The History of the Galco Miami Classic Holster Rig
used in the TV series Miami Vice
Galco’s Miami Classic shoulder rig, worn by Don Johnson on the 80’s television show Miami Vice, has become a subject of interest as well as controversy among some gun enthusiasts. Over the years since the show’s first airing, questions have arisen concerning the holster’s origin and evolution and the circumstances surrounding its introduction to the show.
When the pilot episode of Miami Vice was broadcast in 1984, Galco had been manufacturing the shoulder holster rig eventually known as the Miami Classic for 14 years. It was then called the Original Jackass Rig, after the Famous Jackass Leather Company, the name under which Galco did business until 1980.
The first custom-made Jackass rigs began service in 1970 with officers of the Chicago Police Department, whose input helped Rick Gallagher develop and refine the earliest generations of Galco holsters. It was the Jackass Rig that popularized horizontal carry and originated the silhouetted (cut-off end) shoulder holster. In the early 1970’s polymer swivel connectors were introduced as a refinement to the Spider harness and holster. In this period the Jackass rig was advertised in Shooting Times magazine and written about by Dick Metcalf in the same magazine.
Hollywood recognized the dramatic appearance of this product and helped to give it the celebrity status it enjoys today. The Jackass rig worn in the 1981 James Caan film Thief documents the evolution of the Jackass rig and the fact that Michael Mann Productions was using it in Hollywood at that time. However, by the time that same production company was developing a television series starring Don Johnson, Property Master Charlie Guanci was unable to contact us. In 1980, Jackass Leather had changed its name to Galco International, Ltd. and, in 1983, had moved from Chicago to Phoenix.
In desperation to get a Jackass-type shoulder holster for the Bren 10 that Don Johnson would be wearing in the series, they approached a local holster maker who tried to replicate a Jackass Rig. Attempting to locate the polymer parts to emulate the Jackass Rig, his supplier went so far as to find Galco and speak with then-Sales-Manager Robert Hansen. When pressed, the supplier admitted the true purpose behind his inquiries: to obtain the hardware needed to create an imitation of the Jackass Rig that Don would be comfortable wearing.
Galco phoned Mr. Guanci, who revealed that Don Johnson was refusing to wear his existing rig and wanted to switch to a belt holster. The leather that held the imitation Jackass harness together was uncomfortable, printed through his Armani suits, limited his movement, and failed to conceal his Bren 10. Mr. Guanci requested that Rick Gallagher fly out to Miami immediately to custom fit Don with a genuine Jackass rig like the one used in Thief. Everyone’s problems were solved within seconds after Don put on the new Jackass Rig and declared, "It fits like a glove."
From that moment, Galco’s Jackass Rig, designed by Rick Gallagher over 14 years earlier, became the real Miami Classic rig, destined to be the most copied shoulder holster system in the world today.
Over the course of the television series the Bren 10 was replaced with a S&W 645 and finally a S&W 4506. With each change, the appropriately fitting Galco Miami Classic shoulder rig was sent to the Property Master to be worn by Don Johnson.
We trust this account will clarify some misunderstandings and help answer the Number One holster trivia question of today!