Thursday, November 17, 2005

Gear Ho': Confessions of a Gear Snob.

Alston's voice wafted out of his office: "Hey, I'm putting in an order with Milt Sparks. You want anything?"

Do I want anything?! "Hell, yes! Get me a Summer Special in rough-out horse hide with sharkskin trim and 1 3/4" belt loops for a SIG GSR with a light rail!" SIG's freshman effort in the 1911 market is a tough gun to find good leather for, combining a non-standard slide contour with the light rail frame, and I've been meaning to get a good skin for mine for purt' near a year now, since a pistol that good deserves to be toted.

"Okay, the order's placed," he told me, "Delivery time is supposed to be something like 16 weeks."

"What's the tariff?" I asked.

"I forgot to ask," he admitted, "Probably somewhere around $100."

It's at this point that some folks ask "Isn't that a lot for a holster?" to which I must respond: No, it really isn't. The mass-produced Galco Royal Guard I'm wearing now cost almost $98, and it's devoid of the sharkskin trim and handmade cachet of the holster I just ordered. Combine that with the fact that the GSR is an almost-$1,000 pistol that isn't easy to find leather for, and the Milt Sparks rig is a steal. The main advantage of the Galco product for any gun is that it doesn't require a 16 week wait.

Yet I see this selective stinginess all the time, as witnessed by a couple of recent examples:

1) Example the First: Mr. Customer comes in, looking for an Inside-The-Waistband holster ("Just like the one you're wearing") for his new SIG P-226. I start showing him stuff from Galco and Bianchi; both companies offering quality leather IWB holsters starting just under $70. He nearly gets the vapors at the price tag. Here's a guy who has just shelled out north of eight bills for a CCW gun, but is balking at spending 10% of that price for a quality, comfortable means of carrying it. Further, he was surprised that the good leather offerings didn't offer a spring clip, rather than belt loops, for means of attachment (spring clips tend to allow the holster to get drawn with the gun; an embarassing faux pas at the ATM at 2 AM) or a "spare clip pouch" attached to the holster (rather than a separate magazine pouch worn on the off side to counterbalance the gun.) As he left with his sub-$20 nylon sausage-sack of a holster, I noticed he was driving a $50k+ European import. Five gets you ten his brake pads and tires came from the "Wear Rite" line at Sears, and he wonders why his Nazi Rocket Sled "just don't handle like it did when it was new."

2) Example the Second: A customer came off the line and asked for my help in looking at his jammed gun. I donned eye and ear protection and wandered out to the range to be greeted by a horrible sight: His Springfield Armory Professional Model, a $2k+ hand-built firearm, was locked up tighter than a drum. Next to it on the lane tray was a box of A-Merc ammunition. I had to take his gun back to the gunsmithing shop where our 'smith needed to knock it open with a rubber mallet to get the deformed case out. To our customer's credit, it wasn't entirely his fault; he had been sold the ammo in good faith by another shop, and he just hadn't noticed that we'd recently banned the use of that brand from our range, due to the high incidences of case failures and squib loads. Still, though, in an attempt to save a couple of bucks a box on range ammo, he'd very nearly trashed a two kilobuck pistol. Sometimes it can cost an awful lot to save a dollar or two.

The point of all this? Your gun is part of a system; there's no point in spending a ton of money on one part, and then not spending a dime on ammo, training, holsters & belts, or other assorted support systems. As Southpark Pundit has proven, the gun is absolutely useless by itself; don't skimp on the stuff that makes your shiny new toy actually function.


Countertop said...


Excellent post.

I am going to be back in Knoxville (just driving through) the week before Christmas (hmm, maybe we can do a blogger shoot/meetup that day). If I ordered a Milt Sparks now will it arrive by then?

Also, what do you suggest for a day to day general carry?

How does something like the Watch Six compare to the Summer Special or the Executive Companion? Why would I choose one rather than the other?

Countertop said...

And, btw, where does the Versa Max fit in. I understand it is primarily a tuckable holster, but does it still servce its general purpose well?

The last tuckable holster I had - a Comp-Tac for my Glock sucked as a tuckable and wasn't very good as a IWB (as you pointed out, its not very handy when the holster comes out with the handgun at 2 am at the ATM - and when it happens on the range, you can bet its gonna happen at the ATM)

Which do you have?


pdb said...

And magazines! Why are people fully prepared to slap down half a G for an automatic pistol then try and save $10 on the single piece of the system that most effects reliablity? Has Triple-K ever had a satisfied customer?

That said, I do own a pair of $15 Promags for my USP-45F (strictly for range use), because I'm waiting for H&K to figure out the secret that allows SIG, S&W, Glock and Beretta to sell factory magazines for under $40 list.

I may end up trading it in on a Kimber polymer widebody first. H&K: No Discount.

And for holsters, if you're willing to try another kydex holster, I've been very satisfied with the Blade-Tech UCH.

Tam said...

"If I ordered a Milt Sparks now will it arrive by then?"

Unfortunately, it appears that his baclog this time of year would mean that a holster ordered today will show up in time to get green beer spilled on it in March.

"Also, what do you suggest for a day to day general carry?"

I like the Summer Special and its various descendents and clones. Combined with a good, rigid belt, they offer rock-solid stability to go with day-to-day comfort.