BlackHawk Level III SERPA Duty Holster

First Level III holster designed to hold a weapon with the first single-cell pistol light mounted.

Last year at SHOT Show ('06) I was delighted to see a prototype of the Xiphos pistol light. Manufactured to the specifications of the guys who own Night-Ops (part of the BlackHawk family) and based on their decades of experience in low-light environments, I expected great things. This year at SHOT Show I was delighted to see the next evolution: a single 3V battery-driven LED light called the Xiphos NT. Now, typically, when you get a new light--and this is an entirely new light--you have to wait about six months for the industry to catch up and make a holster for your weapon/light combination. This is the power of BlackHawk: the light and the holster were released at the same time. Designed for use with any Glock 17/22/31, the SERPA Level III duty holster was updated to work with the Xiphos NT mounted on any of those pistols. Here's the kicker: go back and read that line again: Level III duty holster for a pistol with light mounted. That's never before been done in the industry.

This review is actually going to cover three items, all available from BlackHawk Products Group:

  • The BlackHawk SERPA Level III Duty Holster for Glocks with the Xiphos NT mounted, and
  • The BlackHawk Demonstrator weapons, and
  • The Night-Ops Xiphos NT pistol light

Let's start out with the holster. Last year BlackHawk CQC introduced their Level III duty holster that was based on their by-then famous SERPA off-duty and plainclothes line of holsters. They had been producing the Level II duty holster and refused to produce a Level III holster until they could find a way to make it as intuitive and safe as the Level II. They succeeded, and at SHOT Show 2006 they were showing off the SERPA Level III duty holster. I have two SERPA Level IIs: one for my Glocks and one for my 1911. Not a company to sit around on their laurels, before the Level II was fully pushed into the market they had been working on creating the Level III. From conversations had with representatives of BlackHawk during the 2006 calendar year, I knew they were trying hard to find a way to make a Level III SERPA holster for a light-bearing weapon. The challenge was this: the SERPA technology uses an internal locking mechanism that hooks onto the trigger guard. If a light was mounted--and protruding out from the side of the pistol--then the mechanism that hooked the trigger guard would have to be moved. Otherwise it would be in the way of the light. Since two objects can't occupy the same space at the same time, BlackHawk had to find a way to get the trigger guard hook around the light. Thinking outside the box, they came up with a different option: they offset the light on the rail mount.

If you take a look at the picture (left) you can see the holster has the traditional bulge in the lower portion to accept a pistol mounted light. You should also take note of the Pivot Guard (what other companies call a "hood") and the SERPA release lever. If you're familiar with the appearance of the Level II or Level III SERPA Duty Holster, then this holster looks pretty much the same. BlackHawk just added space for the XiphosNT light from Night-Ops. (More on the Xiphos below).

I have already tested the SERPA Level II and Level III holsters extensively. Some things have changed on the Level III, though. During the 2006 SHOT Show it was clearly demonstrated that the Pivot Guard could not be closed unless the pistol was holstered. Thanks to the automatic function of the SERPA lock, if you drew your weapon and then had to go hands-on with a subject, jamming your gun back into the holster meant it was locked in and secure. You could put the Pivot Guard back in place when circumstances permitted. Apparently some folks didn't feel like this was safe enough; they were concerned that the Pivot Guard would somehow close with the gun out of the holster making it impossible to quickly reholster. So, BlackHawk upgraded the design and now the same release mechanism that opens the Pivot Guard has to be held to close the Pivot Guard. This makes closing the Pivot Guard a very conscious and purposeful action. It's not something that happens by accident.

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