Take Pride in Your Holster

By George E. Kontis, P.E.

Exotic animal skins made into custom holsters? Do these magnificent animal skins do an adequate job in protecting the firearm? Are they legal? Would hunter/conservationists like me find it ethical? These and other questions were answered by Daniel Ashland of Pride Holsters (www.prideholsers.com), who has found his place in this unique niche market.

After a visit to his shop and a chance to see his inventory, there was no question in my mind about the quality and functionality of his products. People like Daniel have a special knack for this kind of work. Daniel can quickly visualize how to make a pattern and he builds models to validate his designs. He follows this to an assured transition into a work of art. Daniel’s grandfather was an upholsterer and Daniel watched him for hours upon end, fascinated by the way his grandfather was able to fit the pieces so precisely to form the various contours of the furniture.

Pass—on Cowhide

As an active left-handed shooter, Daniel became frustrated with the choices of firearms—all designed for right-handed shooters. For him, the gun was ill-fitting and the holster lost its intended functionality. Daniel decided to take matters into his own hands and began building his own left-handed holsters. His first trials were with cowhide. It worked well enough, but Daniel wasn’t happy with it because it scratched so easily. This was discouraging, considering the long hours he had invested in their manufacture. That’s when the use of exotic animal skins came to him as a far better alternative.

Unlike cows, animals like crocodiles and snakes spend a lot of time on their bellies, and for protection against sharp rocks and other hazards their skins have evolved to be extremely tough. As it is with all of the skin he uses, these animals lead a difficult life, fighting predators and enduring harsh elements in extreme weather conditions. Mammals like the elephant, giraffe and ostrich live in hot climates and encounter dense and thorny brush. It is not uncommon for Daniel to find skins with battle scars and other evidence of predator encounters.

Life Behind Bars?

How wise would it be to buy one of his exotic holsters? Are there laws being broken here? Do I risk arrest or a fine by the Fish and Game Department? Worse still, would I end up spending a few thousand hours in community service picking up trash by the side of the road? As Daniel talked and pointed out the features of these attractive skins, I carefully caged a question around my concerns and waited for his response. Daniel laughed as he pointed to a red tag firmly affixed to one of the skins. “Not a problem,” he said. “All of these skins are completely legal.” Their harvest and sale is authorized by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). With 130 member nations, CITES regulates the world’s trade in animal skins and sets a yearly quota for each species. The red tag is the “serial number” of the skins.

If I bought one of his exotic skin holsters, would I be contributing to the early extinction of these beautiful animals? “Hardly!” Daniel shot back. Depending on the animal, some of these skins, like ostrich, python and caiman (the crocodile/alligator relative), come from farms where they are raised for food. In Southeast Asia, python is considered a delicacy and more than half a million pythons per year end up on the dinner table. Their skins are tanned and sold for uses like belts, purses and, in this case, holsters. The hides of other animals, like elephants and giraffes, are legally obtained through natural attrition, thinning of herds or hunting by permit. CITES makes sure the quantity of skins taken each year is in no way endangering the existence of the species. Their efforts have greatly minimized poaching. Daniel says that, in many cases, CITES monitoring and regulations have actually helped to increase the wild population of these species.

The Hereafter

I posed my question about ethics, and our discussion turned philosophical. Daniel embarked on a straightforward explanation to lay my fears to rest. Much like our ancient Native Americans, African tribesmen make use of every animal part. When their skins are purposed as holsters and other useful objects, they take on a new life. The grandeur and beauty of the animal lives on. Why, we agreed, should gorgeous, useful skins like these be relegated to a garbage pit? In this case, it could result in a beautiful and rugged holster designed to protect the substantial investment of a firearm owner. Suddenly, exotic animal skin holsters made a lot of sense to me. Holsters made from cow and plastic totally lost their appeal.

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V21N6 (July 2017)
and was posted online on May 19, 2017


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