View Full Version : 1791 Gunleather Holster Review

Harwood Loomis
27th October 2019, 07:21



Two New Holsters from 1791 Gunleather

Reviewed for M1911.ORG by Harwood Loomis

Until earlier this year, we had never heard of 1791 Gunleather. Our introduction came in the form of a contact from Stephen Evatt, who represents (among other firearms-related companies) 1791 Gunleather, asking if we would be interested in reviewing a new holster the company was introducing called the Stealth. This new holster is a combination of traditional leather and a new, high-tech version of carbon fiber. They offer two holster models for the 1911 platform, so we immediately expressed our interest.

No sooner had we set the wheels in motion to receive an evaluation sample of the Stealth holster, we received another notice from Steve, advising us of an inside the waistband (IWB) from 1791 Gunleather in Kydex. (The Stealth holster is an outside the waistband, or OWB, holster). We asked Steve to check with 1791 Gunleather, and they were amenable to sending us one of these, as well. They also sent two of their heavy leather gunbelts to accompany the holsters.

Stealth BHC

Stealth BHC holster

First up is 1791’s Stealth BHC outside waistband (OWB) hybrid holster. 1791 Gunleather makes a line of all cowhide holsters, but they specifically wanted us to look at the Stealth line. What makes it hybrid is the fact that the holster body is mostly made of what appears to be really top-grade leather but, worked into the outer face of the holster in a way we still haven’t figured out, is a layer of basketweave carbon fiber material. Most carbon fiber is rigid. 1791 says their carbon fiber is flexible and will help mold the holster to your firearm.

These holsters are not individually “boned” (molded) to fit each firearm, so there aren’t 73 bazillion stock numbers to cover the entire market of handgun makes, types, and models. Instead, they offer a few models to cover the majority of the handgun spectrum, and allow the proprietary carbon fiber insert to take care of molding the holster to the buyer’s firearm. The company offers only four models in the “Project Stealth” line:
BHC, for “Micro-Frame” firearms (listed for the 3” Colt 1911)
BH2.1, “Multi-Fit” (not listed for any 1911s)
BH2.3, “Multi-Fit” (listed for the Colt Delta Elite with rail, Kimber Pro TLE/RL II, Rock Island 1911 5”, and the Rock Island TAC Ultra 5”)
BH1 (listed for the Colt Delta Elite with rail, Remington R1, Browning 1911-380, Colt 1911 4” [which, of course, doesn’t exist], Colt 1911 5”, Kimber 1911 4”, Kimber 1911 5”, Kimber Pro TLE/RL II, Rock Island 1911 5”, Ruger SR1911, Sig Sauer 1911 5” with rail, Springfield Range Officer

My preferred 1911 is a Commander, with the true 4¼” barrel. When I feel a need for a smaller, more concealable pistol I alternate between a Colt M1991M1 Compact (3½” barrel) and a Para-Ordnance Slim Hawg (3” barrel). After vacillating over which holster we should review, I finally decided to go with the BHC because I wanted to find out if it would accept a pistol with a 3½” barrel. I know I can carry a Commander in a holster that’s sized for a 5-inch barrel.

Getting right down to the nitty-gritty, as soon as our sample holster arrived I opened it up and tried to put my M1991A1 Compact into it. It didn’t go. It almost fits, but not quite. The bottom of the holster is open, so it should be possible for the last quarter or half inch of the slide to extend through the opening. However, 1791 uses very robust stitching in assembling these holsters. There is a line of stitching along the bottom edge of the holster, and the corner of the slide gets hung up on the stitches. I had to carefully squeeze the edges of the holster to expand the mouth at the bottom enough to get the M1991A1 Compact slide through the opening for photos. That's simply not practical for daily use. If I were willing to have the slide somewhat aggressively dehorned (edges rounded off), I think the pistol would then go in with no problems. But … I like my little Colt just the way it is, so the 1791 Stealth BHC is not going to carry it.

3" Para stops short of the stitching. The M1991A1 Compact slide gets hung up on stitching short of full insertion into holster

Colt M1991A1 Compact could extend slightly beyond holster if the muzzle would clear the stitching

Another factor is that my Colt has a rather sharp edge at the forward end of the slide. Other pistols have a bevel or chamfer at this point, and such pistols might not have a problem slipping the muzzle past the raised stitches. It isn’t a concern with the Para-Ordnance Slim Hawg, since that has a 3-inch barrel, but the Para has a beveled slide, and it’s bigger brothers (such as the P12.45) might be able to fit into the Stealth BHC.

Para Slim Hawg on left, Colt M1991A1 on right. Note beveled end on the Para slide.

My other option in the Stealth line would be one of the two models that are listed for 4-inch and 5-inch pistols, the BH2.3 or the BH1. That’s not a good option for me. I don’t need an inch and a half of empty holster hanging down below the muzzle, making concealment and sitting more difficult. As for our test—I knew when I made the choice that it might not work with the Colt, but I wanted to find out for certain in order to better inform our readers. I knew that I could wear the holster with my Para-Ordnance Slim Hawg, so that’s what we did. The Slim Hawg fit into the holster as it should, with the trigger completely covered and protected.

Para-Ordnance Slim Hawg in the 1791 Stealth BHC holster


As I have discussed in other articles, leather is described by the term “ounces” but, in leather work, the ounce is not a unit of weight. Rather, an ounce is 1/64 of an inch in thickness. (This means, for example, that a belt described as “4-ounce leather” is made of leather that is 4/64, or 1/16-inch thick.) Thicknesses are not precise, and are often specified as a range. The specifications for the 1791 Stealth holster and the accompanying belt don’t include the thickness of the leather, so we had to measure. Since quality leather is somewhat soft and compressible, our measurements are approximate.

The holster itself consists of a single-ply back and a 2-ply front. The outer piece of the front has a window cut into the leather and the basketweave carbon fiber insert is sewn into the window. Then the inner ply of the front piece is placed behind the outer ply, and the two plies are sewn together. Finally, the holster is assembled and the back is stitched to the front. To the best of our measurements, it appears that the two plies of the front are both 3/32-inch thick (6-ounce leather), and the single-ply back is 3/16-inch thick (12-ounce leather). The overall thickness of the assembled holster, measured at the belt slots, is 3/8-inch.

The stitches that interfere with inserting the Colt M1991A1 Compact into the holster are the stitches attaching the carbon fiber insert to the front part of the holster.

The belt is a single ply of heavy leather that appears to be of exceptionally high quality. There are no scratches or other imperfections in either the front or the rear surface of the leather. Although these belts are single-ply, they are as thick and as stiff as some 2-ply gun belts we have seen in the past. The belt measures 3/16-inch thick (12-ounce leather) by 1-7/16-inch in width. (We think it’s fair to call it 1½ inches—the missing sixteenth of an inch was likely lost when the nominal 1½ inch blank was finished and buffed.)

The leather in both the belt and the holster has a soft, flat/matte finish. They aren’t highly polished, and the leather feels as if it may have been given a slight oil finish.

The belt slots in the holster are not cut straight, but are arranged in arcs. The slots are two inches in length (height). This allows the holster to be rotated slightly around the belt to adjust the holster to what the wearer considers an optimum cant. Once this has been chosen, over time the belt and holster will gradually take a set, preserving the wearer’s chosen angle of cant. What we encountered, however, is that the belt slots are so narrow that the belt is virtually a press fit going through the slots. While this is a positive attribute in terms of holding the holster in position when it’s being worn, we also felt that it makes it more difficult to take advantage of the radial-cut slots to adjust the cant. It’s a trade-off … but what in life isn’t?

The Para-Ordnance Slim Hawg in the 1791 Stealth BHC holster

Close-up of the radial belt slot for adjusting cant angle

The Stealth BHC holds the butt of the pistol close to the body

The Stealth BHC fit nicely between adjacent belt loops on my cargo pants and jeans, allowing me to wear it just forward of a 3:00 o’clock position. To position it farther to the rear would require threading the belt into the first holster slot, then through the belt loop on the pants, and finally through the second slot on the holster. This is no different from most other OWB style holsters in my motley assortment of carry leather. It carries my 3-inch Slim Hawg with a slight forward cant, positioned perfectly for drawing the pistol. It’s short enough to be comfortable when sitting, and to disappear under short jackets or vests.

There is no retention strap or hardware retention device, but the thickness of the leather creates a solid hold on the pistol. In wearing it during our evaluation period I never had any sense that the pistol was in danger of slipping or falling out of the holster, and it never shifted position.

After wearing the 1791 Stealth holster for several weeks, I have been very happy with its performance. I will state for the record that I’m old fashioned, and my aesthetic preference leans strongly in the direction of smooth leather holsters, no basketweave or other adornment, in Henry Ford’s basic black. That meant that the carbon fiber insert on the outer surface of the Stealth holster took some getting accustomed to. The reality is that, since I carry concealed, nobody sees the holster when I’m wearing it … not even me. That means the aesthetics are very much a non-issue, and the use of the carbon fiber insert seems to be an ingenious approach to improving the often nebulous fit of universal or semi-universal fit holsters.

To sum up: it’s a very good holster. It’s probably not for everyone, but our conclusion is that it’s worth a look.

Kydex Tactical IWB

Kydex Tactical IWB

1791 Gunleather’s web site places the Stealth line of carbon fiber/leather holsters under “Open Carry.” Obviously, they can also be used for concealed carry, when worn under a suitable cover garment. Under the category of “Concealed Carry,” 1791 lists a series of Kydex inside the waistband (IWB) holsters. These are not hybrid construction; they aren’t leather and Kydex, they aren’t carbon fiber and Kydex, they’re Kydex. Since Kydex is a rigid material, these holsters are not universal fit, or even semi-universal. They are molded to fit specific firearms. The one they sent us is molded for a full-size 1911, without light rail.

I never carry IWB, so I felt that my trying to do field evaluations of this holster would not be a fair test. Fortunately, I have a friend (who chooses to remain anonymous) in town who is a fellow NRA instructor and who carries a full-size 1911 in an IWB holster on a daily basis. I approached him about trying out the 1791 Kydex tactical IWB, and he was enthusiastically agreeable.

Before handing off the holster, I first took photos and, naturally, tried out fitting a pistol into it. The gun I used was a Colt M1991A1 Compact, an Officers ACP size 1911 with a 3½-inch barrel. The Kydex Tactical has no retention strap or hardware retention devices. For retention, it relies on the molding of the shell to the contours of the pistol, and the tightness of the fit. Tension is adjustable by a series of three adjusting screws located along the lower, open side of the holster (forward of the trigger guard area and below the barrel).

1791 Kydex Tactical IWB showing tensioning screws

When I first inserted my M1991A1 Compact into the Tactical IWB, it snapped in with an authoritative-sounding “SNAP.” When I then attempted to withdraw the pistol, it just wasn’t going to happen. It seemed that the harder I pulled, the tighter the holster held onto the pistol. I had to loosen the tension screws almost all the way before I could get the pistol out of the holster. After fiddling with the gun, the holster, and the tensioning screws a bit, I arrived at the conclusion that the tension held the pistol tightly when I tried to draw straight up and out, but if I twisted the pistol slightly, rotating the grip outward around the axis of the barrel, it allowed the pistol to be drawn with almost no resistance.

There were no instructions with the holster, and I found nothing on the 1791 Gunleather web site suggesting a “twist to draw” feature. I mentioned this to my delegated test assistant after he had been wearing the holster for a couple of weeks, and he disagreed with my theory. He feels that it’s purely a question of adjusting the tension correctly. He said he didn’t notice any difference between drawing straight up and out, or twisting the grip outward when drawing. In any event, the Kydex Tactical IWB provides better than adequate retention. Unless you remove the tensioning screws completely, it’s unlikely you might ever have to work about a pistol falling out of this holster.

The Tactical IWB uses plastic rather than metal for the belt clip. This, like so many things in life, is a trade-off. Metal belt clips are thinner, but they also may have sharp edges that chew up your belt (regardless of whether the belt is leather, or some sort of nylon such as a Wilderness Instructor belt). Plastic belt clips are less likely to fray the belt material, but they are … plastic. They have to be thicker than metal belt clips. Over long periods of time, too, plastic clips may become brittle. However, plastic embrittlement occurs over a period of years, not days or weeks, so we certainly didn’t encounter any problems. The belt clip has a hook on the bottom to engage the bottom edge of the belt and keep the holster anchored when drawing the pistol.

The belt clip is black, so it will work best when worn on a black belt.

Black belt clip matches a black belt best

The belt clip for the 1791 Kydex tactical IWB is a round “1791” logo molded prominently into the outer face. My designated tester reported that he does not like this feature. The point of carrying a concealed firearm is to not draw attention to it in any way. He feels that, even though it’s not likely anyone who sees it will recognize it as the logo of a maker of firearms holsters, it’s something that can attract a viewer’s eye … and that’s what we don’t want. He would prefer that the belt clip show a plain, smooth surface that doesn’t attract any attention.

After two weeks of wearing the Kydex Tactical IWB on an almost daily basis, by colleague reported that it wears and carries comfortably and securely. There was only one thing about the holster that he didn’t like, and he acknowledged that other people might not have a problem with it. Behind the trigger guard area, the Kydex holster body has a pronounced bulge. The cant angle of the holster can be adjusted by loosening the two screws that attach the belt clip to the holster body. With the angle adjusted to where he likes it, my tester found that this bulge or protrusion had a tendency to ride up and out of the waistband of his trousers,

Bulge behind trigger tends to ride up over waistband and belt

His theory, which I think makes sense, is that the bulge is there so that it will press against the inside of the belt, helping to turn the holster and pistol inward to hold the grip closer to the body for better concealment. And, if the bulge would stay down and behind the belt, this would indeed work. For my tester, though, it didn’t work. He found that he had to reposition the holster several times during the course of the day because the bulge rode up and protruded above the waistband and belt.

Bottom line: Other than the minor issue of the bulge riding up out of the waistband of his trousers, my colleague liked the 1791 Kydex Tactical IWB very much. In fact, he’s still wearing it even after I have taken my photos and made note of his field testing feedback. That means he approves.

You may discuss this article in our Forums site, in this thread (https://forum.m1911.org/showthread.php?111151-1791-Gunleather-Holster-review-discussion-thread).

Find us on : https://ezine.m1911.org/images/buttons/facebook2.png (http://www.facebook.com/m1911.org) https://ezine.m1911.org/images/buttons/twitter2.png (https://www.twitter.com/M1911ORG)


The M1911 Pistols Organization would like to thank Stephen Evatt and Jacob Paulsen for arranging for us to review these holsters and belts, and we thank 1791 Gunleather for providing examples of their products for evaluation.

We should point out that, in addition to the two holsters and belts we evaluated, 1791 Gunleather also has a full line of all-leather holsters to look at.

You may discuss this article here (http://forum.m1911.org/showthread.php?p=).


1791 Gunleather Shop
1724 NW 21st Street
Miami, FL 33142

Stealth BHC MSRP: $99.99
Kydex Tactical IWB MSRP: $64.99