The oldest holster in my possession is the Fobus paddle holster pictured here. In it resides my trusty Smith & Wesson 686, a .357 Magnum revolver with a 4-inch barrel — arguably my favorite handgun and one I’ll never, ever sell. You’d think a gun that holds such a distinction would demand a fancier holster than the old plastic Fobus. But I haven’t found anything better for the big wheelgun. The Fobus is a lightweight, form-fitting outside-the-waistband (OWB) paddle holster which handles myriad duties — house carry, backcountry carry and concealed carry (in the winter, when layered covering garments are abundant). I have newer holsters for the Smith — beautiful, functional rigs made from leather or Kydex. They’re fine. But in this case, the best holster is my oldest holster.
The Fobus was included with the 686 when I purchased it from a private seller. I didn’t think much of it at the time but ended up really enjoying it — at least for around-the-house carry. Its best attributes: always comfortable, consistently stable and virtually indestructible.
Many paddle holsters can boast maximized comfort. After all, sliding a curved paddle inside your waistband — over a gun belt, of course — provides a hip/thigh-hugging platform that keeps the contours of the gun completely off your person. The trade-off is decreased concealability. But this is a non-issue when carrying at home, out in the backcountry or concealed under winter garments. I guess it’s more seasonably comfortable than some other carry rigs. Fobus selected exactly the right place for the attachment of the carrier to the paddle; the 686 is balanced just right and has a slight forward cant in the holster. The whole setup feels good, and the gun is easy to grasp.
The Fobus stays put atop a proper gun belt, keeping the stocks of the 686 ready for your combat grip. There’s minimal movement of the holster as you move — but no flop — and when you grasp the stocks and draw, there’s no downward or upward flex. The gun stays put until your draw pulls it free — and then it’s out in an instant. You should practice drawing whatever gun you carry from whichever holster you carry it in, and this is true for the 686/Fobus combination too. Mastering your draw with this rig will be a quick study, as will reholstering.
A basic plastic holster won’t last forever, but the Fobus has maintained its shape and function while seeing its share of action. It has been beaten up a bit over time — especially when I explore the backwoods — but it’s no worse for wear. The point where the carrier attaches to the paddle flexes a bit more now, but I am confident it will continue to hold. Moreover, with a plastic holster like this, there was no break-in period, and there has been no change in fit over time.
These days, most holsters are made pretty well regardless of the material. In the time since this Fobus was produced, plastic material and manufacturing technology have improved significantly. That means newer, current plastic holsters should last even longer. Maybe I’ll buy a newer one for the 686 … right after I’ve used up all the life in this old holster. It might be a while.