I’m having a holster problem…

Tools for squeezing things together are 2-a-penny, but I need a tool for spreading things apart. Preferably an improvisation on something I already have.

When I first came to the desert my Plan A handgun was a beat-up 4″ Springfield Armory 1911. This gun was clearly made during one of SA’s quality-control-be-damned periods. Its only virtue was that (almost) all the powdered-metal parts had already broken and been replaced – I did have to find a shadetree gunsmith when the thumb safety just broke off for no good reason shortly after I arrived – and it was certainly, um, worn in. So whatever its (substantial) failings in the accuracy department, it always ran as long as the magazine did its job. It was an embarrassing piece of crap, as my guns tended to be until quite recently, but it was what I had and what I carried.

Some ten years ago I switched to wheelguns, initiating another “what’s wrong with this gun” period in my life, and the 1911 became my Plan B handgun. It has slowly tumbled down the ranking since then and rarely comes out of the cabinet. But during the time I did carry it, I found a better EDC holster at a flea market: an old cop holster that apparently fell out of an inventory locker at some point…

My pistol was crap but its holster was primo. I carried it every day until I got my first revolver, and it got kind of beaten up as my belt gear tends to do. In particular, since it was made for a 5″ gun but carried a 4″, the mouth got squeezed a bit over time.


This presented no problem at all and I never gave it much thought. Until…

A few days ago a neighbor wanted to trade my 1911 for his. His was nearly new but – well – if he’d asked me at the time, I’d have counseled against buying. Cheap 1911, like cheap AR ten years ago, is just asking for trouble. It was his only handgun and it didn’t run reliably, and that’s no way to be when you live way out in the boonies and can’t call 911 about that bump in the night.

I figured what the hell, I’ve never in my life actually taken on a project gun. I can’t do it any harm, let’s see if I can get it running. Winter project, as money permits.

Getting it to provisionally run turned out to be less hassle than expected but a proper holster was an unexpected problem. I dragged out my old cop holster for it, and found to my surprise that the 5″ wouldn’t go all the way in! The mouth had been squeezed halfway shut and I haven’t figured out how to persuade it otherwise. It’s quite rigid: there appears to be a wire band around the top and sides of the mouth and I can’t pull the ends apart with my fingers. I need something I can stick in there and expand with enough mechanical force to get the band back into its proper shape.

Anybody ever solve a similar problem?

About Joel

You shouldn't ask these questions of a paranoid recluse, you know.
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20 Responses to I’m having a holster problem…

  1. Flatlandclimber says:

    Wooden stake(s) shaped with a knife?

    Drive progressively wider ones through the hole.

  2. Beaner49 says:

    how about running a board shaped to the proper dimensions of the mouth from the top towards the bottom?
    If it doesn’t want to slide in, use the old Seabee trick…Get a bigger Hammer

  3. Old-Trainer says:

    One trick is to get the holster as warm as you can – let it sit in the full sun for awhile to get it nice and hot. That should make it easier to remold the bottom. Some guys use steam to heat them up but that can also degrade the leather.

  4. dthed44 says:

    Also, after it’s been warmed in the sun put the gun in a plastic bag and try to fit it. The gun, board or whatever you decide to use will slide in easier and as it stretches if will move as the leather moves.

  5. Paul Joat says:

    The way you mould vegetable tanned leather is to first get it wet. If that is an all leather holster you could wet the bottom inch that is too tight put the gun in a plastic bag and push it in. You can wet the leather with water or rubbing alcohol and it will soften the same. When it dries it will be back to as rigid as it started.

  6. Jay Bee says:

    If you just want a tool to spread apart the bottom of the holster, what about a battery terminal/cable end spreader?

  7. Mike says:

    I would start off by using a pair of channel lock pliers. Open them up wide and slowly place pressure on the lower left and right edges to try and pop the center open.

    If that doesn’t work, I’d try what Paul Joat was writing about.

    Soak the front leather (i.e. the leather that doesn’t come into contact with your pants) for a few minutes to soften it up. Then, wrap the barrel of the 1911 in some plastic and slowly insert the pistol into it. Once it’s all the way in, let it sit to dry. When dry take the gun out and hit the leather with Neats Foot oil to stop it from cracking.

    If the 1911 will not go into the holster when the leather is soaked you can use the channel locks to pop the end as you holster the 1911.

    One thing you risk by just taking a piece of wood and forcing the end open is the thread may break.

    Good luck Joel…

  8. Beans says:

    Yep. What Paul Joat said.

    But, first, clean the holster with whatever you use to clean leather that works for you. Getting dirt and schmutz out will help you work the leather without cracking it.

    If you want, you can carve or cut a piece of wood to the right shape, or just plastic bag the gun and wet the holster, get it warm, press, let dry, remove gun.

    Use whatever leather treatment you usually use on your hard leather afterwards.

    This may take a couple times to get a good fit. Be patient and the holster will live again.

  9. winston smith says:

    3 appropriately shaped wedges. 1 inverted that is forced in between the other 2 over a period of time until the desired width is reached.

  10. doubletrouble says:

    Might try a trigger clamp- Irwin, Quick Clamp, & HF sells them. Most can reverse one jaw to expand as well; the expansion function is what you want here. They’re extremely helpful in all things where you need a third hand- or need to squarsh open a holster…

  11. JC says:

    Winston Smith is on the right road here. There’s a steel piece at the bottom of the holster what needs expansion. Sleeve the holster over a bit of 1×2, whittle it down a bit if needed, and use wedges/shims to open the steel. If you use the wedge/shim between the wood parts bearing on the leather you shouldn’t even mar the leather.

  12. Jim Price says:

    Some of you are making this WAAAY too difficult. I’ve done leather work since the 1960s. And for about 30 years I carried holsters similar to that. It is extremely unlikely there is any steel in the bottom opening of that holster. A magnet would confirm it. Repair it the same way the holster maker made it. It’s called wet molding. Wet the leather and it becomes pliable. Wrap the gun in plastic, shove it in the holster and let it dry. It will hold that shape.

  13. Tony says:

    Folks, the holster pictured is a Safariland SLS duty holster. It is NOT a leather holster. There might be a leather surface, but the structure of the holster comes from a plastic body underneath it.

    Heating up the holster until warm might make it more pliable, but I’m not sure if it might cause issues with how the leather exterior is glued to the holster body? Other than that, the aforementioned piece of wood + sharp knife + some whittling + hammer time method ought to work.

  14. Tony says:

    Damnit, I forgot.

    Using a wood wedge to spread out the holster might mess up the suede interior, though. Not sure how much value you place on it, especially in a desert environment – to me its main value has always seemed to be that it’s a great way to trap sand particles inside the holster to scratch up the finish on the gun. Gets you that fashionable battle worn finish on your gun. 😉 But still, something to take note of before beating on the holster.

  15. Shame you’re not a lefty; I have an unused LH 1911 paddle holster I could mail you gratis.

  16. Bob says:

    Joel, I’ve got a like-new military-style flap holster for a 45acp.
    Just let me know where to send it.

  17. Sarah Posa says:

    We’re going to get your blog shut down.🥰🖤

  18. Joel says:

    🙂 Sarah, why do you say that?

  19. J. Simmons says:

    With the safariland holster it’s not too hard to remold them. I’ve used several of the lvl II safariland holsters and have occasionally had to do ‘minor field repairs’.

    First step is boil up some water, while the water is boiling back the tension screw (the scre by the mouth of the holster) out until it is *almost* falling out.
    Then submerge the part that needs adjustment (in this case the holster mouth) in the boiling water for about 30-45 seconds (until it’s soft and pliable, might take a while since it’s basically three layers of Kydex, due to the way that safariland wraps the Kydex around itself when making duty holsters.)
    Then take the gun you are wanting in the holster, put a couple of layers of masking tape over the front half of the slide followed by two layers of duct tape (you really need this, not just because the duct tape will ‘slide’ better than masking tape, but also to give the gun *just* a bit of extra room, so the tension screw can be used to adjust the holster retention, rather than the holster requiring excessive wear to allow the gun to be drawn.)
    Then you jam the gun in the still hot as hell holster, and run cold tap water over the part of the holster that is hot, for *at least* a couple of minutes (until its cool/cold to touch.)
    Remove the gun, place the holster somewhere room temperature until it dries, once dry spray some silicone dry lube in the holster and put the gun back in it, adjust the tension screw until it’s snug bit not to tight to quickly draw. ( I prefer *just* tight enough that the gun won’t fall out when held upside down, unless shaken.)

    That’s it, the holster should be good to go.

    As a side note, I’ve used this method on several safariland 6280 holsters (5″ 1911, HK.45, Sig226) and a couple of 6004 holsters ( Sig226 W/ light, HK.45 W/ light.)

    Hope this helps.

    J. Simmons

  20. Joel says:

    J. Simmons wins TUAK’s little elbow joint of the internet!

    Also I was wrong about that holster being cut for a 5″ gun. Which is weird because it’s long for a 4″ and short for a 5″.

To the stake with the heretic!