Home - Volume 3 (2008) - Issue 4 (Fall '08) - Holsters Review: Kramer Holsters

Tactical Trio from Kramer Leather

With more and more states adopting laws recognizing or allowing either concealed carry or open carry of handguns (or both) for personal defense, more people every day are acquiring handguns to carry as they go about their daily lives. Many of these armed citizens choose variants of the ubiquitous 1911 as the weapon of choice. Having selected a weapon, the next choice they face is ' how to carry it. For perhaps the vast majority of these newly armed citizens, how to carry it also implies how to conceal it. The market for handgun holsters is wide and varied, with offerings in ballistic nylon, synthetics such as Kydex, and leather (both cowhide and horsehide). Prices range from under $10 for a generic, ballistic nylon pouch that accepts 'large automatics' (which generally includes 1911s), to well above $100 for a high-quality, molded ('boned') leather holster that's specific to a particular model and size of pistol.

The array of choices is bewildering. And, looking at the cost of many of the better-known brands, choosing incorrectly can become costly rather quickly. Talk to virtually anyone who has been carrying for awhile and, more likely than not, he'll eventually confess to having a box full of unused holsters that were bought, tried for awhile, and eventually retired because they didn't quite suit that person's needs or wants.

Thus, when Will Kramer of Kramer Handgun Leather offered to send us a couple of his company's more popular holsters for evaluation, we immediately accepted the offer. Although Kramer Handgun Leather has been an established 'name,' in the holster industry for a number of years, they haven't achieved quite the everyday name recognition of a couple of more widely-advertised holster makers. We felt this would be an opportunity to introduce our readership to another alternative source for holsters, as well as to provide a small window of view into the variety of holsters available to those of us who choose to carry the 1911 pistol.

Ultimately, Will sent us three different holsters: First up, because he had seen our test of the Para-Ordnance Slim Hawg, was a standard outside-of-waistband (OWB) belt scabbard for the Slim Hawg, in black horsehide. In discussing what else to send, I mentioned to Will that a question we often encounter is, 'What's available for my 1911 with a rail?' The usual answer is, 'Not much.' Kramer Leather offers several holsters for 1911s with integral tactical rails, and they sent us two. One is an OWB belt scabbard for a full-size pistol with a rail, the other is an inside-of-waistband (IWB) for a railed 1911. Like the first holster, these are also both in black horsehide.

3' Belt Scabbard

The 3' belt scabbard we received is a fairly conventional 'pancake' style holster, with the belt slots both set outboard from the body of the holster. The holster itself is nicely wet-molded (boned) to the shape of the pistol. Although our sample is marked 'Para Slim Hawg' on the zip-lock bag, the Slim Hawg is a standard profile, 3-inch 1911 and the same holster should also accept similar sized pistols such as the Colt Defender or New Agent, Kimber Ultra Carry, Springfield Micro-Compact, etc.

The 3' Belt Scabbard

The Belt Scabbard is a moderately high-ride holster with an FBI cant, which means the grip portion of the pistol is tilted slightly forward of the muzzle. This allows the grip portion of the frame to tuck in close to the body, offering good concealment under almost any cover garment. It is an OWB holster, so naturally some cover garment is needed if it is to be worn for concealed carry. We found that the high ride, combined with the short length of the Para-Ordnance 3' Slim Hawg, made it easy to conceal the 'rig' under anything from an untucked T-shirt to a light windbreaker jacket to a standard denim Levis-style western jacket to a suit coat or sport jacket. I typically wear my holsters at the 3:00 position, and the Belt Scabbard was no exception. I had been carrying the Slim Hawg in a similar holster from another manufacturer, originally intended for a Colt Officers ACP (which has a 3-1/2' barrel). The transition to the Kramer Belt Scabbard was seamless and unnoticed. I have worn it more than either of the other two sample holsters, and I have found it to be comfortable when standing, sitting, walking, and driving. It required no changes whatsoever for me to transition to the Belt Scabbard. And, regardless of what I've worn as a cover garment or how careful or careless I have been about keeping the pistol concealed, I have not been 'made' once while wearing the Belt Scabbard.

The Slim Hawg at rest in the Belt Scabbard

The leather of the Belt Scabbard is treated to be slightly stiff, to help hold the holster's shape. The mouth of the holster is molded to the shape of the gun, but is not reinforced. On the body side, the leather extends up as a sweat shield, and to keep a piece of leather between the body and the thumb safety of the pistol. The pistol easily settles deep into the holster, which covers the entire trigger guard and trigger opening. However, the top slants down and away in order to allow a quick and easy grasp of the grip when drawing. This slant, combined with the FBI cant, allows for fast and smooth presentation when drawing the pistol.

The Vertical Scabbard

This model, at least the sample sent to us, was cut for a full-size 1911 with a tactical rail. The Vertical Scabbard, unlike the Belt Scabbard model, is not a 'pancake' holster. The Vertical Scabbard has an exposed belt slot behind the holster, but the other belt slot is sewn onto the body of the holster. This model has a reinforcing strip around the holster mouth. On the body side, the reinforcing strip extends down to form the forward holster loop, which is located approximately where the chamber of the pistol rides in the holster.

The Vertical Scabbard

Somewhat curiously, our sample Vertical Scabbard is not vertical. Kramer's web site describes the Vertical Scabbard as follows:

As the name implies, this holster carries the gun in a "neutral rake", vertical position. Straight up and down, in other words. The weapon rides high, on the strong side hip, and the gun butt tucks snugly into the side for maximum concealment.

The zip-lock bag in which our sample holster arrived was marked 'Vertical Scabbard w/ FBI,' implying an FBI cant. The holster itself very much is set to ride at an 'FBI cant' angle, rather than perfectly vertical. In our initial discussions, I mentioned (in passing) to Will Kramer that on occasion I subject myself to the total humiliation of trying my hand at combat shooting competitions. Will offered the opinion that the Vertical Scabbard design is probably Kramer's model best suited for such competition. I suspect that the sample provided to us was made up with the FBI cant because the slight forward rake provides a modest advantage in speed of draw and presentation compared to a completely vertical holster.

The Vertical Scabbard with Caspian Recon Rail

Like the Belt Scabbard, our sample Vertical Scabbard is well-made and nicely molded to the exact shape of the pistol. As mentioned above, this holster was made to accept a full-size 1911 with an integral tactical rail. We have a pistol built on a Caspian Recon Rail receiver, and that is the pistol we used to check the fit of the holster. It was flawless. The pistol slid home into the holster like it was made for it (so to speak). The fit was snug and there was no danger of the pistol falling out, yet the fit is not so tight that there is any sense of needing to force the pistol into the holster to get it properly seated. We also found no necessity to soak the holster and put it and the pistol (encased in a plastic baggie) in the refrigerator or freezer overnight to stretch the holster to the pistol, as we have read is sometimes necessary with other brands of holster.

Like the Belt Scabbard, the mouth of the Vertical Scabbard is cut to slant away from the grip area of the pistol, affording an excellent grip of the pistol when drawing. In wear, the belt loops hold the holster fairly high on the belt, with the grip tucked close to the body. Even a full-size pistol rides mostly above the belt, making concealment easy with a variety of cover garments.

The IWB #3

Kramer Leather offers several different inside-of-waistband (IWB) holsters. The IWB model is designed as an IWB holster that rides at an FBI cant. Unlike most IWB holsters, which typically are just a holster and either a clip or a pair of belt loops, the Kramer IWB #3 uses a holster cut with a fairly broad paddle. The paddle has no belt slots in it, but it serves to distribute the weight and pressure of the holster across a larger portion of the hip area of the wearer's body, resulting in a more comfortable IWB holster for prolonged carry.

The IWB #3

Like the Vertical Scabbard, our sample IWB #3 was cut to accept a full-size 1911 with an integral tactical rail. And, like the Vertical Scabbard, the holster swallowed our Caspian Recon Rail pistol perfectly. No looseness, no flopping around, no forcing the pistol to slide home in the holster, and'above all'no need to final fit the holster to the gun in the refrigerator overnight. The holster arrived perfectly fitted to the pistol.

I have never found IWB carry to be especially comfortable, but Will Kramer assured me that I would find the IWB #3 to be a surprise. He was correct. When I tried carrying with it, I was extremely surprised. First, typically the largest 1911 I carry is a Commander-size pistol. I have never made it my practice to carry a full-size Government model during my daily travels. Nor have I ever carried the Recon Rail. If someone had come up to me a few moths ago and told me that there's a way to carry the Recon Rail pistol concealed, IWB, comfortably'I would have called for the nice men with the jacket that has those extra-long sleeves.

The IWB #3 showed me (once again) how dangerous it is to engage in generalized assumptions. Once I adapted to a slight change in where the pistol is worn, I found the IWB #3 to be very comfortable'surprisingly comfortable'even for a full day of varied activity. I mentioned above that I normally carry with an OWB holster positioned just about at the 3:00 position. In fact, if my jeans or pants have a belt loop at the 3:00 o'clock position, I position the holster to straddle that belt loop. With the IWB #3, I simply moved the holster a bit farther back, to what I would describe as the 4:00 o'clock position, so the bulk of the pistol rides between the hip and the 'bum' (as the English term it). In this position, it proved to be comfortable not only when standing and walking, but also when seated and (to my very great surprise) when driving.

The IWB #3 with Caspian Recon Rail

The IWB #3, like the Vertical Scabbard, incorporates a reinforcing strip around the holster mouth. This is especially important with IWB holsters as an aid to retaining the shape of the opening so the pistol can be reholstered one-handed. The IWB #3 employs two adjustable belt loops to secure the holster to the belt. The standard loops are sized for a 1-1/2' belt, with other sizes available upon request. The belt loops are held to the holster body with brass screws, which are adjustable for tension.


All three holsters showed a high degree of craftsmanship. The leather is uniform in thickness, color, texture and finish. We found no objectionable cosmetic flaws in the leather. Stitching is uniform and straight, with the major seams (where the front and back of the holster come together around the body of the pistol) double-stitched.

Detail of the stitching

None of these holsters are lined. They don't need to be. The inside surface is not quite as smooth as the finished, exterior faces, but the inside surfaces are still 'smooth' rather than sueded leather. The stitching is accomplished neatly, so there are no knots of stiff thread lurking inside to attack the pristine finish of your cherished handgun. Nonetheless, it is an accepted fact that, eventually, leather holsters generate wear on the finish of handguns. So far, we have observed no accelerated wear on either the Slim Hawg or the Recon Rail as a result of carry in the Kramer holsters. We certainly expect that there will be some wear, probably around the muzzle area, after a year or so of regular use. This is not a condemnation of the holster but, rather, an acceptance of 'what is' (as my Zen teacher was prone to saying).

We are aware that there is considerable debate and disagreement as to whether cowhide or horsehide is the better leather for firearms holsters. Since my leather-working expertise is limited to having assembled a few Tandy Leather Company moccasin kits as a youth 'several' years ago, I will not attempt to enter into that debate. Suffice it to say that, although the samples sent to us were all horsehide, Kramer Handgun Leather offers most of their holster designs in both cowhide and horsehide. So, whichever direction your preference lies, they can probably accommodate you.

Our thanks to Will Kramer and Kramer Handgun Leather for making these holsters available to us for evaluation.

You may discuss about this product, ask questions or in general discuss about this review, in this thread in our Forums Site.


Belt Scabbard : $118.00
Vertical Scabbard : $125.00
IWB #3 : $132.00



Kramer Handgun Leather
P.O. Box 112154
Tacoma, WA 98411

Telephone: (253) 564-6652
Toll free: (888) KRAMER-1
Toll free: (800) 510-2666
Fax: (253) 564-1214

E-mail addresses: customerinquiry@kramerleather.com
Web Site: http://www.kramerleather.com

Home - Volume 3 (2008) - Issue 4 (Fall '08) - Holsters Review: Kramer Leather Holsters