On the market for 30 years, Galco's Yaqui Slide dates from the days when the M1911 was king but is still very relevant for the 21st Century.
Where did it come from?
Col. Charles "Boots" Askins, writing in his column in the June 1957 issue of GUNS magazine wrote of the near-mystical ability for members of the Yaqui tribe – which ranged across the roughest parts of the Mexican-American border from the Sonoran Desert to Nevada – to discreetly carry concealed firearms about their person. The gunfighter turned gun writer knew this firsthand from his days with the U.S. Border Patrol.
"There are other locations about the body where a pistol can be tucked away. Most of them are slow but the important thing is that the gun is present. I one time caught a Yaqui coming out of Mexico who had a .32 Mauser strung between his shoulder blades on a buckskin thong, and later on, I caught another with an old Hopkins and Allen .41 slung below his crotch, again by a length of rawhide."
By the 1970s, the "Yaqui Slide," essentially the Bikini of the holster world, was often seen in both IPSC circles and in use as a practical carry holster, well-liked by such practitioners of the modern shooting method as Col. Jeff Cooper of Gunsite fame, who reportedly brought the concept back from San Salvador where it had been created by one Edwardo Chanin.
Speaking to the Yaqui in the November 1978 issue of American Handgunner, Rick Miller opined:
The Yaqui Slide is a curious little holster that usually fails to impress most observers at first glance. It is such as a simple, straightforward design that its outstanding qualities are often overlooked, but the Yaqui Slide is in many ways the epitome of what a good holster should be. It is neat, compact, comfortable, fairly secure, concealable, offers good gun hand contact, and it is as fast as any waistband holster, and better than most.
Since the early 1990s, Galco has carried the modern Yaqui Slide in their catalog, and it is still popular today. Part of it is cultural, as on-screen iconic characters such as Tom Selleck's Jesse Stone – who carried a SW1911SC Gunsite Model – and Tom Cruise's Vincent in Michael Mann's "Collateral" used such gun leather.
Then again, the other part is that it still works.
Is it secure?
The big change from the early Yaquis of Cooper's era to Galco's current model comes from an added set of independent tension screw adjustments, allowing for a custom fit to the firearm and micro-adjustment of the draw stroke. This keeps the holster secure during everyday activity, such as keeping it from dislodging during running or moving through linear obstacles. Not bad for a low-profile holster that weighs less than 2-ounces and is small enough to fit in a cigarette pack.
Is it meant to fight off a determined attack from someone who is going to knock the user out cold with an ax handle and then go to rip the gun out of the holster? Nope, but it is not designed to be a duty holster for those dropping out of a helicopter either.
To keep the screws from working loose, Galco recommends applying a small amount of clear nail polish to the threads prior to setting the tension, a kind of low-key Loctite (a product Galco does not recommend as it outgasses adhesive). Further, it is best to set the tension screws either horizontal (at 12-and-6 o'clock) or vertical (3-and-9 o'clock) if possible. This way you can tell quickly if they've started to loosen.
While perfect for the concept of a BBQ gun, or someone wanting a simple yet effective slide for their pistol while out and about or on the road, it does have some limitations when it comes to concealed carry. The minimalist design and near-vertical carry angle of presentation makes the Yaqui Slide very fast on the draw. The thing is, it is an OWB holster that shines in strong-side carry, which means 2, 3, or 4 o'clock orientation for right-hand models and 8, 9, or 10 o'clock for left-hand models.
Sorry, this means no IWB carry (although it is theoretically possible, just likely to be caught up on a significant front sight during a draw stroke), no appendix carry, and no small of the back carry. This leaves Yaqui Slide users to either open carry by default or use a serious cover garment for concealment, such as an overshirt, vest, or jacket.
This is where we should mention the seldom-discussed advantage of the Yaqui Slide: that it doesn’t look like to many casual observers these days like a holster when the firearm is removed, such as when entering a “non-permissive environment” for weapons.
Galco lists that the Yaqui Slide is made in models to fit "over 175 different pistols and revolvers."
We found ours to fit not only GI-sized M1911s, fully enclosing the trigger guard, but also John Moses Browning's second most famous handgun, the FN Hi-Power. As a quick benefit of the open-muzzle design, the Yaqui is a steady favorite of those who own multiple barrel lengths of the same model handgun. With that, we discovered our Star BM, a commander-sized 9mm M1911esque pistol, fits the same model holster like a glove.
For the record, Galco lists the YAQ212, our review model, as capable of fitting the following:
AMT HARDBALLER * BERSA THUNDER 380, THUNDER 380 CC, THUNDER 380 PLUS * BROWNING HI-POWER * COLT 3 1/2" 1911, 3" 1911, 4 1/4" 1911, 5" 1911 * FIRESTORM FS22, FS380 * KAHR CW40, CW9, K40, K9, MK40, MK9, P40, P9, PM40, PM9, S9, ST9, T9 * KIMBER 3" 1911, 4" 1911, 5" 1911, 5" 1911 W/RAIL * PARA USA 3 1/2" Single Stack Mag, 3 1/2" with Staggered Mag, 3" with Single Stack Mag, 3" with Staggered Mag, 4 1/4" Single Stack Mag, 4 1/4" with Staggered Mag, 5" with Single Stack Mag, 5" with Staggered Mag * REMINGTON R1 * RUGER SR1911 5" * SIG-SAUER 4 1/4" 1911 (contoured slide) * SMITH & WESSON M&P 9mm Shield EZ, SW1911 5", SW1911 5" W/RAIL, SW1911SC 4 1/4" * SPRINGFIELD 3 1/2 " 1911 , 3" 1911, 3" 1911 w/rail, 4" 1911, 5" 1911, EMP 3" * STAR PD * TAURUS PT1911 5" * WALTHER 3.4" P22
The Galco Yaqui Slide is available in right- or left-hand designs and in tan or black finishes. Constructed of premium steerhide, it fits belts up to 1.75-inches wide.