Georgia On My Mind

Gubernatorial Races and Gunleather

If you like bare-knuckle politics, you’re going to love the Georgia gubernatorial campaign this year. Gun rights will likely be at the dead center of the debate, specifically the issue of “constitutional carry.”

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp at a recent press event throwing his support behind “constitutional carry.” (Screen snip, YouTube, WSAV News)

Gov. Brian Kemp recently went on record endorsing permitless carry, which his primary challenger—former U.S. Sen. David Perdue—has promised to support. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, whichever Republican emerges as the GOP candidate will face anti-gun Democrat Stacey Abrams and her supporters. Mark Walters, host of Armed American Radio, predicted this year’s race will be down and very dirty.

Gun rights are a big issue in Georgia, where hundreds of thousands of citizens are now licensed to carry. Constitutional carry and protecting their existing gun rights will bring a lot of those gun owners out to vote.

Abrams supports so-called “universal background checks.” In 2018, when she ran for governor and was defeated by Kemp, the Atlanta newspaper analyzed her remarks about guns, in which she said “We need waiting periods” and supported a ban on so-called “assault weapons.” She also employed that all-too-familiar, albeit ill-defined call for “common sense gun regulation,” whatever that is.

It’s not clear whether gun rights would be an issue if it weren’t something upon which both Kemp and Perdue could campaign, because they both need to turn out the gun voters in the primary and in the November general election. Between now and then, Georgians and citizens across the country will probably hear more about guns and the Second Amendment from two seasoned politicians than they might imagine. Between now and early spring there just might be a bill on Kemp’s desk allowing for constitutional carry, which Abrams will almost certainly vow to undo if she wins in the fall.

If permitless carry becomes law, Georgia will join 21 other states with similar statutes. And what if a handful of other states also fall in line? We could see possibly half of the U.S. with constitutional carry this year, provided all the stars align.

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Getting the Boot

A couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine was cleaning out a closet and came across a really beat-up rifle boot — also known as a saddle scabbard — designed for carrying a rifle on horseback.

Dave’s friend found this beat-up rifle scabbard in a closet and gave it to him.

It was evidently a home-built specimen, but rather well-stitched and designed. Over the years the leather had dried, the finish had worn down near the muzzle end leaving rough leather exposed, and stitching midway along the seam had split. She had no use for it, so she brought it into my office and gave it to me.

There’s nothing like a challenge, especially where leather is involved. From what I could tell, this rifle boot had carried some model of Winchester lever-action rifle, perhaps an old 1892 or 1894. I brought it home, snapped a couple of photographs and went to work.

Using a tiny awl and needle nose pliers, Dave slowly pulled old stitching out of the leather.

Removing old stitching can be a painstaking, time-consuming project and it took a while working with a small needle-point leather punch to remove all of the old thread, which appeared to be once-waxed linen. At least the original maker used a saddle stitch, so it wasn’t too complicated to figure out.

Prior to re-stitching, I dampened the dry leather to give it some flexibility, then went to work hand stitching. I had a good supply of brown, waxed linen thread so in about a half-hour, the seam had once again been closed up.

Dave dampened the leather to restore moisture and went to work, re-stitching the edges.

Restoring the Leather

There are various ways to restore old, dry leather but hand-rubbing Neatsfoot oil or some other leather treatment with lanolin or some other moistener works very well. There is one product I’ve come to like called Ballistol, which penetrates and seems to restore leather.

In addition, there are several other commercial products including saddle soap or mink oil. Give it a good rub and get it deep into the leather.

Leather restoration is important. Dave used several products including Fiebing’s leather dye, applied with a foam sponge.

When I buffed up the edges, the leather was so dry the leather came off as dust even with light sandpaper. I added even more treatment, including Ballistol. It’s remarkable what this stuff does when left overnight to penetrate.

I could see from the start the previous owners had evidently tried to oil this scabbard and had done a rather poor job of it. The leather had stained where oil was applied heavily and had dried out in spots where, I presumed, oil had been applied sparingly or maybe not at all.

This method works for old holsters and knife sheaths as well, so you might want to add some years to any old holster(s) you have stored in a box in the basement or garage. Any handgunner who claims to only own a single holster is either a) cheap or b) a bonafide liar. I don’t know anybody who owns a sidearm for which he or she has but a single holster. It simply doesn’t happen! I’ve got at least four holsters to fit my Colt Commander and as many for my Model 19 Smith & Wesson 2 ½-incher, a couple of which I personally built and at least two others I acquired over the years.

Restoring the Finish

The next step is to actually restore the finish. This was no problem for me, because I keep a decent supply of black, dark and light brown leather dyes for various projects I’m asked to build.

To complete the restoration process, Dave used Neatsfoot oil and Cadillac boot treatment, along with boot wax.

For this particular project, I first applied Fiebing’s brown dye by rubbing it in with a small sponge to prevent streaking. It soaked into the leather and dried fairly quickly, so I added a second application, which both deepens the color and evens it out.

There is another product I’ve used from Tandy called Eco-Flo, which is a water-based dye that also works well, though it is a bit pricier than alcohol or oil dyes. Allowing that to dry, I hand-rubbed another application of Neatsfoot oil, deepening the color a little more and bringing additional life back to the leather. This was followed by a rub of Cadillac She and Boot Care, a white liquid that penetrates leather and prevents—at least in my experience—cracks from forming.

Where the scabbard’s finish had been rubbed or chafed down to the raw leather, I rubbed in a bit of Kiwi wax boot polish.

All of this didn’t happen over the course of an hour or so. It takes time, so be patient and don’t rush any leather project. Lastly, I buffed it all off with the same brush I use to shine by boots.

Results Positive

I spent most of a weekend on this project, beginning late Friday afternoon and wrapping it up while watching a movie on Cable television Sunday evening.

End result of Dave’s weekend project shows how old gear can be made almost like new with a little care, lots of elbow grease and an enormous amount of patience.

On Monday, I brought the restored rifle boot back to the office. Reactions ranged from “It looks brand new” to a simple “Wow!”

I wrote this project report to give readers the incentive to take some time and do something during these winter months, when staying inside might lead to boredom. Anybody can do this to a leather rifle case that might need restoring or leather hunting boots that may have finished the recent season much the worse for wear.

If you take care of leather rifle scabbards, field holsters and belts, they will last for many years. I once owned a pair of leather hunting boots that were retired after more than 20 seasons afield. A typical lifespan for hunting boots might be 8 or 10 years, unless you’re really careful.

Not Exactly "Brotherly Love"

If you’re a would-be carjacker, Philadelphia might not be the place to ply your trade. In two recent separate incidents, the perps got much more than they bargained for.

In the first incident, two suspects tried to jack a car driven by a Lyft driver. They apparently rear-ended the driver’s 2011 Infiniti and when he got out to chat with the them, one, who was armed with a shotgun, got in and tried to drive away. The legally-armed Lyft driver shot the thief, at which point the other fellow tried to run him down with the first car. The Lyft driver shot him, too.

A few days later, still in the City of Brotherly Love, another would-be carjacker walked up to a car occupied by a 32-year-old health care worker who was apparently visiting clients in a nearby residence. The suspect reportedly drew a gun, at which point the intended victim pulled his own legally carried handgun and fired through his car window.

The 18-year-old suspect was hit in the cheek, neck and thumb. He appeared at a hospital a short time later and was arrested.

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