Holsters are expensive!
Leather scraps and snaps are cheap!
I had three objectives with this project:
1. Learn how to work with leather a little bit better.
2. Make a holster that would normally cost me over $40.
3. Make a holster that would be thin and comfortable.
In this project we'll go through some trail and error before arriving at a working holster design, so make sure you read the whole thing first!
Step 1: Make a Pattern!
This design will be for fold-over style in order to reduce the thickness and complexity of the design. Alternatively, and depending on your leather scraps, you can split them so there's an inside and an outside piece that must be stitched together.
Using some thick craft paper, trace the outline of your gun, roll it so it's standing up, trace again, then roll it to its opposite side and trace it again. This should give you some idea of where you want the holster to be.
Trace the coverage area you want, and be sure to leave extra for stitching.
Fold the pattern over your gun, and try to check the angle it will have on your belt. You may wind up cutting new patterns repeatedly, so make your cuts wide, then narrow them down as you try it on your gun and on your belt.
Step 2: Test Fits
Get the gun in the leather so you can see where the fit truly is. Obviously, leave extra on your first cuts.
My leather was thin and flexible, so I made sure the fit was tight so it would stretch to fit the gun. (also keep in mind, depending on your leather, because this is an IWB holster, you can count on your belt to do some retention if you want to make the fit a little loose.)
These are your first real punches into the work area of the leather, so take your time picking these holes to make sure you get them right where you want. If you don't have a punch, you can still use your awl needle to get through if the leather is not too thick OR if your awl doesn't suck :)
Also note the punch will stretch your leather if going through both layers. I recommend marking your first hole, punching through one layer, folding it back up around the gun again, and marking the continuation of your first hole through the next layer, and punching the remaining layer. It's slower going, but prevents the holes from being stretched wider by the punch.
Note in mine, the seam doesn't fall in the middle, it's on the side that faces out to keep that side flat. My leather stretched to the trigger guard quite well.
Step 3: Reducing the Excess
Start trimming the edges and cutting out the belt loops. Hold on to your thread after you untie it so you can tie it back together, test again, mark parts that need to be reduced, untie, and trim.
Once the loops are cut, you can fold them over where you intend, and set the back end of the snaps.
Go slow when you set the snaps! If you hit them too hard you'll deform the whole piece instead of just flaring the base post!
Step 4: Fitting the Belt Loops
Insert your gun, fold the loops down and lay your intended belt across the strap, under the whole body of the snap (make sure the whole snap can be seen). Then fold the strip of the belt loop up, over the belt and press the leather hard into the back end of the snap so it leaves an imprint in the leather, then punch, poke, or drill the hole for the post of the front snap.
Step 5: It's Done!... OR IS IT?!
Try it on, practice some draws. More than a few.
This is when you might run into the problem I did...
Step 6: The Problem
When you pull the gun out of the holster, the belt loops pull on the part of the holster that touches the gun.
Unfortunately, since my leather is thin and stretchy, it rolls open toward the belt loops, and tightens the "mouth" of the holster around the gun, causing serious binding.
Part of this is that the leather I chose was somewhat grippy on the inside (intentionally so), so when I pulled on the gun, the whole body of the holster lifted up and started rolling against the belt loops. Technically, if the leather was smoother, or if you did a two-piece where both sides were stitched together, you could do half the inside of the holster smooth, and the other half rough to reduce friction inside the holster, you might not have this problem.
Note that this took more than a few draws before the issue arose because the leather stretched and wore out with each draw until it settled into the position where it binds.
Step 7: The Solution?
I grabbed a stiffer piece of leather scrap and set it up to reinforce the body of the holster so the fold wouldn't roll so easily.
Step 8: NOPE! Add Some Loops!
The support piece helped, but eventually it started rolling too, so I decided to make the support piece include the belt loops!
Step 9: It Works!
Repeated testing shows that this method works! The draw is smooth and the belt friction holds it right where I put it.
Unfortunately, I didn't get it to be as thin as I would have wanted, but it still works well, and is comfortable.
From here I will seal the leather edges, superglue the knot, and darken the belt loops.
Step 10: But How Does It Conceal???
I copied the angle of one of my nicer holsters and it jams the butt into my ribs and the slide against my stomach, making it quite uncomfortable and very concealed.