Review: 5 Shot Leather

Your carry rig.  One of the most hard to figure out parts of concealed carry.  All too often we do our research on our gun to the point where we’ve left no stone unturned, and that’s a good thing.  We pick the best “master blaster, whiz bang, ultimo” pistol that we think will fit our lifestyle and needs.  Then we research the ammo and make sure it’s the best we can use.  Some people spend some time researching lights as well.  Those are all part of the system each playing a crucial part.  The one that doesn’t get the research it needs though is your holster. 

I’m not saying everyone, but I am saying a lot of people neglect that part of the carry system.  I have been one of those people too, so I cast a stone at myself, if that’s possible.  I want to take a short amount of your time and do a review on one of the best rigs I have ever used.  This will be the first of many product reviews we have planned. 

A few years back I was talking to Clint Smith about holsters.  I had an itch for a custom rig and wanted to know who to go to.  There are a lot of great custom guys out there and over the past 40 years, Clint has had experience with a large chunk of them.  He mentioned that 5 Shot Leather was one of his favorites and that I needed to give them a call.  Quite some time passed before I got around to doing that though.  About 1 1/2 years ago I did though.  I placed a call to John Ralston of 5 Shot Leather and started the process of getting a custom rig built up.  I knew from previous holsters that I have had that I wanted an inside the waistband holder (IWB) in the style of the Milt Sparks Summer Special.  John had his own version called the Inside Burton Scabbard (IBS, snicker, snicker).  I also wanted a double mag pouch to match, so I went with his pancake style mag carrier.  We talked for a little while and I told him some of my preferences.  I wanted to do an exotic leather first off, so I picked elephant.  Elephant is some of the toughest hide on the planet and I want this thing to last forever.  Another preference was to get rid of the sweat tab on the IBS.  I wear an undershirt always, so the gun never rubs on my skin. Along with that, when I get a grip on my pistol, I want my thumb resting on the safety, and the tab prevents that.  Tab not needed.  He let me know that it would be about 8 months, and he’d call before he started.  8 months is not bad for a custom rig of this caliber.  Most custom shops who are any good have about a 6-8 month back log.  John builds every holster himself, and wants to ensure the quality of each one, so he will not hire additional labor.  I’m ok with that.   

Well, unfortunately a machine broke in Johns shop and it caused a year wait.  However, good things come to those who wait.  The holster arrived just as I was coming back from a day at the range with my pastor.  When I saw where the package was from I think I squealed like a school girl a bit.  Not a very manly thing to do in front of a man of the cloth.   Oh well.  The fit and finish of the holster and mag carrier was flawless.  The stitching of the leather was perfect and precise.  The holster was extremely stiff and you could tell it would let the gun ride in it comfortably.   The belt loops where the same, nice and sturdy.  The mag carrier was the same, beautifully crafted like a piece of fine art and exceptionally sturdy. 

A good holster needs a good belt.  For the past 4 years I have used either a 5.11 1 1/2 inch leather belt or a 5.11 1 3/4 web belt.  Moral of the story, if you get a great holster then get a good gun belt.  With that established lets move on to comfort.  The stability of the loops on the holster kept things right where they needed to be on my belt.  There is no shifting from front to back and no wobble.  For break in of the holster John recommends that you take the plastic bag that the holster comes in, put your pistol in it, holster the pistol and let it sit over night.  That took care of it for me.  The holster has just the right amount of tension to hold the gun securely, but still allowing for a smooth draw.  A problem that too many holsters have is that they collapse once the gun is out.  Not so with this one.  The holster maintains it’s shape when empty allowing for easy re-holstering.  The mag carrier is even more comfortable than the holster is.  It is a pancake style that carries your mags in close to your body.  A feature that I liked was the forward cant that the mag carrier has.  It allows the magazines to ride close but still get a good purchase on them for a reload.

If I had one complaint about the rig, it would be the mag carrier.  The magazines were almost impossible to get out when I had the rig on.  I played around with stretching the pouch in various ways, hoping that eventually with use they would loosen up.  When I originally decided to write a blog about this holster / mag pouch combo, the tension was going to be my only complaint.  I got to thinking about it though, and realized that I hadn’t called John Ralston up to ask him about the issue.  I went ahead and talked with him about it and he told me to put the mags in a plastic bag and wear the rig around for a day and that should fix the issue.  It was a palm-to-forehead moment for me.  I had tried everything but that.  A day of that took care of the issue and from that point on it has been fantastic.  A side note that put me over the edge and all for John was his customer service.  When I first talked to John I told him who I was and that Clint Smith sent me.  He immediately remembered a Facebook post by Heidi Smith about my young son.  My little guy was born with some health issues that have kept him in and out of the hospital with a few major surgeries on top of that.  Auntie Heidi will put out prayer requests and updates on our little guy and John remembered that.  His first question was how was my son.  Almost 2 years later I call John up with the mag pouch question and he remembers me and asks how my son is doing.  That my folks is customer service.  So to wrap up a review that seemed to take way longer than expected, go check out Five Shot Leather.   You’ll find his website under the link section here.  If you’re looking for a custom rig that will last, look no farther.