Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Handmade Holsters: Why the Long Wait Time?

If you've ever been on the hunt for a custom holster, I can only imagine how many websites you browsed before finding "the one". There are so many options now a days, that they all start blending together after a while. A couple of things that Custom Kydex Holster Companies have in common right off the bat: long lead times.

When the business first started, I remember watching the guy on the Youtube channel NutnFancy explain that all of the good holster companies will have a 3-5 week wait time. If they don't then they probably aren't worth buying from. This may not always be true, but it does hold true in most cases. If the lead time is shorter than 3-5 weeks, the company is either:

A. Not very busy, possibly for a variety of reasons none of them good, or new. If they're new and have great reviews, then by all means give them a try!
B. They don't offer many custom options, and are able to produce many of the same holster at once.
C. The items are not handmade, but manufactured by a machine.

This post is going to be about hand making holsters. I'll give you some of the reasons why there is such a long lead time, and hopefully answer some of the questions that you may have regarding the production of custom holsters.

First and foremost, I would like to clarify what this post is actually saying. I am not putting down any other companies or discounting any other companies' products. I'm simply laying out facts and speaking only on behalf of Dara Holsters & Gear Inc.

Working in Customer Service for the company, I answer most of the questions the customers have. I will list a few of them to serve as the basis for the articles.

Wait Times for Custom Holsters

Question/Scenario #1:
Customer: I have a FNX-45 Tactical with an RMR and Surefire X300, do you have anything to fit my gun? 
Me: We do not have anything in stock lying around the shop, but you can place a custom order with us if you'd like.
Customer: Ok, how long does it take to get made?
Me: Currently it takes about 3-5 weeks.
Customer: What the heck does it take so long for?

This is by far the most common scenario I run into. Why is there such a long wait time? Well, if you've ever done any research on custom holster companies, you've probably seen that there is an industry standard for holster wait times among the more reputable companies. Most will have a wait time between 2-8 weeks, most leaning towards 3-5 weeks. This may seem long to you, the customer, but to even the smaller companies who receive between 20-50 orders a day, this is barely enough time to ensure a quality product. Add in the fact that we (Dara Holsters) hand make everything in our product line and offer more custom options than any other company, it's a tough time limit to meet sometimes.

Many customers don't understand what actually goes into making a holster. Without giving too many details away, let me lay out a day in the life of a holster maker:

I have 30 work orders on my cart to complete for the day. Five (5) of those are for the HK VP9, one with TLR-1, one without an attachment, two (2) are for a left hand draw with Viridian C5L and ECR, and one with the Surefire X300. All of the holsters have different ride heights and cant angles, and some have corresponding magazine carriers. Not only do I have to mock up the gun differently for every attachment, I have to attach and re-attach all of the light attachments, mold the Boltaron (I'll get to that later) and then reset the placement of the belt attachment block for each holster. Molding these five holsters alone can take up to 4 hours.
Now I have 25 other orders to go, which may or may not be of the same light attachment dilemma, and my other holster maker is in the same boat. On a good day, we have one of each firearm without any light attachments. On a bad day, they are all the same gun with all different configurations. Now this is also 30 orders, a minimal and modest day for us, and keep in mind, sometimes orders can contain up to 10 items a piece. This is also just the molding part. There are 8 other steps that go into making a holster. Do the math, there is a reason we work 7, 12 hour days a week with an 8 person team.

Question/Scenario #2:
Customer: My order status has been 'Awaiting 'Fulfillment' for three weeks now, you haven't even started it yet?
Me: I'm sorry, your order has not been started yet. We complete each order in the order that they were received.

Customers don't like to hear this. But let me ask you, how would you feel if you had to wait 5 weeks for a holster and a person that ordered after you only had to wait one week, all because you had a light attachment? Some custom holster companies complete orders by firearm make/model, but we prefer to go in order, we see it as the only fair option.

Also keep in mind that we offer more custom options than anyone else. This means that you, the customer, can build your own holster from the ground up. You know what else that means? With our order volume, the options we offer, and the number of firearms and light attachments we offer, the probability of getting the same holster twice in a year is about 3 billion something. No joke, we did the math once. There is no way to anticipate the orders that come in and have your configuration in stock. So we make each order by hand, according to your specifications.

The way around these long wait times is simple, offer less options. But what happens to the customer? And when is "custom" no longer custom?

Along with hand making each holster, we also hand make all of our holster belt attachments. This is pretty unusual for a holster company, though there are some that also do the same.
There have been many questions from customers about attaching other injection molded attachments to our holsters, which we refuse to do every time. Why? Simple: because we hand make our attachments and stamp our name on them for a reason- they're ours. We've tested them against other popular clips, and ours beat the injection molded competitor in every test we conducted. Trust me, life and business would be easier if we bought clips from China and put them on our holsters, but we prefer quality even if it takes a bit longer to achieve.

This is the life cycle of a belt clip:

IWB Holster Belt Clip, dara holsters, dara holsters attachments, dara usa made, dara iwb holster

Doesn't seem like much, does it? 50 IWB holster clips like this, which is about what we require each day, takes hours to make. Even when we have one person pressing and molding them, and another edge finishing. We also have very strict quality control for these clips. Each one has to be perfect, so many get thrown in the trash. We refused to let any sub par products leave the shop, which is why we have such good reviews.

There are other factors that come into play that may cause your order to be delayed past the given lead time. These include: specialty holsters such as the duty holster or race holster that require extra testing and more work to be done before completion. Also, there are certain light or lasers, such as the Crimson Trace Rail Masters, that we require you to send in a picture for. This is because we need to be sure that we mount the attachment the same way you have it mounted, so there are no fitment issues. If we see that you have not sent a picture to us, we will pull the work order aside and contact you about sending a picture in. Customers often do not answer their phones or check their voicemail regularly, leading to a longer wait time for the order. There are also instances where we accidentally make the holsters wrong and they have to be remade. If there is a minor issue, such as the holster was made with the wrong color, or with ECR as opposed to just molded for the light or laser, we will contact the customer first to see if they'd like to receive that holster instead of us having to remake one.

We currently have a 3-5 week wait time on all Custom Holster Orders and a Quick Ship Holster lead time of 3-10 days. We recently had to increase the lead time on quick ship holsters due to order volume. By the end of summer, we hope to bring the custom holster lead time down to a steady 3-4 weeks. We are constantly working on ways we can up production, but not so much as to sacrifice quality. We like to be very straight forward with our wait times, we have it posted in giant bold letters at the top of our website. I've heard some negative feedback about this, as it deters potential customers from buying if they have to wait that long. But that is exactly what we want- we'd rather a few well informed happy customers, than a ton of customers angry with us for taking so long to make their holsters.

Having said all of this, I hope more people buy handmade products produced by small businesses. Even if you do not buy our products, I strongly encourage customers to buy quality USA made products from smaller companies when you have the option, even if you have to wait for it.

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