The western holster, a true and original art form, has had a long and colorful history. Its roots can be traced back to the end of the Civil War and continued through the frontier period of the American west. After the turn of the century, western lawmen, especially the Texas Rangers and U.S. Border Patrol, contributed many ideas to holster and saddle makers.
Significant improvements in western holsters occurred during the early part of the 20th century and probably peaked during the heyday of the 1940s and 50s western film and television era. Holsters took on a new meaning. They were no longer just gun "holders." Westerners wanted more substantial and stylish designs. A demand for holsters that really permitted a "Fast-Draw" arose. More thought and innovation went into holster designs, and fully leather lined belts and holsters began to appear. Holster designs that were more closely shaped to the pistol became popular and fancy stamping, carving and silver trim began to appear.
Contrary to myth and popular western film culture, "quick-draw" as we know it today simply was not possible with the holster styles of the frontier period. This historical fact in no way detracts from the courage, skill and accuracy of the old-timers. They must be judged by the conditions that existed during that time and place in history.
Film makers of the 1930s, 40s and 50s took great liberties with holster designs worn by their heroes and outlaws. There were very few skilled holster makers during this time in Hollywood. Costume designers merely took their sketches to local saddle shops who faithfully reproduced their historically inaccurate designs.
Starting in his garage and working as a Police Officer in the mid-1950's, John Bianchi produced totally new design concepts in holsters that were years ahead of their time. In so doing, Bianchi completely revolutionized the way handguns are carried and as a result built the largest international holster-manufacturing company, which still bears his name.
Through the decades, Bianchi has produced gunleather for such names as John Wayne, Elvis Presley, Paul Newman, Sammy Davis Jr., Roy Rogers and many others. There is scarcely a holster produced today that does not show the early Bianchi design influence. Enduring and pervasive, the Bianchi design concepts have profoundly affected the way millions of shooters think about guns and holsters throughout the world.
Following the sale of Bianchi International, the company he founded 40 years ago, he retired as Chairman of the Board. Prior to his retirement, Bianchi led the design team that created the M-12 military holster, now the official holster for all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces.
Now hand making gunleather strictly as a hobby, John Bianchi produces handcrafted, one-of-a-kind gun rigs in the tradition of the classic Westerns of yesteryear.