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HOLSTER SELECTION GUIDE Part 1

There are a lot of folks that are just starting out in the CCW lifestyle. Looking at all the various options, they are trying to figure out what would best suit them and their needs. Inevitably, they will come up and ask “what’s the best holster?”

Gang, here’s the thing. After 32 years of carrying a concealed firearm on virtually a daily basis, and over 25 years of making concealment gear, I can definitively state: THERE IS NO BEST HOLSTER! If there were, that would be all that we would make, because it would be the BEST HOLSTER. Duh.

Holster selection should be, first and foremost, application driven. What are the reasons and circumstances that surround you and your weapon carry. How you dress. Your body shape and build. The level of concealment that you need or feel comfortable with. Not every weapon system/holster combo will work for every individual.

This brings me to another point – with the continued growth of the CCW industry, more and more we are seeing what Jeff Cooper used to refer to as “ingenious solutions to non-existent problems.” Primarily this is evidenced by the maker that has the “one true solution” to all your concealed carry needs. It is the only product they provide, and it is often accompanied by really neat packaging, or a “high-speed/low-drag” name, etc. Lots of guys, especially those new to the discipline, try these out and find them lacking. The problem is, although some of these products will work for some folks, some of the time, none of them will work as advertised – that is for everyone, all the time. Most fall into the realm of what we call “specialty carry systems”, which should be used only in very specific circumstances that are again, application driven. Some are totally worthless even in this aspect. Some makers will say their products are the most comfortable (but may limit accessibility) some say they are the most concealable (but prevent a one-hand presentation), some are this, others are that. What all of them are is gimmicks. Some are better than others, but none are a replacement for a genuine every day carry rig.

Guys, not everything works for everybody. That’s why we make all the different styles of holsters that we do, but even then, there are those in the CCW community whose needs we cannot meet. Our gear is designed for the serious practitioner, the guy or gal who is going to practice, know and understand their equipment, and apply a healthy dose of common sense to his/her CCW lifestyle.

Here are some simple rules to holster selection that we lay out on both our website and on the reverse of our business cards. These are just common sense guidelines (again, not so common), but make a good starting point for anyone just getting into concealed carry.

SAFETY

Does it cover the trigger guard? This is a no brainer, but is still surprisingly violated by some makers, especially with revolver gear.

A sidebar to this is does it have a mechanism (lock/release) on the trigger guard, such as the Serpa holster? Years ago, LAPD issued a holster called the “clamshell”. Release of the revolver it carried involved placing the finger in the trigger guard to press a device that allowed the holster to pop open like, well, a clam shell. After NUMEROUS discharges during the draw process (even with a double action revolver), they went to another design. Anything that is going to put pressure anywhere near the trigger of the weapon during the presentation should be avoided as under stress the chance of a negligent discharge is significant. BTW, I’m not the only one saying this about the Serpa – the list of names that have expressed these same concerns include Larry Vickers, Ken Hackathorn, Travis Haley, Kyle Lamb and a host of others. Anytime you get this many high-speed, low-drag instructors saying essentially the same thing, you should probably pay attention.

Does the holster allow a proper grip on the gun? You don't want to have to change your grip once you get the gun out of the holster, and your grip should not change from the time you begin your presentation until the weapon is back in the holster. This means if the weapon sits TOO DEEP in either the holster, or the pants, such as many generic fit pieces do, you CANNOT get a full firing grip on the piece. This is a common failure point on many “gimmick” carry systems.

Does it offer a clean presentation so the muzzle doesn't cross the body? You should never point your gun at anything you don't want to shoot. So why allow the muzzle to cross your body when you draw? All these guys that want to carry “reverse grip” like Magnum, PI used to? As a very knowledgeable instructor I know once pointed out, “There’s different, and there’s WRONG. That’s WRONG.” Rule number two of what have become the universal rules of safe gun handling states: “Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy.” This should include your own body.

Does it keep the gun secure in the holster during normal activities? A weapon that doesn't stay where it's supposed to is useless. Does a PROPERLY built concealment holster require an additional security device? In our frank opinion, no. The concealment IS your security, and the first time the offender should have any idea you have a weapon is when he is introduced to “Mr. Muzzle”. We refer to this as (all together now) “a catastrophic failure of the victim selection process.”

Again, selection is APPLICATION DRIVEN, and if you are working in an environment where the possibility of a hands-on confrontation is great (Personal Protective Agent, Bail Bond Recovery, Plainclothes LEO) then additional security might be a good idea – HOWEVER – this is not the vast majority of folks that are carrying for personal protection. If, on the other hand, you open carry? Have fun with that Serpa. Oh, and by the way, maybe you should carry empty chamber as well. You know, just in case.

ACCESSIBILITY

Can you quickly get to the gun? Time may be of the essence, and systems that provide “deep concealment” may not allow rapid access to your handgun.

Can you effectively get to the gun? This differs from speed of presentation - even if you can get to your gun quickly, you need to be able to get it out easily, and if that “super cool, most comfortable in the world” body shield interferes with your proper grip on your handgun; it may NOT be what you need in your primary carry system.

Can you draw with one hand? You may have to use the other hand to fend off an attacker in order to get the time/distance to deploy the weapon, so if your holster requires two hands for the draw in a close quarter confrontation you are back to a hand-to-hand only option.

COMFORT

Can you sit comfortably for periods of time if necessary? If you sit in a car or at a desk a lot, you'll want to make sure that the holster you select is comfortable enough to last throughout the day.

Does the holster ride high enough that you are not constantly pressing into body parts that are uncomfortable, even when standing?

Can you turn, kneel, squat and move comfortably?

Keep in mind - some have said that a concealed weapon should be comforting, not comfortable. Famed trainer Clint Smith is the guy who originally came up with this, and he is correct, but I think some folks misinterpret what he was saying. A holster that is the equivalent of a “hair shirt” will not get worn. Period. Clint Smith regularly carries a 5” 1911 in a Bruce Nelson type Summer Special IWB holster. I am sure this combo, for him, is both COMFORTING and COMFORTABLE. I have no problem with the Covert Carry IWB I run my Glock 17 in daily, but it may not be for everybody, especially someone with a marathon runner’s physique. The fact is most people won't consistently wear a rig that isn't comfortable – and the weapon that isn’t on you when you need it.

All of the proceeding gives us a STARTING point to consider in holster selection, but many other factors come into play. We’ll look at some of those in Part 2 of our Holster Selection Guide.