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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
About 3 years ago I had the pleasure of giving my input on what would turn out to be the 5 Shot Leather IBS holster. Since the first conversations between John Ralston and myself the holster has gone through roughly half a dozen prototypes and a few small revisions to become a very simple and functional way to carry a full-sized handgun. I’ve now been using some form of the final version for the last 2+ years and below is a brief review and my thoughts on the 5 Shot Leather IBS holster.




5 Shot IBS holster show in optional rough-out construction

As most who know me will attest, I’m a die-hard IWB user. While I admire, appreciate, and own many other holster styles the rigs that have always got the most use have been my IWBs. Since almost the very beginning of my gun-toting career, even before I “found” the 1911, I have been using IWB holsters for the obvious reasons of concealment (element of surprise), ease of carry, and one particular aspect for me which is their overall comfort. I’ve personally never found an OWB holster to be as comfortable as a good IWB, good being the operative word here, and for me this has been an almost universal truth regardless of the gun being carried. Inside the waistband holsters have always worked very well with my body type, position of carry, and activities. While that may in part be due to good luck, it’s allowed me to wear one every day at the shop, on any outings or trips I may have to go on, and most always in my personal training or classes whatever they may be. I wear an IWB with most every form of primary gun I may carry, although that basically equates to an all-steel Colt Government Model 99.99% of the time I have no issue using IWB rigs with other large pistols and revolvers. I’ve always had a job and lifestyle that has allowed me to carry a pistol (or two) unfettered so it’s pretty safe to say that I truly live with an IWB holster on.

As one could expect, I’ve also owned allot of IWB holsters over the years. The vast array of makes, models, configurations, options, choices, construction, etc. is something I’ve weighed more than a few times over the last 14 or so years of daily IWB use. A consistent training regiment as well as being able to carry on a truly day-to-day basis has afforded me the opportunity to experiment in depth with different IWB holster designs. I have also been very fortunate to have had many different shooting experiences through which I’ve been able to evaluate what truly works for an IWB holster, if only for me.

While my own personal needs played a large part in shaping my holster preferences, the input and recommendations of others has at times helped guide me and one of the earliest IWB recommendations I got was for the Sparks Summer Special. Sage advice indeed. The Summer Special was my first good IWB rig and it very quickly became my favorite and most used holster. The genius simplicity of the Summer Special combined with (what is for me) a perfect ride height and rake made me believe that an IWB could work and work well in all types of activities and environments.

I am a huge fan of the Summer Special style IWB holster and still use a rig of the same design in my holster line-up. The extra bulk of other IWB designs, such as those that use outboard belt loops, have never worked well for me. It’s just too much leather for me to find it comfortable. That’s not to say there aren’t merits to those designs or that they are not smart or worth while... just that they don’t work for me and never have. So to put any misunderstandings to rest, when presented with the opportunity to build a “new” holster with John Ralston at 5 Shot Leather the Summer Special was, as you will see, a great influence. In the IBS holster you will likely see many facets of the Summer Special and with good reason, it works.


Sparks Summer Special and Del Fatti ISP - Two outstanding versions of the classic Bruce Nelson design.


Sparks Summer Special and 5 Shot IBS - The lineage of the IBS holster can be seen in this comparison photo.

The IBS holster itself came about almost by accident after a series of conversations with John Ralston. We initially talked about a one-off rig for me and I kept my requests pretty simple. I asked John make me a minimalist IWB that used the S/S holster body but, had sewn loops for extra stability, and still allowed me to straddle a pants loop when needed. I very much liked the idea and stability offered by sewn belt loops but wanted to insure I would be able to straddle a belt loop on my pants to insure correct positioning. I also knew that with the right belt loop attachment a holster did not need outboard loops in order to insure the holster would not pivot or shift once secured by the belt. I told John that if he could accomplish all of these things while retaining the comfort of the minimalist Summer Special holster body he’d really be onto something.

Shortly after setting the parameters for the holster I got the initial/prototype rig from John during a trip back to Washington. While the initial rig needed some changes it was heading in the right direction but there were some aspects of the ride height, rake, and loop design that could be improved upon. Since the holster body was pretty much pre-determined the ride height, rake, and loop construction became the focus of the prototypes that followed over the next year. It was important that holster be no larger than needed and that no extra bulk be present. Only enough leather to do the job was something John kept at the forefront of his mind.
 

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Discussion Starter #2 (Edited)
It’s now been three years since the inception of what has become the 5 Shot IBS holster and over the last 2 years I’ve had innumerable opportunities to put the final version through its paces. The holster has been used in a variety of training environments from a high round count Technical Combative Pistol class and Shooting on the Move with Jeff Gonzales, to numerous Advanced Pistol and Rifle Marksmanship classes with Larry Vickers, to a Defensive Handgun class at Thunder Ranch, a V-Tac Carbine 1.5 class, and more. I’ve given the holster every opportunity to succeed or fail under almost every variety of use and in the end the IBS holster has proven a remarkably fit and trim way to comfortably carry and conceal a large handgun.

Throughout all of this use the stability of the platform has remained unshakable. The time took perfecting the belt loop construction and getting the small details of holster correct has paid off in spades whether it be during extended range sessions, all manner training/classes, long days at the shop, or just the business of everyday concealment. This holster has also made a believer out of quite a few folks who previously thought an IWB holster with belt loops mounted over the holster body couldn’t be stable. The key to this stability comes thought the well thought out stitching that prevents the belt loops from being able to twist or shift once secured by the belt.


The horizontal stitch that can be seen between the belt loops helps secure the loops to the holster body and prevent the rig from shifting or pivoting on the belt.


Supported by a proper belt, the closely fit belt loops help lock the holster in place.

Much along the same lines as the Summer Special, the material that makes up the belt loops on the IBS also provides for a re-enforced mouth band making holstering the pistol easier. This re-enforced mouth band not only helps the holster to remain open but also provides a solid platform that can help a shooter in the event that they have to run the pistol one handed (such as clearing malfunctions or reloading the pistol) with either ones strong side or support side hand. Both of those operations are made easier when one has a stable platform to reciprocate the gun on and place the gun in when performing these vital skills. Try inserting a pistol into a collapsed holster using only your support side hand during an empty load or while performing a malfunction clearance and one will quickly realize the importance of a holster that won‘t collapse.




The IBS is available both with and without a body guard/sweat shield.

I can give no greater applause to John Ralston for being able to take my rough and very basic ideas and meld them into a functional piece of gun leather. The goals of an IWB holster that would be trim, comfortable, secure, stable, and fast were all handily met by John and it may be due in no small part to his ability to apply his technical background (did I mention John was a mechanical engineer) when crafting his products. I’ve worn my IBS rigs exclusively on belts also made by John and backed up with spare ammunition in John’s matching mag-carries and just as with the IBS holster these supporting items (as seen in these photos) have worked extremely well and proved remarkably durable.

In the end I think John has added a new dimension to what is probably the most popular IWB design of all time and I suspect that, like myself, other long time Summer Special users will appreciate the approach the IBS holster takes. I am in no doubt about what works for me but freely admit that this rig may not be the ‘end-all-be-all’ for every IWB user. However, the combination of certain design traits as incorporated by John Ralston may very well give those end users who have yet to find there “perfect” IWB rig a new place for their carry gun to call home.

 

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Very impressive review sir!
 

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Thank you, I have been considering his work sense I looked at his page, your review has now tipped the balance. great review :rock:
 

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Thank you for a very well written and thorough review of the IBS, Jason. It is much appreciated.

I am in the market for an IWB holster, and have been considering the IBS myself. Like you, I am attracted to the simplicity and minimalist design. I have a very slim body, and usually wear an OWB pancake style holster on my Milt Sparks belt carrying my full-size 1911 at 3:30. I wear a variety of jeans, and the belt loops are never in the same position. The wide-spaced belt slots of the pancake holster allow me the flexibility to position my gun where I want it, regardless of the where the belt loops are on the pants.

Jason, what position do you normally carry your 1911? You mentioned that you straddle a belt loop on your pants between the sewn loops on the holster to ensure correct positioning of the holster. Have you ever worn a pair of pants where the belt loop was located in a different position, and was forced to not straddle the IBS? If yes, how was the stability? Did it ever shift positions, or does the rough-side-out construction of the IBS effectively prevent that from happening?

I understand that Mr. Ralston is developing an appendix carry holster based on the IBS that is capable of concealing and carrying a full-size 1911 comfortably. I have always wanted to try appendix carry; therefore I am excited at the prospect of that holster being a reality.
 

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It's a foregone conclusion that the IBS is a good holster design and fabrication.

It's a foregone conclusion that the IBS is a good holster design and fabrication.

I suppose I'm asking here for an updated Handgunner's Guide or Blue Steel and Gunleather - anybody want to write one?

Do most people find the belt loop as it comes on the pants to be ideal for fitting between holster loops or do people move the belt loop on the pants around?

I'd like some comment on Lou Alessi's GWH with its stock undivided loop which followed Summer Special and the del Fatti design which AFAIK immediately preceded the GWH.

Similarly the PCH has been made with a variety of loops. I suspect but do not know that the divided loop seldom hurts if it doesn't always help - that depending on trousers and location. Some belt openings in the holster leather may be angled from the vertical so the slack belt can feed through but tighten up as the belt is drawn tight. Takes two loops to do that.

I've moved belt loops out of the way to make room but not to fit between a divided loop on a Summer Special or derivitive - though with the extended space between holster loops on a holster derived from the Bruce Nelson Professional (BN55 and all the rest) it's common to have a belt loop between the trailing belt opening on the wing and the belt opening on the back side of the holster body and or have the holster snug up against a loop in front - and I suppose the various holsters with outboard loops or snaps have so much room between loops that there is surely a belt loop in there someplace?

I suppose ultimately the changes are indeed subtle and lacking a custom maker willing to make successive small changes in a timely fashion for little money we all pay our money and get something more than good enough if not the Platonic ideal.

half a dozen prototypes and a few small revisions
are not easy for most of us - we get revisions by buying from different makers so I'd like to know what the differences are as much as the similarities. I suspect but don't know that as so well said the mouth opening for reholstering or one hand drills makes a big difference in user satisfaction - that can funnel a pistol back in - be it holstered or reversed for manipulation and a steel reinforcement might be user manipulated much more easily than leather?

If I had access to a high school shop - and in a jurisdiction where guns in school are not an issue - I'd be sand casting forms for no longer made pistols the same way we did to make cute spear guns so Mr. Ralston could make leather for some of my obsolete pistols though.
 

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That is a very comprehensive and well thought out review. I would be particularly interested in your opinion of whether the sewn loops provide so much more stability or other function that they out weigh the convenience of the one way snap closure. As you point out, you are carrying all day every day. Not all of us have that option and being able to easily remove the holster without removing the belt counts for something.
My own experience is that selecting is a very personal decision based on many factors and you were more fortunate than most of us in having someone work closely with you. The rest of us ride the trial and error train and provide a profit center for the USPS and PayPal.
Thank you for taking the time and effort to share your experience.
 

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Nice review. I also like the slim lines of the Summer Special and the Inside Burton Scabbard.

That is pretty cool to get a holster model named after oneself.

Of course, the Burton Inside Scabbard or BIS name may be a better choice to avoid confusion with a previously named medical condition called IBS.:)
 

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...I'd like some comment on Lou Alessi's GWH with its stock undivided loop which followed Summer Special and the del Fatti design which AFAIK immediately preceded the GWH...
Here's one for the timeline: The Summer Special shown in the attached photo was made when Sparks was still located in Idaho City. It has a single, wide belt loop that is sewn to the holster body in much the same manner as the GWH (i.e., by essentially a single seam or line of thread). I've never seen another like it, but I doubt it's the only one ever made. It predates the GWH by about ten years; I do not know about the DelFatti.

Otherwise, I believe one reason the late Milt Sparks added a second belt loop to the Summer Special was precisely so the pair of them would anchor the holster to a pants loop. Perhaps Mr. Kanaley can confirm this.

Is this anchor point really that important? It generally is with me, but as you can see, I've made some exceptions.

YMMV
 

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Jason, thanks for the detailed review and great pictures of John's holster.


...I'd like some comment on Lou Alessi's GWH with its stock undivided loop which followed Summer Special and the del Fatti design which AFAIK immediately preceded the GWH.
Mr. Myers,

I have both the Alessi GWH and Del Fatti ISP-SS with sewn loop (Del Fatti rig pictured below). They're both fine products and while I've kept the GWH out of sentimentality, I prefer wearing the Del Fatti holster by far. The larger sweat shield at the top of the slide on the GWH gets more in the way of my thumb when reaching down and grasping the gun to obtain a solid firing grip before pulling it upward out of the holster. The ISP-SS has a smaller profile in that area, which has the added benefit of being slightly more comfortable for my frame.





And to return to the theme of Jason's original post, it's really grteat to see John Ralston's work. I was in Lou Alessi's shop for a memorable morning four years ago. Lou made a point of showing me the old piece of well-worn whalebone that he used to hand-bone his holsters. He then beamed with pride as he showed me the stainelss steel boning tool that John, who Lou had been mentoring, made for him to eventually take the place of the whalebone. Lou must surely be smiling up in heaven, both to read Jason's glowing account, and to see how far his pupil, John, has come with his craft.
 

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One thing I like about the GWH is that the one-piece, sewn-on belt loop affords a noticeably more stable attachment. The SSII's dual snap-fastened loops can twist around and swivel, which means the holster can move around more.



Unfortunately one is limited to either wearing the holster ahead of or behind a trouser belt loop, or moving the belt loop to place the GWH where you want it (not an option for me).
 

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I was going to respond to some of the issues raised by Artcrafter, Bulldog Six and Ken Mays, but I don't think that would be fair to Jason or John and that whole discussion really changes the direction of this thread.
 

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I'd like try to correct/clarify one point I made above: The attachment point of the wide belt loop on the Idaho City-vintage Summer Special is similar to that of the GWH (and DelFatti) only in the sense that the top ends of their respective loops depart from the holster body along a single seam. The Sparks loop differs in that it is a separate, single piece of leather; it is not an extension of a piece of leather forming some other part of the holster.

The 5-Shot IBS design differs further still in that the top ends of the belt loops depart from the holster body along two separate seams that traverse the holster body at different heights. This of course parallels the 'original' twin-loop Summer Special of the type shown in OP's photos: Its loops attach to the body of the holster at top by means of the snaps; along bottom, the loops attach along a seam.

Other differences such as the relative heights of the belt loop attachment points on these holsters seem clear from the photos and descriptions.
 

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There is a thread - I missed to my shame - on Louder then Words re Alessi GWH compare

There is a thread - I missed to my shame and apologies to all or at least most - on Louder then Words re Alessi GWH compare..... so invidious discussion can be avoided here - though the particular thread is fresh there if someone wants to pursue it.

Ride height - for the full size 1911 is said to be the most significant difference - once past the obvious belt loop difference. Shorter than 5" barrels may ride lower. As noted there some folks who have worn IBS and GWH apparently don't notice and I gather some do.

There are several threads on Louder Than Words discussing the IBS over several years which I commend to those who like me are curious about the evolution of holsters.

That said as I noted what I'm sort of looking for is really a book - not invidious comparisons or rankings but a better understanding of the subtle and not so subtle differences that make a difference - and make it hard to avoid the proverbial box of holsters too good to give away and not actually being worn today.

FWIW my own carry rig is a 9x23 in a GWH in cordovan or black as appropriate which fit tightly on dressy tapered Alessi belts in good clothes (won't fit Beltman or Rafter S) and ACP - OWB - or when planning shows a need a /S snap on rig with belts that aren't skived or domed - I like shark for casual less tailored clothing. I'm aware of comments on respective websites about some of the kerfuffle. I like the high rise sweatshield for retaining the safety and in dressy clothes I'm mostly layered with t-shirt, heavy oxford wrinkle resistant white shirt bloused a little bit and so it goes so maybe it funnels as much as obstructs my hand? Dressy clothing isn't getting the SOB belt loop until the pants are fitted anyway so moving belt loops is more of an option with dressy clothing.

I don't find the old posts on Louder than Words about the original prototypes and evolution of the PCH but it seems to me there were some made with a variety of belt loops to suit individual tastes as well as the most generalized catalog model - that's really what I'm asking about. What are the subtle differences I'm not likely to notice and even the gross differences I should notice but maybe don't?
 

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...That said as I noted what I'm sort of looking for is really a book - not invidious comparisons or rankings but a better understanding of the subtle and not so subtle differences that make a difference - and make it hard to avoid the proverbial box of holsters too good to give away and not actually being worn today...
I'm afraid the box is the book.

If holsters, belts, and pistols were not worn instead of borne - or if everyone and everything was the same - it might be a different story.

YMMV
 

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I was going to respond to some of the issues raised by Artcrafter, Bulldog Six and Ken Mays, but I don't think that would be fair to Jason or John and that whole discussion really changes the direction of this thread.
:confused:
 

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Thank you for the review! Im really tempted by this.

(Hats of to Mr. Del Fatti. No offense to any one else.)
 

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Great review, well done. I've got an IBS and it is an excellent holster both in quality and workmanship.
 
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