McALLEN — Charles Byrd was born and raised the son of a plumber, spending most of his childhood learning the trade of his father. Byrd received his first leather tanning kit when he was 12, crafting and selling his first ever leather product from it, a belt.
After years under the apprenticeship of his father, Byrd decided he no longer wanted to be a plumber and instead focus on his leather work.
“The thought of going out and running another PVC pipe, I couldn’t do it,” Byrd said. “So, I went leather full-time.”
Since then, Byrd has accrued over 40 years of experience, teaming up with W.T. Tucker in 2008, who also has over 40 years of experience in the leather making industry, to create Tucker and Byrd Holsters, specializing in making leather gun belts, holsters, mag pouches and more.
Byrd and Tucker’s products were one of over 275 exhibits and vendors on display at the 30th Annual Texas Hunters and Sportsman’s Expo this weekend at the McAllen Convention Center.
The expo kicked off with a bang on Friday, with herds of people piling into the convention center as the doors opened. Saturday was no different, with lines curling around the side of the building with people waiting to get inside.
The three-day event is set to conclude today, open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Byrd and Tucker have crafted thousands of leather products over the years, with their best seller being their gun holsters, receiving orders from all over the world including Israel and Mexico. Still, the duo is not limited to just holsters, taking countless custom orders throughout the years, including crafting bulletproof briefcases lined with Kevlar panels and weapon pouches in the inside.
“We call it our fight or flight briefcase,” Byrd said. “When you’re getting shot at, you’ll hide behind whatever you can. And that briefcase, it’ll protect you.”
Now, Byrd and Tucker have shifted their focus on growing their home store located in Porter and focusing on holsters, choosing not to attend as many gun shows and expos.
“Gun shows really got me up and going and got my name out there,” Byrd said. “It got to the point where we pretty much outgrew them. To go out and chase whatever we’d make at a gun show, it was counterproductive.”
Byrd said with more time on their hands, they’re able to focus on providing quality products to their clients, hoping to recreate the quality of one of the first products he made with the kit he was gifted as a child, a foldable key case he gifted to his grandmother.
“When I started at 13 years old, I made my grandmother a folding key case,” Byrd said. “She used that for the last 35 years of her life every single day. When she passed away, I got it back. I have it at home. It’s very satisfying. We can make a belt for a guy and it’ll last 20 years. So, something we do and make, someone else will get value out of it for a long time.”
Still, the duo continues to bring their products to the Rio Grande Valley one weekend a year for the past decade, with Byrd saying working with the Curl brothers, Chris and Justin, made it hard to say no.
“Justin (Curl) saw me somewhere and asked me if I would come to it,” Byrd said. “He told me all about it and we came down. They’re great. The Curl brothers go out of their way to help you and we enjoy it.”
But Byrd’s favorite thing about coming to the expo in South Texas? “The best part of coming? We like the food,” he said.