The 'Gun Grab Proof' Holster

Jan. 4, 2024
Is there such a thing as a holster that is "gun grab proof?" No, but that doesn't mean there aren't other ways to make sure no one takes your weapon .

Holster design and development has certainly come a long way in recent years. When you look back at the use of leather to make holsters you can see the history stretching well over a century or two (or more). Throughout their history, holsters have served one primary purpose: Keeping the carrier’s sidearm securely at hand. Other purposes served by various holster designs include keeping the weapon protected from exposure to the elements and making the weapon easy to access when speed is of the essence. The design of leather holsters evolved over time so that it went from what was basically an open-topped bucket to something far more complex. Tension adjustments, thumb straps, cants and more became part of the design features.

Then synthetic materials came on the scene. Metal, plastics and more were entered into the design field. Trigger guard hooks, additional security straps, holsters that you removed the gun from by pushing it backward… all pieces of various designs. For the law enforcement holster industry, the primary purposes were being combined in equal parts: near at hand (on your belt), protected from the elements (as much as possible), easy to access quickly… but then an additional requirement was designed in: NOT easy for the bad guys to get your gun out of.

Toward that last design feature of securing the weapon from a gun grab, a lot of design features were created and along with them a rating system of security. The security ratings were described in Levels, Level 1, Level 2, Level 3, but used Roman numerals, so they were shown Level I, Level II, Level III – almost as if they were akin to body armor protection levels.

As it was explained way back in the 1970s, each added level of security was another device or function that had to be overcome for the weapon to be drawn from the holster. Those devices had to be easily and quickly overcome by the officer carrying the gun while being near impossible for the bad guy to overcome if he tried the weapon snatch.

Still, there was a lot of confusion about what Level of security actually signified what, but what came to general acceptance was that a Level III duty holster was the best thing an officer could have on his belt. As the example, Uncle Mike’s manufactures the Pro-3 Slim Line Duty Holster was recognized as a Level III Holster. It had a thumb strap that had to be released; it had a tension screw that adjusted how tightly the holster held the weapon; and it had a trigger guard hook that was defeated by turning the weapon. It had three security devices and required three distinct motions to draw the weapon: release strap, turn weapon, lift.

The fact that there were three devices and it required three motions to draw the weapon created a conversation around what the “Level III” designation actually meant. For decades firearms instructors and equipment managers identified a Level III holsters as having three security devices. The actual lifting of the weapon out of the holster was the goal, not generally viewed as a motion, so many discounted the idea that a Level III holster designation was about the number of motions necessary to get the gun out.

No matter how you perceive what the various levels of protection actually mean, the bigger questions are these: are you comfortable with the security provided by your duty holster? Can you draw and present your weapon quickly under stress and time constraints? Does your holster sufficiently (to your satisfaction) protect your handgun from the elements and damage?

This author knows a former SWAT team leader who carried a Level II holster and when asked why he didn’t use the available Level III his response was, “I just am more comfortable with this one. And no one is taking my gun anyway.” He wasn’t saying no one would try. He knew better than to think such was reality. But he was also confident enough in his defensive tactics and weapon retention skills to believe that he could retain control of his weapon in the lower-level security holster – the Level II he selected and wore.

There are a plethora of experienced lawmen (and women) in the profession today who use such a wide variety of holster designs that there is bound to be disagreement over “what’s best.” Let’s face reality: The holster a person selects is as personal a choice as the handgun they intend to put in it. No one has to be satisfied with your holster choice but you. As to on-duty / in uniform holsters that are typically issued by the employing agency, the equipment managers / quartermasters hopefully do enough research on products available, and then they have a conversation with the firearms and defensive tactics instructors, and then they make a decision on what holster to get for the agency.

Along the way, one thing should be painfully clear: There is no “gun grab proof” holster. Any holster that will release the handgun for the good guy will release the holster for the bad guy. It’s just a matter of time and effort if they don’t know the built-in release features. So, what’s the key to having your weapon be “gun grab proof?” YOU. Your awareness, tactics and retention/defense skills are what keeps your gun under your control. Don’t look for the magical answer in a holster design. It’s not there.

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