Wednesday, March 28, 2012

NCIS Meets Dragon Leatherworks - Armed and Hungry

Regular readers have heard me talk about how much I like my Dragon Leatherworks holsters. D., the artist behind them, is a friend. Now, I don't review products for money, but I will share the talents of friends as well as products I just flat out love. (Yes, that's a HOTR photo heading up his website, taken with a homemade light box). Recently he told me about a special project he made, NOT a holster. I was intrigued. When we talked more and he told me the story behind it, I had to just share. For what you see above, is not his usual holster. It's a lunchbox for Abby on NCIS, to be used on the actual show, crafted by the Dragon himself.

For you see, the amazing and quite persistent Mrs. Dragon had contacted some folks out in Hollywood, including the prop masters for my favorite TV show NCIS, and they had Dennis design a Flatjack holster for a female character who was complaining that all the holsters made the butt of the gun stick out or dig into her ribs.

Long story short, the FlatJack was a hit, the actress could wear a blazer-type jacket and not print...all was right with the world.

Then came a call from the NCIS prop master last week with a special order request. It was built in one day and shipped the next. A leather goth themed lunch box (I so want one). I think he did an amazing job with it given their brief description of what they wanted. He is not sure if the scene it is in, will air, or be on a cutting room floor but I guarantee I know at least 5 people (Midwest Chick, Mr. B, and me and the Dragons) who will be glued to the set that night like we usually are when NCIS is on.

Since I had a novelist/reader ask a question about small of the back holsters today so I thought this would be a good time to put up a review of my first holster made by Dragon Leatherworks.

There's good holsters and bad holsters out there. Most of us end up with the 'big box 'o holsters' that most shooters acquire over the years. Trying one, then another, searching for the perfect rig. There's soft ones, hard ones, some that only MacGyver could love and some that are to artistic design what plastic forks are to fine dining. Still most of them are durable if not functional.

Designs I'm NOT fond of are are the “small of the back” and ankle holsters. The “small of the back” holster has some problems. The draw is difficult and therefore dicey. There is a danger of sweeping the muzzle of the gun in directions you don’t intend to cover. This is an easy holster to disarm. Someone can come up behind you and grab the pistol, and from where it is on your back, it's going to be hard if you aren't trained in tactical to stop them from taking it. Lastly, should you fall on your back, the small of the back holster is a steel bar across your spine that could accentuate the impact of hitting the ground. If you're small boned to begin with this is NOT a good place to be as the injury could make you an easier target. The leg holster is only really valid as a backup option and it’s not really great as a backup. The ankle holster is great concealment, but unless you are a professional or one of the Amazing Walendas the draw is so problematic that it is almost useless.

There's another one recently out, designed by a woman for women, that carries just under the bustline. No, not the waist, but right underneath the bust. I admire the woman for the idea, but it seemed to me the perfect way to get a accidental fire into the femoral. I can't even see my FEET, how am I supposed to instantly get the gun out from underneath Sigfried and Roy, not to mention the risk of now having a clear field to draw up and away from the holster, let alone doing it in a stealthy manner. A rapist may not be looking at my hand down by my waist or hip but I guarantee he's going to notice my hand going for the twins. (As well, it it just being ripe for those punch lines. . . if the bad girl is wearing one, do you shout out "you're busted" when going in for the arrest). Sorry, but you get the picture. I'm all for free enterprise and the promotion of self defense, but that just seems like a bad idea.

No, I wanted a holster I carry on my hip. One that is well designed, functional, with quality workmanship and that new holster smell. So I got a Dragon Leatherworks holster.

Modeled here last January, is my holster, which D. made for me and asked if I'd post about it only if I liked it. I LOVED it..

Dennis had been working on a new pancake holster for the 1911 in honor of the 100th anniversary of John Moses Browning's most celebrated design, and I was anxious to see where that has taken him. His craftwork is all 100% made in the US, not machine stitched in Albonia and then sent to the U.S. for assembly so someone in marketing can attach a "Made in the USA label" on it. Even better, it's made out of America's greatest renewable resource, leather! (Bacon holsters might be nice, but they wouldn't last as long).

The first thing I noticed when I got mine was the smell. I'm a person who is very much in tune with the senses, sight, smell touch, feel. That's probably why my cooking is generally more gourmet than Tatar Tot. Why I love the feel of leather on my skin, and the smell of good quality leather and dye.

The holster was beautiful, polished black, smooth to the touch. The stitching, tight, defined, perfectly even (is luxurious too much of a girly word?). There was no roughness on the outside, no loose stitching. It was pristine. Dragon Leatherworks has come a long way from the Fugly, the dependable but ugly sidekick may a gun has welcomed. The fit of the Talon is sweet, and its beautiful enough to serve as an Open Carry accessory even with my best little black pants.

Holsters should be designed by need first, not looks, finding the solution, then crafting the holster to be as visually appealing as it can while still doing its job. There are a lot of holsters, especially those crafted to draw in the female customer, that are designed to appeal to the designer in you, NOT the shooter. I don't need embroidery, fancy lines or froo froo, I want a holster that allows for comfort in conceal AND quick draw. I want one with good looks AND functionality and the Dragon Leatherworks Talon fits this bill, worn forward of the strong side hip, proper placement on the hip being a secret of an efficient, fast draw .

Out of the box, I noticed that this is not some puny little holster, made out of thin material, machine stitched and easily collapsible. The holster was form fitted to a Colt M 1911 A1 5" semi-auto pistol, but grabbed on tightly to the Kimber 1911 Tactical, the interior being a rough surface that gripped the firearm, but still gave it up when I needed it to (come to Mama), to draw rapidly if need be. It's not likely to be grabbed by someone else easily, or dislodged by accident. Even held upside down, with an unloaded weapon inside and trying for the tactical version of the Dance of the Seven Veils, the Kimber did not want to dislodge on its own. It liked its new home and wasn't going to come out until I wanted it to.

As a female, I like that it holds the weapon outside of my pants. I'm very particular about what gets in my pants, and a clunky, bulky holster riding up and chafing between fair skin and jeans that may already be a wee bit too tight is NOT something I want. I prefer the holster to be outside of the pants, under the belt, a perfect fit of form and design. Yet, like some other models of that type, the Dragon Leatherworks holster is not bulky at all, and on other than the most petite of women, would not be too big to carry a .45.

The rear panel is extended and flat and stays flat, hugging the body comfortably while the front panel gets molded to the gun. The pancake design hugs the curve of the hip while at the same time, the combat cut body shield facilitates grip and draw, quickly, if necessary. The holsters belt loops slots were a perfect fit for the belt loops on female jeans, fitting nicely in between the belt loops on a couple of different style of jeans I tried. The belt used was as much fashion as function, showing that even with a lightweight belt it held up well. I've found, as have other women shooters I queried when talking about this holster, that other manufactures holsters are sometimes too big and we find that our jeans will bunch up badly on the holster side. This didn't happen with the Talon even with a belt that wasn't really heavy. (Just a note: though the Belt slots are standard, optional Yaqui-style belt tunnels are available.)

For myself, I like the under the belt cut, where retention is good with no additional features I do not need that will add bulk. It pulls in tight, so it's very concealable as well under a lightweight jacket or an over shirt or blazer. I could wear it all day and not really think it's there. For all day comfort in the field, I do NOT want the Victoria's Secret Push Up Holster, that rides, chafes and gives me a rash.

Face it, I'm never going to be some tiny, little delicate thing,  I'm tall and curvy with a smaller waist than hips. I'm not one of those gals you have to shake the sheets out in the morning to find and I usually carry a very large caliber, even concealed. The Kimber 1911 is not some little girls gun, it's sturdy. But the weight is distributed quite evenly in the Talon, the design naturally fitting where my thumb would rest, making it easy to hold the platform steady while the gun was removed for a quick draw.

I admire any holster that cares more about a commitment to a product that will fit the average adult form than trendy style. Dragon Leatherworks is also now offering the Talon with a Limited Lifetime Warranty. If workmanship of the holster fails during normal use to the original owner, it gets repaired free of charge. If it can't be repaired, it will be replaced with a brand new one. I don't know too many companies that will that any more without you paying an additional fee.

Male or female shooter, a good holster makes the carry much more comfortable and with comfort comes safety. A good holster will allow you to carry a heavier gun with less discomfort and greater concealment.

In the first photos of just the gun and holster, the leather was still a little stiff and the gun didn't seat all the way in. That is not unusual for a brand new holster made of thick, quality materials. But you may wish to make sure you get a "break in" time before wearing it for self defense. Just as I wouldn't try to run from a pack of zombies wearing brand new leather boots, I'm going to wear a holster a little time before taking it out in the field, giving the leather time to release its newness and embrace its new friend.

After I'd had time to wear it a while, it really started to fit like a glove. With just a few hours to break it in from the "new holster stiffness", the trigger fit into the holster as it was designed, and with more wearings, over time, would be even better.. The price, less than $100, half the cost of some other accessories we carry.

A good holster is a blend of quality materials and commitment to quality, designed by a mind that knows form and purpose is more important than flash, something that will hold up in thick or thin. Like those we choose to keep company with, strong, yet flexible, designed of stern stuff, giving and dependable.

The perfect partnership of design and function. Now, I just need a niftier lunchbox.