By Tank Hoover
Here’s a couple carved holster done by Rick Gittlein of Simply Rugged.
If you like guns, holsters and leather gear, along with workshops, dogs and great people, read on. While out in Arizona, I had a chance to catch up with Rob Leahy, owner of Simply Rugged Holsters.
Sourdough Rob Leahy, standing behind a couple trophy bearskin rugs from Alaska.
The 10″ X 12″ “shed” of Simply Rugged’s expansion in Alaska.
One look at Rob Leahy and you instantly think of an old-time Alaskan Sourdough. A burly, bearded man with a hearty laugh and even bigger heart, he’s been making holsters for you and me the past 14 years.
After a three-year stint in the Army as an MP, Rob bounced around from job to job building cabins and generally working in sporting/gun stores trying to figure out what he wanted in life.
An Arizona native, Rob sought adventure in Alaska where he could hunt and fish, living there for 6 years. As an interesting side-note, Rob’s great uncle, Hal Waugh, was Alaska’s first certified master hunting guide.
A wall of “clicker” dies used to cut patterns from leather using a hydraulic press.
When you make holsters, you need form-guns for a custom fit.
Rob got his start in the business making holsters out of necessity when he couldn’t find one to fit his favorite S&W N-Frame revolvers for himself.
A fan of Roy Baker’s “Hidden Thunder Pancake” style holster, Rob designed his own holster after the master, but with a twist. Rob’s version used heavier leather, covering more of the gun and trigger-guard, making the thumb-break unnecessary. This became Rob’s bread and butter pancake holster.
Naturally, friends and family saw the holster and wanted one, so Rob made a few more. As it happens, things started snowballing and Rob started getting more and more requests as word of mouth spread — and his “rugged” holsters sold themselves.
Leather stitchers help keep things together.
Here’s shop manager Luke hard at work!
A New Business
Eventually, a bell went off and in 2004 Rob started selling his holsters part-time,. It didn’t take long for his heavy-duty holsters to catch-on. Rob expanded his literal “kitchen table” business into a large 10′ X 12″ outdoor shed in the backyard. A sewing machine was added to speed up production. Rob was on his way.
An avid outdoorsman, Rob designed his “Chesty Puller System,” again, out of necessity, after a bear charged him while he was fishing in the Russian River. A simple design, this harness can be used to carry your gun either across your chest, or under your arm; whichever is more comfortable for you. The harness attaches to any of Rob’s Pancake-style holsters.
Jeff Quinn first coined the phrase “simple and rugged” describing Rob’s holsters, and the name stuck!
Here’s the “Slot Machine” used for cutting belt slots in holsters.
It’s made from a truck air brake drum.
Here’s the drying wall, after the final finish is applied.
Being a shop rat, you know I love poking around another man’s shop and I was fortunate enough to explore Rob’s. After a great cup of coffee and morning visit talking about, what else, but guns, local history, ancient legend, terrain, hunting, fishing, you know, regular guy stuff, we headed to where leather is transformed into goods.
Entering the shop, we see Luke, Rob’s shop manager, swinging a hammer. By the looks of his forearms, shoulders and deep chest, Rob must be working him pretty good. Keeping with the Simply Rugged tradition, he sports a hearty beard and is just as nice as could be.
A far cry from the “dinner table” to “shed shop,” this one has room! Originally a renovated garage, Rob added on to it to spread things out for his growing business. There’s now room to roam for the strategically placed machines and tables for turning raw leather into beautiful, functional leather gear. Besides holsters and chest rigging, Rob makes cartridge slides, belts, slings, wallets, leashes, you name it — he’ll do it.
Here’s a new line of Rob’s called “The Classic” consisting of a rough-out body, trimmed-out
mouth and “Gunsite” logo for students who have participated in a Gunsite course.
Today, Rob uses only Hermann Oak leather, known for being our oldest tannery in the US. Rob moved back to AZ in 2010, where Simply Rugged Holsters has been ever since. Rob also offers a large variety of exotic hides including shark, alligator, crocodile, stingray, elephant and whatever else is available. Check with him to see what’s in stock.
With his a large shop and several employees working for him, his business continues to flourish.
Every good shop has a dog or dogs — the more the merrier!
Support Our Troops
I had to pry this this last tidbit from Rob, and he didn’t want me to share it, but I am. Rob regularly sends dozens of holsters to soldiers overseas, showing support, as his way of giving back. He reluctantly told me this as I read the many letters he has posted on his wall, all from grateful soldiers.
That’s the kind of guy Rob is, so I thought you should know. This is the kind of person we want to support, as you indirectly support our troops yourself.
So when you get your next gun, or need a well built, strong, Simply Rugged holster, check out his website. Currently, there is a two to three week lead on orders.
For more info: www.Simplyrugged.com.
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