In Dr No, James Bond has just been given the news that against his preference, he will be receiving a new weapon, the Walther PPK 7.65 mm. Bond reluctantly accepts the decision of the Armourer as to choice of weapon, and the inquires as to the best way to carry the gun.

“Berns Martin Triple-draw holster,” said Major Boothroyd succinctly. “Best worn inside the trouser band to the left. But it’s all right below the shoulder. Stiff saddle leather. Holds the gun in with a spring. Should make for a quicker draw than that,” he gestured towards the desk. “Three-fifths of a second to hit a man at twenty feet would be about right.”

The recent release of the book The Man With The Golden Typewriter is a boon for Bond researchers as it shows you directly how Fleming got much of his information. In this case a fan named Geoffrey Boothroyd. There is an entire chapter in the book entitled ‘Conversations with the Armourer’, in which the extensive correspondence between Fleming and Boothroyd is chronicled.

Geoffrey Boothroyd and Ian Fleming
Geoffrey Boothroyd and Ian Fleming

In his very first letter to Fleming, Boothroyd gives his opinions on the firearms Bond is said to use and what he should use. He suggests a Smith and Wesson .38 Centennial Airweight. (In a later letter he mentions the Walther PPK 7.65 mm) Then he says:

Now to gun harness, rigs or what have you. First of all, not a shoulder holster for general wear, please. I suggest that the gun is carried in a Berns Martin Triple Draw holster. This type of holster holds the gun in by means of a spring and can be worn on the belt or as a shoulder holster. I have played about with various types of holster for quite a time now and this one is the best.

Boothroyd sent Fleming a series of prints to show the various ways in which the holster could be worn.

‘A’ Series. Holster worn on belt at right side. Pistol drawn with right hand.
(Boothroyd notes: This draw can be done in 3/5ths of a second by me. With practice and lots of it you could hit in figure at 20 feet in that time.)

‘B’ Series. Shoulder holster. Gun upside down on left side. Held in by spring. Drawn with right hand.

‘C’ Series. Holster worn as in A, but gun drawn with left hand.

‘D’ Series. Holster word on shoulder, as in ‘B’ series, but gun drawn with left hand.

Boothroyd provided Fleming with 2-4 points of note under each of these series.

A later letter to Fleming has Boothroyd answering the writer’s query as to where he can find more about the holster:

The Berns Martin people live in Calhoun City, Mississippi, and a note to Jack Martin, who is a first class chap and a true gunslinger, will bring you illustrations of his work. Bond’s chamois leather pouch will be ideal for carrying a gun, but God help him if he has to get the gun out when the other fellow is counting the holes in Bond’s tummy.

Berns-MartinLightnincut

 

Here is a closeup of the brand mark on the holster:

berns-martin

And then here is the entire rig:

berns-martin-rig

 

Even after getting the information here, it was still a little inaccurate. When Fleming wrote Dr No, he had Bond issued the Berns Martin Triple Draw holster, but with the Walther PPK. Boothroyd wrote to tell him that the holster could only be used with a revolver (such as the Smith and Wesson) and not his new Walther, which was an automatic.

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7 thoughts on “Berns Martin Triple-Draw Holster

  1. The size and design could be slightly modified by a good leather Smith. “Wet” the leather to form fit a Walther PPK, sew in a piece of spring steel to aid retention and “voila” a Berns Martin holster fit for the king of spies Bond James Bond.

  2. Fleming should have stuck to his gun and his holster. The Beretta .25 was the correct gun for an undercover agent like Bond and Fleming knew this from his experience in World War Two. The Walther PPK was too large to conceal and the Berns-Martin was designed for a heavy revolver and not James Bond’s style at all.

    1. I have a Beretta 418 .25. If you shoot someone with it, you better hope they don’t notice or they’ll beat the crap out of you.
      It’s true that Walther are terribly over-rated and only Bond keeps them in business. But there were plenty of small revolvers and small pistols Bond could carry discreetly, in a holster or jacket pocket.

      1. A revolver is never going to be as concealable as a semi-auto of the same caliber, not to mention it will have less capacity, and doesn’t have the panache of a semi-auto for a spy, so I think Fleming was right to stick with semi-autos, though in the 50s, there weren’t a lot of choices for small concealable handguns with proven reliability that packed a punch. Part of the reason for that is so much of the 30s and 40s had been spent on developing larger sidearms for the military, that concealable semi-auto development had been neglected, and a lot of the best concealable options were about 40-50 year old designs by the time Fleming was writing Casino Royale. Consider a Colt Model 1903 pocket hammerless, or an FN Model 1910. Honestly, though, a Beretta M1935 would have been a better, though larger, option for Bond than a 418, if Fleming were to choose a Beretta.

  3. Let me tell you story about concealability. I’m a mystery writer (don’t worry if you’ve never heard of me), and also a cop. Some years back, after Mickey Spillane (who recommended to the publisher of the paperback editions of his Mike Hammer books, Signet, that they acquire the reprint rights to the Bond series), passed away, I was on a panel at a crime fiction convention talking about his legacy.

    The guy next to me commented on the fact that he just found it hard to believe that Hammer could carry a Colt .45 Government Model concealed in a shoulder holster without anyone noticing.

    I happened to be carrying my .45 in a shoulder holster at the time. As the public discussion passed to someone else I whispered to the guy next to me, “You really think a .45’s that hard to conceal.”

    He said, “Of course!”

    I pulled back my sportscoat so he could see the pistol under my arm (it was a Bianchi holster, by the way, which took over the Berns-Martin design, but I was wearing an upright rather than a Triple-Draw), and he looked surprised as hell.

    “I’ll be God damned!: he said.

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