leather sheets will shift while forming under pressure and holes will be misaligned.

    Terrific Instructable! Going to give that a go for the carry piece.

    Good job you might consider using a saddle stitch. The advantage of a saddle stitch is that a half knot is tied with each stitch; thus if the thread breaks during use, the stitches won't come out . I'll used my vacuum sealer the next time I make a holster!

    Nice mate! Thanks a ton!

    I've made a few holsters, and have been challenged about how to form the leather to the gun. I'll try this the next time. Russbrew2 makes a great point to sew the leather together, first.

    As soon as the leather is soaked on both sides, it immediately becomes pliable. That is all you need.

    It would have been easier to sew up the holster beforehand, WRAP THE GUN IN PLASTIC (to prevent the water from rusting it [water won't dry out the leather like alcohol and it can be molded easier & will be much more malleable]), fit it into the wet holster, THEN do the vacuum sealing, just until you have the perfect vacuum fit. After the perfect fit, immediately open the sealed bag, remove the gun wrapped in plastic [dry & oil the gun to prevent rusting], let the holster dry. Use Lexol instead of neatsfoot oil- Lexol won't discolor to the extent that neatsfoot oil will, and it won't leave oil stains either, like NF oil. (I've made holsters since the '70s).

    1 reply

    Did you use a home type vacuum machine like a Seal-a-Meal, or did you use something else?

    1 reply

    Very interesting method for forming leather! Was there any damage/discolouring of the object after the vacuum forming?

    Have a great day! :-)

    1 reply

    There was no damage to the leather. I did wrap the gun in plastic to prevent any damage, however, once the leather dried, it returned to the same color, but it was VERY dried out.

    Nice! What thread size are you sewing with?

    1 reply

    I don't know. It was thread out of a sewing awl that I bought from Tandy. It is like thin kite string.

    looks good- if you want to get glassy edge on it- burnish it with a slicker- keep the edges a little damp when you work them. next time soak in warm to hot water but not boiling- Bick 4 is a great conditioner - doesn't darken leather- always use veg tan leather and it looks like you did- the chomium tan isn't friendly as it has salt in it- if you want a nice looking black holster try soaking in water that has iron shavings in it- will react to the veg tan and chemically darken the holster- for the same reason if you do not want the leather to react make sure to use glass or plastic containers to soak the holster in.