Looking for relief from thick and bulky holsters, the police find their way to Conrad Misquith’s office

As cars whizz past Padil Junction in Mangalore, in a garage by the side of the main road a man sits hunched at a desk, cutting out leather in the light of a lamp. The American Wild West seems far away but Conrad Misquith, surrounded with leather bits, scissors and tools, is busy carving leather by hand, Texas-style, to create customised holsters the State’s police, with the owner’s initials on it.

He has to cater to this week’s order for 16 holsters for the Police Department, all sub-inspectors, from Madikeri in Kodagu, Bijapur, Belgaum and Mysore. He said, “I do at least two or three holsters every day.” Earlier, he has made holsters for the police in Davangere and Bangalore.

For the past 20 years, he has been crafting hand-carved leather holsters fuelled by demand from policemen throughout the State, although he has not kept count of the number of holsters he had created. He said the Police Department gives them holsters that are thick and bulky. He creates sleeker, lighter and personalised holsters. “They like to have their initials. They feel proud to have that kind of holsters for their weapons.”

He learnt how to make them from his brother 24 years ago and now makes two types of holsters: half and full, costing Rs. 950 and Rs. 1,100. In the former, the muzzle of the holsters is exposed. The “vegetable-tanned terracotta” leather is procured from Chennai and is coloured to match uniform accessories, a hue that he now calls the “police tan”. The rivets are made of brass.

The customer is required to visit the garage twice. Once, for the measurements of the weapon and the second time when the button is fixed so that it sits correctly in the holster. He said he gives a guarantee of 15 years for the holsters but owners do return to get the button replaced.

The work is not easy. It requires tools available only in the USA, and hours of detailed work using foul-smelling synthetic gums and glues. Besides, leather is least suited to Mangalore as the humid weather is perfect for fungus to grow on it, and its fine spores lead to asthma attacks.

He is clear that he only makes holsters for his customers, police and others, and does not concern himself with anything else. When asked if he knows whether they should or should not bear the weapon, he said, “that I don’t know. I don’t ask them if they have a license or not.”

He continues to work from the obscure garage and has declined offers from sheiks and business contacts who have made offers to him to relocate.