Western holster styles, like the West itself, have evolved over time. The development of different types of western holders began before the advent of the American West in 1865 and continued long after the end of that period in 1890. Find many variations of Western holster types available at sporting goods stores, gun speciality stores and custom western leather crafters.
Pommel Bag Holsters
Pommel bag holsters represent early western holsters. The pommel bag attaches to a saddle's pommel, or hand grip, and was not designed to fit the contours of the handgun. Historically, the bag was used to carry single-shot handguns known as "horse pistols." These bag holsters, also known as "saddle cantinas," were made simply or in very ornate styles. As handgun technology advanced and the revolver came into use, belt holsters gained in popularity since it made the revolver accessible more quickly. The rider had to open the pommel bag holster to withdraw the handgun, which of course required more time.
The standard model of belt holsters had vertical slits on the back to slide the belt through. A flap over the holster protected the firearm from the elements, but it also slowed the speed of draw. Design adaptations over time included holster bodies moulded to the handgun contours, including a half-flap cover. Styles include the open-topped California or Slim Jim pattern, which first introduced decorative elements, and the Mexican Loop, with even more decorative edging and ornamentation.
The Buscadero style holster represents the “new” west of the early to mid-20th century, well-known from Western films. The belt is integral to the holster set-up. One or two holsters stay in place with the assist of a long slot in the belt, or the holsters are sewn to the belt. The belt arcs in the back and sits low on the hips, while the holster angles forward to increase draw speed.
The "walk-and-draw" holster, also called the "Spaghetti Western," originated in the mid-20th century. A plate covered with leather in back of the gunbelt helps anchor the gun at an angle that points the muzzle forward. Safety and speed of draw are its goals, and recreational fast-draw aficionados favour this holster.
Shoulder and Hip Pocket Holsters
Western holsters included concealed holsters in the late 1800s when cities began to prohibit gun carrying. These holsters provided a way for an individual to carry a handgun inside a pocket or duster, the traditional long Western coat. This holster not only concealed, but it also kept the firearm available and safely positioned.
A shoulder holster accommodated large-calibre handguns and offered an advantage: If the sheriff insisted that an individual hand over his weapon, he had a spare concealed beneath his arm.