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About Lobo

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    Retired holster maker.
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  1. The first thing I noticed is the very generous allowance of space around the front strap of the grip frame allowing a solid "shooting grip" during the draw. Far too many holster designs fall short on this, forcing the user to juggle the pistol in the hand before being able to service a target. I don't view the issue of stitch-line as anything other than a matter of the style selected for the holster. The location of the stitch-line used on this piece is entirely correct for many holster designs for over a century. The more recent trend toward moving stitch-lines in close around the handgun profile is a modern design feature, but none of the old-time great makers found it an essential element. Looks like an entirely practical holster design for the small and lightweight P22. Best regards.
  2. Dwight: I'll take all the old '38 Ford coupes I can get, and I'll be happy to pay sticker price for them! 43 years pounding hides and I always had a new idea percolating in my head, usually at least one project moving from mental image to design, to prototype, to function testing. Most ended up as chew toys for the dogs or play things for the kids. A few made it into regular production and earned me some income and market share. Seriously, during the time I was active in the holster business I offered 13 holster designs, with or without 4 common options, left-hand or right-hand, in 4 finish colors, for 130 different handgun models. That resulted in over 80,000 possible variations, but people always wanted something else. I did business via website and e-mail, receiving an average of 35 e-mails every day and spending a couple of hours responding to questions, acknowledging orders, estimating production times, and dealing with every week's graduating class from the Holster Genius School. I made a point of NEVER publishing my phone number simply because 30 phone calls per day, each eating 10 minutes of my time, would require 5 hours every day! Custom work, by definition, is one-of-a-kind production to individual customer specifications. That is all fine, but only if Mr. Customer is willing to pay for the hours of discussions and for the 2, 3, 4 or more iterations of patterning and prototype production to achieve the desired result. Making a single holster from start to finish, starting with a blank piece of paper, working from concept to pattern, then a prototype, followed by adjusting the pattern until everything comes together, all these things take hours and hours of time (and dollars worth of materials and shop supplies). How much can we charge each customer to make that commitment of time and resources? How many customers are willing to pay multiples of retail pricing to get that one-of-a-kind result? I can hear them now: WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? JOHN BIANCHI? ROY BAKER? SAM MYRES? A.W. BRILL? I remember the guy who had a very specific idea for a knife sheath, bent my ear for a couple of hours describing just what he wanted. I asked him what he expected to pay for it, he replied "How about $20?" I told him that would cover the materials, but the 2 or 3 hours of work would cost a little bit more. The guy is a union electrician, probably makes $50 per hour but can't understand anyone else being worth minimum wage. One of my little brain farts involved laser-etching of holsters, including such things as military unit crests or police department badges. All that was required was a clear scan of the item to be depicted, my laser guy could load that into his computer-driven laser and reproduce just about any image you can imagine. I spent a lot of time and effort on that little project, then offered the service at a modest price as an optional feature. In a year's time that resulted in 7 orders. Lots of wasted time for no gain. Had an idea rattling around in my head for a couple of years for a different approach to IWB-style holsters, and I fiddled around with it through several prototype projects as time allowed. The project stalled with my discovery that it would require a new and different type of belt clip design to support and secure the holstered handgun. I found a clip manufacturer willing to take on the project for an initial order of 500 pieces, sent a check for the first production run, received an estimated production date, then a year went by with nothing, the company shut down, and I never saw a clip or my money again. Two years went by and I found another manufacturer who produced what I wanted, the product was developed and went on the website, and it became one of my best selling models (but only about 3 years after the initial concept). My point is that the time spent on developing a new design is an investment in the future. If the new idea is successful it can become profitable by multiple orders on a regular basis. If the idea is a one-of-a-kind custom job all of that time and effort has to be paid for to justify the investment. There is true "custom" work, and there is "customized" production work. A fairly standard holster design can be "customized" by incorporating unique features (exotic leathers, hand-carving, unique tooling patterns, etc). This can be a way to generate interest and desire for the customer to order from you instead of shopping with your competition. In my mind this is working "smart" instead of working "very hard". By the way, like you experienced I have also had a customer wanting a belt with cartridge loops, then discovering that there is no way to put it through the belt loops with cartridges in the loops. One of those things that if we thought about it for a few minutes in advance we would mention to Mr. Customer that maybe it wouldn't work quite like he envisioned. I have also had customers wanting 12-round cartridge loop carriers for .44 caliber ammo, then complaining that the carrier would not ride on the belt in the position they wanted. Somehow I messed up the job because 12 loops for .44 caliber revolver cartridges take up about ten inches of belt space, no way to shrink the dimensions! I'm sure it was all my fault. Then there was the young cop who just had to have a double magazine pouch with handcuff case and tactical light holder. Comfortable in use? Concealable? You can guess the answers to those questions. I'm sure it was all my fault. Nice guy wanted a holster, belt, and mag pouch in horn alligator hide. I sourced the alligator hide and quoted my regular prices for the items plus the cost of the hide. Mr. Customer had no kind words for me at all! I was the worst kind of thieving bottom-feeder in his estimation. Another customer had a tanned elephant hide from an African safari years ago, wanted a couple of holsters, belts, accessories made of it. I asked him to send me a small piece, determined it was chrome-tanned (very soft), but it was very nice and distinctive in appearance. I suggested bonding the elephant to veg-tanned cowhide, then producing his pieces with the elephant on the exposed portions. Worked like a dream! Mr. Customer got everything he wanted at very modest prices, allowed me to keep all the leftover elephant leather as a little bonus. I then cranked out several holsters and belts for some good prices! More rambling from an old retired guy with arthritic hands, wrists, elbows, shoulders, and no longer capable of doing the work. Thank God, a good family of great leather craftsmen bought my business and keep it running today!
  3. Just about every week there is a new graduating class at the Holster Genius School. Having qualified by reading a book, two gun magazines, and a half-dozen internet forums, the new graduate has a mental image for the "perfect holster". All he needs is someone to turn that mental image into reality. Convertible IWB/OWB, strong side/cross-draw, SOB option, connection for shoulder harness (ambidextrous of course), and pocket carry in Speedo's with a tank top. Ride heights so far above the belt that altitude sickness can become a factor (not to mention gravity's effect on the loaded handgun). Why shouldn't a western buscadero rig be fully concealable in a tube top? Those who wish to spend hours discussing a "custom" project, then work up a preliminary pattern for customer approval, then produce a prototype, then revise the pattern based on customer review, make another prototype, maybe finally get the customer's "go ahead" order to produce, then have Mr. Customer throw a fit about the final finish with his selection of dye color, I say GO FOR IT! What can you charge for a single holster order that could justify 6, 8, 10, 12 or 20 hours of your time? What will you do with Mr. Customer's "great idea" project when he sees that it won't work as he thought it should and refuses to pay for it? Maybe the worst case, but what do you do when the customer really has a good idea, you make one for him, and then crank out a hundred more for the retail market. Then he comes back with his lawyer demanding royalties for the use of his intellectual property rights? Some of my better ideas about holster design and production methods spent a year or two fermenting in my brain before I took out a piece of paper and started drawing. A drawing might become a pattern for a prototype testing piece. That pattern might require a dozen modifications, each one requiring a prototype piece to test in actual use. The final design might be ready for production a year or two after my first brain fart, and the marketplace never guarantees acceptance or reward for the effort. Quite a few of my other ideas turned into chew toys for the dogs. During most of my years in the business my usual response to requests for custom work were pretty simple: $60 per hour plus materials and shop supplies. How long will it take? I don't know, I haven't done it yet. Realistically, send me a couple hundred bucks and I'll get started, when the money runs out you can decide whether or not to continue. Whatever exists at any point in time belongs to you. Whether or not it works is not my problem, it is your idea and not mine. Faced with reality, very few want to play. I'm an old retired guy. The nice folks who work on my cars charge $85 per hour for shop time. The good guy who takes care of my plumbing needs charges $100 for a service call, then tells me what it will cost to do what needs to be done. Nice man who takes care of my landscaping and lawn needs charged me $40 per hour to plant the shrubs my wife wanted. My dentist doesn't work for nothing. The lawyer who helped us settle an estate for an elderly family member charged us $350 per hour, and every time papers needed to be filed with the courts there was another $100 for the filing fees. Having a hobby is nice. Running a business requires a plan and discipline.
  4. I have posted this before but it bears repeating: Those who take on custom work should understand that when the customer's great idea doesn't work out exactly as he envisioned he will never remember that it was all his stupid idea, but he will always remember the guy who failed to make his dream a reality.
  5. Another thought: Opening wholesale accounts with suppliers usually requires little more than a FEIN (federal employer identification number, easily obtainable on-line from IRS) or a business sales tax license (local city or county authority). With those in hand you will find most wholesale suppliers happy to do business with you, and your per unit costs will drop by big margins (and margins are where we find PROFIT).
  6. A couple of thoughts: 1. Tandy is a specialty retailer, so the prices are at the upper end of the scale for most items. Opening an account with Springfield Leather Company (see banner ads) will allow you to purchase a greater variety of supplies and tools at significantly lower prices per unit. 2. Much of the leather (if not all of it) offered by Tandy is from imported hides so the quality may not be equal to the leathers from Hermann Oak or Wicket & Craig (the two major US tanneries). Springfield Leather can also help you with these needs, offering Hermann Oak as sides, shoulders, and even by the square foot at prices that are usually lower than Tandy's retail outlets. Also, no worries about hides from Mexico, South America, or parts of Asia where the use of animal urine and feces remains common in the tanning processes (YUCK! WE ARE MAKING PRODUCTS TO BE CARRIED NEXT TO THE BODY!). 3. Dyes are much more economical when purchased in larger quantities. A quart costs little more than the 4-oz. retail bottles, and gallons are much more economical. Also, purchasing in larger quantities helps to maintain a more consistent result (dyes vary a bit from lot to lot, I always liked to use a half gallon, then blend in half of the next gallon to keep my dye results as uniform as possible). 4. Rings Blue Guns, Duncan Customs, and other dummies are useful. But they are not available for all makes or models, and they have little resale value. Years ago I started purchasing the actual handguns when I needed to add something new to the product line. My thinking? (A) For a holster maker the costs are tax-deductible business expenses; and (B) quality firearms not only retain their value over the long term, but actually increase in value over the years. Every time a new handgun model hits the market there will be demand for holsters, but dummy guns are seldom available until a new model has been on the market for a year or more, many are never offered as dummies, and dummy production stops as soon as a gun's market share declines. I was able to steal the march on several new handgun models, purchasing the new gun and getting it into holster production for months before many other makers were equipped to handle it. $500 for a gun to complete a single order is not smart, but $500 for a gun to complete dozens of orders, then still have the gun for future use and investment value is a pretty good business plan! When I retired I had about 100 various handguns in several gun safes, and that has functioned very much like a retirement fund for me! Naturally, once a piece of business property or tooling has been fully depreciated the asset is assumed to have zero value, and upon sale the amount realized must be reported as a long-term capital gain for tax purposes (and we all know enough to be straightforward and honest on our tax returns, right?). More ramblings from an old retired hide pounder.
  7. Never tried Windex for wet-forming. I have used isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol), which evaporates very rapidly and also has an effect similar to applying heat during the drying process. This can be useful when we have a quantity of smaller items (like magazine pouches, speedloader pouches, ammo pouches, etc) to move through production expeditiously. Working time is quite short, so we have to move right along as we are doing this phase of the work. Two cautions to keep in mind: 1. The evaporating alcohol fumes are flammable. Best to keep the work away from any possible sources of ignition or high heat. Good ventilation is needed. 2. The alcohol leaves veg-tanned cowhide very dry and rigid, little if any of the natural moisture remaining. I recommend replenishing some moisture prior to sealing and finishing as a prevention against cracking or splitting under stress. I used a light application of neatsfoot oil applied to the outer surfaces only with a dampened sponge or rag, then let the piece sit for 24 hours to allow the oil to migrate through the leather fibers and find its natural balance. Neatsfoot oil is rendered from the feet and lower legs of cattle. It is the natural oil that helps to keep the animals' legs from freezing in cold weather. It can be thought of as "cow oil" because it is an entirely natural substance that can help to preserve and protect veg-tanned cowhide in products for extended hard use.
  8. Two layers of 7/8 makes a total thickness of nearly 1/4". Very difficult to do any close forming work. I have used a couple of combinations that seem to work well and provide a lot of strength in the finished product: Outer layer of 6/7, lining layer of 4/5 or two layers of 5/6. Either combination yields a result totaling 10 to 12 oz (5/32" to 3/16" nominal thickness prior to molding and forming). For those having less experience, each "ounce" of vegetable-tanned cowhide is equal to about 1/64" in thickness, so 4 oz. equals about 1/16", 8 oz. equals about 1/8", etc (the math is pretty straightforward once the basic guideline is understood). For wet-forming we must keep in mind that not only are we dealing with a thick chunk of leather, we are also dealing with the bonding cement between the layers which tends to be a moisture barrier. Wet-forming a holster made of these combinations can be done (including detail boning if desired) when the completed holster is immersed in a bucket of room temperature water for about 1 second per ounce of finished weight, so for these combinations we need about 10 to 12 seconds in the water. Then set the piece aside for a few minutes to allow the water to settle completely in the leather. I would do an initial forming on the pistol or dummy gun, then into the hot box for 10 minutes. Next step is to begin the close forming, then back into the hot box for 10 minutes. Then a final forming and detail boning can be done, followed by about an hour in the hot box. My hot box was an old kitchen wall cabinet, 30" H X 18" W X 12" D. Holsters were suspended by wire hooks from the top, allowing the heated air to move over and through them (convection effect, heated air rises). At the bottom I mounted two 4" electrical ceiling boxes, each with a keyless porcelain lamp holder, 100W incandescent bulb in each fixture, both fixtures on a switch leg with a rheostat (dimmer switch) allowing adjustment of the voltage and lamp output (light and heat). Thermometer at the top of the box to monitor temperature. Internal temperature maintained at 125-130F. That set-up allowed me to form and dry up to a dozen holsters in a production run. The forming work taking place in 3 short working periods of 3 to 5 minutes each piece, so about 4 hours work took care of a production run. Everything was then ready for the next stage in the production process. The combination of moisture and heat provide good forming qualities. The heat releases the collagen within the leather fibers, allowing it to settle into the new patterns created within the fibers by the forming process, thus reinforcing the forming work for lasting effect. Working in batches of 10 to 12 items at a time allowed me to do 3 production runs per week, then spend a day forming and a day on finish work, set everything aside for the finishes to set up and completely dry, then one morning to package everything for delivery to the customers. I usually averaged about 30 holsters, a dozen magazine/ammo pouches, and a half-dozen belts per week, with average shop time of about 47 minutes per completed item. Of course, you have to have the orders to justify the work (or a marketplace ready to display for sale). My point is that our working time can be much more efficient when we are doing multiple items one step at a time, rather than doing one piece at a time from start to finish. I was very fortunate to have a constant flow of orders that allowed me to deliver about 2000 finished products per year regularly. Of course, years of doing this kind of hand work resulted in arthritis, carpal tunnel and cubital tunnel injury, surgeries to my wrists, elbows, and shoulders, and I was eventually unable to continue. That is when I retired and sold the business to a very good family of leather workers who have continued what I started for the past 5-1/2 years. That leaves me as a "consultant", so hear I am consulting away!
  9. That is truly exceptional work! Well done.
  10. One other small point to consider is that the Randall was offered in either right-hand or left-hand versions. The left-hand model was a mirror image, all the various features and controls (safeties, slide release, ejection port, mag release, etc) configured for left-hand operation. Need I say EXTREMELY COLLECTIBLE?
  11. Exceptionally fine craftsmanship and an excellent design!
  12. Not meaning to quibble or argue, but I must comment: 1. The Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States guarantees the right to keep and bear arms. Not a privilege to be exercised within government permitting processes. Not something limited by arbitrary rules or political limitations. 2. I have lived in Colorado for most of my 7 decades. I have seen our laws go from "may issue" to "shall issue". Back in the "may issue" days any one of Colorado's 64 county sheriffs or about 300 police chiefs could issue a concealed carry permit, or refuse to do so, without explanation or stated reason. One sheriff required a letter from a licensed psychiatrist essentially guaranteeing the applicant's mental and emotional stability. Many others simply refused to issue any permits (frequently to avoid any chance of political controversy). Although state laws clearly stated that a permit issued in one city or county was to be honored anywhere in the state, many departments consistently refused to honor any permits other than their own. I knew many retired cops, FBI agents, Secret Service agents, and other retired LEOs who lived in cities or counties that absolutely refused to issue permits. Under our current "shall issue" law any person who is not prohibited by law from possessing a firearm and completes a recognized firearms safety program will be issued the permit, valid anywhere in Colorado (and recognized by 30-plus other states under reciprocal agreements). 3. The entire history of gun control laws in the US is based on pre-Civil War laws intended to disarm and disenfranchise certain segments of the population, particularly slaves, freed slaves, immigrants, or religious minorities. Gun control is inarguably about political control, not crime control, not hunting, not self-defense. 4. Requiring training classes, whether on-line or in person, is a matter of inserting the camel's nose into the tent. What level of training? Provided by whom? How many hours, days, weeks, months, or years? When and where will training be made available? How much will it cost? Politicians and bureaucrats, when given an inch, tend to start thinking themselves as rulers. Sorry, but the folks who drafted the Constitution and Bill of Rights were not freshly home from a pheasant hunt, they were recovering from a traumatic revolution against tyrannical government and insuring against any recurrence. Accepting the pretexts of the gun control crowd such as "common sense legislation", "reasonable restrictions", "safe storage", registration, permits, licensing, or training requirements is the first step on the slippery slope to loss of all Constitutionally-guaranteed liberties. Individual rights are rights, not privileges to be granted by bureaucratic whim. Rant over, for now.
  13. 43 years making holsters and I don't remember a single request for the Colt Lightning or Thunderer models. I was ready, though! My collection includes an original Colt Lightning model that came to me via the estate of a long-time employee of Colt, reportedly assembled using parts left in stock during the 1930s Depression years. The serial number on the frame indicates 1902 production, but none of the other parts are numbered, indicating to me that the back story is likely to be true, especially with the original owner having been employed in the Colt factory for many years. The Thunderer .41 caliber was reportedly William Bonney's personal favorite (Billy the Kid). The Lightning model .38 was the standard issue revolver of the Washington DC metropolitan police, back in the day. Quite a few made, but relatively few remaining in serviceable condition. They are a bit delicate and replacement parts are impossible to find. I have fired my Lightning, but only sparingly and using very light loads. Very nice job on the holster! Great design, period-correct, and very nice workmanship.
  14. Idle thoughts from a really old guy who has been carrying daily for 52 years and was making holsters 49 years ago: 1. Metal is described by "gauge", a term generally referring to how many layers of a particular thickness will equal a total of one inch. 20 gauge metal is about 0.05" thickness, 10 gauge metal is about 0.10" thickness. "Gauge" and "millimeters" are not equivalent, or even within the same standards of measurement. 2. Everything in holster design involves compromises among the 4 basic factors of comfort, accessibility, security, and concealment. Whenever one factor is emphasized there will be compromises among the other factors. 3. IWB-style holsters tend to emphasize concealment by keeping the bulk of the holstered handgun inside the waistband. Security is also emphasized by applied pressures exerted on the holster between body and waistband/belt. The compromises necessarily fall on accessibility (limited by close contact with body and clothing) and comfort (many people cannot tolerate the bulk of holstered handgun inside the waistband for extended periods of time). 4. Reinforcement of the holster mouth area (whether by leather, metal, or other materials) requires increasing bulk, further aggravating comfort and to some degree affecting concealment. Short version: this is the quickest method known for overcoming any advantage of IWB-style carry. 5. For customers demanding ease of one-handed reholstering my first response has always been to choose just about any holster type except IWB-style. 6. Although I have been fully retired for nearly 6 years now, I am sure that the Holster Genius Academy continues to graduate another class every week or so, each of whom believes they have an idea in mind for the "perfect holster". A few of them are trying to make it themselves, but most are looking for someone to turn their dreams into reality. A very few will break new ground and create useful improvements in holster design or production methods. Those who convince a holster maker to take on their projects will probably never remember that the stupid ideas were their own, but they will always remember the dumb-azz holster maker who failed to make their stupid ideas work as they thought they should. By the way, the requirements for graduating Holster Genius Academy include reading two or more popular gun magazines or at least 5 internet forum posts. Diplomas provided upon request and proof of performance. Smile! I'm not really all that smart!
  15. The "Avenger" moniker came from Bianchi's "Askins Avenger" design, named for Colonel Charles Askins (a noted author and combat shooting instructor), and was actually a rendition of the earlier "Professional Model" by Bruce Nelson. Both John Bianchi and Bruce Nelson were law enforcement officers who developed businesses in holster making. The basic design dates back to the mid-to-late 1960s when Nelson was a narcotics detective and John Bianchi was transitioning from city cop/part-time holster maker to major international businessman (over 40 million products delivered prior to his ultimate retirement, while also rising to the rank of Brigadier General in the USAF Reserves). Interestingly, this general design was one of the earliest examples of production holsters that provided a fully-covered trigger guard area. Most holsters for law enforcement and sportsmen prior to that time did not cover the trigger or guard area completely, but in today's market that has become a "carved in stone" requirement. What we now refer to as the Avenger design is a modified scabbard-style made of a single piece of leather for the holster body joined at the rear (behind the trigger guard area) by a pancake-style belt slot, with an applied belt loop behind the holstered handgun. The applied belt loop serves to support the weight of the handgun while the rear belt slot serves to pull the grip-frame snugly into the body. A good combination for either revolver or semi-auto that provides an excellent balance of comfort, accessibility, security, and concealment. More meanderings by an old retired holster-maker and cop. Best regards.
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