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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Review of Galco Stow N Go STO204 IWB holster for Walter PPK and PPK/S

(ABOVE) Appendix carry cargo shorts with 1.25-inch gun belt


Owning a few more than just a couple of holsters and handguns does not make me an expert.  This review is simply “campfire conversation” and is not intended to influence anyone’s decision on the purchase or use of anything.

Quick Product Summary:

This is a major brand name, economical, mass-produced, inside the waistband (IWB) holster.

This model is usually available for around $30 or less and is commonly available from online outfitters; I purchased mine from a local gun store.

It is a simple, open top (i.e. no retention strap or flap) holster design.

The soft leather is (what I would call) utility grade, napped finished (some call it “suede”), steer hide.

The mouth of the holster is reinforced via a simple stitched leather fold-over.  The rear of the front sight on my PPK has a wee bit of a hook and does occasionally snick the inside stitching of the holster mouth during the draw-stroke; it does not happen often, but if it happens enough it will cut the thread.

Breaking the holster in does take considerable effort.  This soft leather holster is not form-fit or boned; in fact, the PPK will not initially fit into the holster; a new holster is much too tight.  You will need to take your UNLOADED PPK and work it into the holster to create the fit; you are stretching the leather.   Follow instructions that come with the holster.  As with most any leather holster, the grip of the fit relaxes with age and use.

The holster has a very substantial nylon belt clip (advertised to work with belts up to 1.75-inch wide); I used it with both 1.25-inch wide and 1.5-inch wide bespoke gun belts.  There was never a problem with the clip failing to maintain a hold on my gun belts, but IMHO the 1.75-inch holster clip size leaves far too much play on my narrower belts.  More on this is in the narrative.


I never take any holster for granted; I run tests on each one I intend for even occasional use.  I purchased this holster new in February of 2013 and put it through periodic use consisting of leisure-carry and active-carry.  I consider periods of vigorous work as active-carry, such as while performing chores during each of the four seasons over the past year.  Such chores include hauling and setting patio bricks and landscape boulders, cutting / trimming trees and bushes, mowing the lawn (tractor and push mower), moving snow (shovel and blower), etc.  Obviously, I do not believe that disarming is mandatory before performing physical activities (it is not unheard of in our area for miscreants to target folks working in their yards).  A holster must keep the handgun secure during these activities; losing a handgun in the snow can at the least be embarrassing and at the worst contribute to a tragedy if a child or other unqualified person finds and misuses it.   Further, handguns do not take kindly to being dropped onto hard surfaces; it can damage the fit, function, and finish of the piece; a dropped handgun discharging a round of ammo is a possibility.  “To the best of thy ability, thou shalt endeavor to avoid unintentionally dumping thy handgun.”  Due diligence on the choice of a holster can help prevent dire consequences.


Generally, with some exceptions and concerns that I noted further on, this holster does what a holster is supposed to do; it protects the trigger and (to some degree) keeps the pistol where it is supposed to be.  It is reasonably comfortable in all positions of IWB carry (although the small of the back works best for me), and it does not have any peculiarities that hinder concealment. 

The short-barreled Walther PPK presents some challenges for IWB holster designers; it is somewhat of a butt-heavy gun, i.e. a bit more of the weight is above the waistband than below, and there really is not much of the pistol ahead of the trigger guard for the belt and pants waistband to glom onto for control.  IMHO, this PPK IWB holster is best used with a sturdy, thick, tight belt and not with something flimsy and loose.  Let me repeat that using other words; “With this holster, the thicker and wider the belt, and the tighter you wear it, the better off you will be.”  It was my experience that the “one size fits all” 1.75-inch belt clip is not a good thing; I feel Galco would be better served to forego the 1.75-inch thick gun belt market and limit the holster clip size to 1.5-inch.  I do not own a 1.75-inch wide gun belt because none of my pants has loops that large.  The loops on my jeans will barely take my 1.5-inch wide gun-belt while my dress pants, my light casual pants, and (some of) my cargo shorts, can only handle my 1.25-inch wide gun belt.  

NOTE:  The following never happened during real-time active-carry.

I used chairs and other everyday items as experimental snags and was able to simulate conditions where the 1.75-inch holster belt-clip allowed the holster to move up against my 1.25-inch and 1.5-inch gun belts far enough that the gun and holster could twist the belt and flip out of my waistband.   This put the holstered gun upside down with the muzzle pointed at my anatomy.   Further, such “snag and tug” events could possibly yank the inverted pistol from the holster.  These experiments gave me pause early on and I became ever conscious about the status of the handgun and holster when carrying, especially when doing any vigorous activity. 


I will likely keep using this holster and handgun combo on occasion, but only during leisure carry periods with little to no possibility of extreme physical activity that might contribute to snagging the pistol.

If I were to choose (likely, I will not) the Walther PPK as my dedicated, sole choice for IWB everyday carry, I would take the information that I learned from my experience with this holster (along with around $200) and head on over to my favorite custom holster maker.  A great deal can be learned from using affordable, mass-produced holsters that will help folks prevent making expensive mistakes on bespoke designs.


Pumice said...

Good information for me since I have little experience with holsters.

Grace and peace.

James A. Zachary Jr. said...

Not to worry; California will likely soon regulate the sale and possession of holsters. (Mayor Daley (the younger) favored an outright Illinois ban on the sale of holsters)