I’ve been a fan of Craft Holsters for several years now and wear them on a regular basis. Craft specializes in delivering Old World, custom European craftsmanship at more than reasonable prices. Craft’s use of lacquer finished premium Italian leather makes the holsters a standout in terms of quality and beauty.
Finely Finished Handguns Deserve Fine Leather Holsters
Leather holsters offer several advantages over synthetic holsters. I’ve found that well-designed quality leather holsters contour better to the body, thus concealing handguns better underneath clothing.
Further, finely finished guns — think blued firearms — should be carried in quality leather holsters to protect the finish. Leather protects fine finishes in ways that polymer holsters can’t. (As much as I like Blackhawk Serpa holsters for the security and reasonable price, I don’t want the polymer latch or portions of the holster rubbing against a fine gun finish when drawing.) The softness of properly finished leather protects a gun’s finish. Of course, polymer holsters are not a concern for modern handguns with high-tech finishes.
I thought the Springfield Armory 1911 .45s I had for recent reviews would be ideal to test how full-sized handguns would feel in two different styles of outside-the-waistband (OWB) Craft leather holsters. I requested the Craft Open Top Panther and the Thumb Break Holster W 3 Carry Positions. Both are handmade in Italy and available for a wide variety of handguns.
Craft Open Top Panther
The Craft Panther Open Top holster is representative of the best of the Craft lineup. In addition to the Italian leather, all thermo-molded seams are sewn with reinforcing white German thread. The Panther is double-stitched around the holster pouch. The belt loops and outer portion of the holster are single-stitched. The construction assures a secure fit without the use of a tensioning screw.
The Panther has a muzzle rearward cant. The belt loops will accommodate 1.5-inch belts. Speaking of belts, to get the maximum benefit of a quality holster, use a belt of equal quality designed to accommodate heavy firearms. Holstered handguns on cheap belts will be sagging in short order. Fortunately, Craft also carries a line of gun-worthy trouser belts to mate with their holsters.
The Panther provided comfortable carry of the Springfield Armory Mil-Spec .45. It held the butt of the Mil-Spec firmly against my side without digging in. And the angle allowed for a smooth draw, particularly while seated in my truck. Craft offers a tasteful gold custom monogramming option of up to three letters for $9. They monogrammed both of my test holsters for me. MSRP is $75.
Craft Thumb Break Holster W 3 Carry Positions
For those who want a thumb break holster with the utmost versatility, take a look at the Holster W 3 Carry Positions. The 3 Position can be worn as a standard strong side rig, as well as a cross-draw and small of the back (SOB) rig. This versatility is accomplished via the well-designed multiple-slot leather back piece. It is double-stitched and thermo molded to the holster body.
I found the thumb break retention strap can accommodate both hammer-down and cocked and locked carry. I don’t recommend hammer down or empty chamber carry of a 1911 even though the Israelis are adept at charging their sidearms on the draw. Carrying the 1911 cocked and locked with the restraining strap between the hammer and frame makes the 1911 one of the safest autoloaders that you can carry holstered. Four safeties are at work in this condition.
The 3 Position is as beautifully rendered as the Panther. It utilizes two separate tension screw adjustments due to the different design. It carries the holster flat against the body, but not as flat as a pancake design. The cant is neutral on the strong side.
I wore it on my strong side with the Springfield Armory Range Officer Target .45 but also checked the positioning for cross-draw and SOB carry. Crossdraw carry is an excellent driving position. During testing, I found the 3 position actually has four positions. If you use the crossdraw slots on the strong side, this will allow a muzzle forward can, adding a fourth option. Muzzle forward carry allows you to draw your pistol with a firmly locked wrist.
There are few competing leather holsters as versatile as the 3 Position. MSRP is $85.
Craft Holsters has come a long way since I first started work with them. They place a solid emphasis on custom craftsmanship. Craft makes all kinds of concealed carry gear and has branched out into nylon gear as well. But leather is still their specialty. As proof, they also sent along a sample of their Premium Leather Care Kit. It contains break-in liquid, leather conditioner, leather balm, dauber, microfiber sponge and a wool pad to make sure leather lasts a lifetime.