How quick is your draw? 6 ground rules for testing holsters and how these popular brands performed

For this month's columnLaw Enforcement Technologypicked several brands of popular duty holsters for evaluation. If you don't see your brand in this article, youmight want to wait for our test of concealed carry holsters. The list of testing criteria...


For this month's columnLaw Enforcement Technologypicked several brands of popular duty holsters for evaluation. If you don't see your brand in this article, youmight want to wait for our test of concealed carry holsters.

The list of testing criteria included a mix of objective and subjective tasks primarily designed to wring the holsters out and communicate our findings. We drew from kneeling and seated positions, got the holsters (and guns) wet, and drew from them hundreds of times.

Before taking to the range, we practiced with a Red Gun, Airsoft and a SIRT training pistol. First things first—I had to set several ground rules. When individual officers are looking at holster products, they should too.

We knew that sometimes holsters don’t give an immediate impression, just a collection of qualities that correspond with the agency’s and users’ training, experience and needs. This rule also applies with the fact that there are different levels of retention, and manufacturers have different approaches to these levels. The product must agree with agencies’ training, uniform and safety policies.

The different levels of retention don’t necessarily mean the draw is faster or slower. Years ago, a higher level of retention generally meantthe officer had to manually overcome each retention device by a separate and distinct motion, and therefore the draw was significantly impeded as the retention of the holster went up. That is, it used to be the higher the security, the slower the draw.

A holster has different levels of gun retention. Although there is no consistent standard across the board, each level generally means a device that one must overcome to draw the gun. These are listed as Level1, Level2 and Level3, often designated in Roman numerals. Safariland is generally known for originating this concept after their purchase of the Rogers Holster Company.

New designs like Gould & Goodrich’s Triple Retention Duty Holster or the BLACKHAWK! Duty LV3 Serpa Holster epitomize new designs in holsters. Each of these models have three retention areas that an assaultive suspect would have to challenge, one at a time. The person wearing the holster, however, can disengage the handgun during his or her natural draw stroke, even though the manipulations are distinct. The G&G product, in fact, was fast enough for a three-gun match entry.

Nothing in the design of anything we tested here should displace sound tactics and defensive training. Let me make this clear—the holster is just one tool of many. The handgun is just the tool in an officer’s hand when the carbine or shotgun is out of reach. It is a level of force that must be applied appropriately. If the holster does not secure the handgun when another task is employed, it is useless. Yes, there are useless and far-fetched holster products out there, we did not (and we will not) test any.

The KISS rule applies. If the holster product requires the officer to learn an additional motion or skill that does not agree with sound tactics, pass. That is, if it isn’t natural, it will loose a gunfight.

If the holster interferes with the safe operation of the handgun in any way, including the magazine release, safety features or master grip when drawing, it is the wrong holster. Use common sense.

Most new holster products do not require break-in, unless the manufacturer specifically says this in their literature. If the product draws with a hitch, do not put it on duty. Only a fool would attempt to modify a duty holster or put the wrong or modified gun into a duty holster. There is no “second best” here. Buy the best piece of equipment one can buy for one’s training, ability and policy, and save money on trivial stuff like coffee mugs.

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