Saturday, April 12, 2014

Meditations on holsters.

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?



kahr40 said...

Model 6377, 6378, 6379
ALS® Holster

Simple thumb release on the inside of the holster.

armedandsafe said...

Since I build my own holsters from old boot tops, I'm afraid I don't have much advice for you in this regard.
Since you are looking for a duty holster, have you investigated custom, made-to-YOUR-specifications?

Anonymous said...

Other than your need to require a thumb release, the Uncle Mike's Reflex holster should fit your bill nicely. No moving parts, no thumb activation needed. Solid retention. Natural draw stroke. Give it a gander.

Raptor said...

Take a look at G-Code's XST holster.

Skip said...

I like Dennis' stuff at Dragonworks.

Old NFO said...

Dennis or Michael... Have them build you one... Nuff said. ONLY 10 yards??? You must be slipping! :-)

Sigman said...

Another vote for Dennis at Dragonworks. He's good people.

Jon said...

I'm with the folks on Dragonworks. I dunno if Dennis offers more indepth retention but I bet minimally he could get you an old fashioned thumb strap back :)

Beaner49 said...

have you looked at the Blackhawk line of SERPA holsters?

Dave said...

I'll second the G-Code. Good stuff.

Joe in PNG said...

It gives me a sad to see people buy cheap, crap holsters. Some people spend a few hundred dollars to upgrade their gat with nightsights, action parts, ect, then balk at spending more than $20 for a holster.

RE: the Serpa. Not a good holster. Reports by reputable trainers and shooters has that it
1) is not strong enough to resist a serious attempt at a grab, and rips off the belt easily.
2) the button can jam from dirt and grit
3) there is more than one story of legshots on the draw
I've heard the counterarguements, and don't care.

KJR said...

Here in my little neck of the woods (NW Arkansas) ASP and several local cop shops have taken to the Glock 40cal.

After carrying my SW 586 for most of time I also have made the switch to a Glock 23. For plain clothes carry the Galco Royal Guard works for me, the wife likes the Galco SOB.

Anonymous said...

I am by no means an expert, but I have had the opportunity to train with some of the best LEOs/shooters in the US.

My humble suggestion is contact

These are LEOs and expert shooters who can help with all sorts of training/retraining issues. Since they are all LEOs, they will have suggestions that will trump most suggestions.

Greyone said...

I too started with a revolver in a Jordan style holster with a thumb snap, back in the 1970's.

I find the level II/ III holsters to be gadgets that are well able to deny an officer access to his weapon if he is not in a good position, and it seems most can be induced to fail by a small amount of leaf litter or trash at the wrong place. I take this to indicate that we should no longer engage in any physical encounters that might go to the ground.

Being safely retired now I have a very nice little leather CC holster that depends on friction and my arm to retain the pistol.

It works.

Roger said...

Holsters being so very personal, my sole comment is to keep KISS in mind at all times during the selection process.

ebd10 said...

kahr40 speaks truth. The ALS is simple, durable, and tough.

Kristophr said...

Ted Blocker can make you any custom holster for any pistol you want.

I used him extensively while I lived in Portland.

Glen said...

The Kirkpatrick MHL would suit your needs very well. I own two Kirkpatrick holsters, and both have given excellent service.

SteveG said...

Another recommendation for the Safariland ALS.

Dan said...

These folks make a very nice holster:

When the holster is worn, your body puts pressure against the backing, which presses the firearm against the polycarbonate. The polycarbonate holds the firearm in place and provides additional security for the retention of your firearm. Simply drive your thumb between the holster and the grip, then slightly twist the grip toward your body to release the trigger guard from the retention bump for a smooth draw

Bob Jester said...

The 5.11 thumb drive holster might work

Aegis said...

Excellent custom holsters, made by a lovely young lady here in Portland. Fit your requirements nicely.

Will said...

It seems that thumbbreak and other retention type belt holsters have become somewhat rare, especially in a near straight drop style. Concealment is the big seller, and straight drop types are hard to conceal, generally. Which may explain why they are very high ride, mostly.

For a final pick, you will have to decide on the gun first, due to availability (design considerations, for the most part). The brand/model of gun can make a surprising difference in what is acceptable in a holster. Not only in comfort and concealment, but stuffing a shorter version in a holster made for a longer barrel/slide of the same model, may create fit/retention problems.

You also haven't stated if ISWB or OSWB BELT or PADDLE is preferred/required.

Aker seems to have a decent selection in the type you seem to be looking for:

The have a selection in their on-duty section that may also fit the bill.

Anonymous said...

I will humbly suggest the following:

Scott_S said...

They make a friction only serpa holster. However I love my Drop and offset blade tech.

JohninMd.(too late?!??) said...

(Ahem) Happy Easter, Dog, to you and Herself.

Janir said...

I've had good luck with a Safariland paddle holster with thumb break with my 1911 5". the small clip holds the holster onto the belt and the paddle is fairly wide and spreads the weight around decently. Old fashioned thumb-snap. All leather (formed for model). I can carry coked and locked with full trigger coverage and the snap is between the slide and the hammer.

Pawpaw said...

I'm a fan of Safariland, especially their ALS system holsters, and I'm a huge fan of El Paso Saddlery. I recently had them make one for a Colt Pocket Positive. They had the mold on-hand and the finished product is magnificent.

Kim Campbell said...

Zlogonje Gunleather does very nice work and can build to your spec's.

Jack said...

I carried a Kel-Tec P3AT in a belt holster which snapped on and off very easily, and had a nice thumb snap for retention as well. Made by DeSantis.

JimB said...

It would be nice to know what the final combination of pistol and holster is.

Anonymous said...

I'm no expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I use a Galco OSWB paddle holster with thumb release during winter and switch to a Sticky TM ISWB sheath holster for spring and summer wear. Both cover the trigger, but still allow for a smooth draw.

The Sticky is neat in that it uses friction to hold the holster inside your pants and if you set your holstered pistol on a table or counter, you can still draw it and the holster " sticks" to the table while releasing your firearm, just like it sticks inside your waistband.

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Btibrands said...

Making sure you have ready access to your holstered weapon requires considering more than just whether or not to use a retention holster. The type and location of your holster plays a major role in how easily you can access it.


Ashley said...

I think holsters should be much more handy when using weapons.
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