By Gene Fowler
“I’m the good-lookin’ one,” jokes Robert Thompson III of Triple T Holsters in Kemah, Texas,when asked if the caller was speaking with Robert Thompson III or Robert Thompson IV. The father and son are business partners in the thriving outfit that serves the Lone Star State’s vast demographic of legal concealed handgun carriers.
Both Thompsons spent time in service to their nation. The elder Robert, a retired master sergeant of the United States Air Force, served from 1968 to 1988, performing structural repair on B-52s and other aircraft all over Southeast Asia. The younger Robert chose the U. S. Army, where he developed expertise in tanks. “I don’t understand that decision,” cracks the elder, “but you’ve gotta allow your kids to make mistakes.”
After his service, the elder Thompson studied to become a registered nurse. “I was doing work-study at a VA hospital in Louisiana,” he recalls. “They put me in the kinesiology lab and said that with my background, I was really more suited for orthotics and prosthetics.”
And thus the Air Force veteran segued into a second career with Shriners Hospitals in Shreveport and Houston, a profession in which he became familiar with orthopedic leather. Robert Thompson IV got his dad into the holster business. While serving in the army, Robert the elder relates, son Robert looked around for ways to supplement his income. Firearms culture offered multiple opportunities, and the soldier was soon marketing t-shirts and other weaponry-themed and related items.
One day, the son went over to his father’s house wearing a brand-name nylon holster. “It was not a good holster,” says Robert the elder. “So I made him one out of old tan leather. It was a pretty rudimentary holster, but he did a happy dance all over the house.”
That was ten years ago. That first holster soon gave rise to a lucrative business that started in a garage, moved to a 1,250-square-foot shop, and now operates out of a 2,100-square-foot building in Kemah, a small city on Galveston Bay just southeast of Houston. More than a dozen other retail shops carry Triple T products throughout the sprawling Harris County metro area. “My wife and I love this area and we used to vacation here before we moved here,” says Robert the elder.
“I’ve always been into boats,” he adds. “So I got a large sailboat, and I won my first ocean race at age 60. I’m 72 now, so I’m retired from racing.” Thompson III also noted that he has owned three ’57 Chevrolets, which we agreed may be the best car design ever, with its stylish yet restrained deployment of fins.
“One of the most unique things about our shop,” he adds, “is that we have a showroom where you can try the holsters on…and then we can make the holster while you wait.” Like many outfitters, Triple T also receives a great deal of online orders.
When the Thompsons first got into the business, they started out making an all-leather holster. “A whole lotta people make those and do a good job. We didn’t want to compete with all the people making them, so we decided to do what we do best, which is our Hybrid Holster.” The Hybrid, as the name implies, is a combination of leather and Kydex. The elder Thompson says Kydex is a plastic that’s close to PVC in composition. It comes in different colors and you can print things on it like carbon film. “Our customers like to put sayings on the Kydex – or the Second Amendment, flags or Marines insignias.”
Orthopedic-grade cowhide goes on the back of the Hybrid. Triple T folks say the hide doesn’t absorb sweat. It’s supple and doesn’t create an odor. The holster makers acquire their orthopedic hides from Roden Leathers. “It has a lot of chromium,” adds Thompson, “and it won’t transfer dyes that are in it.”
He adds that, while others may make Hybrid Holsters, Triple T’s is unique. “My prosthetic experience is a big help with fitting. The right fit is important in anything, but it’s really important with the comfort and function of a holster. And I hand select all the leather myself.”
A smaller version of the Hybrid is called the Grab-N-Go. The Carnivore Holster offered by Triple T is made of all Kydex. The Omni-Bear is another all Kydex and can be worn inside or outside one’s clothing in the waist area, for right-handers or left-handers. Yet another model is designated as the Appendix Carry, named for the location where it’s worn. Triple T staff will sometimes try and talk a customer out of the Appendix Carry selection.
Women make up a healthy component of the Thompson’s customer base. Many find their way to the shop through organizations like the national women’s shooting club, Girl and a Gun. “Their product selection,” says Robert the elder, “often depends on how they want to dress for concealment and where and how they want to carry the firearm.”
Comfort and safety, of course, remain primary considerations when considering the handling or wearing of any lethal weapon. And customers can sometimes get a little carried away with the ease of utilizing a Triple T product….so much so that even the Thompsons can take a pause. “One gentleman wrote us to say that his holster was so comfortable he even clipped it to his underwear when he went to bed. Not a good visual….”
One thing Triple T won’t do, says Robert the elder, is a shoulder holster. They have to fit like a suit of clothes, he explains, and there can be so much adjustment involved that the cost can end up being higher than most folks want to pay.
Instead, the Thompsons specialize in waist area holsters for their straightforward functionality. “We’re not artisans,” says RT III, “we’re manufacturers.”
Triple T Holsters
804 Anders Lane
Kemah, TX 77565