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BLACKHAWK! Evolution

Way back in May of 2004 I wrote my first review of the (then) new SERPA holsters available in the CQC line from BLACKHAWK!. It recently occurred to me (as I was cleaning out my storage closet) that the holsters have steadily evolved across the years and that some readers / owners of those holsters may not realize where the holsters stand today. Even in my own assorted collection I have various models from different production lines and the improvements that have been made are both obvious and beneficial. Let’s take a look back…

Back in 2004 when the SERPA holster was first introduced it was primarily an off-duty or plain-clothes use holster that was delivered with two mounts: a belt mount and a pancake mount. While I’ve always preferred the belt mount I know plenty of folks who swear by the convenience of the pancake mount. Made of BLACKHAWK!’s proprietary carbon-fiber material and incorporating the SERPA retention system along with an adjustable tension screw, the holster offered Level II security in a convenient package. Further the holster body was adjustable on whichever mount you chose so that it could be positioned five different ways for varying levels of forward or rearward cant or perfectly vertical. That made a single holster good for cross-draw as well as strong-side carry. The holsters were offered in matte black or you could get it with a basket-weave applique if that’s what you / your department preferred.

As soon as the fan base had developed for the SERPA CQC holster line there immediately grew a demand for the same system but in a duty holster. The designers at BLACKHAWK! were well aware of the requirements of a duty holster and wanted to insure an even more robust structure. Using the same proprietary materials and security systems, they developed a Lvl II duty holster. Covering far more of the weapon and protecting the full length of the slide (insuring protection of the rear sights and reducing any chances of a gun-grab by a bad guy), the duty holster caught on almost as fast as the off-duty system had. The mount – meant to get the holster on and off of duty belts with ease – came with a spacer to create more room between the holster body and the belt so that people working in cold environments could easily fit a jacket or coat in there and not inhibit the draw. BLACKHAWK! also made the duty holster available in matte finish or with the basket weave and pretty soon the duty holster was nearly as popular as the off-duty original. However, a Level III security holster had been the industry standard for quite some time and the demand for Lvl III protection was strong. BLACKHAWK! answered that call next.

Developing their own third security device called the “pivot guard”, BLACKHAWK! released its Level III SERPA Duty Holster. A spring-loaded mechanism that was designed specifically NOT to close while the gun was out of the holster, the pivot guard was released by pressing a release with the thumb of the drawing hand. In the original versions that thumb placement wasn’t entirely natural and did take some practice to get used to (but not much). In the current iteration, however, the design has been changed so that your drawing motion is 100% natural. As you grab the gun in a shooting grip (while it’s in the holster) your thumb should automatically press the pivot guard release. Your index finger should align with the SERPA release and, once that’s pressed with the pivot guard open, you should be able to draw the gun. If you keep your trigger finger indexed where it was to release the SERPA lock, then when you draw the weapon your trigger finger should already be indexed on the frame above the trigger, outside the trigger guard.

It’s worth mentioning here that this holster itself has evolved through at least two iterations I’m familiar with. In the first production model the pivot guard could be closed with a push. It popped open with authority but simple finger pressure would push it closed and, at that point, your gun was locked OUT of the holster unless you re-released the pivot guard. BLACKHAWK! recognized the downside of that design feature and changed it so that to CLOSE the pivot guard required a push of the release mechanism again. So, once the gun is out of the holster, reholstering to a secure position is easy: just put the gun back in the holster and the SERPA lock catches it and holds it securely. THEN you push the pivot guard release and as you hold the release you push the pivot guard back into its closed position and let go of the release.

That first iteration also (as mentioned) required you to push the pivot guard release with your thumb and it wasn’t an entirely natural motion. The third evolution extended that lever so that the pivot guard was opened with the natural motion of your securing a shooting grip on your weapon. It’s so fast that competition shooter Todd Jarrett has used it in competition and it hasn’t slowed him down at all.

In between the release of the Level II Duty Holster and the release of the Level III Duty Holster, BLACKHAWK! also released the CQC tactical thigh platform. This is a well thought out accessory for the holsters, magazine pouches, sheaths and other items that should all work efficiently together as you build your kit. The platform is just that: a mounting unit for you to build upon as your needs dictate. It will accept a holster or magazine pouches or sheaths, etc as listed. The benefit is that you can have five holsters and only one thigh platform and you can make any of those five holsters a “tactical holster” by changing out the holster bodies. It takes four screws.

Something radically different that BLACKHAWK! did with the tactical thigh platform is that they did away with the single hanger nylon web. If you look at the picture you can see that the platform is hung on their “Y” system – two hangers, one at either upper corner of the platform. This system prevents that “dig” you get from a single hanger when you have to bend your hip. It allows for greater freedom of motion and less discomfort. The duel hangers also have quick releases built into them so that if you have to remove the holster (say, when you’re entering a secure facility such as a corrections processing unit or a jail) you simply unbuckle the thigh straps, disconnect the two quick-disconnects and the whole platform, holster, gun, etc all stay in a single unit to go into the lock box or wherever you place it for security. You never have to draw the weapon to put it into the lock-box.

Of course, along the way, plenty of people also wanted a shoulder holster method of carry. (I can appreciate it even though I’ve never really found it comfortable. I’d prefer cross-draw to shoulder holster carry, but to each his own and personal comfort matters a great deal.) In answer to this “need”, BLACKHAWK! designed a shoulder holster carry system that worked with all of the other CQC line of devices. It has a mounting platform so you can put your preferred / needed holster body on, and the opposite side has the necessary gear for hanging magazines. Although it was primarily designed to work with the Level II SERPA Concealment holsters, I don’t see any reason why you couldn’t put a Level III Duty holster on there if you thought you had to. The entire line has been designed to be interchangeable to a maximum degree.

The CQC line, in fact, now includes STRIKE mounts (BLACKHAWK!’s improved MOLLE system), hook-and-loop platforms and more. Their latest accessory release is the Quick Disconnect system which is positioned between the holster body and whatever platform you’re putting it on. The Quick Disconnect (or “QD”) system allows you to move the holster body – with or without gun holstered – from one platform to another without having to unholster the weapon. It takes a positive coordinated action to push both releases and turn the holster the correct direction to remove it from the mount. That entire unit can then be moved and locked into any other QD mount. Can you imagine the possible applications? You can now move your gun from place to place without having to draw it simply by moving the holster unit holding the weapon. You can go from thigh to duty belt to chest platform to under your desk to beside your bed… anywhere you can mount the “female” receiver you can put the holster (with the “male” attachment piece in place).

So, as you can see, what started simply as a carbon-fiber off-duty level II holster has come a long way and developed into a total carry system offering almost every option you could want for your duty weapon. If, somehow someway, this doesn’t cover the option you want, then you could always check out BLACKHAWK!’s line of leather holsters as well.

Stay safe!

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