I have a lot of older guns and not a great deal of money, but since I’ve spent the last thirty years making sheaths for knives and scabbards for daggers and swords. The obvious solution was to make my own. I’d made a holster for this Beretta M1951 before, but it didn’t have a retention-strap and it would not fit over my new gun-belt. Further, I have learned a lot since I made that holster and could now do a better design.
Time for a new one, and a mag-pouch while I was at it. The fundamentals of the design of the first holster are sound; it carries the gun high, and the secondary belt-loop holds the butt in tight to enhance concealment.
I used 8oz. top-grain vegetable tanned tooling leather dyed British Tan then finished with a Carnauba Wax finish. The holster and mag pouch were double-needle stitched by hand with linen thread. I have a tool that cuts a groove for the thread, which decreases wear on the stitches so they are less likely to fail. I use a flex-shaft tool with a small drill bit to make the holes for the thread. I know, I know, I should use an awl to punch the holes. What can I say? I’m lazy. I cheat. Before stitching all parts were secured with contact-cement.
The new holster would be designed for the gun to be carried ‘cocked-and-locked,’ with the hammer cocked and the safety applied. This meant I would want the leather to cover much more of the top of the gun. The retention strap would need to be angled to work properly with the angled back of the slide in order to hold the gun securely.
I used a piece of 1/4″ board to stretch the belt-loops to accommodate the very thick gun-belt, wetting them with dye to make them malleable. As the dye dried the leather stiffened, holding the shape.
The belt-loop on the back of the holster is a different construction than the original holster; that was a single strap secured only by contact cement and threads. The leather plate pierced with belt-loops transfers the strain to the leather rather than the stitching and glue. This is enormously stronger and more secure.
I used similar construction for the belt-loops on the magazine-pouch. The pouch is designed for concealed carry, and must be held tight to the body. This being the case I made the pouch with a flap to cover the magazine base-plates, which would otherwise dig into my side.
I did make two small modifications to the gun. First I filed an under-cut in the front sight and filled it with bright orange enamel. Second, and more importantly, I slightly relieved the hole in the grip for the cross-bolt safety. It is possible for me to take the safety off with the side of my thumb, but by increasing the clearance around the safety if I grip the gun properly my thumb removes the safety every time without my thinking about it.
One advantage of the M1951’s design is that once the hammer is cocked and the safety applied you can still operate the slide to load or check the chamber.
The M1951 is by no means a modern handgun. It’s heavier than a modern polymer gun, holds half as many rounds in the magazine and it has a manual safety. This doesn’t make it a bad gun. It is commendably flat and very comfortable in the hand. The heel-mounted magazine release on the left-hand grip is not much slower than a more conventional release, with training at least. Contrary to their reputation this gun has no difficulty feeding hollow-point ammunition, and if it did I would use one of the ball-profile ‘ballistic-capped’ hollow-points. They are pretty inexpensive right now, too, usually under $300 for a decent Italian Police trade-in like this one.
For someone looking for a high-quality budget self-defense handgun you could easily do worse.
Sometime soon I’ll do a step-by-step post about making a holster.
Michael Tinker Pearce, 19 December 2020