Hand-built, concealed-carry leather holsters are Ohio workshop’s specialty
By Lynn Ascrizzi
What makes people take a chance and start a new business? Maybe it’s because they got a little nudge from the grandmother of all start-ups — creative dissatisfaction.
This motivating mindset seems to be what galvanized Brandon and Scott Wright seven years ago, when they launched their successful holster-making enterprise, Wright Leather Works, LLC (WLW), of Fremont, Ohio.
It all started in the spring of 2012, right at the beginning of the concealed-carry boom, when demand for handguns surged and the output of gun manufacturers increased dramatically.
The two brothers had gotten their concealed-carry permits, about a year earlier. But,the holsters they tried out just didn’t cut it. “They weren’t comfortable — not what we were looking for,” Brandon recalled.
Frustrated,he remarked offhandedly to his dad, Dennis Wright, “Hey, let’s just make our own!” His surprise pitch turned out to be a live ball. “I said it kinda like a joke. But, we decided to do it!”
The holster-making venture got its start in a home workshop that their dad — a retired UPS driver and a handy sort of guy — had set up earlier in the family garage, in Green Springs, Ohio. “We started training ourselves,” Brandon said.
“We put our heads together, making patterns we would like,” Scott added. “We got some leather and supplies — not a big investment. We wanted to make our own. None of us had any sewing or leather experience prior to starting the business. We always had gun experience, but handguns were pretty new to us.”
After a lot of trial and error, they began sellingholsters to friends. “Any money that came in, we put back into the business. It was a year before we paid ourselves anything,” he said.
“It was a learning process, for sure,” their dad recalled. “We had to design all our holsters, to create patterns and styles. It was a challenge. You’re starting from nothing and designing patterns to fit these guns.”
The start-up, however, did not exactly leap out of thin air. The brothers had the good fortune to be raised amid an inventive, do-it-yourself, manufacturing family. Ever since they were kids, they had worked in a family business based in Fremont, called Light Craft Manufacturing, Inc., founded by their late maternal grandfather, Lou Matt.
“That’s what we were doing, when we started the holster business,” said Scott, 32, who also holds a bachelor’s degree in business. Brandon, 39, who has an associate degree in graphic and website design, created the young company’s artfully laid out, easy-to-navigate site (www.wrightleatherworks.com).
The first spark of success came amazingly early. “We started contacting editors and writers who could review our holsters…sending them samples,” Scott said. A first review on YouTube, in 2012, sparked some interest and orders. But later that year, Wright holsters got a positive mention in the National Rifle Association magazine, American Rifleman. Their business exploded overnight.
“The NRA review was a big thing. We got into a pistol-of-the-year article. They put us at the very end — a short paragraph,” Brandon said.
Since then, their holsters have received kudos for craftsmanship, good looks and comfort, in publications like Guns & Ammo, Concealed Carry and, more recently, in NRA Family. “We started running print ads in those magazines,” he said.
“We’ve gotten phenomenal reviews,” he added. “They do editorials of our products a couple of times a year and have featured us. If you know the firearms industry at all, you have to be an active member in the NRA. Being a member, you hitch your wagon to the largest community of gun owners in the country.”
Today, the two brothers and four employees build a dozen different models of the company’s “carry” holsters, including gun belts and magazine holders, in a 3,600-square-foot workshop in Fremont, the small, rural community that both men both grew up in. “My dad is not involved in ownership, but he works with us every day,” Scott said.
“I am the primary patternmaker,” his dad, 63, said. “My job is to do a lot of the pattern cutting, laying it on the leather and cutting the leather. Each holster we make is to the customer’s request.” Specifications include whether individuals are left or right-handed, leather colors, holster model choices and gun make.
“Each holster is molded to the customer’s firearm. We have hundreds of gun molds, one for almost every handgun out there — exact replicas molded from the original firearm. Gun companies also produce laser attachments and we need molds for those, too,” he said.
Every Wright Leather Works holster is handcrafted — cut, stitched and finished — one by one. “Basically, our quality is second to none. We’re that niche. We’re not in the big box stores,” Brandon said.
Two basic holster types are offered — outside the waist band (OWB) or inside the waist band (IWB). “Holsters are worn outside on the belt or worn on the inside and attach to belts or clothing,” Brandon explained. They also offer shoulder and magazine holsters.
Customers can choose from three collection lines:
• Classic — WLW’s basic, unlined style. Holsters come in sturdy, 9 oz. leather and offer a single color choice from five color options.
• Master — A double-layered, lighter-weight leather with a smooth leather interior and exterior and ultra-detailed interior molding.
• Signature — Fully lined; options include five different leather colors and 12 different colored threads. Comes with the Wright signature stamped on the leather.
Holster prices start at $88 for a Classic collection model to $350 for, say, a shoulder holster from their pricier Signature collection.
Their most popular holster model is Predator Pancake. “It’s an early design, one we’ve perfected,” Scott said, of its fold-over or taco-style construction. “We’ve gotten a lot of publicity about it. It’s our personal favorite. If we carry, that’s the one we carry with. It’s worn outside the waistband (OWB). We push it a lot. It has become our flagship holster.”
Their newest design is an IWB holster called Closer. Released in the fall of 2018, it is designed to give a “higher ride” on the body and to work well with handguns that have a longer barrel. “It has two straps on the front. You can change the angle of the way the gun is carried,” he said.
“We create new stuff all the time. We didn’t have one like it before,” he added. “We’re not a stock solution. We don’t stock holsters to sit on a shelf. Each one is made to order. We can give each holster a personal touch.”
Generally, their customers are age 40 and up. About 95 percent are male. A number of their holsters are sold to police officers and members of the military. “People who are ‘carriers’ are more than recreational shooters. They are people who carry every day and use firearms for protection,” Scott noted.
The company’s lead-time — how long a customer waits to receive an order — is currently running 10 weeks. “We have a backlog. We’re looking at 30 orders per day. That averages to about 100 holsters per week. By summer, people slow their online shopping and the lead-time comes down to four weeks,” he said.
All sales are retail, either made online or over the phone. “The majority of our customers come from print ads. Most people place orders online. But we take orders on the phone every day,” he said. Social media use is split between Facebook and Instagram. “Instagram attracts a younger crowd, but both work well for us,” he added.
Ninety-nine percent of sales are domestic, but holsters have been sold to Canada and to European and Middle Eastern countries. “We don’t push sales outside the country. It’s easier for us, for shipping reasons,” he explained. Moreover, business for concealed carry is a lot hotter in this country than elsewhere, he pointed out. “No other country in the world is like the U.S., which has people carrying guns every day.”
“Things grew fast at first,” he recalled, of holster sales from 2012 – 2013. “It has stayed consistent over the past few years. It’s steady. There has been slow growth, but it’s not a decline. It’s the political climate. With a president endorsed by the National Rifle Association, you don’t hear about gun laws changing.”
Typically, when firearm regulations relax, gun-related sales tend to slow. And, when calls for stricter gun controls are raised, as they were in 2012, sales of firearms, holsters and ammo tend to surge, prompted by fears that Second Amendment rights might be diminished or withdrawn.
Carry permits also give a fair estimate of the holster and handgun market. Since 2011, as concealed-carry gun laws grew less restrictive across the country, active permits rose from approximately 8 million to 12 million, in 2017, according to data from the U.S. Government Accountability Office, a figure that does not account for people living in the 14 states that don’t require carrying permits.
WLW’s holster leather is purchased from a single source. “We stick strictly to Hermann Oak,” Brandon said, of the St. Louis, Missouri tannery. “We only want to use all veg-tanned, full-grain, U.S. steer hides, from start to finish.”
The tannery’s drum-dyed leather is used in the company’s more expensive Signature line, which offers the option of two-toned holsters. Other leather holsters are dip-dyed in the shop.
“We don’t use a refinished leather. We want the unique characteristics of the full-grain leather — those little imperfections. It gives character. The cool thing about leather is that it’s coming from individual animals with different makeups, textures and scars, so no two of our holsters ever look exactly alike,” Brandon said.
“A lot of younger people who ‘carry’ get plastic-style holsters. Plastic has its place, but eventually, people come around to leather. From our experience, leather can’t be beat. The holster takes the shape of the person wearing it,” he said.
Threads for stitching are ordered from Weaver Leather of Mount Hope, Ohio, including glues and some tools. About half the leather the holster company works with is cut with dies; the rest is hand cut with razor knifes.
If a customer wants a holster for a handgun not on the company’s extensive gun list, they can call the company. Very often, either Scott or Brandon will pick up the phone.
“What sets us apart is the personal touch — the personal care that goes into each holster,” Brandon said. “We can accommodate pretty much everyone’s needs. We do a ton of custom work. We’re available to people on the phone. We’re always available to talk — sometimes we might talk a half hour to somebody. One of the most common questions is, ‘Can you make me a holster for a certain gun or one with accessories?’ ”
“We ask what works best for them — what clothes they will be wearing with the holster. We want to know if we’re talking to a businessman or woman, if they wear a sports coat or jacket, tuck their shirt in or wear jeans and a T-shirt,” Scott added.
To date, Wright Leather Works has received hundreds of overwhelmingly effusive customer testimonials. “We have customers who daily tell us they have boxes full of holsters they don’t use anymore, and how happy they are to have found us,” he said.
Do they enjoy the work they’re doing? “We wouldn’t want to be doing anything else,” Scott said.
“Unless it’s being a baseball player,” Brandon quipped.
FOR MORE INFO
Wright Leather Works, LLC
2789 Hayes Ave.
Fremont, OH 43420
Brandon Wright & Scott Wright, co-owners
Hours: 8 a.m. — 4 p.m.,
Monday — Friday