Were there such things as "boot leg holsters" made from the tops of boots or did I dream this?
I remember reading about the boot leg holster back in the 70's, when I first started doing leather. I think that it is more of an old guy sitting around telling a yarn. Not that nobody ever did it, but I doubt it was ever a regular practice. Most of your early holsters were modified military holsters. Cut off the flap and you have a Slim Jim. Some folks even believe the first Mexican Loop was a modified flap holster. By folding the flap over backwards and cutting slits in it for the holster to slide through. If that is true or not couldn't say but I could see a leather craftsman, laying out patterns and drawing that conclusion, but it doesn't make sense for a person with a flap holster making a Mexican Loop out of it, unless the belt slide had worn out, or was broken off.
In any case by the mid 1870's there was plenty of gun leather available, and any mercantile/general store could set you up. Cartridge belts and holsters were sold separately. You would buy a belt that would have 42 or more loops on it, depending on the size of the waist needed, and came in two basic designs, a money belt or a straight belt. The you would purchase a holster that fit the size of the gun one toted. This was pretty standard up and into the 1890's. There were definitely custom/fancier rigs made for the more prominent (richer) gun owners, but for a regular Joe, it was a mix and match thing.
Here is some of my work. All the patterns are made freehand, and come from photos in books like Packin Iron, and photos like the one's in this thread.
I have a shooting/possibles bag made from the top of a boot. I suppose a holster could have been made from the leather from one. But that would come under the category of a "bunkhose" made & not a common thing. I've never seen one in the many many years I've been collecting. Recycling/repurposing material & things is not a new concept. But a fact of necessity in many cases. You used what you had.
I wouldn't say "most" early slim jims were made from millitary holsters. I've seen very few that had been made to military design. the belt loops are quite diferent between most civillian & military holsters. The military holsters for one were of "butt forward" design & most slim jims I've seen aren't. As for the flap being folded over & slots cut to make a mexican loop. That's fantacy as the flaps are no where near big enough for that. Besides you'd have to take off the belt loop already on it. Prior to the C W not that many had been in the military & the holsters were not that common. But there are many civillian full flap & half flap holsters. The most common in the skirted/mexican loop erra. Were "catalogue holsters" either bought at the local dry goods or through mail order from places like Sears & Roebuck & Montgomery Wards or some other mail order house in Chicago or New Yourk etc. That's why you'll see number stamped in the skirt usually under the tip of the pocket on the skirt. Model number, barel length & sometimes a calliber or "C" for Colt etc. Heiser was a big supplier to catalogue houses.
Well by early I mean before the civil war, and 'most' holsters were military holsters in those days. Civilians didn't tote hand guns around prominently until after the war. And at that time civilians would modify them. When the California Slim Jim came out, it basically looked like a flap holster with the flap removed.
I am with you, about the Mexican loop. Unless the flap was extremely large for some reason it wouldn't fold into itself the way a Mexican loop did. But I don't discard the idea that a holster maker conceived the idea because of the flap. I get a lot of ideas from looking at the patterns.
In fact I have a holster that looks like the face of a buffalo when laid out flat, as if somebody drew the face and cut it out.
There are also several different designs for the belt loop on a military holster, and nothing really special about them, other than a slit for the belt to slide through. So if you had a butt forward and it was on your right hip (as military holsters were, since the sword was on the left to make it easier to mount a horse from the left side) it would simply be a left handed holster. The proper way to pull from a military rig is also known as the plainsmen draw. Basically just bringing your fist to your hip, grasping the grip of the revolver, and pulling it straight out.
Now after the war is when the civilian holsters really sprang up, and with the cowboy era came the Mexican Loop. What is interesting about the design is if it is made right it doesn't slide on the belt the way a Slim Jim can, unless the belt is worn sloppy. If the belt is snug the apron curves with the belt and actually remains in place, or at least it is less likely to creep around on you.
The original buskadaro design or buscallaro as some call it (not sure which is the true word since neither is really a word), was a Mexican Loop style holster draped into a slit in the belt, to also keep this from sliding around. The drop loop that is more the design of the 1920's Silver Screen Cowboy, has a wider part on the belt where the slit is cut and the gun hangs lower on the leg as a result.
Of course I am going by what I have heard, read or seen evidence of, since I wasn't there to be completely sure, but we are pretty close in our opinions.
The word 'buscadero' comes from the Spanish 'buscar,' meaning 'to hunt' or 'to search.' Most 'cowboy' holsters--mostly they were called 'scabbards' in those days--were designed to keep the pistol in place while on a horse. Slim Jims worked very well for that, as did the later Mexican Loop designs, but in almost every case they had what the Texas Rangers called a 'retreatin' strap'--usually a loop of whang leather that hooked over the hammer to retain the pistol while riding hard.
The 1st canted holster was designed by Texas Ranger John R. Hughes. He was a right-hander whose right arm was rendered useless when he was hit in the right elbow during an early gunfight. He taught himself to do everything left-handed after that. He designed the canted holster to facilitate getting his pistol out with his southpaw.
The 1st real 'fast-draw' holster was designed in the early 20th century by Oklahoma lawman--& full-blood Cherokee--Tom Threepersons, not to be confused with Tom Three Persons, who was an early 20th century rodeo performer. He designed a holster to be worn by a foot-patrolling town lawman, to enable him to get his pistol out in a hurry when necessary. It was often quite necessary in Oklahoma in the 1st part of the 20th century.
Actually the hammer tie didn't come into common use untill very late & the top of the holster was cut down lower & lower. It wasn't needed with the pre. 1900 types. The later "fast draw" types couldn't hold the gun very securley because of the low top cut. The early "cowboy" erra holsters covered much more of the gun & held it quite securely. Commadore Perry Owens is the first doccumented use of the buskadero type set up. But for a different reason than the later "low slung" fast draw. He used a belt with two rows of cartridges. One 45-70 & the other pistol caliber. Here's a picture of him with it & his officers Model trap door. Prety hard to make a holster with a belt loop big enough to go over such a double row belt.
Buck there were very definite specifications & patterns for military holsters. But Civillians & military alike used full flap holsters in the percussion erra. They were needed to protect the percussion caps & powder from the damp in case of rain. Yes the saber was worn on the Left side. Which would not have neccitated the butt forward cary. But the reason the military chose the butt forwards cary. Was so that the gun could be drawn with either hand. I've been a student of the military of the 19th century since 1964 & seen thousands of military & civillian holsters. Owned quite a few too. LOL
You can clearly see the "slim jims" I've posted bear no resemblance to military holsters. The "California Slim Jim" came about durring the gold rush. After Colt brought out their line of revolvers also known as "belt guns" or "pocket models". Prior to that the only multi shot pistol was basicly the pepper box. The Colt Dragoon & Walker were thought to be too big & heavy to be carried as belt pistols & were intended to be carried in saddle holsters. The first of the belt size Colts was the Patterson & spured the personal carry in holsters in the 1840s. It was the first "practical" size multi shot pistol available.
I've never been anle to really find out where or when the skirted holster got the name "Mexican Loop". But after the advent of the self contained cartridge & Smih & Wessons patent ran out on the drilled through cylinder. The full & half flaps dissapered (or were cut off) because they were no longer needed to protect the percussion caps & powder from moisture. The evolution of the skirted holster makes sense from a design simplicity aspect. It can be made from one single piece of leather with one simple seam. As the rail roads progressed & the heards were brought to the rail heads. Leather became much more readilly available & cheaper. So a holster made from a larger single piece of leather made more sense from a manufacturing stand point. Catalogue supply manufacturers could stamp out holster blanks in a single operation. Design embossing could be done at the same time. A simple seam & you've got a holster that is cheap & fast to produce.