There is a certain element of danger in handling firearms, motor vehicles, and chainsaws.
We do our best to maintain a strictly low and acceptable level of risk. When it comes to dangerous holster conditions we need to be certain that we have limited the danger in every way possible. Some of this danger is danger to our person, but at other times the danger is to others around us.
Does Your Gun Have Too Much Wiggle Room?
A holstered handgun should be a safe handgun. When the handgun is holstered it should be secure in the holster and not move about. The holster must be a perfect fit to the handgun. When you consider the problem of a loose fit remember that handgun dimensions differ enough that the handgun may actually snag and refuse to be drawn from a holster during a critical incident.
As an example of an otherwise pretty bright person who got off on the wrong track, a fellow I know works behind the counter of a gun shop. He has figured out that Glock and SIG pistols usually fit, more or less, in the same holster. Another fellow I know never orders a holster for his Browning High Power. Instead, he orders one for the Colt Commander. The High Power, he claims, fits the Commander holster, and he owns both pistols. He tells me the High Power holster will not accommodate a Commander, though. After all, the High Power is thinner than the Colt 1911.
This shooter must not be well acquainted with Rocky River Leather’s brilliantly fitted and molded holsters. They are darned specific as to what you fit in them, and require a break-in before they are ready to be used. This tight molding affords dependable security, and results in a lightning fast draw for those who practice.
Sometimes there is an application for a looser fit. As an example, the Milt Sparks Inc. holsters are respected the world over for good fit and craftsmanship. The molding is first class, but when the company recognized a need for a deep concealment holster, concessions were made. The Watch Six is less tightly boned than the general run of Milt Sparks holsters. It will close after the weapon is drawn—unlike the Summer Special, which features a reinforced holster welt or mouth.
The Watch Six should not be worn without the handgun, as the shape is not as tightly held as the Summer Special. There is no reinforced spine. The trade off is acceptable for some because it results in a holster that is thinner than anything else in the lineup, but which retains most, but not all, of the good qualities of the Milt Sparks IWB holsters. While the Watch Six isn’t a compromise in quality at all, this is among a very few acceptable compromises in fit in my working battery of holsters and firearms.
The fit of the holster is important for safety. A leather or horsehide holster will maintain security by exerting friction on the slide and frame of the handgun. A Kydex holster exhibits contact primarily on the trigger guard, although some, such as the NTAC, have an overall well-fitted appearance. The proper fit is coupled with an angle that allows a good draw while maintaining security. A dangerous situation exists when the holster is loose and floppy, and does not properly maintain security. An example might be a handgun with a barrel too long for the holster. The handgun will rise above the holster. If there is a retaining strap it must be properly adjusted. If the handgun does not properly fit the holster then the retaining strap simply cannot make up for a poor fit.
You also must understand the proper draw angle and fit. As an example, a short-slide pistol with a heavy grip and with a high capacity magazine cannot be worn in a holster with a severe angle. The gun butt might well lever out of the holster.
Is Your Holster Tired and Worn Out?
A worn holster is an accident waiting to happen. If the stitching is becoming loose or the belt loop is wallowed out then the holster cannot be secure. A dangerous situation exists when the belt loop is becoming frayed. The holster must be married to the belt properly. The holster must be in the same position for each and every draw. Only by ensuring the holster and the belt are firmly mated together will we have a high expectation that the holster will remain secure and allow us to execute a consistent, smooth draw during a critical incident. The balance of speed, retention, and safety must be maintained.
It is a new trend to offer holsters with a variety of belt loops and clips to allow both outside of the waistband and inside the waistband carry. There are specifics to each holster that do not always carry forth from one to the other. It is best that the loops be secure. A good example is the versatile line from Lukas Adams (Adams Holsters). Not only is the holster well made of good material, the holster is available in sharkskin. Nothing short of Kydex resists scuffs and offers excellent adhesion to the belt like sharkskin.
Does the Holster Move Your Gun’s Controls?
While we wish to have a holster that is tightly boned to the handgun, the controls—the slide lock, safety, and magazine release— must be protected by a relieved area. The danger in holstering a handgun and having the safety rub off in the holster is obvious.
During the 1960s, when police departments were tentatively exploring the self loader, there were numerous missteps. Sometimes these holsters were basic revolver holsters with the cylinder bulge ironed out. The thumb break rode close to the handgun, designed for revolvers. This strap would sometimes rub against the 1911’s thumb safety.
This is the reason that for many years some authorities recommended that the 1911 only be carried with a thumb break that went between the hammer and the firing pin. If the safety rubbed off you still had the thumb break as a failsafe. A police duty holster should still feature the thumb break, and with the 1911 it should be a design that runs between the hammer and the slide.
Another situation existed that drove Smith and Wesson to redesign the original Model 39. Tightly fitted duty holsters would press the slide release of the Model 39 inward, and if the pistol was fired, the slide lock would cause the slide to stop functioning after the first shot. One officer was injured in a knife attack as a result of this malfunction.
We must absolutely be certain that sufficient clearance is made for the controls and safety of the chosen handgun. If you choose a holster based on economy rather than tactical function then you are inviting a problem.
Does the Holster Make Room for Sights?
Some handguns feature raised high-visibility sights and others do not. But whatever type of handgun you use, the holster should feature a blocked and reinforced sight track inside of the holster. Otherwise, the front sight could snag on the holster.
Are You Wearing It Safely and Using It Correctly?
Another problem that has presented itself is attempting to use a strong side holster in the cross draw position. I am amazed by the number of people who show up in my classes with a holster they have never attempted to draw from. Simply taking a strong side holster and placing it on the wrong side for cross draw use is dangerous. The angle isn’t correct, and if you attempt this draw over time you will stretch the holster and cause it to become loose and snag. Never attempt to make a strong side perform as a cross draw. You will not be able to draw properly and the draw will be dangerous.
The act of holstering the handgun or drawing the handgun should not be dangerous, but there are some holsters that are more difficult to use than others. As an example, the directional shoulder holster that holds the firearm with the muzzle pointed to the rear would present a hazard if the holster isn’t well molded to the individual handgun, but the real danger comes from poor handling. As an example, when drawing from either the shoulder holster or a cross draw, the weak-side arm should be moved out of the direction of the draw. The cross draw is almost always done incorrectly, and this results in not only a slow draw that sweeps across the target rather than into the target. The poorly executed draw also unnecessarily sweeps the body.
Another danger is a holster that is so uncomfortable you are constantly adjusting it. One that shifts or allows the pistol to gouge the body may actually spill the gun on the pavement, but a holster that is constantly being fiddled with also presents the danger of discovery.
Gun Safety Checklist
In order to aid my students I have developed a checklist to prevent dangerous holster conditions:
- The holster must be molded to the specific handgun (no fit-them-all or generic sizes). The holster must fit the handgun well.
- Even if the holster is designed to use a safety strap, the holster must keep the handgun secure by pressure on the long bearing surfaces without the need for a safety strap.
- The holster should not allow the handgun to slide out of the holster during enthusiastic tactical gymnastics even when the holster does not incorporate a safety strap as part of the design.
- The trigger guard must be covered. This reinforces a basic safety rule: the finger is outside of the trigger guard until the handgun is drawn.
- There should be a reinforced holster welt that allows holstering the handgun with one hand.
- There is a built in sight channel that prevents the front sight from snagging on the holster as the pistol is drawn.
- The holster must not compromise the function of the safety, slide stop, or other controls. The magazine release should not be actuated by the holster. There must be adequate clearance for the controls. The safety must not be disengaged in the holster. The better types of holsters include a barrier in the design that prevents the safety from coming off safe in the holster.
- Holster selection is important. The holster must carry the gun securely, and enable the wearer to present the firearm safely, and with an identical drawstroke every time.
[ R K Campbell is an author with over 40 years shooting experience and more than 30 years police and security experience. He is the author of seven books and hundreds of magazine articles. He devotes his time to learning more about personal defense and the human situation. ]
|Blackhawk Products Group
|Desbiens Gun Leather
|D.M. Bullard Leather
|Gould & Goodrich
|Milt Sparks, Inc
|Passport Sports, Inc.
|Rocky River Leather Co.
|Ted Blocker Holsters