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.
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.