Galco Combat Master Scabbard

I have been carrying appendix for about three years now and you can put me down firmly in the “appendix guy” category. It’s OK if you’re not – I’m just letting you know where I stand. As much as I like it, though, carrying appendix isn’t always possible. Appendix can get quite uncomfortable if you have to hold a certain position for long periods of time, and some types of dress and activity don’t support the method.

Contraindications for AIWB Carry

I do a lot of travel for work. Sometimes I have to fly across the country, but most of my work is within a day’s drive of where I live. Between March, April, and May of this year I had to spend no fewer than fourteen days driving at least six hours. After about 90 minutes of working the gas and clutch in my car (yep, I still demand a manual gearbox) my holster begins digging into my thigh and my enthusiasm for appendix carry begins to wane. Those are not “appendix days” in my book.

This photo was taken for demo purposes only. I don’t want to get pulled over with an openly-carried handgun.

Sadly, during the month of April I also had to attend the funeral of a former teammate. Normally I’m not what you’d call a fancy dresser. Carhartt khakis and a shirt (tee, or chambray button down, untucked) is about as fancy as I get. Certain occasions require dressing to the occasion and may preclude appendix carry, as was the case on this day.

Finally, and as you guys know, I recently moved. The nuts and bolts of moving – packing and unpacking a truck, putting furniture together, climbing up and down stairs over and over – would have probably rendered appendix carry painful. Had it been my only option, I would have probably had my gun off more than on during these days. The convergence of all these factors has seen me carrying strongside OWB a lot more lately.

The Galco Combat Master

Wanting to avoid the trial-and-error often involved with selecting a new holster I decided to go with something I knew. The first holster I ever purchased for my 686 was the Galco Combat Master. That holster is nearing 10 years old, so I asked Galco to provide a Combat Master for the M1911 to get a comparison of current vs. older manufacturing.

The Galco Combat Master is a two-slot, open-top, pancake design sporting a FBI cant. It is made from premium steer hide, and seems are double-stitched with rot-resistant nylon thread. The Combat Master is one of the most finely boned holsters I’ve worked with. Most 686 holsters work just fine with the Ruger GP100, but not this one. The 686 has an extremely close fit and will not accept my 10mm GP100.

The tanning of these holsters is extremely well done, and both are beautiful. The finish on my 686 Combat Master is quite a bit darker – and in my completely subjective opinion, prettier – but both are extremely well done.

Wearing the Combat Master

Regular readers here will recognize the Combat Master from some of the earlier articles on this blog. I have carried my L-frame concealed only sparingly, and only under winter clothing. I have run the holster considerable on the range and in classes, and have nothing but good things to say. The open-top design is fast and the holster is comfortable for all-day wear.

I have spent considerable time with the 1911 under concealment in the Combat Master. The old pancake design still works concealment wonders if worn tightly to the body as intended. I found that the 1911/Combat Master didn’t conceal all that well under my usual dress – Carhartt khakis and a tee. This isn’t a huge knock on the rig because most of my tee shirts are a bit on the form-fitted side, but appendix carry will do the trick for me in my normal dress. The Combat Master worked admirably under bulkier clothing, however.

At this point I have to relay a slightly embarrassing anecdote. On one of my work trips I forgot my appendix holster. I had planned to wear the Combat Master during the drive, and switch to appendix when I arrived, five hours later.  This meant that I had to spend a week teaching in the Combat Master in front of 20 students – a pretty good test of a concealment holster. Fortunately, I always wear an untucked button-down when teaching, and in five full, eight-hour days, only one student noticed me carrying (at least as far as I know).  He was a gun guy and wanted to know what I was packing. All he noticed was the holster protruding below the hem of my shirt.


I do have some nit-picks with the Galco Combat Master. All of these complaints are applicable to the 1911 version of the holster, and only the first is also applicable to the revolver version.

The first is the sight channel, which I feel could be a bit more generous. When sharp metal surfaces interact with leather, there is always the risk of some leather being shaved off. On probably one draw out of every 25 with the Combat Master, some leather made its way onto my front sight with the 1911. Though not a show-stopper this did present a distraction on target. This happens far less frequently with the 686, but probably owes more to the rounded design of the revolver’s sight.

A bit of leather on the 1911’s front sight.

The next complaint – again with the 1911 version – is the holster mouth. The 1911 is a fairly flat gun, and holsters for the 1911 are fairly flat. When tensioned by the belt, the non-reinforced holster mouth sometimes flattened itself out a bit. Never so much so that two hands were required to holster, but sometimes it did take a bit more work than I felt was ideal.

Finally, one issue that has caused me to switch to carrying a revolver during more strenuous household chores is the propensity for my 1911’s thumb safety to get bumped off. In fairness, I have been putting in several hundred feet of fence, building a chicken coop, gardening, turning compost, cutting and stacking firewood, and a ton of other manual labor chores. I find it unnerving to reach down in the middle of one of these chores to find the thumb safety disengaged. This is a total non-issue with a revolver, but if this factor is applicable to you it’s worth knowing about.

The Bottom Line

If you prefer strongside OWB, the Galco Combat Master is definitely worthy of your consideration. The 686 version of the Combat Master has served me very well for almost a decade, and I have no plans to replace it. The 1911 version I recently received leaves a bit to be desired, but is certainly a serviceable holster. I’ll continue to carry with it when circumstances dictate strongside OWB carry, at least for the time being.

The Galco Combat Master is made for just about every gun under the sun including revolvers from Charter Arms, Chiappa, Colt, Kimber, Ruger, S&W, and Taurus, and is available in black or tan. The listed price for the Combat Master is $97.00, but prices on Amazon generally run a little cheaper – from $70 to $85 or so.

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Author: Justin

Justin Carroll is a former MARSOC Marine and veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan. Leaving service after eight years in the U.S. Marines, Justin continues his involvement with a variety of government agencies to this day. Justin began in late 2016 with an simple idea: provide an source of high-quality information for revolver enthusiasts.

10 thoughts on “Galco Combat Master Scabbard”

  1. That is a nice holster. I like how that style retains the gun.

    For the outside work where concealment is no issue, try a full flap with your 1911. I don’t think it would knock your gun off safe. I use those styles with my 1911 and my wheel guns. Simply Rugged is my go-to, for their Flapjack (removable flap) or Full Flap Pancake holsters. Don’t get chicken poop on your gun…we too raise hens and I often carry when working there or in the field or garden.

  2. Glad to see you like stick shift- these days it makes a credible anti theft device! As to the holster, do they offer it with a thumb snap option?

    1. I’d never thought of my 5-speed stick as an anti-theft device, but you’re probably right! The icing on the cake is I got this car (used) at a deep discount, probably because the pool of potential buyers is so much smaller.

      Galco’s Fletch is offered with a thumb snap. It’s functionally very similar to this one.

      1. It’s kind of funny at you are a revolver guy and drive a manual – just the other day I was talking to my dad about how I feel the revolver is sort of the “manual transmission of guns.” It’s a little more old school and more difficult to master at first, but gives you that great feeling of mechanical satisfaction that automatics(both transmissions and pistols) can’t match!

  3. Great review of a very good holster Justin. I’ve recently purchased Combat Masters for my Govt Model and my Commander. So far I’m quite pleased. Really impressive for a “mass production” holster. I typically choose a custom maker for my OWB rigs but the Galco Combat Master is top notch in my opinion.

      1. I really like Sideguard Holsters, Erik does awesome work and has outstanding customer service. I have one for each carry gun I own (1911, LCR, Shield). His Minimal Clip and Slide are my favorites.
        Rob Leahey over at Simply Rugged Holsters does a great job with revolver holsters and semi autos. I like his Pancake holsters for my woods guns (686’s in 3 and 4 inch) because they protect the entire gun and ride really tight to the body.

        1. Thank you, sir! Unfortunately it seems like Sideguard’s website is down. I agree with you on Simply Rugged. Although I’ve never used anything they make, their leather sure is good looking!

  4. Great review of a great holster! My only wish would be a version with neutral cant.

  5. Late to the discussion, but….

    I got one of these some time back for my .44 GP100. They actually sent one that fit the 3″ barrel, rather than a 4″ model like other holster companies have done–big plus for Galco. My only gripe about it is the fact that it tends to collapse when the gun is drawn, making it difficult to re-holster one-handed. I figured out I can use the trigger finger to help open it as the gun goes in, but it’s not a ‘natural’ move, and shouldn’t be needed anyway. A strip of leather to reinforce the mouth would be great. I guess if I need to get the gun out-of-hand when the gendarmes arrive, it could go into a pants pocket if the holster is too flat.
    Otherwise, I really like it. Hides real well under a one-size-larger polo shirt, and even with my build (‘rotund’ or ‘jolly’ would be apt descriptions), I’m able to use this holster strong-side, a JIT weak-side (with a Speed or Security Six), a pair of speed loaders in a nylon pouch, a Speed Strip in a cell phone pouch, and an illumination device, and no one the wiser. I bet it would hide a 4″ GP100 if I wanted it to; maybe I otta get one and try it. Ace

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