THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 730, July 21, 2013
Attribute to L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise
Over the years, I've worn dozens of different kinds of holsters. Half of them I've designed and made, myself. And in the particular instance of knife sheaths, I hardly have one I haven't drastically altered, usually to bring the crossguard (if there is one) up to belt level.
When I was doing this for a living, more than a few of my efforts showed up at Jeff Cooper's American Pistol Institute, where one famous instructor, retired law enforcement officer Bruce Nelson, who designed the great "Askins Avenger" line for Bianchi International, declared me to be "the fourth or fifth best holster-maker in America". The point here isn't to brag—I haven't made holsters commercially for a very long time—but to demonstrate that I know a good thing when I see it.
And seen it I have.
I was looking at one of those little custom-tailored side-ads on FaceBook one day a while back, and clicked on it. The ad was for an outfit called Survival Sheath Systems, of Portland, Oregon. I was mainly interested in anything resembling a decent scabbard for two otherwise spiffy knives, a small (10-inch) Kraton-handled no-name kukri I'd picked up at a convention, and a Blackhawk Tatang, which may be the best fighting/survival knife design I've ever played around with.
It turned out Survival Sheath Systems is owned and operated by a pleasant fellow named Robert Humelbaugh, who knew my work and shares my enthusiasm for 10mm Auto. He quite generously offered to send me a shoulder rig for the 10mm Glock Model 20 he knew I had, and I gratefully accepted. His products look beautiful on his website at survivalsheath.com and I was eager to try them.
Now, although I have accumulated many shoulder holsters, I freely confess that I don't like them much. They're more complicated than a simple belt holster, and can be very uncomfortable, especially in hot weather. I'm not the world's greatest fan of Kydex and other plastics, either.
For some time, I've been carrying weapons in an Uncle Mike's Size 5 nylon belt slide holster, with its so-called safety straps removed, that fits just about every decent-sized autopistol that I own, from the mighty Grizzly down to the slender Tokarev. Or I may have recourse to the smaller Size 1 that fits my Kahr K9, Star Firestar .40, and a Detonics .45 so ancient it isn't a Mark anything, affording them full coverage and support. It even fits my 3" Colt Detective Special in a pinch. This holster works so well I sometimes forget I'm carrying at all.
So when I opened the package from Survival Sheath Systems, I was prepared to be skeptical. Shoulder holster, after all, and Kydex, at that. But it didn't take terribly long to discover that this rig was different. In the first place, the webbing, in sort of a desert tan color, was very wide, tidy, and uncomplicated. The spare lengths of attaching material was easily tucked back through the buckles and didn't dangle. (I have a Chinese surplus rig I bought for the Grizzly that makes me look like I'm wearing a very badly beaten-up Ghillie suit.)
The part of the webbing that passes over the shoulders is lined with some rubbery substance that clings to one's shirt and doesn't slop around. Best of all, there are no belt attachments. I've been trying various rigs for decades and I hate anything that fastens to my belt. Instead, there is a narrowish strap that travels from a corner of the holster to a corner of the magazine carrier, limiting the forward travel of both, without making you feel you're wearing a straitjacket.
The holster body is made of rigid plastic, molded to the G20 (it also fits my .45 G21C perfectly) so it locks firmly on the trigger guard and ejection port. I'm practicing the draw and getting smoother every day. The magazine carrier works the same way, apparently locking to the detent that the magazine catch holds onto when it's inside the gun.
Everything is riveted with hollow grommets, or snugged down with Chicago screws (the kind that hold a hockey helmet together) but I haven't felt a need to fiddle with them. The screws are black, as is the minimal anount the plastic hardware. Both holster and carrier are a color Robert calls "coyote", not all that different from the web harness.
I have worn this interesting equipment almost every day, all day long, since I received it. The weather here is unseasonably hot. I haven't worn it out in public yet, under the cover of a shirt or jacket. That's for when it's cooler. It should be just the thing for protecting my archeologist wife from rattlesnakes in Arizona or Wyoming.
Later on, I will definitely be ordering a couple of high-ride "coyote" scabbards for a some of my more sheath-challenged exotic knives. Robert Humelbaugh can be reached on FaceBook. Please give him my best regards. And survivalsheath.com is the URL for his Survival Sheath Systems. Tell him L. Neil Smith sent you.