A Practical Inside-the-Waistband Holster


Vern Humphrey

3303 Sunny Fox Road

Mountain View, AR 72560

(870) 591-6398

email: vernh@mvtel.net

After carrying a full-size M1911A1 for many years, I became dissatisfied with existing holster designs. The main problem was that in most situations, the gun is carried under a coat. When you take the coat off, the gun is revealed. And in hot weather, a coat is impossible.

The normal solution is to simply carry the gun under a loose shirt or sweater. In hot weather, a loose T-shirt is ideal. Unfortunately, this makes problems – the gun contacts the skin and can be corroded by acids from the body.

I decided to design an Inside-the-Waistband (IWB) holster that protected the gun from contact with the skin. Several prototypes were made, in both kydex and leather. The final version is in leather.

The holster is made of either three or five pieces, depending on whether you want to be able to use different belt widths. If you plan to use the holster with belts of different widths, you need straps of varying lengths – so you make the five-piece version, with detachable straps.

The plan comes on three sheets, plus an additional sheet for the magazine pouches. Front and back patterns are to be placed on the smooth side of the leather for tracing, so the rough side will be inside the holster.

The back of the holster is straightforward. You can mark the stitching lines (shown as dashed lines) by pressing down with the tip of small screwdriver.

The front of the holster is cut out and the stitching lines marked the same as for the back. Remember, trace the front and back patterns on the smooth side of the leather.

Decide which sort of throat piece you want – for different belt widths, or non-adjustable, and cut out the throat piece. For the adjustable version, trace the throat piece pattern on the smooth side. For the non-adjustable version, trace the throat piece pattern on the rough side.

Insert snaps into the throat piece. I use large snaps that can be purchased in any fabric store – you may want to thin the leather carefully from the back side with a sharp spey-blade to ensure the snap stems go all the way through and have enough left for riveting.

Next, sew the throat piece to the front of the holster, and stitch up the trailing side (the part around the trigger guard). Check with your gun to ensure a good fit before you start sewing, and check periodically as you go. I sew the complete trailing edge, and continue on for several stitches to lock the stitching firmly. Check fit one more time, and start sewing up the leading edge. Remember, the finished stitching should be visible outside the outline of the gun when you place the gun on the holster.

Now wet the holster in warm water. Let it soak for a few moments, until it becomes loose and floppy. (You can also use alcohol, but I prefer water.)

Wrap the gun in saran wrap and put it in the holster. Pull the leather tightly around the gun, using your fingers. If you have a tight fit, the gun won’t want to go. Just force it – the leather will stretch to accommodate the gun, and that’s what we want. At this time, you can bone the leather with a smooth instrument – like the back of a toothbrush or a small bottle – to get it to conform more closely to the gun.

Allow the leather to dry for a few hours. You can take the gun out and re-insert it in the holster. You can use a hair dryer to speed things up a bit. Pull the gun out every now and then to check for moisture penetrating to the metal. Once the leather “sets,” which will take about a day, you can take the gun out. Let the leather dry for another three to five days. Remember, it may look dry, but if it isn’t completely dry, you will find a film of moisture on your gun when you try to use the holster, so when you begin using it, check the gun periodically for moisture, and wipe it dry, then apply a thin film of oil.

I call this a “Four Safety Holster.” The thumb and grip safeties are reinforced by a completely covered trigger guard, and the thumb safety is blocked by the button.

If you chose to make the adjustable version, cut two straps to the correct length (measure your belts, and don’t forget to add a half-inch). Put one dome snap on the rough side at the top of each strap to attach to the holster. Put a base snap through from the other (smooth) side, just below this snap, and put another dome snap through from the smooth side at the other end of the strap.

A good inside-the-belt magazine pouch can be made with the scraps. Cut a piece of leather about ¼ inch wider than the magazine, and about an inch longer. Cut another piece about 2/3s as long as the magazine and the same width. Insert a snap base from the rough side of the leather, about ½ inch up from the bottom.

Cut a strap (I like to make it about ½ as wide as the other pieces at the top and tapering to about ½ inch at the bottom). It should reach from the throat of the magazine carrier, and snap to the bottom. In fact, I put in a dome snap on this piece, snap it to the front of the carrier, and then stitch it to the throat of the carrier.

Next, wet the leather, put a magazine between the front and back of the pouch, and begin stitching, pulling the leather as you go. Once it’s dried, you should have a snug fit for your magazines.

In use, stick the carrier between belt and waistband and let the strap pass outside the belt. This way the magazine is held firmly by the pressure of the belt.

As a final touch, I heat the holster with a hair dryer, then rub SnoSeal into the leather. You can also use the hair dryer to liquefy the SnoSeal – but be careful, you can melt or distort the plastic jar it comes in. Rub liquid SnoSeal into the hot leather until it won’t take anymore. Use a flat stick wrapped with cloth to get the inside of the holster thoroughly covered with SnoSeal. Then apply the hair dryer and let the SnoSeal sink in. You can repeat this until it stops taking up SnoSeal.

This makes the leather waterproof and prevents body moisture from penetrating the leather.

After some use, the safety will leave a mark inside the holster. If you store the gun unloaded in the holster, there will be two marks, one by the safety in the off position, and one in the ON position. I sew a thick button of leather so that it meets the ON position. This way, the safety cannot be brushed off inadvertently, because the “button” prevents movement of the lever.

DEEP CONCEALMENT: Several users of this holster have said they wear a suit, but take off their coats while at the office, and would like a holster they can wear with their shirts tucked in.
The "deep-concealment" modification is quite simple. I use a Gould & Goodrich Belly Band -- this is a piece of elastic about 6 inches wide, with a Velcro fastener.

The original Belly Band is not, in my opinion, worth much – the included "holster" is merely a flimsy stitched pouch that doesn't hold the gun well, with a piece of material like naugahyde behind the "holster." I slip the leather IWB between the naugahyde and the elastic and put two dome-snaps on the elastic that match with the belt snaps on the holster throat.

With this set up, you put the Belly Band and gun on, then pull up your pants and tuck in your shirt. It's comfortable and damn' near invisible, and solves the problem of wearing a gun when you can’t let your shirt hang out.

Patterns:(right click to save full size image)

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