Escort Gun Leather
- By Pete Moore
- 19 Comments
- Last updated: 15/12/2016
Escort Gunleather are the UK’s leading makers of custom gunleather. Owned by John Skelton & Bob Taylor, they have been supplying the shooting trade for over 30 years. Initially supplying gun shops and police forces throughout the UK, the handgun ban turned the business around and their products are now virtually all western, using their “Sierra Saddle Co” brand, aimed at the black powder shooter, re-enactor and collector.
The Hatfields & McCoys
Essex based Escort Gunleather produces a great deal of custom leatherwork for the Film & T.V. industry and this last year has been no exception. Probably the most notable job recently was for a Kevin Costner mini-series called “Hatfields & McCoys” which was aired in the USA earlier in 2012 on the History channel and on Channel 5 UK in October/November. It’s an account of a violent feud between two families during and after the American Civil War. Escort Gunleater made all of the holsters, belts, bandoleers, rifle scabbards and the like, to kit out Costner, Bill Paxton, Tom Berenger, Powers Boothe and the rest of the cast, along with a platoon’s worth of cavalry holsters and equipment.
“These are great when they come along” explains John, “it’s a lot of work in one hit, but we always have a tight deadline and they never know what they want until the last minute. These movies must have been in pre-production for a year or so, but they tend to order the costume about a month before filming, so we have to drop everything to do it. Also they usually have no idea what they really need, they’ll order, say, 10 Old Timers, 10 Cheyennes, 10 Slims… and so on… straight from our catalogue, not taking into account that a collection of cowboys in a bar room or street wouldn’t all be wearing the same thing, so we have to decide on styles and try to make each one different, which of course takes more time. They would sometimes give us a style preference for the leading character, in this case we made a border tooled Cheyenne for Costner, but when the goods were delivered to the film set, all of the actors pretty much took what they fancied, Costner used one of our Cavalry holsters for part of the shoot and then a one-off pattern Half-Breed as a belly holster, which wasn’t really intended for him.”
In With the Outlaws… and Jack the Ripper
Apart from “Hatfields & McCoys”, Escort have supplied for a number of productions over the last few months including a Western called “In With the Outlaws”, due to be filmed early in 2013. This was mainly for the low slung “Hollywood” style belts, as authenticity was not an issue. Another recent production they were involved with was an 8-part mini-series of “Jack the Ripper”, soon to be seen on BBC, which called for Pinkerton detectives coming to England from the USA to help with the case. Escort provided some period belt and shoulder holsters along with some Derringers and a deactivated Winchester (which was NOT authentic for the time). John says; “They needed a Winchester urgently, all we had in stock was a Model ’92 Trapper with a ‘John Wayne’ lever, and a Model ’94 Trapper. The ’94 was almost new, and although a very nice example, it had a plastic butt plate and modern safety button. I did mention that this rifle was not in existence in 1888 but they took it anyway saying it probably wouldn’t notice! ”
Madame Tussaud’s; a Worldwide Attraction
Escort have also been supplying Madame Tussaud’s wax museums with leather goods for many years. John told us, “A nice thing about Tussaud’s is they tend to be opening new venues worldwide, so we will end up making the same piece over again for different countries, but we are asked not to divulge details on any model that is not yet unveiled. Probably the largest collection of our work for them is in Hollywood, Los Angeles. We’ve done a lot there including Clint Eastwood, John Wayne, Robert Redford, Steve McQueen, Mad Max, Bruce Willis, etc.”
“In fact we are now on our fifth Bruce Willis (from Die Hard 4), I think they now have one in Hollywood and four other cities around the world. It can be a time consuming job, although we are supplied with studio stills from the relevant films, we usually have to carry out a great deal of research which may include playing the DVD frame by frame to get the leatherwork patterns spot on. We also furnish them with deactivated guns; we once had to find them a Snider Enfield .577 for Ned Kelly. It was mint condition, obsolete calibre, and we were horrified that they had to drill holes in the stocks to fix it to the model.
Authentic or Showbiz – Just How You Want It
Escort offer a considerable choice of gunleather, the western styles range from period authentic to Hollywood and “B-Western”, tooled or carved and even artificially aged if that’s how you want it. They can also make virtually any style of modern holster, whether it’s covert carry, for competition or duty use, although since the handgun ban these are not generally advertised, so you’ll need to request them.
They don’t stop at gunleather, as Escort can make virtually anything in leather from western saddlery and equipment, to bespoke brief cases, gun cases, made to measure custom belts, hand tooling and carving, you name it.