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M-1 CANVAS .45 ACP HOLSTER – ca. 1932 – VERY  RARE EXPERIMENTAL ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL PRODUCTION – ONE OF ONLY 50 MANUFACTURED FOR TRIAL – IN EXCELLENT “LIKE NEW” CONDITION:  This US Army M-1 Canvas Holster for the .45 Automatic Colt Pistol was designed at Rock Island Arsenal as a replacement for the standard leather Model 1916 Holsters in the event of a leather shortage created by a war-time emergency.  Extremely well documented by Scott Meadows in both his U.S. Military Holsters and Cartridge Boxes (pgs 294-300) and his newly published U.S. Military Holsters and Related Accoutrements (pgs 423-431), this holster saw a very limited production as the possibility of the leather shortage never materialized.  Production was limited to one prototype holster, three samples, and only 50 were manufactured for trials at the unit level.   

As Meadows notes, the following correspondence between the Chief of Ordnance and the commanding officer at Rock Island Arsenal establishes the date of origin of this holster: 

  “An estimate is requested as to the cost of the development at Rock Island Arsenal of a duck or canvas holster as an emergency substitute for the present leather holster for the Browning Automatic Pistol, Caliber .45….” 

Over the next four months the design of the holster was developed, three samples with varying features were produced, and in August of 1932 the Chief of Ordnance made his selection: 

     “….the three sample holsters have been carefully examined by this office and the recommendation of Rock Island Arsenal that No. 2 sample (double thickness canvas) will prove most serviceable as an emergency substitute for the present leather holster is concurred in by this office.

      $75 is allotted for the manufacture of not to exceed 50 holsters (canvas) in general accordance with sample No. 2.  It is requested that this office be advised when this order is approaching completion, in order that consideration may be given to the distribution of these holsters for test by the using arms.”  

The 50 canvas holsters were manufactured as ordered and they were distributed in October of 1932 as follows:  20 to Ft. Riley, Kansas to the Chief of Cavalry; 15 to Ft. Benning, Georgia to the Chief of Infantry; and 15 to Ft. Bragg, North Carolina to the Chief of Field Artillery.  The holsters were shipped under a cover letter as follows: 

     “Herewith shipping order OS0162980a, covering shipment of 15 [or 20 as appropriate] canvas pistol holsters.  These holsters have been fabricated in accordance with Ordnance experimental project SA 94. 

     It is requested that these holsters be subjected to six months’ service use and that upon completion of this use a report be furnished as to their suitability for adoption as a substitute for the leather pistol holster in the event of an emergency.”   

After the holsters were exposed to trial at the unit level, all three branch chiefs approved of the holster and recommended its adoption for the stated purpose.  The holsters were issued to units, and the soldiers who ultimately received them wore the holsters on a regular basis over the six month trial, and at least in the case of use by cavalry troopers, the holsters were subjected to regular cleaning.  Of special note, the Infantry Board requested they be allowed to retain their 15 canvas holsters with the intent that the holsters be tested to destruction”.  Their request was approved and it is assumed those 15 holsters were indeed destroyed through testing.  The fate of those holsters issued to the Cavalry and Field Artillery is not documented, but presumably most of them would have shown some evidence of wear and use.    

Subsequent to the trials and the receipt of the reports, in November of 1933 the canvas holster was adopted as the substitute holster.  Design revisions were made to the pattern through 1933 and 1934, to include the addition of the “U.S.” stenciled in black ink on the holster flap in January of 1934.  The M1 Canvas Holster remained an active project through 1939, however no more were produced. 

The four pre-production samples and only 50 holsters produced for trial, minus the 15 holsters destroyed by the Infantry through testing, leaves a very limited number – less than 39 - which possibly survived.  Given the use and cleaning to which these holsters were subjected during the trial, very few could possibly survive in the condition of this specimen   

This specimen presents in “like new” unissued condition, showing no signs of having been issued, worn, nor ever having had a pistol placed into the holster.  The surface of the canvas is clean and bright, the canvas edging is complete with all seams intact, and all the darkened finish metal fittings are present with the finish completely intact.  The stenciled “U.S.” on the flap is very bright and fully legible.   

This is an excellent example of a very rare trial holster and would be an important addition to a display or collection of Model 1911 Pistols.   (0530)  $1450



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