TDL Real Performance Duty Holster

I've actually had this T&E holster for quite some time now. I requested and received one for my Glock 19 (a 2nd gen gun) and didn't take to it right away. At first the holster seemed bulky, difficult to draw from and, in general, way too new in concept for me to appreciate. Then I talked to Tony Blauer of Blauer Systems & SPEAR fame and his enthusiasm about the holster led me to open my eyes a little bit and give it another chance. I still can't say this is my favorite holster, but I've at least gotten to the point where I have to give it am impartial look.

One of my first "grievances" with this pistol is that I perceived it as a Level I holster. For those of you not familiar:

  • Level I: ONE form of retention. Usually this is a thumb strap that snaps.
  • Level II: TWO forms of retention. Most often this is a thumb strap that snaps and a screw that tightens the holster onto the pistol. In other words, it adjusts how snug the holster fits the gun. The more snug it is, the more pull is required to get the gun out.
  • Level III: THREE forms of retention. In most cases this includes the thumb strap, the tension screw and an internal hook that grasps the trigger guard. The internal hook is usually spring-loaded, so that it defaults to HOLDING the trigger guard, requiring the law enforcement professional to deactivate it--along with unsnapping the strap--to draw the weapon. Deactivating the trigger guard hook might mean turning the weapon or it might mean pushing a lever.

Under none of those options is gravity a retention device. If it were, then water would be held securely in a bucket.

So, here's the Tactical Design Labs (TDL) Real Performance Duty Holster (RPDH): the retention device is a spring-loaded hook that locks into the pistol's ejection port. That's the ONLY retention device that I can find. There is no tension screw. There is no thumb strap. To my way of thinking that makes it a Level I holster--albeit an awfully secure one.

Here's my second mental block about the holster: It's BULKY. In the picture above you can see the difference in thickness between the TDL RPDH and a leading competitor product. That's a six inch ruler used for comparison. In both pictures the ruler was pushed against my hip directly behind the holster mount where the trigger guard of the pistol sits. In this case, my T&E holster was for my Glock 19. The competitor holster is about three inches while the TDL RPDH is about 4.5 inches. That may not seem like a big difference, but it's quite noticeable to me and feels like it's sticking out awfully far. For the record, that's a Level III competitor holster.

My final challenge to overcome in accepting this holster was that it takes positive pressure pushing the pistol IN to the holster to release the locking device and then draw the weapon. Now I'm familiar with other holsters that require NO PULLING FORCE for the internal lock to be released, but the TDL RPDH is the only holster I know of that you have to PUSH the gun INTO the holster to get it unlocked and out. That requirement to push it in to unlock it is exactly what makes the holster so secure though. No bad guy who is going to take your gun is going to think about pushing it IN to get it out. The challenge I faced was in believing that cops under stress, needing their guns out in a hurry, would ever be cognizant enough to push the gun in to get it out.

As shown in the photo to the right, the lock release mechanism is inside a covered safe area so that it can't be bumped off accidentally. Unless the gun is pushed into the holster then pressure against the release lever wouldn't unlock the holster anyway. I'm not entirely sure the covered safety area is necessary, but better safe than sorry. In looking at that picture I make two more observations:

  1. I'd love to have a bad guy get his finger stuck in there as he tried to take my gun. That's a broken finger waiting to happen.
  2. The same thing could apply to the officer wearing the gun.

So, those were all my mental blocks, outlooks, challenges, etc. That was everything I could think of that I absolutely didn't care for about this holster. Then some things happened that modified my outlook...

First, I was talking with Tony Blauer at SHOT Show in '06 and he was describing for me the natural "stabbing" motion police officers apparently make when reaching for their weapon under stress. Tony had the holster on and he repeatedly and QUICKLY drew his demo weapon from the holster. Whether or not his argument about cops stabbing their guns out of their holsters is valid (I don't know enough to say either way, so I have to take his word for it, and I consider Tony's word very good) it was obvious that with some level of training a person CAN quickly draw from this holster.

With an open mind I took this holster down to the range and challenged a few officers I know--who are avid and competent shooters--to pick the holster apart. The ONLY complaint that each of them made was the thickness and bulk of the holster. After a few slow draws, a couple magazines of shooting with quicker draws and then some high speed work, they were getting the pistol out and presented as fast as with their familiar duty holster. Still, once I threw some stress into the drills they slowed down, and a few had some trouble on the draw. In all fairness, that was after only a couple of hours with the holster. More training probably could have alleviated that challenge.

This is where I ended up with this holster: it obviously works. With proper training it's quick to draw from. It IS bulky as compared to every other holster on the market I'm familiar with. And finally, it's weapon specific. Because of the internal design, it only works with one weapon or, as an example, two models of weapon that are externally identical, i.e. the Glock 19 and Glock 23. My T&E holster is for a Glock 19, and neither a Glock 17 nor a Glock 26 will function in it. But I needed it to fit my Glock 19, and it does that without issue.

In the end I have to say that it's functional. The retention design system is quite unique and holds the weapon in a secure fashion. I don't see it becoming my favorite holster, but I'd feel confident carrying it on the street as a duty holster. For more information about Tactical Design Labs, visit their website.