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GUNS Magazine Digital February 2011 - Page 30
JOHN TAFFIN hide for handGuns Bianchi Leather. ecessity is definitely the mother of invention and an N excellent example of this is Bianchi Leather. John Bianchi was a young police officer in Southern California in the 1950s. The duty holster at the time was the illconceived clamshell, which wrapped completely around the revolver. It was necessary to push a button inside the triggerguard before it would open up and allow access to the duty revolver. If the officer couldn’t find the button (for whatever reason), the revolver stayed locked in place and no amount of cursing could make it release. Sometimes it worked just the opposite and the revolver could not be put back into its proper place and closed. When Bianchi’s partner could not get his gun back in the holster but instead had to put it in his waist belt while cuffing a prisoner, John decided it was time for something better. In 1958, John Bianchi began making holsters out of his garage for fellow officers. The part-time business did not last long, as by 1960 Bianchi was offering a catalog which included such innovations as the X15 shoulder holster and the first thumb snap holster. I have used both successfully at times during the past 50 years. By 1975, Bianchi had not only made his 1-millionth holster, he also purchased the old Berns-Martin company which specialized in breakfront holsters. He did not want to produce the Berns-Martin, but rather to acquire the patent to be able to produce The Judge, a breakfront police duty holster which became standard equipment for many law enforcement agencies. John Bianchi eventually left the company and retired for a short time before starting John Bianchi’s Frontier Gunleather, specializing in Western-styled, traditional holsters and belts. The original company still exists as Bianchi International offering a wide range of holsters for civilian and police use. At one time I had an original of the first Bianchi catalog and it was one of my standard dream books back in those days when I couldn’t afford to purchase holsters. The two I liked the best in Bianchi’s catalog were the 1L Lawman for the Colt Single Action and the same basic holster made for the Colt 1911. The first Bianchi holster I ever saw in person was a basket-stamped holster for a friend’s 1911 and at the time I thought it was just about the prettiest thing I had ever seen. tom threepersons Let’s look at three Bianchi holsters. Tom Threepersons set the standard for a holster that was, as Jerry Burke once described it, “Leather Quick, Leather Deadly.” Threepersons took the basic Mexican loop holster, popular from the 1880s until after World War I, and radically altered it. The voluminous back flap was removed in favor of just enough leather to fold over and sew to the back of the holster to make a belt loop. The triggerguard was completely exposed with the front of it riding on a heavy welt sewed in back edge of the holster and the hammer was also totally exposed riding high and easily accessible. Virtually everyone who has ever made holsters, whether a large company or a 1-man shop, has offered some version of the Tom Threepersons. Bianchi’s is one of the best. Bianchi’s version, the 1L Lawman, is even more compact than the original in that it has an open end which results in nearly 1" less total length for the holster body. The holster itself is made of high quality cowhide, suede lined and fitted with a safety strap. It rides high on the belt, out of the way and carries a single action just about perfectly. A Colt SAA 4-3/4" .45 or .44 Special rides high enough to be concealed under a jacket, while a Ruger 7-1/2" .44 Magnum carries easily while hunting. I would not be surprised to learn it is their best-selling civilian holster. John Bianchi, as stated, introduced the thumb-snap holster. A current Three great guns in three great Bianchi holsters include (from left to right) a Colt 1911 in a Model 120 Covert Option, Smith & Wesson .44 Special 1950 in a Model 111 Cyclone and a Colt Single Action in a 1L Lawman. 30 WWW.GUNSMAGAZINE.COM•FEBRUARY2011