I had an opportunity to try something a little different here, some classic style leather for a modern day concealed carry setup. The man behind Rafter-L goes by the name of Erik Little who has quite the resume. Not only has he been rocking all types of leather making for quite some time, he also has extensive military and law enforcement experience. <ABOUT>
This combination makes for a solid foundation as Mr. Little puts the expected values of quality, effectiveness, attention to detail, and understanding failure is not an option all into his work. I'll be honest that I don't have much leather knowledge so I can't super nit pick, but I know crap when I see it and none of the Rafter-L kit has that issue. To get an idea of materials and construction I'll drop a quick copy of notes from his site:
"I only use hand selected, premium grade, full-grain, US grown, vegetable-tanned steer hides, which come from Thoroughbred Leather in Louisville, Kentucky. Vegetable tanning involves only non-hazardous organic materials, unlike other methods that use heavy metals. Thoroughbred Leather is the finest I have found here in the US for making gun gear. For holsters, mag pouches, and other items that require hand bone forming, I use the shoulder area of the hide. The shoulder leather is more pliable and accepts forming much better than the other parts of the hide. For belts, I use the back and butt area of the hide. This area is the strongest part of the hide and is more resistant to stretch than the shoulder. I only use #346 polyester bonded thread in all my products. Polyester thread does not stretch like nylon. I use bonded polyester because of its strength and resistance to UV light, sweat, chemicals, and rot. Before the final finish is applied, it’s rubbed with a light coat of oil. All of my products are finished with a water based satin acrylic compound to completely seal the leather."
As far as I can tell all of these keypoints are true. All the stitching looks solid, very smooth finish on the inside and nice protective coat on the exterior. Although I was a bit quick to beat up on it, everything looked quite pristine and perfect out of the box. For my first leather lesson I learned that some break in time is definitely required. While moving around you get some pretty serious leather on leather creaking noises. Goods tend to come stiff and tight as it a lot easier to loosen up a holster or pouch rather than being screwed if they come too loose. My initial impressions were that the holster was pretty darn close, I was able to extract and insert my Glock 19 smoothly while still having reasonable retention where I was not concerned for it to fly out during active movement. The layout works well covering the gun in the right places such as the trigger guard, yet offers enough open space and distance from the belt to easily grab the pistol grip. Bonus points as my XS big dots sights were no issue at all for the holster. The mag pouch on the other hand, I was unimpressed as it was a grippy suma-beyatch and I was totally unable to extract quickly. On top of that, due to the Glock magazine design, the notch for the mag release catch can create a snag point on the pouch while extracting a mag in a hurry. To be fair this isn't necessarily a pouch design flaw, but I did have to put more consideration into the angle of extraction to avoid. I first tried putting magazines in and out A LOT, and left one rammed in there over night, but it was still pretty grippy. After consulting the Rafter-L maintenance page I tried the trick of putting the included plastic bag over the magazine, inserting this combo into the pouch, and leaving it that way over night. That seemed to do the trick and tamed down the mag release notch snag issue considerably at the same time. The cut height of the magazine pouch is nice delivering enough coverage on the mag to hold it in place while also being open enough to allow a good grip on the magazine. One problem that I still have however, is that the belt loop on the magazine pouch is pretty loose. It will slide all over the place and the only thing to keep it in place are the belt loops on my pants. Not a deal breaker, but wish it was a snug fit like on the holster. Not only is the belt fit good on the holster, but the two loop design allows the belt to be woven on a pant belt loop to keep the holster consistently in place.
The belt is deceptively simple and boring looking which is exactly what I'm looking for. Nothing about it says "I've got a gun". The main width on mine is 1.5" and then in the front it tapers down to 1.25" to make the buckle size smaller, thus less hardware bulk. The buckle area is also slightly reduced in thickness to assist in buckle operation. A 1.5" belt is a good medium size in my opinion where you have enough width to carry a weapon, but isn't so thick that it is hard to find pants it will fit in. Of course Rafter-L offers smaller and larger belts widths to meet your exact needs. The overall belt thickness is about .25" which creates a good middle ground of rigidity for holding the weapon system and flexibility for the comfort of the wearer. One of the most noticeable design features is the slight contour curve to the whole belt shape which dramatically fights the curling in the back issue that is common with straight cut belts. As a result, the contour cut not only is more comfortable, but looks much cleaner when worn. Mine is in a classy black with the natural color on the inside to avoid any clothing stains. Both sides are well prepped and treated so no cracking issues to far.
So why bother with leather some may ask? I'd say the main factor is comfort. The kydex and fancy polymer holsters work great for combat operations, but tend to not be something you want stabbing on your side all day long. The properties of good leather are that it is rigid enough to hold your kit, but flexible enough to be friendly on your body. Some may miss the fancy releases and angle positioning control of the non-leather holsters, but I was pleased with the balance of concealability and accessibility of the simple straight down position of the Rafter-L holster. I actually like my angle slightly back, so when I go for my pistol I can create the desired angle by leaning forward. This all works out great as an aggressive forward stance is a part of my shooting stance. It would be fair to call Rafter-L goods expensive, which leads to the classic phrase of you get what you pay for. The extra cost goes into the details lost on mass production leather such as: proper sizing to your weapon, quality control on each production step, and using the highest quality materials. All these come together to offer long term durability not seen in cheapo versions. If a detail is slacked, then the leather will stretch out highly degrading performance. Rafter-L currently offers goods in classic Black or a Natural Tan which will cover most needs. As a note the tan will be lighter than the medium browns many are used to seeing on other holsters. I have attached some pics and a quick video to show an example of operating all 3 items together. Hopefully it is apparent that despite being an old school inspired design, it does not mean it is slow or less capable. The only thing slowing me down is the clothing to cover it all up. When open weapon display is not an issue, I would use something else for a military style zombie stomping rig, but for concealed carry I'm highly digging this Rafter-L package.
-Holster #1, Glock 19, Tan
-Single Pistol Mag, Glock 19, Tan
-1.5" Tapered Belt, size 32, Contoured, Black