I am contemplating getting a new pistol.
As my new duties are administrative, rather than operational, I'm tending towards something less than full-sized. Since I'm of the opinion that every handgun should have a dedicated holster, this means I need a new holster to go with the bang-stick. So I've been paying more attention than normal to the holsters everyone else is wearing, and doing a bit of Internet research into holsters.
Ye gods and little fishies.
Let me begin by stating that I don't believe in hardware solutions to software problems. Technology, no matter how "high-speed", "gee-whiz" or "cutting-edge" it is, can not trump insufficient, inadequate or generally [deleted]-poor quality training.
Matter-of-fact, I'm firmly of the opinion that mixing high-tech gear with minimal training only makes the problem you're trying to solve that much worse -- only no one notices that fact until right after Something Has Gone Pear-Shaped.
Any holster I use has to do two things very well: 1) It has to have a death-grip on the pistol when I don't need said pistol; and 2) It has to turn loose of that pistol like it was hot when I do need said pistol.
I'm a big fan of friction-fit holsters for off-duty carry, and I have two that are my particular favourites: a leather pancake holster by my friend Michael Hast of Michael's Custom Holsters, and a kydex Yaqui slide that was a gift from a gunsmith friend. Big fan of "Grab, Yank, Bang", I am.
However, carrying as part of your job tends to require another level of retention.
I started my career in the early '90s, and I trained on thumb-snap holsters because that was pretty much what was available to me at the time, to the point that it is ingrained in my psyche -- for good or ill -- that any retaining mechanism is to be released by the thumb.
By the thumb. Not by the social finger and not by the trigger finger. This is not to say that the popular holsters that do release by the index or middle finger aren't just the cat's meow -- for someone else. After twenty-plus years of training, my thumb sulks if any other digit releases the retention.
Any movement required to release the retaining mechanism must be a simple, single motion. If I have to press something in one direction until a certain point, then in another direction -- Bzzt! Thank you for playing, go home. And any holster that needs me to press one device in one direction, and second, separate device in another direction before giving up the pistol I need right the hell now! ... no. Just, no.
The holster should cover the trigger guard to keep any trigger-manipulating thingies out of the trigger area as long as the pistol is holstered. And by "trigger-manipulating thingies" I mean knotted drawstrings, zipper pulls and twigs, so half-cover of the trigger area isn't going to cut it.
Changing your grip part-way through your draw is an Epic Fail looking for a place to happen, so the holster has to allow me to achieve a proper grip upon the weapon before the retention is released.
My drawstroke has undergone only minor, evolutionary changes since I first received pistol training in the late '80s:
I start, bladed 35 - 45 degrees to the threat, both hands stacked flat on my chest at elbow level, middle fingers pointing at the opposing elbow. (This stance is probably familiar to long-time Gentle Readers.)
To draw, I slide my right hand down my torso towards the holster. My palm remains flat on my body until my hand clears the horizontal plane of my torso and my fingers rotate down; but my thumb maintains contact with my body.
My hand settles on the grip of the pistol, thumb maintains body contact and the last three digits achieve a solid grip.
Once a solid, three-finger grip has been achieved, my thumb moves to the release and activates it.
The pistol is drawn up almost to my armpit, then rotates toward the threat. If necessary, the trigger finger can enter the guard and shots can be taken from this high guard position.
If not, the trigger finger remains straight, the pistol is pushed towards the threat, with the left hand sliding across to meet it on the way out to full extension.
Voila! A draw.
The problem comes with the way I slide my hand across my torso to the pistol. This is down to clear any cover garments, radio cords, body mic cords, or anything else that might get in the way. It also keeps the gun hand close to the body where it is less likely to be interfered with -- deliberately or not -- by a third party during the whole affair.
Unfortunately, the Latest and Greatest Contraption to hit holsters seems to be something call a "chop block" or a "hood guard". This is an "L"-shaped piece of metal or polymer that sticks up from between the holster and your body and angles over the retention mechanism. It is supposed to stop Bad Guys from accessing the retention mechanism from a position in front of the officer.
See my thoughts on "hardware solution/software problem" and "technology vs. training" above.
In my case, what a "chop block" does is to cause me to expend my full vocabulary of abusive, indecent and profane language upon the makers of said device the first time I hammered the edge of my hand into the top edge of the bloody rigid bastard during a draw.
Did you know that you can frisbee the chop-block from a Safariland holster well past the ten-yard targets, given proper motivation? Well, now you do.
I need something moulded to the pistol, with a simple thumb-release and a minimal cant. It should cover the trigger guard, allow for a three-finger grip, not get in the way of my particular draw-stroke and be free of fancy techie bushwa.
Wonder what Old El Paso Saddlery has to offer these days?