Galco Holsters: Quality That Sells Itself

Galco delivers holsters that are handsome enough for Hollywood and tough enough to handle the real world.

Galco Holsters: Quality That Sells Itself

Boning leather is an old process that helps with durability and aesthetics, but it's one still used at Galco Gunleather on its holsters and other items. (Photo: Galco Gunleather)

Fifty years ago, Richard Gallagher opened a small shop to make horsehide holsters in Chicago. Back then, Chicago was a different place and the company was called The Famous Jackass Leather Company. About a decade later, Gallagher moved his operation to Phoenix, Arizona, and a little later, changed the name to Galco International.

For decades now, his holsters have been seen on the screen, but more impressive is the fact that Galco holsters are used in real life by law enforcement and the military where they perform a much more important task than serving as props for actors.

Galco products’ aesthetics make them attractive to Hollywood, but they also get the job done in the real world under some very difficult conditions. This is the result of carefully designed features, quality construction, tough materials and the products are thoroughly tested before going into production — and the holsters aren’t just strapped on so someone can take a few quick draws to see if they work.

Strong Culture

Galco is in close proximity to Gunsite Academy, the world-class gun fighting school that teaches not only people who have never touched a gun before, but also real-life warriors and covert operators who thrust themselves into life-and-death situations where sometimes skill with a gun is the only way to save a life. Many Galco employees are Gunsite graduates, one is even a former training director from Gunsite, so they know what’s required of a lifesaving piece of equipment. These employees — and others who are engaged in real-life dangerous work — test the products before they are put into production.

When a flaw is found, it is discussed with designers who go back to the drawing board and make the improvements necessary to fix the problem. Only then is the product released. That’s a lot more testing than most holster makers perform.

While talking to employees as I toured the headquarters and manufacturing facility in Phoenix, it became obvious that something special was going on. The pride of craftsmanship came through. Many employees have been with Galco for a very long time, and they were outgoing and friendly while continuing to do their jobs. I’ve toured many manufacturing facilities as a writer, but nowhere were employees so eager to talk about what they were doing. The average length of service for a Galco employee is about 10 years with many having more than 20 years on the job. In fact, one person has personally hand-molded, or boned, over 1 million leather holsters for a perfect fit.

Galco makes a variety of holsters, belts, purses, slings, pouches and bags. If your customer needs a sling, loop ammunition carrier, belly band, portfolio holster or a shotgun shell pouch, Galco has it. The materials used include Kydex, injection-molded plastics, and of course, top quality steer hide.

For those who like nylon holsters, Galco is bringing those back, too. They won’t be the floppy, cheap nylon holsters often seen, but will be strong enough to hold a gun in place so that when it is needed in a hurry, the shooter won’t have to search for the grip because the holster has sagged or moved from its normal place. The nylon holster line will be a bit more expensive than others on the market, but will still be a value option for those not wanting or who can’t afford leather.

Quality Workmanship

Galco uses only the highest quality leather, unlike some companies that save money by using inferior grades that won’t last as long. Steer hides are vegetable-tanned to be tough and durable. This is the same quality leather used in saddles. When a softer leather is needed for certain applications, they turn to chromium-tanned hides, which are typically used in auto upholstery and garments.

Galco carefully selects steer backs and does not buy bellies, which are of lower quality, softer and usually have more scars. And most hides are produced in the U.S., which has become somewhat uncommon because there are only three vegetable tanning operations left in the U.S. But Galco also offers a limited selection of exotic hides like shark, alligator and stingray for those customers who want something a bit unusual.

There is of course more to the leather products Galco is known for than just the hides with which they are made. Stitching can be a weak point if not done right. Galco harness stitches leather products and uses synthetic thread that won’t rot like cotton can. The harness stitching simulates a locked hand stitch.

In fact, Galco uses some stitching machines that are around 100 years old to maintain the traditional hand-sewn appearance of its products. Some of these machines are capable of sewing through multiple layers of tough saddle leather up to 1 1/8-inch thick. These machines arguably produce better products than modern needle-fed machines, but they’re so old that Galco maintains a machine shop and foundry to make replacement parts to keep them running.

Galco uses both analine and pigmented dyes and also hand rubs oil into the leather before a lacquer finish is applied. This treatment not only gives the leather a beautiful, deep tan sheen, but helps to preserve the leather by filling pores with oil so that substances like sweat cannot get in and cause rot. 

Big Selection

Currently, Galco boasts of more than 1,000 retailers and about 2,400 SKUs. That’s a lot. Some SKUs are more popular than others, so Galco likes to see its distributors stock the top 500 SKUs and works with retailers to help them carry the top selling 100 or more SKUs.

Galco holsters have a typical mark-up of about 30 percent, but with volume discounts, retailers can increase margins to 40 percent. Many customers — especially with the increase of concealed carry permits — want a holster to carry their gun, and it’s a win for the retailer whenever a holster is sold, particularly when margins are slim to non-existent on a gun just sold to a new owner. But a major problem for retailers is carrying enough stock to satisfy every customer’s request. So Galco makes special efforts to make delivery of holsters on special dealer orders within one to three days.

With 2,400 SKUs, sometimes even Galco doesn’t have a particular model for a particular gun in stock. If that happens, the retailer may have to wait two to six weeks, but Galco works hard to meet demand and has the horsepower to satisfy most requests quickly. 

Helping Sales

Through its staff of employee representatives, who are in regular contact with retailers, Galco provides in-store training. The company also offers cooperative advertising funds and stands ready to help retailers with in-store events. The company makes available in-store point-of-purchase displays, and since Galco sells direct to retailers through distributors and offers products to consumers through its website, it helps protect retailer profit margins by enforcing a Minimum Advertised Price policy.

When visiting a store, the sales representative can help the dealer by taking a Galco inventory, providing order history reports, sharing holster sales trends and marketing plans and informing the dealer about new products in development and any promotions that are planned. All these things help retailers manage Galco stock and plan future orders.

Galco regularly advertises in many publications, so consumers recognize the name. That helps with sales, as does the fact Hollywood often shows Galco products on television and in the movies. If you are old enough, you might remember the television series Miami Vice where one of the characters, Sonny Crockett played by Don Johnson, wore a Galco shoulder holster called the Miami Classic. That kind of publicity is almost impossible to buy and helps to sell products.

Galco maintains a strong website with a dealers-only section that is password protected and makes finding products by feature, holster model or gun make and model quick and easy. Products can be ordered through the website and images are available for dealers to use in advertising. Additionally, dealer specific reports are available and can be printed if desired.

Several wholesale buying levels are offered with buy-ins as low as $250 and projected annual sales as little as $750.

Galco regularly displays at major industry trade and consumer shows including the NRA Annual Meeting, SHOT Show and NASGW. And Galco is a member of Sports INC, Nations Best Sports and Worldwide Buying Group.


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