07 January 2015


One thing I love about Matt's job is that the university has a "hard closure"—no one is allowed to come in to work without special permission from people quite high up in the administration—from Christmas through New Years. We sure enjoyed having him home for so long! He spent a lot of the break just spending time with Little Bear and me, but he also found time to finally work on a project he's been planning and designing for months: a chest holster for his revolver.

Carrying your bear-defense in a hip holster, where it gets fouled up in the hip belt of your backpack—and you carry a pack with basic survival gear no matter what you're doing or how short your trip is when you go into the wilderness here—just doesn't make sense; we obviously hope to never encounter a bear and practice proper bear-avoidance, but in a hostile situation every extra second increases the risk to your family's lives. 

Matt had been researching chest holsters for a while but hadn't found the perfect one for a remotely reasonable price when he discovered Kydex. A thin thermoplastic, sheets of Kydex can easily be heated to the point of pliability with a standard heat gun and molded to any shape, cooling and hardening again within ten seconds of removing the heat. Several holster makers had adopted the material for holsters, but no one was making chest holsters, so Matt decided to make his own. Not being sure how hard the Kydex would be to mold, Matt decided to buy a sheet pre-molded to his model of revolver from somebody online. As it turned out, he got to play with the plastic anyway: the piece he received was molded to fit a 2" barrel, and his revolver has a 4" barrel and larger sights, so he sliced off a piece for each side and re-molded the channel for the sights.

Next came the leather. The Kydex mold would cover one side of the revolver, holding it sandwiched against a thick piece of latigo leather. Matt shaped and dyed the leather, attaching the Kydex and rectangular "strap keepers" on swivels for attaching the harness. He was initially discouraged after dying the main leather piece, because he could see each line where he had slightly overlapped two strokes of dye, but buffing the freshly-dyed piece helped even it out significantly. We also learned that daubing on the dye instead of stroking/brushing it on like paint gave a much better final appearance, as did being able to say "I'm all done messing with this for tonight" and walking away. :-)

Nickle-coated brass Chicago screws and a big stainless steel saddle ring to bring the straps together at his back give the holster a final polished look.

Sewing the harness and figuring out how to make each strap adjustable was pretty much the only part of the project I helped with, and even then Matt did most of it himself; I stepped in briefly a few times when my sewing machine became temperamental. He also made two removable sets of loops to hold extra bullets, which required a lot of hand sewing because I couldn't get the tension right on the sewing machine to make it cooperate with the elastic. Little Bear had fun helping him attach the snaps to hold them in place on the harness. (He came in from helping Daddy in the garage with a huge grin and a "bracelet" made from spare webbing and snaps. At least once a day he finds it, brings it to me, and asks me to put it on him.)

So far, Matt is really happy with how the holster turned out. It's been too cold to go to the range (bear loads are too powerful to shoot at the indoor range), so he hasn't had a chance to actually practice with it, but just trying it unloaded at home he's found that it holds the revolver well—even turning it upside down, you have to shake it hard several times to get it to budge—but it draws quickly. And it looks pretty great! My dad was admiring it, and laughingly commented that now Matt just needs to get himself a website and start selling custom holsters.


  1. It looks great! Good job, Matt!

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