John O’Rourke, the principal of J.W. O’Rourke Holsters of Hartselle AL, recently sent over a couple of fine examples of his custom-cut gun leather for review. The pieces received were a matched set, consisting of a suede-lined leather belt and a holster specifically cut for a full-sized 1911 with an integral frame rail.
As a bit of background, J.W. O’Rourke Holsters is a small gun leather shop producing a range of semi-custom holsters, belts, and associated items. While he offers a variety of basic holster and belt styles, actual production is based on customer-specified requirements regarding size, lining, color, and specific weapon type. From pancake, belt slide, inside-the-waistband, or pocket holsters for large frame/small frame auto pistols and double-action/single-action revolvers, O’Rourke’s standard holster offerings cover the vast majority of popular handgun makes and models typically found. By way of belts, he offers multiple widths with either leather or suede lining. He also offers western-style taper belts with cartridge loops, such as those popular with single-action revolver aficionados. Lastly, he can provide accessory items such as semi-auto magazine holders and rifle scabbards. John advises that if a customer cannot find an appropriate holster for their handgun from among his standard offerings he will work with them to produce one specifically for their gun. Given that he has a small, semi-custom shop, customers should be aware that a slight delay might be possible while he and his team of craftsmen produce the gun leather.
Upon inspection of the belt and holster I received it was immediately apparent that they were made by craftsmen skilled in the leatherworking trade. The belt is a 1 ½” wide suede-lined model cut out of 3/16” thick tanned cowhide. The hardware on the belt consists of a solid brass buckle affixed by two brass screws. Running parallel along both edges of the belt is stitching made of bonded nylon silicone treated thread. Not only does this serve to sew the suede lining to the leather, it also provides a nice looking aesthetic touch as well. The holster is a pancake style for large auto pistols. This particular model is cut to fit a 5” 1911 with an integral frame accessory rail. As with the belt, the unlined holster is constructed out of thick-cut cowhide leather and assembled using silicone treated nylon thread. It is an open top design without any retention strap and it has a slight forward cant. Both the belt and holster are in what O’Rourke lists as a natural saddle tan color.
Once in use, both the belt and the holster took a bit of wear to get broken in properly. John advised that this would be the case, and it was undoubtedly due to the thickly cut cowhide used to assemble the pieces. Even now, after having worn the rig over the course of a couple of months, the belt is still quite stiff and will unilaterally “unwind” after I roll it up. I don’t view this as a negative as a sturdy belt is required to properly support a holstered, loaded, steel-framed, full-sized 1911. I particularly like the suede lining option as it keeps the belt from sliding out of position around my waist. The suede helps keep the holstered pistol in position at roughly 4:00 o’clock on my strong side.
The holster has broken in nicely and provides a firm level of retention, as well as allowing for a relatively smooth draw stroke. Although unlined, the holster has not caused any wear on my 1911’s frame or slide finish. With additional use, particularly routine practice draw presentations, I expect that the holster’s interior will continue to smooth more as time goes by. My test laboratory has been both IDPA practice and monthly competitions. The amount of retention provided via the custom-molded holster’s construction proved just right in securing the 1911 during move/shoot IDPA stages, all while still allowing a smooth, snag-free draw.
Working with John O’Rourke’s gun leather has renewed my sense of appreciation for handcrafted and functional gun leather. I have gotten away from this a bit as the years have gone by, and as the more modern materials have gained in popularity within the practical/action shooting and self-defense disciplines. Call me a traditionalist however, as I definitely like both the look and feel of good quality gun leather, especially when paired with old-school pistols and revolvers executed in steel and wood.
If you’re in the market for a high quality leather holster, belt or accessory made here in America by American craftsmen, I’d seriously recommend giving John O’Rourke a call, or visit his website. His prices are competitive with factory-produced offerings, let alone custom shops, and his quality is top-notch. John O’Rourke’s website address is: www.gun-holsters.com and his phone number is: (256) 751-3387.
Reviewed By: B.T. Davis