Holsters- A Subjective Analysis of the Waist Mounted Handgun Conveyance

Re-Post from MDT

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In the “Tacticool” world, the type of handgun holster you use, supposedly separates the “men” from the “boys”. This is one of the problems with the whole “tacticool” line of thought. A piece of gear is only a means to an end, and the holster is there to provide security, protection, and efficient speed of deployment of the weapon for the user (it’s only a status symbol to the morons that want to impress the ignorant). Those that have to have the newest, coolest, and most expensive gear, are usually only covering up for inadequacy in other, more important areas ( training is the usual that area).

Holster selection is important, but unless you have a need for super fast deployment, (either because you’re carrying your handgun as your primary weapon, or your long gun has limited capacity and/or slow rate of fire) minimal mechanics (less to go wrong), protection and security of your handgun should be higher on the priorities list than a fast draw for a handgun used in the field. Contrary to the depiction in most movies, handgun use in infantry type operations is usually minimal, and although I would not be without a handgun in the field, I understand the reality of it’s actual use in combat, without any fantasies attached. These are MY experiences with different holster types, your mileage my vary.

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Pictured are an assortment of belt holsters From the top is the Bianchi M84 flap holster with the thumb break included. Next is the Safariland SLS level 2 security holster. Bottom is the Blackhawk Serpa with the Quick Disconnect Kit to change between weapon types.

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First on the list is the military flap holster. It’s simple, durable, protects well, and with the thumb break attachment, is relatively fast when needed. I’ve used this model of holster for a couple decades now, and it always works, and protects the weapon better than any other type of belt holster. When you feel a need for quicker access, you can tuck the flap behind the belt, so the thumb break is the only retention device in use.

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The Safariland SLS level 2 security holster (below) has a self locking thumb lever (activated upon holstering), as well as the rotating hood (to draw, you rotate the hood forward with your thumb, and then draw the thumb back across the release, it’s actually pretty fast), and  does a very good job of retaining the weapon. Having two different mechanical systems that can be jammed with debris at a critical moment (after crawling through the mud) might be a reason for not choosing a particular design (and yes, I’ve seen this model fail, just from extended use, even without the mud). Safariland has a system to change out holsters on the mounting system similar to what I mention is available for the Serpa below, It’s just more expensive, and not adjustable ( holster cant). Mounting options for these holsters can be found to mount them on almost any gear you can come up with (Molle, belt, thigh). It’s a good holster, and should be considered when your shopping around for a new one. Just a side note on security holsters, please tell me why someone believes they need to be worried about someone trying to get their weapon out of the holster on their combat rig, to use against them? If a bad guy is close enough to take your pistol, he’s probably already got hold of you, and if that’s the case, whether he can get your pistol out of the holster or not becomes a moot point, don’t you think? You’re Infantry, not cops, they have a reason for a security holster ( sometimes they have to do hands on, without drawing their weapon), you don’t!

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Blackhawk makes the Serpa holster. I’ve used a Serpa for a number of years, and although I’ve never had a complaint about it’s retention, and reliability, it’s still has a mechanical release (less complicated than the Safariland though), so take that for what it’s worth. Serpa’s are one of the cheaper “fast” holsters on the market, when compared to holsters like the Safariland, and the accessories are cheaper too.

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One of the accessories I use is the Quick Disconnect kit (G21 left, M9 right). This kit gives you the ability to switch out weapon systems for others, without having to take the mounting system off of your gear. Just like I like to have rifle and pistol mag pouches that will take mags for any of my weapons, I want my holster to either take any of the handguns I either use a universal holster type(Bianchi M84 flap holster), or have a quick way to switch that holster out. Serpa’s are available with mounting options similar to the Safariland, (first pic above is the way I chest mounted it for vehicle ops) but are generally cheaper, and more adjustable. I wouldn’t consider this Serpa to be a security holster, the only retention/release is the button under your trigger finger tip, it’s simple, and it’s fast.

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DROP LEG (THIGH) HOLSTERS

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.Pictured here, starting at the top: Blackhawk Serpa drop leg rig, next down is the Safariland SLS drop leg rig, and finally a Tactical Tailor drop leg rig.

There have been a lot of guys out there that have promoted the drop leg/thigh holster, but when you examine the credentials of some, you find the background and experience of those individuals doesn’t go any further than two extended tours on Modern Warfare 3. Yes, the thigh holster is sexy (especially on Mila Jovovich in Resident Evil) but the reality isn’t as sexy. Thigh holsters generally suck (my opinion) for rural dismounted Infantry operations (urban and mounted operations not so much). Yes if you can and do modify it to ride higher, it’s better, but ask yourself “Why wouldn’t I just put it on my belt?”. If you’ve walked any distance with your gear, you will realize pretty quickly, that anything tight against your legs will start to chafe (there’s a reason BDU’s fit loosely), whether it’s caused by too much stuff in your cargo pocket, or straps on your inner thigh, being galled there is a suckfest. Modification of these holsters is generally pretty easy, if they can be modified at all. This process consists of removing the highest of the two straps (if it has two), and raising the actual holster high enough to ride even with, or within an inch or two of the bottom of the beltline. Every holster model is a little different, so trial and error is the method to find the exact height that it will ride comfortably for you.

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First on the list is the Safariland thigh holster above. The remarks I’ve already given for the belt holster, also apply to this holster, since the only difference is it being mounted on the thigh platform. As stated earlier, remove the top strap, and slide it higher to ride closer to the bottom of your beltline. I actually had this holster hood jam up on me once after experiencing a sand storm, so take that as a warning for the mechanical release holsters, it does happen!

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Next on the list is the Blackhawk Serpa thigh holster. Advantages of this holster is the quick release buckles (remove from the belt) and easy access to your front or knife pocket. It’s also faster out of the holster than the Safariland SLS at thigh level, since it’s just a finger tip press then straight up, and not a rotation forwards then backwards as the SLS requires (more give of the holster at the thigh level, so it takes a little more movement). The disadvantage of this holster is raising its height ,for the most part, is not an option. You have to  completely modify the attachment points, and do away with the quick release buckles to accomplish this. If you like low riders, this is the one for you, but they have no place in dismounted Infantry operations.

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Last on the list of the Drop leg type holsters that I’ve used, is the Tactical Tailor thigh holster. Other than the fact that it’s a thigh holster, I’ve not experienced any disadvantages in this model. It’s simple, durable, and plenty fast enough to get your weapon out quickly if needed. The retention device is the lowly thumb break (nothing to jam up). It also has the jump strap for extra retention when your not concerned about a quick deployment of the weapon. I’ve used this holster for ten years, and used it in combat operations, and it has never let me down.

A note about adjusting the thigh strap, don’t tighten it all the way, leave a little space for movement. If you have to tighten it that tight to keep the holster from shifting around, it’s a poor design. Both the Safariland and the Tactical Tailor holsters have a semi-rigid piece extending from the belt attachment point, all the way down to the bottom of the holster. This rigidity keeps the holster in the same stable position for the draw stroke.

Well, that’s it. As I said in the title, this is a subjective article, based on my experiences with different waist mounted holster types, brands, and models. Hopefully it will help you avoid spending large amounts of cash on multiple holsters, when your trying to figure out what works for you.  I use the Safariland SLS every day, I generally use the Bianchi UM84 (sometimes the Serpa) in the field, and I use the Tactical Tailor thigh rig, for mounted ops. Pick your poison, and train your ass off with it. As I often say to students, if you don’t train hard, your defense will be a noisy version of suicide.

JCD

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