Thursday, July 20, 2017

APc-48 is now in print...




Thank you to my readers (both of you)...Your patience is rewarded as Truckman Publishing announces the book that students of WWII history have been longing for - "APc-48..."


Avid readers of war history all enjoy the tales of heroic warriors on the front lines, entrenched against a deadly enemy, sometimes for days, even weeks without respite...Dug into the volcanic sand, reloading their weapons time after time against the waves of enemy warriors, sworn to drive them back...During lulls in the action, they drink from their canteens, nourish themselves with what ever rations they brought, binding the wounds of those struck down...As this goes on, and days drag into weeks, often months on the sometimes uncharted islands, what happens when rations run low, fresh water runs out, the wounded beg for attention, ammunition becomes scarce...

They look to their supply lines behind them, without which the battle would end in useless defeat...Their heavily armored equipment, with its mighty firepower would become scrap metal without the un-armored, and for the most part unarmed ships, aircraft and trucks coming up behind them with fresh supplies...Those manning these vehicles risk their lives behind nothing thicker than a steel helmet and a flak jacket to replenish what is needed in battle, and then carry away the wounded...

Headlines, glory and medals for heroism go to those on the front lines as they battle their way forward, kept alive by the almost unnoticed, yet expected supply lines extending behind them for thousands of miles..."APc-48" is the story of a small wooden coastal transport ship and its crew of brave, but unheralded men who, for four years in the Southwest Pacific during WWII, risked their lives quietly slipping in and out under the noses of a determined enemy to serve the needs of their brothers-in-arms on the uncharted islands where enemy soldiers waited to kill them...

One of Truckman's uncles went to war on this tiny vessel, eventually joining the millions of others in victory, even staying afterwards in the occupation of the enemy's homeland during an uneasy peace...As he did so other members of his family served in similar fashion, sacrificing their well-being both at home, and in faraway places in the joint effort to restore peace..My uncle talked very little of his years in the Pacific, preferring to get on with life rather than rehash old memories...This unstoried segment of the war left little information concerning the activities of those who spent the war years in supply and logistics, and Truckman's research led to the many connected stories told in his usual seemingly disconnected style...

It is hoped that my readers will enjoy this effort of bringing into focus the activities of members of my own family whose service was intermingled with many more memorable names...The book is lavishly illustrated with illustrations and photos, many never before published...It is hoped that a new appreciation is felt by many, just as I have also learned of those who quietly went about their jobs to restore peace to a shattered world...

Truckman's hat is off to all who served...

EDIT: The book will also be available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble soon, for those prefer to pay extra, and wait longer for delivery...If you order from the Truckman Book Store, be sure to look for additional discount codes...
More articles concerning Warriors and Militaria...

Sunday, May 28, 2017

APc-48...(Part IX)...


[Editor's note: This is another abbreviated chapter excerpt from the upcoming book...]

At this point, the question may have been raised in the reader's mind as to why so much fighting took place in the South West Pacific area...Most of the islands where combat took place were small, uninhabitable for all but the most primitive of people...Almost no natural resources of international value were to be found except on the larger land masses of Borneo and Indonesia...Some plantation farming was done by European settlers including expatriate Germans and Italians, but the profits from such agriculture were not worth the cost of war...Tourism was non-existent as no amenities were in place which would have attracted travelers and vacationers...

Approach to the smaller islands where much of the fiercest fighting was engaged, was for the most part hazardous at its best, with jagged coral reefs presenting a natural barrier to deep water vessels...The few protected harbors often had points of entry which were difficult to find, and once there, challenging to navigate...In addition most of the charts available were outdated, often by centuries...Long, sloping, sandy approaches to any of the beach areas brought unwanted exposure to enemy fire for troops embarked on the slow, shallow draft landing vessels...These attributes made landing invasion troops problematic, and once there, the task of keeping them supplied was exacerbated by the preventative activities of belligerents...

Once entrenched on the islands, the occupation forces faced some resistance from the primitive islanders who only wished to be left alone, but this was more a nuisance than a genuine problem for the Japanese...Islanders made their living from fishing, and had a subsistence lifestyle, but were not able to mount any armed offense other than harassment raids...They were often forced into labor by the invading Japanese either as slaves, or extremely underpaid workers doing the menial chores of clearing jungle growth, and preparing defense foundations, digging by hand...Their only alternatives were evasion or death... Most were willing associates of the Allied coastwatchers whom they knew to be enemies of the invaders, and also paid better wages...

Most, if not all, of the Pacific Rim islands, those forming the semi-circular chain between the larger land masses of Asia, Indonesia and Australia and the vast Pacific Ocean were of volcanic origin, rising from the sea over millions of years...The black volcanic rock, and the resultant black sand from eons of wind and sea erosion, were of little agricultural use, although pockets of suitable soil led to cultivation of small fruit crops by islanders and the few settlers...The only good thing that could be said about the volcanic islands is that they were mostly snake-free until some invasive species were accidentally transported there, mostly after WWII...But other reptiles, including crocodiles, make their homes in the small waterways of the Solomon Islands...

By and large, the worst enemy the combatants had was the weather and inhospitable climate faced not only by the invaders, but the Allied forces sent to drive them out... Heat saps the energy of anyone, especially those unaccustomed to working in it...The problem is compounded when it is required to maintain a constant state of alertness, while at the same time carrying 40 pounds or more of equipment at all times...The high humidity found in the tropical islands soon soaks any clothing worn, making the wearer even more uncomfortable, and increasing the effort needed for normal activities...On some islands rainfall was almost a daily occurrence, but instead of having a cooling effect, it only added to the humidity felt by all...

In the thick undergrowth just beyond the beach areas, where all defensive positions were maintained in order to evade observation by the enemy, even less air stirred, and the jungle became the enemy as insects, rodents and reptiles all showed their resentment toward those invading their space...Mosquitoes brought on epidemics of malaria in which those infected would be incapacitated as warriors, requiring the further employment of manpower in their medical care...The Japanese diet of polished rice, with its attending deficiency of vitamin B1, combined with the general weakened condition resulting from the jungle environment, induced crippling bouts of Beriberi, requiring hospitalization and the further expenditure of manpower...

Why then would the Japanese dedicate so many military assets to the defense of small, sometimes uncharted, economically useless islands, some of which were not much more than oversized sandbars?...The answer lies in the strategic value of the outlying islands...When the Japanese military planners unleashed their series of conquests, plundering the areas of South East Asia, Burma, China and the large islands of Indonesia and Borneo, all with their rich resources of minerals, rubber and oil, they knew the stolen assets would require defense against the rightful owners, the US, Britain, Holland and France, who would be livid with rage (well, maybe not the weak-kneed French)...They also understood that the place to make their stand was not the land masses where they were busy stealing the property of others, but the tiny little spits of sand and rock arranged in an outlying semi-circle where the enemy had to approach from across thousands of miles of ocean...

They weren't so much worried about the back door and the Indian Ocean approach, as their strategy of applying airpower against the British and Dutch sea forces had paid off, destroying the British Prince of Wales, Repulse and Thracian in December 1941, as well as four more by April 1942...Dutch losses to Japanese aircraft included a sub-marine and destroyer, plus the capital ships, De Ruyter and Java to naval torpedoes, all before February 1942...French losses in the Pacific were zero through their strategy of not showing up for the fight...


More articles concerning Warriors and Militaria...

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Applecart Link Added...

Thanks to the efforts of Neal Ash, a new FaceBook page has been added for those readers able to see it...It concerns the Small Coastal Transports, which is the topic of an ongoing series in this blog, as well as the subject of an upcoming book which will be featured through the "Print Media" button under the main banner above...Readers with access to FaceBook may view the page by clicking the "Applecart Link" button located in the same row above...This button may be amended later to add a list of APc source links...

Neal has earned his spot in the acknowledgements page of the forthcoming book, titled "APc-48" with the mountains of information he has provided concerning his grandfather's (Stan Ash) service to our nation in WWII as a crewmember aboard one of the tiny ships, APc-1, the lead ship in the class of 100 wartime vessels...Stan Ash's invaluable contribution to Allied victory was the subject of an article already published in this blog, and will be expanded in the book...

Truckman expresses his gratitude not only to Neal for providing information and pictures, and the FaceBook page, but also to his grandfather for his service to our country...If anyone else has information concerning the small, but very effective warships, whether before, during or after WWII, don't hesitate to add to Truckman's knowledge by emailing him through the link provided in the "Contact Truckman" feature located in the side column to the right...

Thanks to all, and especially to all who served...


More articles concerning Using This Blog...

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

APc-48...(Part VIII)...



Click here for Part III...


Click here for Part IV...

Click here for Part V...

Click here for Part VI...


Click here for Part VII...

Click here for Part IX...


At this point in history's timeline, few are left standing who can accurately depict the duties and responsibilities involved in the assignments of those individuals who took on the immense task of defeating a determined enemy which had the advantage of first strike...No one job, from the commander-in-chief to the after-hours floorsweeper, can be said to have had a higher impact on success if all took the seriousness of the task with equal degrees of serious intent...In this context, some got the headlines while some recycled the newsprint for the events of the following day, but all played a key part...

During the course of the war, officers and crew aboard the APc's found the expectations placed at their door to be increasingly varied, calling for much ingenuity and innovation...The shallow draft design of these small coastal transport vessels was called upon more and more, as Navy planners saw the need to bring in more men, supplies and materials that first envisioned...Small raiding parties and their gear were a specialty, and even larger companies which were brought in on beach landing craft, were still guided to the correct location by the APc crews, who had to maintain a continuous knowledge of the reef-infested island waters...They also stood by at these times for sudden extraction if plans went awry...

One job planned by no one involved the transport of shiploads of green palm leaves to the smaller islands where Allied barges and tugs hid in secluded inlets during the day, hiding from Japanese overflights which would bomb and strafe them if they were found...These vessels moved only under the cover of darkness, bringing reinforcements and supplies, as well as taking away casualties...During the course of battle, the natural green foliage over these coves and inlets was shot away, leaving any parked vessels exposed to sight...By day tons of greenery was cut from the jungle growth of other islands, and stacked in huge piles aboard the APc's, which moved these loads at night to the exposed shipping conduits for disguise the next day...

At times the job became hazardous beyond measure... On 12/17/1943, APc-21 was working with a minesweeping force during the amphibious campaign to retake the BismarckArchipelago, when the enemy attacked from the air...A minesweeper and several landing craft were hit and damaged in the attack as all guns on all ships were manned to drive away the Japanese aircraft...Under the most ideal conditions, 20mm gunners can track and maintain fire at approaching enemy aircraft, but against fast moving and maneuverable attack aircraft, a slow moving vessel's crew longs for the comfort of quickly adaptable .50 caliber guns in close combat...

At one point, a Japanese "Val" divebomber took APc-21 in its sights and released all three bombs...One bomb penetrated the wooden hull without detonating, but the other two straddled the ship, detonating in the water with the explosions crushing the wooden structure of the  hull...Damage control assessment confirmed the ship was too weakened to continue, and all men were ordered to abandon ship...The entire contingent of 26 men and officers were rescued, as APc-21 took on water and sank to the bottom...APc-21 was awarded two battle stars during its Pacific service...

The quiet jobs may have been the most nerve-wracking as ships embarked at night to drop off raiding parties, or resupply those already emplaced...Constant attention had to be paid by all crewmembers looking for coloration changes in the waters signifying a hidden reef or sandbar, or scanning the horizon for dark shapes which might have been an approaching enemy ship...No lights could be displayed as the ship navigated to any one of the thousands of small islands, hoping they wouldn't mistake an enemy occupied islet for their real destination...A prearranged flashlight signal would let them know if they navigated correctly; a hail of enemy fire would tell when they didn't...The distinctive sound of the powerful diesel engine should be recognizable to experienced waiting troops, but not everyone was that experienced...And the sound might even muffle warning sounds of an approaching enemy...

If the navigation was successful, the passengers and cargo were unloaded, any messages exchanged, casualties taken on and they were off to the next stop...If difficulties were encountered, enemy forces spotted, if weather worsened, they might have to find a small inlet or jetty in which to hide during the day to avoid contact with the enemy... Crews learned quickly to make note of likely coastal inlets where the small vessels might take cover if ample warning was given of an approaching flight of enemy aircraft...

Occasionally the APc's were called upon to form their own task units, as when four of those based at Guadalcanal were grouped to transport and insert Fijian patrol units teamed with Navy radio countermeasures and Army radio field units into a group of islands where it was suspected that a Japanese coastwatcher was observing and reporting on Allied movements...The APc crews dropped off some teams, then moved on to insert another elsewhere, returning the next day to pick up and leapfrog the original team to another island...In this way many suspected points of enemy activity were covered at once...In analyzing the data from the radio directional finding teams, it was found that the suspected radio traffic halted during the period of surveillance, leaving the unit commander to suspect the aid of a German trader, said to be a deserter from the German Navy 32 years earlier, but whose true sympathies in the current conflict were unknown...It was decided to allow him to continue to operate as a trader, but to treat him with circumspect in future observations...


In the shallow coastal water of the many small islands which dotted the Solomon chain, the little APc's took on many tasks which would have been impossible for the larger craft...They were used on occasion as SAR vessels sent to rescue downed fliers stranded on an outlying coral reef...Where a large ship might have been picked up on Japanese radar, or even seen on the horizon by lookouts, the APc's could slip in unnoticed...Another advantage from their slow speed was leaving less of a trail to follow among the coral reefs...Faster ships, as an example the PT boats, left a phosphorescent wake as the cavitation and propwash from their higher speed left a clear imprint in the coral waters observable for some time after their passage...

More articles concerning Warriors and Militaria...

Sunday, April 30, 2017

APc-48...(Part VII)...



Of the 115 small coastal transport hull numbers which were authorized by the Navy, 100 were built...If each went to sea served only by its original contingent of 25 officers and men, and returned with no replacements, there would still be 2,500 stories to tell of at least 2,500 individual experiences...However, not all of them came back, and crew replacements and transfers were common...There were shipboard deaths and disappearances...Some ships were undermanned, while others had extra crewmembers for specialized duties...Passengers were taken on, and some even jumped ship, deserting their duties...

Still the tales of wartime service aboard these tiny vessels are not forthcoming as they are in the case of larger warships with storied histories...It is my belief that the common preoccupation by writers with concentrating their narrations on the clash of arms between mighty warriors, and the horrors of war which are unfathomable except to those who have been there, has caused other contributors to the efforts to bring peace to somehow believe their duties were not worthy of the telling...

Some APc crews, through orders binding their journeys to larger warships, encountered enemy forces bent on the destruction of all Allied shipping, and these ships and their crews instinctively lent their support in extricating as many friendly forces from peril as possible, regardless of the danger...APc-1, the class-leader of the small coastal transports, went to sea October 1, 1942, under command of Lt. (jg) Francis E. Shine, Jr. USNR...Some confusion exists as to its powerplant as NavSource tells of it being fitted with a 300 HP NSC six cylinder diesel, while Herreshoff Marine Museum lists a more standard 400 HP diesel engine manufactured by Superior...Whether of which engine was onboard as it went to war, it is to be assumed that there would be times when the crew fervently wished for more power, as it's top speed was listed at 10 1/2 knots...

Neal Ash of Colorado graciously offered some previously unpublished information concerning his own grandfather's service as a crewman aboard APc-1 during its assignments in the Pacific War...Like many young men of the era, he was interested in avoiding service as an Army infantryman, since a classmate had already been killed in action as such...

He and his lifelong friend, Fred "Red" Filer, enlisted together in their hometown of Clarkston, Michigan, at the outset of hostilities with Japan, but did not receive specialized training until his graduation from Naval Station Great Lakes, the Navy's oldest and largest training facility, where his initial training took place...Clarkston is a village established in 1830, but not incorporated until 1992 when it was feared the city's boundaries would be absorbed by the surrounding Township of Independence...The incorporation preserved its self-determination and its own government...By the time Stanley Ash was properly trained, and deemed ready by the US Navy to join his nation's fighting force, APc-1 was already at sea...

The two served together during the entire war, and, as in the case of F1/C Johnson, were not discharged until 1946...It is assumed here that they, like many others, were also assigned to the occupation forces briefly, and were discharged shortly after APc-1's arrival in San Francisco for decommissioning in February, 1946...

As next of kin, Neal Ash was able to petition the Navy for his grandfather's military records, including his DD214 and the medals awarded for his service...He was able to provide this author with anecdotal experiences related to him by Stanley Ash...Boatswain's Mate Ash initially went to sea aboard an escort carrier, the USS Admiralty Islands (CVE-99) in July 1944 where he is listed on a duty roster, and joined his permanent assignment, APc-1 in the latter half of 1944 during the ongoing Solomon Islands Campaign...At the age of 24, he was the oldest member of APc-1's crew...Boatswain's Mates were commonly addressed as "Boats" when onboard ship as a concession to brevity...

This was also the first deployment for the AI, a Casablanca class escort carrier, one of the most mass-produced and versatile ships of WWII with 50 being produced...Following its sea trials and commissioning, the AI took on a load of bunker fuel for its boilers and a full supply of aviation gasoline for use by its aircraft at sea in San Francisco...It then picked up additional crew in San Diego, presumably including Boats Ash, before deploying to the Southwest Pacific...Boats Ash was said to be appreciative of the relative comfort enjoyed by the crew on the brand new vessel, as compared to what was endured by the crew of APc-1 later...

In a story related to his grandson, Boats Ash told of incurring the wrath of his ship's commanding officer, Lt. (jg) Shine shortly after joining the crew...The ship had returned to San Diego to pick up the fleet's mail (a regular duty), and they were five minutes back at sea...At this time Ash failed to answer a General Quarters call due to the fact that he was performing an otherwise important duty call to Mother Nature in the ship's head, and given the close proximity to home port, Boats Ash knew it had to be a drill...Lt. Shine did not see that duty as superseding a Navy duty call, and arrested him...Not having a brig aboard the tiny ship, Lt. Shine ordered Boats Ash locked in the ship's paint locker instead, until the ship reached its duty station several days later...Ash reportedly used this idle time to inspect the contents of the paint cans stored within, and in an obvious attempt to save time later, mixed all the paint together until all cans contained paint of a uniform shade of gray, upon which he then resealed them without identifying the new colors...

Having now identified himself as a prominent member of the commander's S-list, Ash was later assigned a permanent duty on the ship's bow gun, a dual-mount .50 Caliber installation, probably a purloined item as previously discussed being obtained by many enterprising crews...Unlike the builder-installed 20mm gun mounts, no provision was made for shade of any kind to shelter the .50's operator from the sweltering Pacific sunrays...Boats Ash then merely accepted the situation as part and parcel of being placed so highly on Lt. Shine's personal S-list...

At some point later, while on duty with the bow .50 at his fingertips, Boats Ash observed an already crippled and smoking Japanese Betty bomber cross his sights, and a quick burst of 750 grain projectiles from his guns finished the aircraft which then crashed in flames into the ocean...Lt. Shine was said to be initially proud of the feat, but later displayed his wrath as Boats Ash was awarded a personal battle star to add to his campaign ribbons, without a subsequent battle star being awarded the ship under Shine's command...But it is believed the Lieutenant found it difficult to further reprimand a crewmember credited with being the only APc deck hand in the war to shoot down a Japanese Betty bomber...Such are the problems faced by commanders who place such a high value on discipline...

One incredible fact brought to light by Boats Ash's grandson is his grandfather's revelation that APc-1 crossed the Pacific seven times during its deployment, many times on solitary mail runs...One journey included a trip to South Carolina to repair typhoon damage to the ship...These voyages all took place at the princely speed of 10 1/2 knots...

Like many other survivors of a terrible and hard-fought war, Boats ash managed to ship a few souvenirs of his adventures to his home, before his tour ended...These included his issued M-1 Carbine which he apparently forgot to turn in...His wife received it in good order by US Mail...

A photo exists which will be published with the upcoming book showing Boats Ash and his buddy Red Filer, enjoying a refreshment while awaiting their discharge papers in California in 1946...Ash is wearing a single stripe below his Boatswain's Mate uniform sleeve insignia, indicative that his battle star commendation may have precluded further disciplinary action on Lt. (jg) Shine's part...


More articles concerning Warriors and Militaria...

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

APc-48...(Part VI)...



[Editor's note: This article is presented as part of an expansion of thought for the original "APc-48" series...The book length publication will include a discussion of members involved in other wartime support missions, and how their duties, and their lives were intertwined...]


Having been the fortunate participant in a series of interviews conducted with former S/Sgt B. Earl Young (and also the unfortunate recipient of several of his correctional lectures intended for my benefit), the readers here might expect my knowledge of conditions and amenities on the island of Attu during WWII to be more broadbased, with detailed information concerning the problems which faced those stationed there, and the innovations developed in overcoming them...Alas, this author's young ears were somewhat blocked by his active imagination, which was more attuned to what items in the Sergeant's footlocker (brought home on a slow, stomach-churning troopship ride before the youngster was even conceived) could be best employed during the neighborhood wargames in which the future writer was involved...

The lamentable result of this early inattention became the scanty memories of what should have been important at the time, and a hazy recollection of tales of survival in a cold, unforgiving climate, in which those assigned to defend the island against a possible return by attacking Japanese soldiers lived many of their off-duty hours just trying to find the entrance to their Quonset huts in the snowdrifts often covering their living quarters...For those unfamiliar with these structures, they were originally a mass-produced, pre-fabricated building, more intended as a temporary shelter against weather than a permanent place of residence...Sgt. Young recalled the housings as being approximately 20 X 50 feet in dimension, with a half-round covering providing walls and roof...Of corrugated steel construction, insulation was almost non-existent, until the inhabitants created an inner structure to which they could attach whatever cold-blocking materials that were available to them...

They soon learned that stacking their barracks bags, footlockers, storage boxes, firewood or anything available against the inside walls, and bringing their cots, chairs, tables and other comfort amenities closer to the center, and thus nearer the only two provided space heaters, lessened the discomfort to a somewhat survivable level...The fuel used for these rudimentary heaters was whatever burned well and was immediately available, freight pallets being a common source, and if memory serves this writer, the innovative GI's soon learned to convert the stoves to burn kerosene and diesel fuel...The smoke and fumes generated were routed through a sheet iron chimney straight through the Quonset ceilings and rudimentarily sealed against the inevitable leakage...

The smoke from the outside was also a convenient method of locating one's living quarters when trudging home from the day's work details, or the mess halls as snow drifts often completely covered the buildings, and soldiers outdoors were many times at knee-level with the heater exhaust...When snow drifted high enough to block the entryways, entrance and exit to and from these buildings was accomplished through stairwells constructed by the occupants outside the end doors...Covered with corrugated sheet iron on top and on the sides, and topped with a flag to identify the occupants, they could be opened in times of no snow (said by Sgt. Young to irregularly occur during times of the midnight sun) by removing panels, but also extended some thirty feet above floor level for use during periods of incessantly inclement weather when snow covered the buildings...

The Quonset hut derived its name from its original point of manufacture, that is Quonset Point, an area inside Davisville Naval Construction Battalion Center, RI, although they were manufactured elsewhere, under contract in many locations throughout the US and Canada, to satisfy military demand...Over 150,000 were manufactured during the course of the war, and some are still in use today around the world...The rounded shape allowed better chances of survival in high winds as no flat surface was presented against gale-force air currents other than the ends, which were faced with plywood sheets...Some insulation was factory installed, but more was always needed...


The huts were placed with the rounded sides facing the prevailing winds...It was not uncommon in the Aleutians to experience wind velocities exceeding 100 MPH in sub-zero conditions, although similar units placed in the South Pacific regions often weathered even higher winds during typhoon seasons...During these times, the huts, which were not anchored to the ground, rocked back and forth causing the inhabitants to push against the windward walls in an attempt to prevent rolling over...The flat, exposed end walls were often reinforced with sandbags, fuel drums, sacks of aggregate or stacks of PSP (Perforated Steel Planking) which had been lashed together, providing some wind protection and further temperature insulation... Period photos of South Pacific structures often show Quonset huts nestled in groves of palm trees, not only for concealment from enemy aircraft, but for wind protection during recurring gales...

More articles concerning Warriors and Militaria...

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Carrying it...

I've been carrying a handgun with me since I can remember...Admittedly, with age that number is becoming increasingly dimmer along with my memory, so let's just say I've been carrying a gun since it became legal to do so...I've carried in my pocket, in my boot, stuck in my belt, I even had a little North American mini-revolver stuck inside a cowboy hat once...Although I've sold many a fanny pack when I was in the biz, I never used one; it's just not my style, sorry...

The cheapest ones that actually work are the ballistic nylon holsters, and although they're popular and I sold plenty, I don't like them for a variety of reasons...The first being that the nylon acts like sandpaper against a nice blued finish, and premature wear to the finish will occur with repeated presentations...Stainless steel is more impervious to damage, but the user will wind up with shiny spots instead...I keep one in my truck between the seats, where friction and velcro hold it in place...The only gun I use it with is my hard-chromed Gold Cup, and I only use it when I travel to a place of perceived danger, like anywhere inside the Houston city limits, for instance...

Something seldom understood about the nylon holsters with a steel belt clip is that the clip is only used when the holster is worn inside the pants...They're sold with the clip installed for right-handed users when worn inside the waistband...There is also a sewn-on nylon loop for belt use, but this requires at least five seconds of extra time for correct wear...

I've sold many in which the buyer claimed it was for a left-handed user...They were invariably lazy and wished to just clip it on outside the pants...I always explained the correct use, telling the buyer that if the user really needed the gun in a hurry, he (or she) would likely pull the holster off along with the gun, possibly even resulting in an embarrassing moment in which the user found his or her pants at half-mast...

If my explanation failed to satisfy, I always obligingly switched the clip over to the other side, and sent the customer off on his merry way...Occasionally a customer would return at some point, and sheepishly tell me I was right, asking me to return the clip to its original position (which is no mean feat due to the strength of the spring steel in the clip)...

For my own use, I've worn dozens, maybe even hundreds of different brands and styles of holsters...The most comfortable, and most satisfying holster material has always been leather for me...It looks better, it's more comfortable to wear, and it's easier on just about any gun's finish...Being in the business, I had many holsters traded in with a gun (I still don't know why anyone would do that), and consequently I might buy it for myself and wear it if I liked the style...I've worn many of the mass produced leather products with some (Galco, Safariland and Bianchi) being better quality than others (Don Hume, Tagua and Cebeci)...

A major concern for anyone who carries should always be security...Law enforcement officials will always carry in a holster with a retention device as a safeguard against losing a firearm to an attacker...Most police agencies also require a retention device on any holster carrying an off-duty firearm...I have much more experience along these lines with 1911 style guns which I carry only in Condition One, that is with a round in the firing chamber, hammer cocked, thumb safety on...

For those who must use, or feel safer with a retention device, the leather thumb break style with the leather strap between the hammer and the firing pin is the most commonly used...All mass-produced holsters for 1911's using a thumb break are designed for use with the small military Colt-style thumb safety...They work well with this style, but extreme caution should be used if the thumb safety is replaced with a larger, or differently positioned aftermarket safety...From personal experience with a Bianchi IWB holster, I found that constant carry can move the safety to the off position without the users knowledge...It never happened to me with the small standard safety, but consistently with an Ed Brown, Wilson Combat or McCormick extended safety...For this reason, I stopped wearing thumb break holsters entirely...

A custom leather maker can fashion a thumb break for safe use with a specific aftermarket safety, but prepare to spend extra money...William Tucker, one of the finest leathercrafters whom I have known personally, and one with much personal experience on duty as well as off, refused to build a thumb break holster for a 1911, regardless of the money...He prefers a custom fit for the gun itself, allowing friction force to be the retention device...

After many years now of carrying my own guns daily in Tucker (and now Tucker & Byrd) holsters, I agree whole-heartedly...These holsters also incorporate what Tucker calls a "fat-boy tab," which is just extra leather placed between the gun's safety and the wearer, assuring a cleaner shirt at the end of the day...I still wear one of his older designs regularly, without the tab, and I wish it could be retrofitted...It's the only regret I have concerning this holster after twenty years of use...Tucker also taught me the importance of using a gun belt as opposed to a pants belt for carry...

When he first entered my store to offer his products (mine was the first store in the area to stock a wide variety of Tucker leather), he noticed I wore wide western belts with the hook style fastener on a solid bronze buckle...He convinced me to try one of his thick, embossed belts with a proper frame-and-prong buckle...I ordered a complete carry rig at the same time, which I still use to this day, and I have never used another brand of belt or buckle since...I strongly recommend Tucker & Byrd products to anyone considering carry options in fine leather...Most recently I've been using Tucker & Byrd crossdraw holsters with success...

Another holster material in popular use is Kydex, one of the manmade materials developed in recent decades...It's a favorite among detectives who like a lightweight, easily carried, yet secure means of carry...Also popular among outdoorsmen for the same reason...Being a harder material, it must be carefully designed for inside the waistband use, or discomfort will quickly ensue...One of the more innovative and detail-oriented Kydex crafters is the firm of Poor Henry Designs...

Poor Henry is owned and operated by the husband and wife team of Brice and Carrie, both of whom have been my friends for more years than any of us care to admit...Although Kydex manufacture is a relatively recent venture for both, they have each been involved for decades with carrying firearms, whether professionally, casually, defensively or in competition...Both are very familiar with the problems and/or advantages of practically any style of carry regardless of the size or type of handgun...

Earlier I mentioned wearing Tucker & Byrd crossdraw holsters, and I find I like them for the comfort of carrying my Kimber Ultra Carry...They ride high above the belt for comfort when sitting, and the tightly molded fit (not too tight though) is perfect for retention...However since growing my own layer of armor around my midsection, plus wearing it slightly more to the offside than is conducive to quick presentation, I find I lose a little time on the draw, especially if sitting in the driver's seat of one of my vehicles...Therefore I commissioned Brice to design a crossdraw holster for me, not for my Kimber, but my hard-chromed Gold Cup, the finish of which is impervious to wear from the Kydex...

After a short wait to tool up (since Poor Henry does not catalog a crossdraw yet), I was soon sent my requested item for evaluation...Miz Carrie's eye for fashion allowed her to take one glance at the leather jacket I was wearing that day, and perfectly matched the saddle tan color in a pebble-grain finish for the Kydex...The level of retention allowed by the snug fit to my Colt allowed a radical angle to be used for the gun while still providing the utmost security against accidental loss of the firearm...This angle allows a very easy draw, especially from a sitting position (as in the vehicle)...

When I received it, my only complaint was the belt loop, which was too narrow to accommodate the aforementioned thick Tucker gunbelts I wear...One phone call to Brice and another envelope in the mail solved that problem...Since this was a prototype, I have a few suggestions before it becomes a catalog item...I know Brice is waiting for this review, so I'll list them here...

The belt loop is attached to the holster with screws onto a flat surface molded into the holster...Another flat surface near the muzzle end with another Kydex belt loop installed upside down would allow two-point fastening to the belt, enhancing concealability by drawing the gun in for a closer profile...Then I would suggest adding a mirror image of the already existing flat surface to the opposite side allowing it to be transformed for inside the waistband use...

Overall fit and finish are superb, and I would expect nothing less from these two fine folks...Another of their innovative products is a Kydex wallet which I have been using as a credit card holder instead of fishing for my billfold as I've always done...My most often used credit cards are a perfect fit, easily presented and it fits in my shirt pocket for more convenience...I look forward to seeing the crossdraw holster grow in popularity again, and I know Poor Henry Designs will be a growing business as well...