Holsters and Ferrari Retreads
We taught a Fundamental Concealed Carry class this past weekend. This class is basically for those folks who have (a) been carrying a while and want to get some formal training and/or (b) those who are just getting started in the ‘Concealed Carry Lifestyle’ and need to get off on the right foot. On my way home, I called a friend who has attended this class a couple of times to tell him about the class. During our conversation he said, “You know, that’s probably the most dangerous class you teach.” After about two seconds I said, “You know, I think you're right.” There are many folks out there who purchase a handgun, holster, and ammo, strap up and head out. They believe because they own a gun, and have shot at the range a bit, they are now ‘gunfighters’. To paraphrase Jeff Cooper, “Owning a gun no more makes you a gunfighter than owning a piano makes you a musician.” This can become catastrophic when people come to class with sub-optimal equipment, and skills, and believe they will be successful. New gun owners think nothing of spending several hundred dollars on their gun and some good ammo (usually), but purchase ‘crapola’ holsters. When they get to the class, they often have trouble drawing from and/or re-holstering because the holster doesn’t fit the gun or, is just cheaply made and it folds up every time they draw. This leads to potentially dangerous situations. We had a student in one class who we noticed, during the first dry-fire drill, was having trouble getting his gun out of the holster. When we went to check on him, he said, “I don’t understand it. This is the gun and holster I carry every day.” When we asked how often he practiced his draw, his reply was, “Never. They won’t let you do that at the range.” The holster was a generic ‘leather’ belt slide holster made to fit many types of guns. During this weekend’s class, there were a variety of holsters present – IWB leather, OTW leather and Kydex/polymer – some worked well while others were a little more problematic. Those experiencing problems had obviously spent minimal time exercising their weapon manipulations skills (a topic for another time) or the holster was not a quality one. We spent some time practicing accessing and drawing the handguns and re-holstering ‘dry’, before we went live on the range. After several dozen repetitions, we had to make some adjustments but, all in all, everyone started to ‘get it’. Prior to writing this, I read a good article on We The People about the 10 Things to Look for in a Concealed Carry Holster. You can go HERE to read the whole article but, here is what they list. I will address a couple of the items I feel are most important: 1. Concealment 2. Comfort 3. Retention 4. Re-holstering 5. Adjustability 6. Quality of craftsmanship 7. Proper fit 8. Safety 9. Ease of drawing (accessibility) 10. Ease of attachment I feel there are three main things a good holster should do (1) hold your gun comfortably, (2) hold your gun securely and, (3) allow you to access it with minimal effort. Comfort – I believe Clint Smith said, “Carrying a gun is not supposed to be comfortable; it’s supposed to be comforting.” I concur but, it makes no sense to torture yourself either. A quality holster should be constructed so there are no ‘sharp edges’ or anything that will rub or chafe you during normal activities. Now, everyone is built a little different so you may have to try a couple of different ones. My best advice is, don’t settle. Security – Security for the concealed carrier is important. Unlike LE duty holsters, most concealed carry holsters offer only Level 1 security. This is mainly a friction fit or, in the case of Kydex holsters, some type of ridge/bump that engages the trigger guard to hold the gun in place. There are others like the Blackhawk Serpa that use a push button feature and offers Level 2 retention. You must examine how you will be carrying your handgun to best determine the security level needed. Access – This combines a couple of the points listed above - How the holster attaches to your belt and the adjustability add to the ease of accessibility. Getting to the gun and getting it out with minimal difficulty is imperative in a critical situation. The problems we generally see in our classes are caused by two things – poor equipment and lack of practice. Like many ‘old timers’, I have a box full of ‘shooting junk’ I have accumulated over the years. Much of what’s in there are holsters that either didn’t make the cut or outlived their usefulness. (I do, however, still have a leather Safariland belt slide holster I originally bought in 1978 that is still quite usable.) I have purchased a number of holsters over the years and found that you generally get what you pay for. If I were to offer any advice it would be to determine how you will be carrying your concealed weapon (dress, location, circumstances, etc.), ask questions and shop around, then, choose a quality product that fits your needs. Don’t put re-tread tires on a Ferrari.
Be Safe · Be Effective · Be Ready