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I recently received my new Maltese Falcon holster from Red Nichols. It is a unique design and wanted to share my review of this holster with the members. The review is fairly long and detailed. If I have missed anything that may be of interest to you, please post and I will do my best to answer any questions.

The Pocket:
At the most fundamental level, there are two basic ways of "wrapping leather around a handgun to make a holster." The first is the "taco" style where a single piece of leather is wrapped from front to back around the handgun. The "Tom Threepersons", Bruce Nelson's "Professional" and Bianchi "Avenger" are common examples of this style. The other typical construction method is to "sandwich" the handgun between two pieces of leather. Roy Baker's "Original Pancake Holster" from the 1970s is perhaps the most notable example of this style.

The style that Red Nichols has designed for his Maltese Falcon holster is neither "taco", or "sandwich"; neither "Avenger" or "pancake." The "Avenger-esque" pocket is stitched to a backing panel. The style is what I will call a "partial-wrap". The pocket is not a full-wrap type pocket. Rather it wraps approximately 3/2rds circumference around the handgun. The leading edge of this partial-pocket is stitched to the backing panel, then wrapped back toward the trigger guard and stitched. I don't know the history of this particular design and it seems seldom used. Red Nichols and Bob Mernickle (noted cowboy action holster maker) are the only holstersmiths that I am aware of currently offering this partial-wrap style. There are some similar styles that basically are a full-wrap pocket stitched to a backing panel. Unlike styles where a full-wrap pocket is stitched to a backing plate, the Maltese Falcon's "partial-wrap" construction eliminates one layer of leather between the handgun and the wearer, resulting in a ~0.125 inch reduction in overall thickness.

The front of the pocket is low cut. This low cut front reduces the amount of shoulder rotation and "elbow lift" needed for the muzzle to "clear leather." The muzzle actually clears about midway of the belt line. This is particularly nice for a full 5” barrel length 1911, and enables a quick presentation of the handgun.

The mouth of the pocket is reinforced. In my view, with this design reinforcement is not needed from a performance perspective. Since the pocket is stitched to a backing plate, there is no tendency for belt tension to pull the mouth closed after the handgun is drawn, unlike the typical 50/50 pancake style OWB holster. By design, one-handed reholstering is easily performed with the Maltese Falcon. So, to me, the reinforcement is more for the purpose of aesthetic appeal.

The pocket is an “open toe” design. Also, the "rear seam" of the holster is open at the muzzle and along the rear at the lower frame/dust cover. As a personal preference I want a concealed carry holster to cover the full length of the muzzle. I have tried Jeff Cooper's "Yaqui" type "belt slide"and other such minimalist holsters. I find “open top” holster designs that leave the muzzle/slide uncovered are less secure than covered muzzle designs because of my tendency to bump the muzzle during routine activities, and thereby, unintentionally "unseat" the handgun. The Maltese Falcon’s full length coverage of the slide to the muzzle and the full length of the backing panel minimize the potential for accidental unseating. After wearing the Maltese Falcon for many hours during normal activities I have experienced zero instances of unseating and can state that the design coupled with the tension device maintain the security of my 1911.

One of the unusual features of the holster is the use of a welt between the backing panel and the outer shell of the holster pocket. This welt lays between the backing panel and the trigger guard of the firearm. The purpose of this welt is to control what Red calls "twist". I will try to explain twist using an example. With your handgun holstered on your belt, press the butt inward. As you do so, notice that the sights rotate outward. Now, press inward on the forward edge of the slide and notice that the butt rotates outward. By placing the welt between the backing panel and the trigger guard, it acts as a spacer to regulate the twist with the benefit of allowing adequate access to obtain a quick combat grip. It also seems to me that the welt provides a solid base for the tension device and aids in "pinching" the trigger guard to the amount of force desired to release the handgun during the drawstroke.

The pocket also includes a molded sight channel that provides adequate clearance for even tall front sights, such as on my Colt Gold Cup Trophy. Also, the trigger is covered.

The Slots:
Curved belt slots are nothing new. But, the curved slots on the Maltese Falcon are unique. Basically, holes are punched according to the belt width and then the "slot" is made by connecting the holes with a curved "slit." Red calls these "skeleton" slots and they are trademarked as a distinguishing feature of his holsters. The slot design minimizes bending of the belt as it passes through. This is especially notable when using 1/4" thick, stiff, gun belts. The curved "tabs" formed by the slots also seem to grip against the belt reducing any tendency to walk, or slide, along the belt during routine daily body movements. When I received the holster I was surprised at how narrow it actually is. The distance between the slots is only about 4-1/2" and the width of the backing panel is well shy of 6". This holster easily fits between the belt loops of my size 36 jeans. Although narrow, the spacing of the slots distributes the weight of a full sized handgun evenly and provides stability, eliminating rocking. To me, this is important for assuring consistent acquisition of a combat grip and consistent drawstroke and presentation. In all, the holster anchors the handgun solidly on the belt.

It is also noteworthy that the trailing slot is cut very close to the rear of the pocket; resulting in the butt of the handgun being pulled close to the body, minimizing printing.

Cant/Rake/Caster:
On Red's website he refers to "cant" (or “rake”) as "caster" using automotive wheel alignment as the analogy. The advertised angle of "castor" is 24 degrees. After receiving the holster, I confirmed this using a protractor and it measured 24 degrees exactly. Before ordering, I thought 24 degrees might be a little more than I would prefer. In general, I normally carry compact pistols strongside at about 3:30 position and tend to favor about 15 degrees cant. However, the Maltese Falcon works very well. Carried at about 4:00 position the angle of 24 degrees minimizes “footprint” of my full size pistol and minimizes "flagging" from the butt of the pistol in addition to accessibly presenting the butt of the pistol to a locked wrist.

The Backing Panel:
The design, incorporating a “partial-wrap” pocket stitched to a backing panel, results in a “Flat Back”. The advantage of a flat back design is that there are no bulges from the handgun’s slide/cylinder concentrating pressure points against wearer when the belt is cinched snuggly. Rather, the pressure is distributed evenly along the beltline between the slots. In a word, the design is very “comfortable.”

Other backing panel features include the tall slide shield that protects the wearer from irritation from safeties, sights, hammers and beavertails. The trailing wing is cut to allow full combat grip and also keeps clear of the magazine release, minimizing the potential for accidental activation.

Overall Performance:
There are several key elements associated with the design and construction of a holster for a CCW handgun, such as; Safety, Security, Concealability, Accessibility, Deployment and Comfort. From a design perspective the challenge it to get these elements to balance and work together as a whole. For example, a design that maximizes concealability hampers accessibility and deployment. A design that maximizes comfort can hamper concealability, and so forth. The Maltese Falcon balances each of the elements and is designed to perform.

General:
I ordered the holster with ostrich leg trim and kangaroo lining. It appears as though there are nine pieces used in all. Three main leather pieces. Three ‘roo liner pieces. And three ostrich trim pieces. Consequently, there was a lot of cutting and a lot of stitching required to construct this holster. The body of the holster is hand boned. Edges are rounded and treated with edge-paint. Finish and fit are what one would expect from a custom holster.

In conclusion, it is not an Avenger. It is not a pancake. Rather, it is a design that incorporates the advantages of each. The original styling and exotic accents make it a very distinctive and attractive hoster. More importantly, the styling is built around function and performance features. In all, its design, appearance, and performance are each top quality. I am very happy customer.

Thanks, Red.

red nichols holsters



 

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Very nice looking holster. Seems very functional.
 

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I have a few of Red's holsters, although a couple fewer than I would like.The Maltese Falcon was my first, and carries my 5" 1911, alternating with Red's newest take on his Avenger design, Beat The Devil. Your detailed review was an excellent assessment of the design elements. The holsters are safe, comfortable, quick to draw and retentive. They are also well made and beautiful. His designs all hit the sweet spot of carry comfort, concealability and safety. I always feel good strapping them on. Sometimes to his recurved and anatomically designed belt. He has his own unique take on many types of holster design, as he has been the original creator of many of them. All his holsters serve me well, and give me a good feeling when I wear them.
I agree with your review in every detail. Enjoy it in good health.
OBTW. For those wanting a top-tier custom holster, he guarantees delivery in 4 weeks. From Australia, no less. So you don't need to chew your nails for 6 months plus, wondering where your holster order went.
The only downside, really, is that, due to Australia's rediculous gun laws, his holsters can only be made for a limited number of handgun types. If you carry any of those, you are in luck.
 

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Thanks for the in-depth review and explanation of some of the features of Red's holsters. It is my understanding that he is one of the best holster makers going.
 

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Thank you for the thorough review, muzzleblast :35: Your review shows a lot of insight into how all the bits of a holster interact to achieve good performance. And styling. Rare display of understanding from a 'regular guy'; a lot of holster makers don't have such a grasp (and I've met most of them).
 
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