January 20, 2022

DeSantis Thumb Break Scabbard for the Emissary


When it comes to the world of leather holsters for the 1911 pistol, I rate them on several levels. The “BBQ holster” is the one with all the bells and whistles that you wear with your high-end engraved pistol to special social gatherings. This category of holsters is often manufactured with exotic hides like shark, elephant, stingray or alligator. These go perfect with fancy jeans, cowboy boots, big belt buckles and bolo ties.

The next level is your “EDC (Every Day Carry) holster,” which is just like it sounds — one used on a daily basis. For me, it’s basically a nicely made pancake holster, with enough retention to keep the pistol secure, but allowing for a fast presentation if the need arises.

DeSantis Thumb Break holster with 1911 Emissary pistol
The DeSantis Thumb Break Scabbard offers you comfortable carry along with added security and retention.

The third and final level on my list is the “duty” or “working leather holster.” In this list I include all retention holsters. In the case of leather holsters, the most common mode of retention is the thumb snap.

The bottom line with a “working holster” is that it must be manufactured with the best materials and workmanship. It doesn’t have to be flashy or fancy, but it must be well made and durable.

The Source

When it comes to durability, reliability and quality of manufacturing in a holster, I tend to look for a company with lots of experience. There is absolutely no question that one company that meets all those criteria is DeSantis Gunhide.

DeSantis Thumb Break holster with 1911 Emissary pistol
The thumb break of the holster is easy to disengage, yet highly secure. Note the quality of the leather and the stitching.

Company founder Gene DeSantis started making holsters at his kitchen table over 40 years ago in Amityville, New York. Gene quickly established a reputation for making quality leather, and his business grew from a kitchen table project to the vast line of products you see today.

Even though the DeSantis company expanded its product line to include other materials, leather is still in the heart of the company. As a result, I believe they make some of the best working holsters in the industry.

A Solid Partner

When I got my Springfield Armory Emissary 1911 pistol, I wanted a good quality leather “working” retention holster. Even though I don’t normally open carry, there are times I might spend the whole day at the range, where a thumb snap holster is exactly what I need.

Emissary 1911 in a DeSantis Thumb Break holster
The author found that the holster quickly conformed to the Emissary 1911 pistol and was very easy to carry.

After browsing through their online catalog, I set my sights on the Thumb Break Scabbard. This is a classic outside-the-waistband (OWB) thumb break leather holster available in both left- and right-hand versions in black or tan leather. MSRP is $78.99. I liked the fact that just like with many other DeSantis holsters, there was a great variety of options available like color, texture, lining, tension screw and belt slots (depending on the gun model selected). To be clear, the lining and basketweave texture are special order items, but they are available.

I picked the right-hand model, in brown, with three 1-3/4” belt slots (standard), unlined with the standard tension screw. I wanted the classic look of the brown leather with the lighter stitching, because it just looks classy. Even though this is going to be a working holster, I wanted something that looked good while still being utilitarian.

I also like the three belt slots, as this gives me the versatility of selecting the cant I want on the holster — straight up and down, or the slightly forward position of the “FBI cant.” The three slots are formed in such a way that inserting a belt through them is not a chore at all; my Wilderness Tactical Instructor Belt easily went through the slots.

Hands-On

After I received my holster, I was very impressed with its finish and stitching; it lived up to and even surpassed my expectations. This holster also looked and felt like a much more expensive product, like some of the exotic hides used on BBQ holsters.

The first step in using this holster was the break-in process. Every holster manufacturer has its own version of this, and in all honesty, my process was very simple and quick. I placed my unloaded Emissary 1911 in the holster and tweaked the adjustment screw until it was tight, but not too tight. I snapped the thumb snap closure and placed it on my belt, tight, and wore it around the house for a day.  At the end of the day, the pistol was perfectly fitted to the holster.

Springfield Emissary 1911 in a Thumb Break holster by DeSantis
With classic lines, excellent materials and rugged durability, the DeSantis Thumb Break is a great partner for the new Emissary 1911.

DeSantis warns not to apply any oils or knead the leather, and I didn’t find any of those processes necessary. This holster is so well made that only a minor break-in is required. DeSantis also mentions that, with time, leather will stretch and become looser. This is where I think the adjustment screw is such a great addition to this holster. It allows you to increase tension when you feel it’s necessary. But, honestly, I don’t think this holster will become loose any time soon.

After the break-in day came the fun part — a range trip. I wanted this holster to be an all-day range holster, something I can wear at the range and be confident that my Emissary will remain in the holster until I want it out. And I want this without fear of it accidentally falling out while performing other chores at the range.

After a productive day at the range and other chores and honey-dos around the house, the pistol wasn’t only safe and secure, it felt very comfortable. In fact, at times I almost forgot it was there at all.  What else could anyone want from a holster?

A New Direction

In the past, I never considered thumb break holsters an option. I felt, erroneously, that the thumb break was unnecessary. That is until now. I have found that this style of holster is not only utilitarian and reliable, but also very attractive. I also never considered them as an option for concealed carry. I guess I was wrong as I have since used this holster for concealed carry and found it to be extremely effective.

Getting this holster opened my eyes to a new way of thinking about retention holsters.  A company like DeSantis has a well-earned reputation in the shooting world. They make fine holsters and accessories with exceptional quality, fit and finish that can’t be beaten. And they do this all at a price that won’t break the bank.

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