Holsters are a necessary part of owning a pistol. A holster allows safe carry of a firearm for both duty and range time. I personally, if carrying a duty pistol at all, am relegated to using either the SERPA design or the old school USGI green Cordura holster. Both are terrible options in my opinion so for this article I’ll discuss what I use for personal carry. First off all of my holsters are manufactured from Kydex material. It’s a thermoplastic that can be easily molded with the proper application of heat. It’s durable, easy to work with, and comes in a variety of different colors to suit your style. The days of the Cordura holster with snap retention are over. If you’re still in the stone ages an upgrade is long overdue. Two of my four overt holsters are mounted using a genius system that Safariland came out with called the Quick Lock System or QLS. This allows the user to mount sets of “forks” onto their holsters and quick swap holsters with minimal effort. This is perfect for mounting your pistol in different places as well if you find yourself mounted and need it in a more accessible position. The other two holsters are a higher ride using a paddle and belt loop mounts respectively. I prefer to use these holsters when not wearing my gear belt.
Of the small number of holsters, I have two are an active retention style, meaning the user has to trigger some mechanism to draw the weapon. SERPA, Bladetech Thumbdrive, ALS from Safariland are the three I am most familiar with. The two I personally own that I’m not forced to own (looking at you SERPA) are the Bladetech Thumbdrive and the ALS or Auto Locking System from Safariland. These are both good solutions to the need for retention that I desire. Some jobs may require a higher level of retention but I stick to level II meaning only one mechanism of securing the firearm. The rest of my holsters use retention adjustment screws and rubber washers to passively retain my firearms in a satisfactory manner. My SOB Tactical deep concealment holster actually “clicks” when the firearm is inserted whereas the Kydex from Cascadia Concealment is a firm fit but no audible click.
Holster selection is based on your desired endstate and carry style. I wouldn’t rock my Safariland ALS on a mid-ride outer waistband to a restaurant however I would use my Cascadia Concealment appendix inner waistband (AIWB) and spare mag holder. I also wouldn’t use an active retention holster at a USPA match if draw speed was coming down to the hundredths of a second. Overall you need to analyze what your need for the holster is. What is your mission? Taking the wife out to the mall may require a discreet AIWB whereas a day on the range your passive retention OWB rig works sufficiently, and finally for the Police Officer responding to a domestic violence call that extra level of active retention may be needed should the call go south and a suspect tries to take the Officer’s weapon. As long as you PRACTICE and put the reps in, very few holsters are the “wrong answer”.
A few other notes I’ll share to hopefully shorten some learning curves include the ride height, cant, and spacing of the holster. Ride height is referring to how high the holster sits on your body with relation to the hip. I prefer the Mid-ride set up putting it out of the way of any gear I may be wearing on my torso. It also allows me to have a smoother and quicker draw stroke due to the length of my arms. Also, consider ride height should you find yourself in a vehicle. Can you access the firearm quickly from the seat? The cant of the holster refers to the angle off of perpendicular (right angle for those of us that struggled with shapes) the holster sits. The common variants are a straight drop, FBI, and negative cant. The straight drop is what I use on my mid-ride setups, however, my waistline mounted holsters are all FBI or 10-20 degree forward cants to allow me to grip the firearm smoothly without awkward elbow positioning. Negative cant is primarily used when drawing from crossdraw so think appendix or small of back carry where the firearms angle is less than 90 degrees. And the final note of spacing refers to how far the holster is off my body. This is a fine line for me. Too close and it snags on my plate carrier or jacket, too far it snags on everything else and prohibits me from doing certain things. This is a shooter preference much like everything else but for me, the QLS system spaces the holster perfectly away from my hip.
At the end of the day, very few holsters are dead wrong to buy. The only holster that’s a poor choice is one you don’t practice with. That being said I personally recommend Cascadia Concealment, a LEO owned company out of the pacific northwest, Safariland of course though on the pricey side they make amazing gear in use by a lot of battle-proven units. Hopefully, this helps you make a more informed decision on holsters but to state it for the record long as you practice you almost can’t go wrong.
Author – Tanner Hodges