F.H. Audley was a saddler who ran a business in New York City starting in the 1870s. As his business in horse tackle declined with the spread of automobiles, he found himself looking for other product lines. In 1906 he moved to a location across the street form a New York police station, and found himself fielding a lot of requests for holsters from the local police officers. He would end up patenting a number of holster designs and features, but the most popular and successful was his Safety Holster.
This design used a spring loaded metal catch that locked into the trigger guard of a pistol or revolver, which had to be manually depressed to draw the gun. It is a design that would not pass muster by today’s safety standards, but did hold the gun quite effectively and with pistol like this Colt 1903, was not actually much of a safety hazard (thanks to the gun’s grip safety). Audley died a few years after he patented the design in 1914, but his design would continue to be produced until the 1950s or 60s. Examples can be found made for nearly every popular pistol used in those decades, from all sized of Colts to Savage to Lugers and revolvers as well.
This particular holster and Colt 1903 have the remarkable provenance of having belonged to Roger Hall, an OSS Jedburgh agent who wrote “You’re Stepping on My Cloak and Dagger” – a rather self-deprecating account of his activities with the agency during World War Two. You can find the book here:
I remember a cheap paperback edition that I read fifty years ago.
Forerunner to the Serpa?
A large portion of the holsters from a long period have a cutout for the trigger. I assume this originated with single-action revolvers, which couldn’t fire until the hammer was cocked. I have a Ruger Mark II 22 LR pistol which was bought used with a nice, custom holster which has such a cutout. Today we see this as an accident waiting to happen, but in the day it was the style.
It seems that despite the style, not everyone felt such a holster was safe.
Saw one of these in person once. Should have been perfectly safe (if you can ever be perfectly safe around a loaded gun) with any uncocked single-action revolver, or automatic with grip and/or manual safety, even cocked and locked. Would have made for a very rapid first shot, too, if you shot from the hip. I would be a little nervous using one of these with a double-action revolver unless you had trained to hold the hammer down with your thumb while drawing, or you had one of those S&W hammerless lemon-squeezers. Impossible to use this today, of course, with Glock and its progeny, let alone for liability reasons.
Roger Hall wrote a very amusing fictional espionage novel in the 1960s or early 70s entitled “19.” Worth reading for the sex scenes alone.