Custom Holsters, Leatherwork, Mag Holders, Gun Belts, and Accessories, by leather craftsman Cotton Inks.
Holsters are a part of Western lore and legend going back to the mid to early 1800's as the need for holsters to carry short arms on horseback and on your person became more common. With the development of the revolver as a viable backup weapon prior to the Civil War, engraved firearms became more common amongst the common working law man. A pistol cost more than a month's wage so it made sense that a good holster would be a requirement to secure and protect such an investment. The earliest fancy holsters I found were post Civil War.
And what kind of man would require such a weapon holder? I'm not sure. Cowboys, soldiers, lawmen, and criminals come to the top of my list. Romantic tales of the old West in movie and TV have clouded a lot of the actual history. It would have to be someone with a need. Early BBQ holsters were probably offshoots of the heavily tooled Mexican single and double loop single action army designs first appearing in the 1870's. The designs were soon adopted and emulated by stateside leather makers from the 1870's when cowboys and pistoleros roamed the open plains. I suspect the introduction of the Colt Peacemaker in 1873 played no small part in the increase in fancy gun leather. From the information I can find, Court holsters, or BBQ holsters as we call them here in Texas, first started appearing after WWI, about the 1920's. There were a lot of heavily tooled SAA rigs from around 1900/pre-WWI, but they are generally too flashy to be worn to court by law enforcement. They might have been residuals from the Wild West Shows of the times.
Internet links mostly document law enforcement personnel, such as Texas and Arizona Rangers, Sheriffs, and Border Patrol Agents carrying highly engraved guns and nicely tooled holster / belt rigs when they appeared in more formal settings, such as appearing in Court. A lot of them would have a "Sunday go to meeting rig" to wear to town or for a court appearance. Many of these rigs were fully tooled in basket weave patterns with gun belts detailed to match. Most of the holster examples I found have been carried by law enforcement that wore a gun on their hip on a daily basis.
Personally, I think the "fancy holsters" of the last several decades might have been more of a Hollywood creation worn by Tom Mix or later by Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, "Paladin", "Gunsmoke", "Bonanza", etc., or more recently, "Walker, Texas Ranger". Most of these Hollywood holsters were in a buscadera form with carved patterns being flowery Sheridan style saddle patterns of one form or another.
BBQ holsters have taken on a life of their own in recent years with gun owners in the general public because of a large number of cowboy shooter organization members with it's market for fancy engraved SAA guns and carved holsters. The increase in conceal carry licenses has not done anything to dampen interest in having a highly decorated holster for occasion use with that favorite hand gun. The gun leather of this caliber :) in many cases is truly art in the same way that engraving on a presentation pistol is.
The Texas Rangers are the source of the BBQ holster terminology. I'm not sure they coined the term, but they are responsible for it. Texas Rangers are not limited to black holsters, black police belts, and black plastic pistols like a lot law enforcement officers and agencies. They do not dress in uniforms as such, and therefore are able choose their own holster/belt rigs. The dress of the Texas Ranger is sharp. The dress Rangers are known for is a Western formal with fully pressed shirts and jeans or slacks, shined boots, Stetson, and jacket when needed. I've never seen a Texas Ranger sloppily dressed. Their holster rigs reflect that same attitude and care of appearance. When you see a Texas Ranger, you know you are looking at a professional.
My grandfather was a Texas Ranger, an uncle was a Texas DPS Trooper, and another uncle a Capt. with Austin PD. They used to ride each other pretty hard in a good spirited way about their duties. Some sources say the term BBQ holster was a gig from other agencies teasing the Texas Rangers about some of their duties, like providing security for the Governor of the State of Texas.
The Governor as well as other important visiting dignitaries are provided Ranger security to formal or informal public and private affairs. Hence, when escorting the Governor to a formal dinner party or BBQ fundraiser of some type, they have to step up their game, dress a little nicer, and have a nicer gun rig out in public. Hence the teasing from other LEO about security risks, like getting drinks spilled on them by campaign contributors or having to wear their BBQ rigs.
A BBQ holster is one that is of the highest level of understated quality while very detailed and intricate in truth, simple and conservative in outward appearance.
That's my take. I'd be happy to hear other stories ..or holster history in general.. firstname.lastname@example.org
I will post links to BBQ holsters and history as I find them.
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