By Stephen Stuart
Today there are at least several hundred Galco wallet holsters floating around in the United States. The holster was designed for a person to carry a pistol so that it would not “print” in one’s pocket. This would prevent someone from noticing that the person was armed. The holster also alllowed the pistol to be fired while encased in the holster. Because of these two factors the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) has designated these holsters with their respected firearm to be an National Firearm Act (NFA) weapon. This means that anyone possessing one of these combos is in violation of federal law, unless the combo is registered with the NFA Branch as an Any Other Weapon (A.O.W.)
The ATF defines an A.O.W. as, “any weapon or device capable of being concealed on the person from which a shot can be discharged though the energy of an explosive”. By just using this definition alone, this could one day be used to cover almost any concealed firearm, for example a pistol that can be discharged though a coat pocket.
In late 1997 I decided it would be neat to acquire one of these “new” A.O.W.’s for my collection. I called Galco to order one, but they had already discontinued the holsters due to their new NFA status. Luckily, I found one at a local gun store (retail price $48.50). I then had the gun store ship my new holster to Class II Manufacturer Chuck Goodrich of the Special Op’s Shop. After receiving the holster, Mr. Goodrich registered the holster / pistol combination according to instructions provided by Ms. Nereida Levine, Chief, National Firearms Act Branch on a Form 2. Usually, when one “makes” a firearm it is required that the manufacturer marks the serial number, name of manufacturer on the weapon, in this case the wallet combo. But, in paragraph three, page two Ms. Levine says the wallet, “is not required to be marked”, however, the “wallet holster and firearm combination should be reflected in the additional description on the firearm field on the Form 2”.
Wallet holsters have been around since the mid seventies before their new status as A.O.W.’s. The Galco line of wallet holsters was available for the following firearms; Beretta 20, 950, 21A, AMT .380 Backup II, .380 DAO, High Standard Derringer, and the Seecamp 32. The Galco line discontinued these items as of October 2, 1997. I wrote Galco in the beginning of 1998 to find out the total production number, and specific reasons as to why the holsters were discontinued. As seen in the letter insert Galco states, “extreme customer service attention needed to field dealer questions”, “has made it unprofitable to continue it’s sale”. There was no mention of the holster as an NFA weapon when combined with it’s respected holster. Nor was there a total production number of the Galco wallet holsters given.
The holster/pistol combo registered for this article is the Beretta 21A with it’s corresponding Galco holster. The Beretta 21A is a semi-automatic, that fires the .22lr cartridge. The barrel length is 2.4 inches, with any overall length of 4.8 inches. The pistol magazine holds a total of seven rounds of .22 long rifle. The weight of the pistol empty is twelve ounces. The holster is 5 1/4 inches in length, and 3 3/4 inches in width. The holster is cut from one piece of leather and has a brown finish. There is an oval cut located over the trigger guard on both sides of the holster, allowing one to fire the pistol while in the holster. There is also another small hole located over the magazine release, this allows one to eject and replace the magazine for the pistol while still in the holster. The holster is held in the closed position by a button snap located below the trigger guard.
When firing the Beretta in the wallet holster, the first thing one notices is how bulky the holster is. With the holster wrapped around the little Beretta, it adds almost twice the grip size to the pistol. Since the entire pistol is enclosed in the holster, one cannot use the sights either. This should not pose any problem, for the pistol / holster combo was designed to be used at close range only. Galco literature states that the holster could be damaged due to live firing and possibly only allow one shot operation. In the case of the test piece, the combo functioned flawlessly, firing a total of 82 rounds. The holster did receive a slight darkening to the leather over the ejection port. This darkening was caused by carbon build up from firing and was easily cleaned off.
After all the paper work and red tape required to register the pistol / holster combo, one is left with the question, “Was it worth it”? Truthfully, probably not. The holster combo does make an excellent back up piece for concealed carry. However, due to the classification of the holster combo as an NFA weapon, the holster will end up in the back of my safe as a curio only. It will probably never be taken out except as a conversation piece or a rare trip to the range to fire the combo. Those interested in having one of these combo’s manufactured should contact the Op Shop (model number CG #1).
For more information see the following;
Beretta U.S.A. Corp. 17601 Beretta Drive Accokeek, MD 20607. Phone (301) 283-2191
Federal Firearms Regulations Reference Guide (Yellow Book), BATF, Firearms And Operations Branch Washington, DC 20226.
Galco International, Aztec Business Park 2019 W. Quail Avenue Phoenix, AZ 85027. Phone (602) 258-8295, Fax (602) 582-6854.
Special Op’s Shop, S.O.S. Dept SAR, PO Box 978, Madisonville, TN 37354 (423) 442-7180.
|This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V1N9 (June 1998)|