As a man who grew up among outdoorsmen and gun snobs, I have long held that there are few finer pleasures in the gun world than a truly well made leather holster encapsulating my sidearm du jour. Many have been the days that I have wandered through the New England outdoors with a Smith & Wesson revolver or SIG Sauer automatic riding in an enclosure made of a material that previously held residence somewhere on a bovine’s posterior anatomical location. Growing up, using a leather holster was a given by default – it was the ONLY type of holster my father kept in stock. However, now that I am a physically grown man with my own income and my own accessory choices, I still reach for a good leather holster when I step out the door on outdoors adventures. Leather also usually makes the grade for most of my concealed carry purposes. For these reasons, I practically jumped out of my chair at the opportunity to review a new holster from Craft Holsters.
As previously mentioned, I carry SIG Sauer pistols frequently, and had been looking for a quality, sturdy outside-the-waistband pancake-style holster. I’ve long enjoyed the comfort and versatility of a nice close-fitting, high-riding canted OWB holster to carry my handguns. And contrary to modern popular tacticool teachings, I like thumbsnap straps on my outdoors holsters to ensure the pistol is staying put, even if run or I decide to lose my footing and do a digger down a wet rock incline (yup, it’s happened before and will probably happen again.). Since my SIG P220ST and I seem to have many outdoors adventures together, it seemed fitting to procure a holster to fit this platform. Craft Holsters stepped up to the plate.
Who is Craft Holsters?
Craft Holsters is a distribution conglomerate of high-end European holster manufacturers that provide superior handgun scabbards to discerning leather aficionados the world over. Upon perusal of their website, I found that Craft’s product lineup is staggering – from shoulder holsters to pancake holsters to IWB rigs to crossdraw to small of back to leg drop, it’s all there – and for just about every firearms manufacturer you could think of. There’s an array of accessories and options to make even the perspicacious holster guy or gal exclaim, “no shit, they make that?” Of course, nylon and kydex holsters are available for those who are keen on such things.
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After a few back-and-forth emails with Craft Holsters’ excellent customer service, it was suggested I take a gander at their “Leather Pancake Holster W 2 Positions”. I checked out their website…lo and behold, there it was: the exact configuration I was looking for! If you can’t find the holster type you’re looking for, I can’t recommend their service highly enough – drop them a line and Craft will help you find what you need from their vast product lineup.
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I promptly ordered up the Leather Pancake Holster W 2 Positions in black, with a matching single magazine carrier for the P220’s slim single-stack magazines. I was notified that my holster was in production, and I started the wait.
I didn’t have to wait long. As a matter of fact, I don’t think I had time to become distracted by other projects and absentmindedly forget about the holster. In just under 3 weeks, I had a package from overseas – Italy, in fact – waiting on my doorstep, with a shiny new leather holster and mag pouch from Vega Holsters (one of Craft’s holster producers) inside.
The Leather Pancake Holster (the “pancake” term coming from the holsters roundish look and flat profile) was very nice from the first inspection. The unlined holster’s Italian leather is ⅛” thick on either side, and sports double rows of stitching to hold the thermomolded shaped leather halves together. (some well-known “quality” names only use single lines of stitching on their holsters.) The bottom is mostly enclosed to keep large debris out of the holster, but does have a small slit to allow water drainage and holster expansion/contraction. The three holster slots are sized for belts up to 1 ½”, and their arrangement allows for canted, leaning-forward pistol orientation on strong-side deployment, or straight-up, vertical position for use on strong-side or crossdraw applications.
As noted before, I wanted a holster with a thumb strap for extra retaining power on the holster. The Leather Pancake Holster didn’t disappoint, with a burly 1” thick strap to curl around the back of the payload pistol and lock it in place firmly. A firm grip on the pistol and a quick swipe of the body-side strap with your thumb is all that’s needed to unsnap the strap and free your handgun for action. The positioning of the holster on your belt-line, sucked in tight to your body, provides excellent mechanical leverage to draw the pistol quickly with a natural flow of movement, yet keeps even big pistols in close to aid in concealment. For these reasons, leather pancake holsters are still among the most versatile holsters you can find on the market today – and the Craft Leather Pancake holster is among the best I’ve tried.
The magazine carrier, which is also from Vega, shares the same attention to detail, and thick leather as its holster brother. There is a largish tension screw that allows you to dial in the amount of grip the carrier has on the magazine itself. Tighten the tension, the mag is harder to extract from the carrier – and vice versa. This is a nice feature to keep the mags where they belong under aggressive movement situations. The mag carrier is retained on your belt by a leather strap with a single uni-directional snap.
Performing Under Intended Use
I received the holster and mag carrier just a couple days before fellow SHTFblog writer Jarhead Survivor and I went on our Bug-Out Camping Trip (Read about the trip here). The timing was exquisite; Craft’s holster and magazine pouch were able to be utilized in a full-time “survival” situation. The Pancake Holster and mag carrier were brand new, so initially they didn’t play nice with my not-so-flexible-but-superb Magpul El Original Tejas leather belt. Between the Magpul belt’s thick hybrid construction and the new holster’s unused, ustretched condition, it took some fighting, wrestling, and possibly a foray into lumberjack language to get the holster on the belt and positioned on my body where I liked it. However, once the holster was on my person, the excellent design of the holster, coupled with a quality gun belt, ensured that the holster stayed exactly where I wanted it – and I had the holster and magazine carrier on my person continuously for over 48 hours through a multitude of uses – car rides, grocery shopping, hiking, camping, sleeping, paddling canoes.
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Through the entire bug-out trip, the Craft products performed admirably after a few tweaks (more on that below), and I was immensely pleased with the whole rig. Comfort was high and worrying about the pistol jumping ship (literally and figuratively – we spent a lot of time in a canoe!) was low. My beloved SIG Sauer .45 was duly protected with a wall of high-end leather, yet ready to use at the drop of a hat and the “snick” of a snap.
In the few months since the Bug-Out Trip, the Craft Leather Pancake Holster worked well for concealment of the large SIG under an untucked dress shirt – though as anyone who’s used these types of holsters before will know, the thumbstrap can sometimes “print”, and the Craft offering followed suit. However, now that the seasons are turning and weather is cooling down, pancake holsters come into their own with higher comfort levels than IWB holsters, yet easy concealment under vests or heavier outerwear. The Craft holster has been superb for concealed carry in this method.
As with anything, there is always the possibility that nothing is perfect, and some facet of the product may require sorting out. These Craft products fell under that category – but to their credit and vindication, these are problems common to ANY leather holster or mag pouch; so don’t let these comments dissuade you – they’re more of a heads-up service to anyone looking to buy a leather holster. These sorts of things happen with cowhide.
The magazine carrier’s unidirectional snap was – well, we’re being honest here – a complete pain in the ass for a while. A unidirectional snap must be attached – hooked over, really – on one edge, then pushed on in a rocking motion. While seemingly unnecessary at first glance, I know from experience with other holster manufacturers that unidirectional snaps provide enhanced security against the mag carrier catching and ripping off my belt – they only unsnap in the one direction. So, I fought with the snap for a while over the Magpul belt thickness, and eventually I’d get it latched – only to find after some rigorous movement that I hadn’t properly caught the snap edge and everything had separated.
However, this is not a new experience for me – I’d been using leather holsters since my formative single-digit years. A good water soak and some twisting/stretching motions eventually provided enough stretch for the leather strap to reach over my belt and snap securely over time. Problem solved; the mag carrier now works splendidly either on the outside of the belt or between the belt and pants. Of course, all of this can be negated by simply leaving the strap snapped on and then running your belt through the loop.
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A similar happenstance occurred with the Leather Pancake Holster; I would look down at the pistol and the thumb strap had become unsnapped. I wrote Craft Holsters, asking about this issue and any possible treatments, and Luke from Craft replied:
The issue is a common one, it’s just a matter of break-in. Water is helpful and other than that also alcohol can be applied or any Walmart-bought solution for leather. Also a plastic bag method can be used. I wrote an article here about break in and issues https://www.craftholsters.com/leather-holsters-break-in-care-a18 . If you have time to read it it will help you solve the issue.”
After Luke’s go-ahead, I tried my tried-and-true leather soak-and-stretch, and sure enough, the holster’s thumbstrap is 100% secure now. The tension on the strap from the tight-fitting, brand new leather would pop the snap; some stretching and break-in indeed does the trick and I can report success.
Wrapping It Up
Though I was initially skeptical about breaking away from Galco, Bianchi, and other previously favored leather holster manufacturers, I can say with confidence that the products Craft Holsters supply are brilliantly top-notch. The leather is high quality, stitching is strong, and the design well thought-out and comfortable with (after a bit of stretching) no vices. The Craft Leather Pancake Holster 2 Position is an eminently agreeable, supremely useful piece of gear that will please the snootiest of leather snobs. Even after hard use in an even harder environment, the holster comes up aces and I am pleased to be able to recommend this holster to anyone pursuing a top-notch leather rig for their pistols and magazines.
Questions? Comments? Sound off in the comments below!