For as long as there have been handguns there have been holsters. And as pistols have evolved and become more size efficient, so too have their sheaths. In fact, minimalist holsters have kept pace with the downsizing of many pistol platforms and they are equally as effective.
Compact Concealment with Minimalist Holsters
My first real experience with a minimalist-style holster was in 1982 at my first visit to Gunsite. Founder Jeff Cooper was still involved in teaching then and carried his 1911 in a Yaqui Slide. This is a term he coined for a holster he was first exposed to in El Salvador.
Cooper brought the holster back to the states and along with famed holster maker Milt Sparks, refined its design and popularized it.
Cooper and his chief instructor, Clint Smith (now of Thunder Ranch), inspected our gear before class started. He picked up my brand-new AMT Hardballer and smirked. Smith told me they had never had one make it through the five-day class.
I had a sinking feeling, and then Cooper picked up the black leather holster I had bought just days before at a police supply store in Tucson. It had a dramatic butt forward cant and a thumb snap intended to go between the hammer and slide.
“This is junk,” said Cooper, tossing it back on the desk in front of me. “Go to the Pro shop and get a Yaqui slide on the next break, before we start range work.”
I did, and that Gordon Davis holster, double magazine pouch and matching belt served me well for many years.
Three years ago, I was relaying that story to Gunsite CEO Ken Campbell and we both had a laugh about Cooper’s compendious style.
Then he asked, “Would you like to see some of Jeff’s Yaqui Slides?”
He didn’t have to ask me twice! Janelle, Jeff’s wife, was still alive then and Campbell explained to her that one of Jeff’s old students would like to photograph the Yaqui Slides for a gun magazine. With her blessing, Campbell returned with a handful of Yaqui Slides that Gunsite’s founder had used.
The lure of the Yaqui Slide is its simplicity. A piece of leather is folded over to create a tunnel for the belt to go through. The back of the belt tunnel will usually have an opening for placing over a belt loop. Likewise, a strap of leather is attached to the other side of the belt tunnel.
That strap is then folded back over to create a loop and sewn. This is so the front of the triggerguard stops the forward movement of the gun. Both the trigger and ejection port are covered.
It is a simple and effective way of carrying a 1911. In fact, if you should stumble across me traipsing about the Sonoran Desert you will most likely see me carrying a Colt Lightweight Commander in a Davis Leather Company Yaqui Slide. Along with a matching magazine carrier that I purchased in the Gunsite Pro shop a couple years ago.
My original rig was lost somewhere in a move decades ago.
The Yaqui Issue
But the Yaqui Slide does have some issues that users need to be aware of. Its retention is simply friction between the leather and the gun. Its open bottom design can cause a problem if you sit in an armchair and the gun’s muzzle makes contact with the arm.
It will push the gun up and out of the holster. And it will undoubtedly land with a very loud and embarrassing crash.
The Yaqui Slide became popular during the 1970s when most guns were outfitted with ramped front sights. An old internet post I found while doing research for this piece, which was written by Tony Kanaley, President of Milt Sparks holster company, mentioned he discontinued production of the Yaqui Slide when Patridge-style front sights increased in popularity.
These sights would catch the bottom of the holster on presentation and rip the gun from the user’s hand. Slide length and sight height are also factors here, but Kanaley just didn’t want that liability.
Watch For Muzzle Prints with Minimalist Holsters
Retired border patrolman and long-time Gunsite Instructor Ed Head gave me and several other shooters a tour of Cooper’s beloved Sconce last year. He mentioned that “back in the day” Cooper would host an after-action meeting with his instructors in his living room.
When Mrs. Cooper complained of sooty muzzle prints on her furniture’s upholstery, it became a procedure for instructors to remove their pistols and place them on the coffee table before sitting down. Cooper would remove his .45 and set it on the fireplace when he sat in his favorite easy chair.
So, if you should use this minimalist holster, understand its limitations and shortcomings. There are still a number of manufacturers that offer this style of holster. Barranti Leather offers one Doc Barranti named the Colonel in honor of Gunsite founder.
If you own multiple 1911s in different slide lengths, a Yaqui Slide provides one holster for all of your guns.
Of late, triggerguard holsters have come into vogue. They use Kydex or plastic to cover the trigger and a belt clip to keep the gun positioned and secure. The triggerguard holsters are the very definition of minimalist design.
They do, however, share one thing in common. After the gun is drawn or presented, the holster must be removed from the belt before the gun is reinserted.
Never try to re-holster your gun without first removing the holster from your waistband.
One of the most innovative minimalist holsters I’ve seen is from Essential Holsters. If there is a more size-efficient holster for concealed carry, I have yet to find it.
I first learned of this company when I saw a video on a popular social media page. I contacted them requesting a sample of their product for this column. Their quick reply surprised me.
“We greatly appreciate you reaching out to us with this tremendous opportunity, but we much prefer reviews from people who actually purchase our holster and use it for real. If we should ever change that standard, we’ll reach out to you.”
I have to admit, I was a little butthurt over this. Then I thought about it and re-watched the videos on their social media page. Then I went to their website and ordered one for my Springfield Armory Hellcat and one for my Ruger MAX-9 pistol using my credit card.
The Essential Holster is 3D printed from nylon and carbon. The one-piece holster slides onto the gun from the front of the triggerguard. It locks positively in place and keeps the trigger covered when the gun is carried.
The gun can be loaded and unloaded with the Essential Holster in place, and its belt clip can be used IWB at any position on the belt. I’ve used both holsters for AIWB carry with the gun positioned at approximately 1 o’clock and found it to be comfortable and secure. Even bending over at the waist did not pop the gun/holster from the belt.
Essential Holsters is owned and operated by two combat veterans in Alabama. Their minimalist holsters are priced at $25 each, plus shipping.
For more information, please visit EssentialHolsters.com.
A Quick Note About Concealment
One thing I learned about these new triggerguard holsters is that if you carry your micro-compact with an extended magazine, you’re going to need a holster with a claw extension to push the butt of your gun back into your body.
One of my favorite sources for synthetic concealed holsters is Concealment Express. And they sent me a sample of their blank holster for my Hellcat.
Concealment Express offers a Kydex triggerguard holster that uses a tuckable belt clip. Additionally, it uses a detachable claw to push the butt into the user’s body. My holster has a carbon fiber finish.
The Hellcat snaps securely into the Trigger Guard Tuckable IWB Kydex holster. I found it to be very effective in reducing the printing of my Hellcat when carried with the extended magazine. Concealment Express Trigger Guard holsters are available for many popular sub-compact and micro-compact carry guns, and prices start at $34.95.
For more information, please visit ConcealmentExpress.com.
Mission First Tactical
Mission First Tactical is a manufacturer of some really fine AR-15 furniture. And its Battlelink Minimalist buttstock is what I selected for use on my three SBR house guns. The adjustable AR buttstock is low-profile and lightweight, which is exactly what I wanted on these home protection guns.
Interestingly, Mission First Tactical also has a full line of holsters. I reached out to them and received samples of their Minimalist AIWB holster for a Glock 17 Gen 5, S&W 642 J-frame revolver, and a Hellcat.
The holsters are reversible for right- and left-hand use, and have adjustable retention and cant. Likewise, they can be used with belts from 1 inch to 1.5 inches. When the gun is seated into the Kydex holster, it makes a satisfying “pop.”
MFT ships the Minimalist with a detachable claw designed to push the gun’s butt into the user to minimize printing.
MFT offers their Minimalist holster for most popular carry guns, and prices start at $35.
For more information, please visit MissionFirstTactical.com.
Raven Concealment Vanguard
Raven Concealment also offers a triggerguard holster called the Vanguard 2 or VG2. I received a sample of the Vanguard 2 for my Glock 17 Gen 5 pistol. It is fully ambidextrous and features a reversible and tuckable belt clip. The VG2 snaps solidly into place, and the gun can be loaded and unloaded with it in place.
For more information, please visit RCSGear.com.
Why Use a Minimalist Holster?
You might be thinking, why don’t I just shove the pistol in my waistband? There are two very good reasons not to “Mexican carry.”
First and foremost, the trigger should be covered so nothing can snag it when pushing it into your pants. Think of what anatomy your muzzle covers. An accidental discharge in this region might very well result in you bleeding out before EMTs can get to you.
Secondly, triggerguard holsters keep the gun positioned on your belt and should keep your pistol secure—even when bending over. Simple waistband carry does not provide this security. And bending over to tie your shoe in your favorite restaurant might cause the gun to squirt out. You’ll most likely be invited not to come back.
Triggerguard minimalist holsters might not be for everybody. But with most of them priced between $30 and $40 they are cheap enough to buy and experiment with. Judge for yourself!
This article was originally published in the Combat Handguns January/February 2022 issue. Subscription is available in print and digital editions at OutdoorGroupStore.com. Or call 1-800-284-5668, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.