I recently found myself holster shopping because I’m still carrying Dad’s five-inch 1911; I snagged a belt-slide model from the communal Box O’ Holsters here at Cranky Central, but that’s such an obnoxious piece of crap that I couldn’t ever get comfortable with it. I enjoy holster shopping anyway so, when I heard that Dennis of Dragon Leatherworks is handcrafting high-quality, leather holsters at very-reasonable prices, I headed over to his site to see what I could find.
Two examples of Dennis’ work – a tobacco-sunburst Fugly and a new, OWB holster he calls the Snakebite, are sitting here on my desk, having arrived a few weeks ago via USPS. In the interest of full disclosure, I paid the gentleman’s usual asking price for the Fugly*; he generously gave me the Snakebite prototype at no additional cost.
My first impression was that Dennis pays attention to detail even when doing little things like labeling the shipping box. He has nice, neat handwriting and, incidentally, neatly taped the lid down so that the shipment would be secure. While these details aren’t vital to the finished product, they made me happy. If Dennis was concerned about doing a good job with these little things, what would I find inside the box?
After I opened the box and removed the included paperwork – my receipt as well as a handout containing warranty information; details about the company; and firearms-safety rules, among other things – I found the Snakebite on top. The python skin faced upward and, against the black-leather background of the rest of the holster, demanded my attention; while a chorus of heavenly beings did not, in fact, start singing “Hallelujah” when I picked up this holster, my emotional response was strong. This holster is gorgeous, ladies and gentlemen, whether you consider beauty from a masculine or feminine perspective; all six of the people here at Cranky Central (three guys and three gals) agreed that the Snakebite looks great. See?
[Please forgive my camera; it's some four years old now and does its best. Also, that small dent you see on the back piece of leather was not there when I first opened the box; we've done quite a bit of carrying with this holster since it showed up a few weeks ago.]
Immediately, I was almost sorry that Dennis had shipped the Snakebite to Texas – almost. This holster demands to be shown off not only for the lovely, snakeskin pattern, but also for the high-quality work that surrounds it. Overall, this holster makes an aesthetically pleasing shape, with a combination of curves and sharp points in exactly the right places. Quality is also evident when I look at the heavy-duty stitching as well as the reinforcing rivet over the front belt slot.
As much as I enjoyed looking at this highly useful piece of art, it also had to do its job well. Before I could begin to investigate that aspect of the Snakebite, it had disappeared from my hands. Woody snatched it up and promptly holstered his Mil Pro: a compact handgun with 10+1 capacity, that high number of .45 Auto rounds making the butt/handle difficult to conceal because of its size. It’s a great handgun for testing the prototype Snakebite because it’s a pain for me to conceal well, as I discovered throughout three years of carrying one; Woody, built very similarly to me, agrees. The Snakebite was not made with anybody in this house, or any of our firearms, in mind; even if it didn’t work well with the Mil Pro, I wouldn’t be surprised considering said handgun’s oddities.
Woody tried to dump his (unloaded and double checked) gun from the holster by turning the entire rig upside down; the gun didn’t move as far as any of us could see, much less fall out. The snug fit is reassuring, as is the fact that the gun’s trigger guard is completely covered. When you do unholster, the Snakebite retains its shape, which is high on my list of priorities; two-handed holstering isn’t exactly the safest way to go about things, but is required with holsters like the leather, belt-slide model I used before Dennis’ holsters arrived.
One of Woody’s first observations about the Snakebite was that the gun is pulled close to your body, which I was able to photograph for the record on Sunday:
You’ll notice that Woody is wearing his dress belt, the only one he currently owns, which is thin leather in both width and height; it’s not designed to hold up much more than the nice pants you put on for Sunday-morning church services. That would explain the instability that Woody experienced with the Snakebite, which I confirmed by taking it away from him and putting it on with my wider, thicker belt – one that’s actually capable of doing more than looking good:
Also, note that Dennis’ order form includes a place for you to tell him how wide your usual belt is so that he can make the slots with that in mind; the Fugly that I ordered was made for my everyday belt and fits very nicely. Dennis is not in the business of mass-producing generic holsters; he customizes his offerings based on what you tell him you want and need.
For the Snakebite, Dennis included a nice amount of leather between your gun and your body; there’s enough to protect both you and your gun, but not so much that you feel like you did when you were a little kid, trying on your dad’s hat or your Mom’s shoes (whatever you did when you were growing up – I won’t judge you regardless). With the Mil Pro, it’s difficult to get a good grip during the draw, but that’s another observation related to the prototype, not the finished product. The Mil Pro, you see, has a very-short butt; it’s so short, in fact, that I managed to catch the side of my little, girly hand between the mag well and magazine when I loaded mine for the first time. There’s just not much there, so getting a solid, drawing grip on the Mil Pro requires a good-sized combat cut.
Concealment is a big deal here in Texas because we don’t have OC at all right now, so Woody and I were very interested in finding out how well the Snakebite conceals even with an awkward gun like the MilPro. For the photos, Woody simply untucked his dress shirt, but that simple act is sufficient for concealment:
Another huge plus is that this holster is very comfortable; it’s small enough to be unobtrusive without sacrificing important things like a covered trigger guard. Woody, Dad, and I all took turns carrying with the Snakebite with great results. I actually forgot, after about twenty minutes, that I was even carrying, which is something that I’ve experienced only with a couple of other holsters before. (One of them was custom made for my gun, which explains a lot.)
Overall, everyone in the Cranky Clan likes the Snakebite and are currently arguing over which person will get to keep it. They seem to have forgotten that my name, not one of theirs, was on the box that contained this holster as well as the Fugly, but I’m sure that a bit of forceful persuasion about their heads and shoulders will clear up this wee misunderstanding.
The only thing I dislike about the Snakebite is that it’s too nice for concealed carry. This holster is gorgeous and really needs to be shown off, so I’d go with a plainer design that wouldn’t bother me to keep concealed. I’ll happily give Dennis more business in the future because I like both of the holsters that he’s sent my way so far; the workmanship is great; the price is very reasonable; and these holsters are truly American made.
*Only $39.99 plus shipping? That’s it? Really? I paid roughly twice that for the CrossBreed that, like Dennis’ holsters, was custom made for a specific firearm. I would have been downright suspicious of the low price, but I did my shopping after reading what other gunnies had to say about Dennis’ work; I knew that it was good and, when I saw the price tag, I was downright giddy.