I picked up a pair of vintage French Army holsters last week with the hope of using one for my Colt Gov. Model 1911 pistol. My gamble paid off......... the holster fits perfectly!
This particular holster is officially "Armée française MAC-50 Holster, modèle 1948 GT2", or French Army, Model 1948 GT2 holster for the MAC 50 pistol. The model that I have is in the late style of chromium tanned, "mustard" colored leather, with solid belt hanger. The first model holster is constructed out of natural vegetable tanned leather with a split belt hanger. There were two colors of holsters, black and tan. The black holsters were used by the Gendarmerie, and the tan holsters by the Army and French Foreign Legion. There was also a green canvas model in this holster style.
|Comparison of Model GT1 to Model GT2|
|French Gendarmerie Model|
|Jungle version in canvas.|
My holsters most likely date from the mid 1960's to the 1980's. One of the two holsters has a vegetable tanned leather flap strap, which appears to be from the earlier Model 1 holster. I am guessing that it is one of the first production Model 2 holsters, where a few of the last, unused, model 1, stock parts were used up in the initial production run of these model 2 holsters. The other holster is made completely out of the chromium tanned leather. There are also some differences in rivet styles.
I can not find any date stamps on the holsters, but there are some nice acceptance-manufacturer stamps inside the flaps. (3 on the early holster, 1 on the late holster).
The D-ring on my holster's belt hanger is for the attachment of a pistol lanyard.
The MAC 50 pistol is a french "copy" of the Browning Automatic, as is the Colt Government 1911 pistol. Since this holster was designed for the MAC 50, I assumed my Colt Gov. Model pistol would fit, and it does perfectly. (My pistol is actually a Colt Mk IV, Series 80 .45 ACP pistol).
I tried my 1:1 replica Beretta 9mm, airsoft pistol in the holster to check the fit. It fits, very tight, but will fit. I would guess that as the pistol was used in the holster, the more the leather would form to fit. It is definitely not a "drop in" fit like the Colt .45!
This holster would have been issued right after the French-Algerian War ended, sometime around 1966, and used into the 1980's. The French Foreign Legion would have carried this style holster in their various engagements during the 1960's through the 1980's: Chad, Zaire, Libya, Congo.......... The French Gendarmerie (police, military police) carried the black version of this holster during this same time frame and also served with the French Foreign Legion as well as policing France. I'll update the "historical photos" section of the post when I track a few pictures down! For now, here is one photo of some French Foreign Legionaries in Chad.
Here are some more detailed photos of these beautiful holsters:
March 13, 2012 Update: I received an email from one of my blog readers who had some more detailed information on these French Holsters. I would like to add this "cut and paste" excerpt from his email to the original blog page........ Thank you to Bob in Portland, Oregon:
The official nomenclature changed over the years, but this is best known as the modele 1948/50 GT (Grande Taille, or Large Size). More specifically, it is the model 1948 as modified in 1950 (primarily by the adding of a stiffener to the holster, recognized by the presence of three rivets in a row on the back of the bolster) . There were a number of other less significant changes over the years, including the specific design of the belt hanger (ie, two narrow straps, a wide strap between two narrow straps, and a wide strap with a narrow strap at the front), addition of a hole for a leather strap to tie around the leg, changes in exactly how the holster was constructed & sewn, some dimension changes, etc.
Since the PA-50 (model 1950) did not actually begin production until 1953, this holster was clearly not designed for it. (As is common, when pistols are named by a model "year" this reflects when a design was first approved rather than when the pistol entered production or service. Other examples include the French models 1935-A, which began production in 1937, and the 1935-S, which began production in 1939, and the Savage models 1907, which began production in 1908, and the 1917, which began production in 1920.)
This holster was originally used by the French to hold the variety of pistols it used in the post-WWII era (hence the two closure settings on the flap), including the Browning HiPower, Walther/Mauser P-38, Colt 1911, French 1935-A and 1935-S, and even the MAB D and Unique R (both of which are pretty small for the holster). As the PA-50 was introduced and gradually replaced all these other pistols over the years (it took into the 1960s), the holster became most associated with it.
The "jungle version" you show is simply the vinyl fabric version used when the French Army replaced its leather webgear with fabric webgear. There had been a canvas holster used starting in the early 1950s by the French airborne as part of its "TAP" (Troupes Aeroportes / Airborne Troops) webgear (leather added too much weight for airborne use), which was used with other pistols until they were replaced by the PA-50.
The holster itself is derived from WWII German holster designs, and is sometimes confused with German WWII army holsters.
On the PA-50 -- while, like most pistols of the 20th century, it was influenced by Browning designs, the PA-50 was directly a redesign of the French model 1935-S, chambered in 7.65 French long, to handle 9mm parabellum. There are also influences from the Browning Hi-Power and Colt 1911, both of which the French military had long experience with, but it is essentially an updated and improved 1935-S.
Good sources of information on both the holsters and the PA-50 (and other French military sidearms) can be found at http://armesfrancaises.free.fr/PA%20Mle%2035S.html (in French) and in French Service Handguns 1858-2004, by Eugene Medlin and Jean Huon.
As an aside, this holster is one of the few that will accommodate the MAB PA-15 and its 15-round magazine. MAB designed the PA-15 in hopes of becoming the replacement for the PA-50, but the French ended up selecting the Beretta 92-F instead, and producing it in France under license as the MAS G1 (G = GIAT, the French government owned arms manufacturer). The Beretta 92-F is essentially the same pistol used by the US military as the M9.