Anyone who has perused the pages of Concealed Carry Magazine or followed our articles in Concealed Carry Report knows that there are literally thousands of makes, models and styles of concealed carry holsters available — which is a very good thing. There is truly something for everyone, regardless of age, size, sex or even ability.
However, one common thread runs through the vast majority of concealed carry rigs: They are designed to carry the handgun of choice out of sight with reasonable comfort in day-to-day country, urban and suburban locales under reasonable weather conditions. While they can do passably well for a time in the country environs, there are some better choices for extended hiking excursions or camping trips.
I hadn’t thought much about this topic until I began working with the new .32 ACP Colt Model 1903 General Officers Model that hit the market again after being out of production for some 70 years. Even though some 570,000 of these fine pistols were produced, holsters for them today are certainly not as common as holsters for Colt’s later 1911. El Paso Saddlery was one of the companies to which I turned to outfit it in proper leather gear.
Being the oldest continuously operating holstermaker in the United States, El Paso often has leather available for pistols not in common use today. If they don’t show it in their catalogue, I can count on them to be able to put something together, which they recently did for the new Bond Arms Bullpup 9 that I have been working with. El Paso came through for me again in a way I hadn’t quite expected for the Colt Model 1903, providing a downsized version of their M1940 Flap Holster and a bonus EZ Carry IWB Holster to fulfill two different missions. Let me talk about the flap holster first.
With a historically reproduced pistol like the Colt M1903 General Officers pistol, it just seemed like it would be a good idea to have a historic holster in which to carry it. But the flap holster isn’t just for show, just like the new Colt M1903 in the Parkerized version isn’t just for resting in the safe. Both are meant to be used.
Flap holsters were once extremely popular in the U.S. among outdoorsmen and American law enforcement officers. Flap holsters provided excellent protection for the finely blued revolvers from Colt and Smith & Wesson that rode on officers’ hips back in the day. This was particularly true for motorcycle officers, whose handguns were exposed to rain, snow, sleet and dirt while being carried in the open. The use of flap holsters declined at the end of the 20th century due to retention concerns and the decline in popularity of blued-steel revolvers. Pistols like the Glock needed nowhere near the attention after exposure to inclement weather that their predecessors did.
The holster that El Paso provided to me is a replica of that issued to General Officers in WWII — like General George S. Patton — who carried the M1903 or .380 M1908 in non-combat circumstances. It is constructed of leather and is available in russet or black color, with or without embossing. I selected mine in russet with the “U.S.”-embossed stamp on the flap. The flap is secured over a simple brass stud. There is a belt loop on the back that can accommodate a wide range of belts.
The M1903 is a great pistol to carry. Relatively lightweight despite its steel frame, it can be packed without discomfort due not only to the weight but to the trim size. Despite the fact that the M1903 is a .32 ACP pistol, I feel quite comfortable with the performance of the .32 with modern ammunition — like the Hornady XTP — for most defensive needs. In bear or cougar country, I prefer a .357 Magnum revolver, but walking in the woods and trails here in Ohio is a perfect setting for the M1903 in a flap holster. The nearly complete coverage of the holstered handgun offered by the El Paso 1940 Flap Holster will protect the gun from scratches from brush or scrapes from a fall. It will also protect from inclement weather. However, make sure that you don’t leave the pistol in the holster when it gets wet, or rust will set in due to prolonged contact. Remember that Parkerizing offers limited rust protection compared to other more modern protective finishes.
The El Paso 1940 Holster, when worn on the belt, allows the muzzle end of the holster to hang about two inches below the opening of my front trouser pocket. If you are carrying in an area where you wish to be more discreet, the rig is easily concealed by an outdoors vest or jacket. It is easy to find a comfortable position on the belt, and the holster adjusts for standing or sitting. It is also easy to draw the holstered and secured handgun with only one hand, although two motions are required (flipping the flap up and then gripping and drawing the pistol). While not lightning quick, the draw is smooth and fast enough for most situations — especially after practicing with an UNLOADED gun. The 1940 and other military flap holsters are found under the “Military Holster” section of the El Paso website. Ordering one for the M1903 or M1908 will require a phone call at this time. MSRP is $99.99
If you want a modern variant of the flap holster for outdoor use for a wider variety of handguns, check the Classic Carry Full Flap Holster found under the “Hunting/Field” section. Any of the El Paso flap holsters provide all-day comfort and protection for whichever handgun you might wish to pack in them.
Now for a word or two about the EZ Carry IWB Holster. The EZ Carry is a traditional IWB leather holster, done with the rough side out to help keep it in position. It uses a steel spring clip that attaches to the trouser belt (don’t wear it without a belt). There is what El Paso calls a “rear flap” that keeps the sights and hammer (if there is one) from rubbing directly against your body. The two halves that form the holster are joined together in a way that creates a natural sight channel. The inside of the holster is smooth and the draw is easy, but the holster is formed well enough to provide a good friction fit to hold the handgun in place. This is a modern take on the IWB style that uses traditional materials to make a good concealed carry holster. A leather IWB holster like this is much more comfortable for me than one made of Kydex. It works very well for the slim profile of the Model 1903. MSRP is $62.00
El Paso has at least two good holsters designed to cover all the bases for the Colt Model 1903 — or the Model 1908, for that matter — which allows these pistols to fulfill the duties of good, light-duty outdoors trail pistols or concealed carry pistols. Contact El Paso for more information on these two holsters and other designs for the Colt Model 1903 or any other pistol you may have.