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Holsters: Not Just For Guns?

I was reminded of a topic I wanted to bring up by an e-mail from Jennifer, who’s husband is a custom holster maker. Most of us have gun holsters, and while I’ve gone through a few in my nearly decade of carrying, one thing I’ve noticed is that a good holster lasts a long time. I’ve banged it against door frames, crushed it sitting on it weird, and generally put them through a lot of stress and abuse, and they stand up to it.

My iPhone belt clips, on the other hand, all generally tend to be garbage. I go through one maybe every couple of months before something on it breaks. They are made of ┬ácheap plastic, and are otherwise generally flimsy. Holster makers are good at making things that stand up to abuse. Why not make a really quality set of holsters for smart phones? There are a few challenges that I see. A gun is easy because you have a convenient handle to draw it from and can apply reasonable force to break retention. A phone still need to be retained, but you need some way to be able to remove it easily. It might take a more ingenious retention mechanism than a firearm. Second the phone screen needs protection. Gun finishes get worn from repeated holstering and reholstering. A screen on an smart phone can’t take that kind of abuse, so you’d have to at least felt line the side the screen is facing.

Still, I think there’s business opportunity for holster makers to get into the smart phone market with a product that can really take abuse, which is none of the crap I’ve seen on the market currently. Maybe the reason is people won’t pay a premium for a quality smart phone holster, but I would if it would last, and it was functional in its role.

18 Responses to “Holsters: Not Just For Guns?”

  1. Bitter says:

    Not to mention, the market for Droid accessories isn’t crowded yet. I haven’t seen any reasonable clip type device for the Droid yet. I hate that when I want to put it in my pocket, it’s just a little too big.

  2. bombloader says:

    Another problem is that phones change at a much faster rate than firearms do. With most people upgrading their phones every 2-3 years, it’s hard to justify spending the $30-$40 it would probably cost for a firearm quality holster when your not sure if it will fit a new phone. A pistol has a much longer lifespan, so few people trade in their Glocks every 2 years to get an upgraded model. Therefore I suspect that there is a fairly limited number of people who will pay a large premium for a cell phone holster.

  3. Flighterdoc says:

    I wouldn’t worry too much about the finish on a cellphone, when it’s going to be obsolete and replaced in a couple of years.

    And while sizes change, a simple pouch like a mag pouch (probably cut down quite a bit, or perhaps with a cutout front) would do quite well.

    Then we can all have discussions of the best place to carry our phones for quick draws. I favor weak side FBI cant, myself :)

  4. Justin says:

    For what it’s worth, my otterbox defender for my
    iPhone has literally saved my phone more times than I can count. The belt holster for the case is great to, and has yet to break on me, even in the backwoods hiking I do.

  5. Countertop says:

    Love my Otter Box as well, though I find the belt clip to be worthless. I just carry it in my pocket.

    I agree with the sentiment about changing phones though. It, and the acceptence of crappy quality that has infected the US market, are the reason we don’t have better cases.

    I do know some leather makers / holster makesr who have built them, but I don’t see many people using them. Usually, they use some crappy $30 Chinese made POS.

  6. mac says:

    Marring the finish, and especially the screen, on an iPhone/blackberry is a much bigger deal than on a gun. The materials the phones are made of are no nearly as durable as a gun’s finish. Furthermore, wear on the screen and buttons actually impairs the device’s ability to function. These differences are compounded by the fact that a phone is drawn from holster many, many more times a day than a firearm.

    As bombloader said, people upgrade phones every few years. Models change size and shape dramatically over time. For each new model, the holster design would need to be completely revisited. I’d rather see something made of plastic with a soft interior, rather than leather. Leather is awfully thick, when compared to a device less than half an inch deep. Sturdy leather adds too much overall size to the package for me.

  7. Andy says:

    I’m using an Incase, similar to this, the Folio. Mine was purchased with the original iPhone, so it’s a little different, but the basis is still there. Leather and canvas, quite durable, handles the iPhone and similar form factors. Soft interior for screen protection. Notice the notch at the bottom. Simply push up with the finger, phone extracted.

    I used an EMT pouch for years with my old Samsung and Motorola folding phones. Still have it, phones all gone.

  8. karrde says:

    All I’ll say is, when I visited the local Renaissance Festival, there was a custom-leather shop that sold flask-holders, knife sheaths, leather vests, and lots of cell-phone holsters.

    I don’t know if the custom leatherworker’s cell-phone holsters were superior in quality to the usual phone-holsters, but they appeared to be the high-quantity, low-price item at that particular booth.

    It looks like a niche market to me, and at least one leather-worker is trying to fill that niche.

  9. Evyl Robot says:

    Hell, I could make a holster for anything. You want a long-neck bottle race holster? It’d be pretty sweet at parties! :-P

  10. Ian Argent says:

    For smartphones, the market seems to be settling into a rouch similarity in form factor – the DROID, the iPhone, etc all seem to be settling down on roughly the same size screen with as little as possible bezel and a very thin row of buttons. Depth is variable, but also not as critical a dimension.

    FWIW I’ve used the same belt holster for going on 3 phones now (the one that came with the first of those phones). It was just a little large for the middle one, and is very tight on the current one; but does well enough.

    Ditto the felt lining. Also, I can’t stress enough how much you should get a good screen protector for any smartphone. I didn’t want to pony up the dough to get one for my work-issued phone, and it’s got a lovely gouge and more scratches that I can count. Thankfully the usability damage is nearly nonexistant, but luck like that can’t be counted on.

  11. Chris Byrne says:

    I use heavy duty nylon web pouches, with holster belt clips. You can’t bust’em, and they’re cheap (around $10 at a gun show).

    I agree though, a nicely made holster for my iphone or blackberry would be very nice (I carry one for personal and one for work).

  12. Flighterdoc says:

    As far as damage to the phone, thats what phone insurance is for.

  13. Ian Argent says:

    The deductible on most phone insurance is kinda high – and often doesn’t pay out on more than one claim a year; from what I hear tell.

    I’ve claimed on phoen insurance, because the pouch I was using at the time pushed too hard on the screen and cracked it

  14. Flighterdoc says:

    I’ve claimed on phone insurance more than once a year…

  15. Ian Argent says:

    OK – I’ve only claimed once; so I defer to your experience. Still doesn’t help with gouges and scrapes to the touchscreen though.

  16. Ian Argent says:

    I happen to be shopping for cellphones and I read the T&Cs for Asurion’s phone insurance. It’s 2 claims in any 12-month period (or 2 claims in a calendar year in NY State). Also, mind the deductible and the coverage cap – one credit union I’m a member of offers “free” cell phone insurance, but the max payout is $250; which is not quite enough to replace the smartphone I’m looking at on an unsubsidized price; and would be roughly half of the cost of a new Google NExus One, fox example

  17. Jeanette K says:

    I read that a lot of bedside holsters can be used to hold remotes or stuff like that. I think using a holster to hold something besides a gun is a really great idea if the thing you are holstering fits into the mold.

  18. Redchrome says:

    http://store.corsetmaking.com/Merchant2/merchant.mvc?Screen=PROD&Product_Code=DB-SG001BLK&Category_Code=J&Product_Count=9

    This is sort of like what you’re talking about… it’s a set of bags that hang about where a shoulder holster would. Spendy; but stylish and may be practical for some people who would like to carry their phone that way.

    I know they have other styles as well. So if you wanted a smaller case for your phone, it wouldn’t be a big deal to order.

    That all said; cops have shot people for pulling a wallet from more innocuous things.

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