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Article created: Wednesday, January 18, 2006
Article modified: Tuesday, April 4, 2006

Pre-1925 Commercial Luger “Down-Strap/Stud” Style Holsters
Featured herein are two pre-1925 commercial Luger “down-strap/stud” style holster variants identified as holster variant number 1 and 2.

At first when holster variant number 1 was acquired it was thought to be a “one off” commercial holster, dismissed as non-German manufacture and of poor quality construction.

A leading Luger author and collector offered the following description after examination of this holster: “I have severe reservations about this even being a German made holster at all, since no German made Parabellum holster I have ever come across or seen illustrated in German catalogues has ever had the down-strap and stud closure. Apart from the WWII break-away holsters for the P.38 etc. this down-strap was used commercially only on a very few pocket pistol holsters, but for those used militarily in WWII, it was invariably a simple copy of a domestic design, frequently made domestically and imported to Germany - the Germans seem not to have liked the down-strap/stud at all, because it is slower to undo than the up strap, which can be unlatched as the hand moves down, and the pistol gripped on the upward return. The down-strap necessitates an upward hand move to unlatch, then a return down to get the fingers under the flap and up again to grasp the pistol.

The leather looks very cheap and nasty indeed, and is more reminiscent of Indian reproductions than anything else - the very squared off corners of the cutting of the belt loops also reminds one of repro items. The style of the back plate is without the horizontal reinforcing stitching which was introduced into military production in 1918, but this does not mean a lot, since a) it is not a military holster and b) it does not have an inner liner at all, which is a pretty consistent feature of all German made P.08 holsters, military or commercial. This would place its dating possibly in the 1920’s, but only on the style - not even during the leather shortages of WWI was such poor leather used. While this holster is definitely "commercial", the highly distinctive down-strap and stud simply is not a German style for the P.08, as commercial holsters closely followed the military design as a rule, including the inner liner construction. One would be inclined to look in Scandinavia possibly for a source of this holster, if not India, as the tapering down-strap and stitching which is not quite German in style and reminds one of some Finnish leather ware of the interwar period, but the overall design does not match any of the known Finnish (or any other country's for that matter) P.08 patterns, or any commercial patterns or catalogs.

Since the above “critique” another similar holster, no doubt made by the same manufacturer, identified herein as holster variant number 2 has been discovered that requires a reevaluation of the above critique. It is of the same style and piping and the leather is of equal quality and the holster construction is of equal quality to WWI military P.08 style holsters. As a matter of note the quality of the leather used in holster variants 1 and 2 is excellent, contrary to comments stated in the above critique, although admittedly holster variant 2 is much more convincing. The method of the spare magazine pouch attachment indicates pre-1925 manufacture1. The only marking on this holster is the rather Teutonic name of “FezzKer” on the holster rear between the belt loops.

The significant feature of holster variant number 2 is the additional leather strap and pouch under the holster flap to secure a steel cleaning rod, with or without a brass tip, indicating this non-standard holster is not spurious in nature but was used in some official capacity in the German Army or Police, despite its lack of markings. The cleaning rod leather strap and pouch feature was introduced in the early 1920’s when Reichwehr regulations stipulated that each man carry a cleaning rod with his pistol2. Some Imperial era P.08 holsters used in the 1920’s were retrofitted with the cleaning rod and strap. Newly manufactured P.08 military holsters were manufactured with the cleaning rod strap and pouch, including some Weimar navy holsters until 1935.

Though the loading tool pouch is still present, it has separated from the holster flap, along with the stitching. However, the anchor portion of the cleaning rod securing strap with the original stitching is still intact along with the cleaning rod end pouch with its stitching, which is integral with the double stitching lines securing the holster flap to the holster body for the cleaning rod tip. A close examination of the thread and stitching pattern suggests that the cleaning rod tip pouch and securing strap were not added or retrofitted but were part of the original holster manufacture. This configuration rules out the holster to be of WWI manufacture but does place its manufacture to pre-1925 based on the pre-1925 magazine pouch attachment method. Additionally, in support of the original holster manufacture with the cleaning rod end pouch and top securing strap, the loading tool pouch lacks a cover flap as pictured in holster variant number 1. In holster variant 2 the loading tool was restrained in the loading tool pouch by the “dual function” cleaning rod securing strap. Although apparently unique to this style holster, this feature or configuration is not addressed in current Luger holster literature.

Based on the above information the holster could have been manufactured for the Reichwehr. However, without any army or navy markings the holster was probably used by the Police. Additionally, brown holsters were phased out by the army circa 1915.

Since the German State Police adopted the stud and strap type closure in the early 1920’s3 - with the first manufactured holsters being unmarked - the subject unmarked holster with its awkward “down-strap” type stud and strap closing may have been part of an unsuccessful early submission used by the police on a trial basis. However, the final accepted police holster is no less awkward with its long closing strap attached to the holster body and stud attached to the holster flap. The flap, along with an additional, restrictive securing belt loop strap installed perpendicularly on the holster flap just below the securing stud (sometimes quite close to the stud) rendered the belt loop virtually unusable and undoubtedly much ignored.

In any event the subject holster variant number 2 was of short lived duration with its unconventional “down-strap/stud” method of securing the holster flap to the holster body and should be considered a rare police holster variant. The upgrading of the official status of this holster to police use also upgrades its basically identical twin (holster variant number 1) made by the same manufacturer. The similarities of style and stitching of the two variants are pivotal in demonstrating that holster variant number 1 is of legitimate commercial German manufacture.