Buying a Holster

I did something this morning I haven’t done for a while: I shopped for a holster. Throughout my editorial career I’ve done a lot of carrying with what came across my desk, for better or worse. Upon exit from that career, I’ve been very content carrying my G43 in my BLACKHAWK! ARC with few exceptions.

As an experienced concealed carrier, I’m already a step ahead of where many people are in their holster shopping career: I know almost exactly what I want. (If I were to look at it objectively, I would even admit that what I want is my ARC with a slightly different clip.)

It may not make the finding of a holster any easier, but a breakdown of criteria might help newer shoppers begin to understand what to look at. We’re all going to like different things, but as we move through our carry life we can learn what we like and don’t like from different products and apply that to future purchases.

Here’s what I’ve been considering as I browse:

Material

One of the first rules I have about any holster is that it cannot, under any circumstances, collapse if the gun is not in it. This means either Kydex, or something structurally similar such as my ARC. Actually, this is one of the reasons I’m such a huge fan of the ARC holster, the polymer material is non-collapsible, but soft enough it doesn’t chafe like kydex. Which brings me to…

Location & Cant 

Wanna talk soft and non-collapsible? I wear my gun appendix under tank tops. Usually that means no undershirt and my femoral artery is down there so I’m a little squicky about how the holster goes on. In fact, my gun stays in my holster at all times and goes on and off my body holstered. Which means, another important factor is…

The Clip

I don’t always wear belts. I’m a girl, my pants are tight enough that the right clip will hold the holster in place for a draw. I need a tight, sturdy clip that will function without a belt and is low profile. Which brings me to…

Profile

Not just the clip needs to be low profile. I’m a small girl and big holsters bulk up something that is already difficult to carry. The simplicity of the ARC is one of its saving graces for me. A lot of holsters add a bunch of unnecessary leather which may make them more comfortable for some, but make them overwhelmingly large and unmanageable for me.

There are a few things you’ll notice about my approach to holster shopping that have been ironed out over the years:

First of all, I know exactly how I like to carry. I’ve screwed with a lot of different styles, but to be frank I’ve come to the conclusion that if I hit a day my regular carry rig doesn’t work it’s time to look for alternative self-defense options rather than gimmicky gun holsters. This is a very personal decision my training and my frustration with products over the years has led me to.

Next, I know what works for me and what works for other people. I’ve tried those leather/kydex hybrids everyone seems to love, and they don’t work for me. That doesn’t mean they won’t work for you. Just like there’s probably a really good chance a majority of readers don’t drive Mini Cooper JCWs, your holster is a lifestyle choice based off of your needs and no one else’s.

Finally, safety is paramount in my choice. I know the dangers of my carry choices, from what can go wrong with the draw (especially when I’m carrying without a belt) to retention and possible injury when participating in daily activities, all based around holster choice and carry location. It’s a lot to consider, and it takes time, training, and practice to realize what will and won’t work, and what is and isn’t the best for you. There are downsides to any carry style, but understanding the downsides to your choices is an important step in avoiding accidents through precautions, proper training, and proper practice.

I still haven’t found the holster I want, but hey, at least I got a blog post out of it.

Getting back to AIWB with the PHLster Skeleton

Smith & Wesson M&P9 in PHLster Skeleton

In October of last year, I wrote a post about why I’d ditched AIWB carry, the quick summary is “I couldn’t find the right holster/gun combo” to make it comfortable for long periods of time. I’ve periodically messed around with other combos and haven’t found a good fit. Until now.

Continue reading “Getting back to AIWB with the PHLster Skeleton”

Recommended holsters for concealed carry

Galco Summer Comfort and Royal Guard IWB holsters

Ever since I abandoned AIWB carry, getting a good holster has become a lot easier. I just go to Galco’s website and order a Summer Comfort or a Royal Guard for whatever gun it is I need to carry. Problem solved, problem staying solved.

Continue reading “Recommended holsters for concealed carry”

Raven Concealment Systems Eidolon holster

Once again it’s the week of the SHOT show, the trade show where the firearms industry gathers together in Las Vegas to show their wares. New firearms, new optics, new lights, new wonder lubes made from angel tears and Chuck Norris spit…you name it and it’s at the SHOT show.

This year Raven Concealment Systems is debuting a new holster system called the Eidolon. (Pronounced, I’m told, Eye-DOE-lon) Last week they kindly sent me a pre-SHOT sample for testing. I was first introduced to Raven Concealment’s products **inaudiblemumble** years ago at a class with Ken Hackathorn. They made some holsters for us on the spot while the class was ongoing and I was sufficiently intrigued with their modular approach to place an order myself. The concept of having a holster that could work inside the waistband or outside the waistband easily by just changing a couple of pieces of hardware seemed very appealing and once I received my first “Phantom” holster I found that it was quite comfortable in either role to boot. The Phantom’s ability to change from an OWB holster to an IWB, and to have adjustable ride height, proved to be pretty useful.

The new Eidolon takes that idea of a configurable holster Raven originally debuted in the Phantom and steps it up several notches. The basic concept is to have a holster shell to which you affix various attachments in order to work as either an IWB holster or an Appendix Inside the Waist-Band holster…and one that will work for either right or left hand carry. It’s a rather ambitious goal for a holster. So ambitious, in fact, that a healthy dose of skepticism is certainly warranted. I like multi-taskers as much as anybody, but it has been my experience that gear which claims to do several things often doesn’t do any of those things extremely well.

Opening the box reminded me of when I was a kid and my parents bought me one of those Lego sets for some sort of vehicle that I could never quite build right because I never actually looked at the instructions. I should note that the nice folks at Raven Concealment shipped perfectly legible instructions with the Eidolon, but in keeping with my genetic predisposition for instruction manuals I immediately tossed them to the side and started playing with the parts to figure out how it works. (Note: I don’t recommend this as a general practice in life)

Note that the overhooks have a hole in them that allows the hook to pivot if you want it to...which can come in handy.
Note that the overhooks have a hole in them that allows the hook to pivot if you want it to…which can come in handy.

I wanted to set the Eidolon up for right-hand AIWB carry so I installed one of the stabilizing winglets and one of the bumper pads on the holster straight away. One of the keys to a good AIWB holster is the ability to tuck the butt of the pistol into the body so that there isn’t this odd gun-shaped protrusion visible through your covering garment. The trick is finding just the right amount of tuck…too much and the pistol digs into your flesh. Too little and it prints. Different body types, modes of dress, and types of handgun may combine to require different levels of tuck for different individuals. The winglets and the bumper pad can be installed together to get the maximum amount of tuck, or used individually to get a bit less. I like as much tuck as possible so I installed both and for me it makes my Glock 17 disappear under a closed-front garment like a polo shirt or a 1/4 zip pullover as well as my other good quality AIWB holsters.

The Eidolon I received shipped with Raven’s new tuckable overhooks which I’ve been hooking on to the waistband of my pants rather than my belt. I’ve found that they grip aggressively enough to keep the holster attached to the pants even with the most aggressive draw strokes. This also has the unexpected side effect of making the holster print slightly less than my other AIWB holsters because there’s no bulk added by strong belt loops that can show as a very slight bulge under the right circumstances. The tuckable overhooks hold so well they even work with my gym clothes, to the point where I’m seriously considering retiring my belly-band holster and using the Eidolon.

I’ve been tinkering with the configuration of the Eidolon since I received it last Friday afternoon and I’ve been carrying my Glock 17 in the holster every day in as many situations as possible to get a good read on how it works for AIWB carry. I’ve changed the ride height, tuck, the placement of the overhooks, the number of hooks installed on the holster and I’m going to tinker with the winglets in the next few days as well…but in all that tinkering I’ve found the holster to be comfortable. Set up properly it does a good job of concealing the pistol and it does so with comfort. It’s difficult to compare the Eidolon to the comfort of my other AIWB holsters like the SME because I’ve carried in the SME every day for about two years now and I haven’t had the Eidolon for even a full week yet. I’m still working through how I want to set the holster up and where exactly on the waist it needs to ride for you-can-barely-feel-you’re-carrying level comfort…but it’s performing well enough so far that I’m willing to put in the work to get it dialed in.

At the moment as I type this I’m wearing the Eidolon with the single overhook around the trigger guard, the right-hand bumper pad, and the winglet just as it appears in the picture. It’s comfortable and sufficiently invisible that none of the hipsters in this coffee shop have any clue that I’m carrying a Glock 17…although I’m tempted to actually use the Glock to silence whatever electronic device they have pumping this hideous hipster lumberjack music into the store. (NOTE: This is a joke. Humor. I would not actually pull a handgun and shoot a hipster’s stereo…but I think we can all admit that the world would be a better place if I did.)

Getting used to new gear always takes some time and there are always little quirks you find along the way. One of the things I like about the Eidolon is the adjustable retention feature. It’s pretty slick and tensions only on the trigger guard. The quirk to that is when you’re reholstering you meet some resistance right as the pistol is about to be fully seated in the holster. My AIWB-conditioned brain reads a code-red emergency when I feel a sudden increase in resistance during the reholster…especially with a striker-fired pistol like my Glock 17. Ingraining what “normal” feels like will take some time so for now I’m reholstering with exceptional caution and care just because the feel is different than what I’m used to. The upside to the design is that you clear the retention tensioner right at the beginning of the draw stroke and the rest of the draw is fast and slick.

So the big question: Is this worth 99 of your hard earned dollars? My experience so far says yes. It works even when I’m not wearing a belt, and it allows switching to left-handed carry readily. I’ve had issues with my right shoulder and tendinitis in my right arm to the point where I could barely make a fist, much less effectively draw a handgun. With the Eidolon I have a holster that will let me carry left handed AIWB comfortably if I can’t use my right arm properly. Instead of having a dedicated lefty holster I rarely use, I can have an Eidolon that fills multiple roles for my carry needs. It’s apparent that RCS put a lot of thought and engineering into the product and the result is a multitasking holster that is likely to offer good utility for most people.

Right now the Eidolon is only available for the Glock family of pistols, but I would expect that in the relatively near future RCS will expand their offerings to other guns. When they do I’ll likely order one for a Beretta and a 5″ 1911.

Photo of the Day: Raven Concealment Eidolon

RavenEidolon

The folks at Raven Concealment sent me one of their brand new Eidolon holsters for T&E. The holster was unveiled to the public yesterday and I haven’t had enough time with the holster to give a full review. (I will serve no swine before its time…err, I will review no holster before it’s kosher) Expect a full review very soon…

Holster showdown: leather vs kydex for IWB revolver carry

I really like a good plastic holster for competition and OWB carry. But for IWB carry? Not so much. If the holster is going inside my waistband, leather is better. Now, when we’re talking about leather holsters, I’m not talking about cheap, floppy 25 dollar leather holsters. If you’re going to use a leather holster for IWB, it needs to be well made from quality leather by a reputable company. Also, a lot of the points in this article don’t apply if you’re carrying a flat gun, because it has fewer protuberances than a spinny-middle gun.

Galco IWB

I’ve been carrying a full size Ruger GP100 in this Galco Summer Comfort for a while now. When I’m not carrying that, I’ve been rolling with an SP101 in a Blade-Tech kydex IWB holster. While the SP101 in the smaller Blade-Tech is easier to conceal, the full size GP100 in the leather Galco is more comfortable for all day wear, and it’s because of the way the holsters are made.

Kydex holsters are molded for that specific gun; if you look at a kydex revolver holster such as the one pictured below, you’ll notice that the cylinder bulge is molded into the holster. Depending on how the holster’s made and your carry position, this cylinder bulge can cause a number of issues for comfort or concealment. On the leather Galco holster, the cylinder is positioned above the belt line, which makes the holster slightly top heavy and more difficult to conceal, but extremely comfortable for all day wear.

GP100 AIWB

If the cylinder bulge on a kydex holster is positioned directly under the belt line, it can act as a lever that will push the muzzle end of the holster hard into your leg, regardless of your carry position. I’ve forsaken AIWB and gone back to traditional strong-side, behind the hip, IWB carry. In this carry position, every kydex revolver holster I’ve used pushes the muzzle into my fanny/leg area, resulting in a bruise forming after about 4 hours of wear. Needless to say, I’m not into wearing holsters that do that.

If the cylinder rides below the belt line, the gun will have maximum concealability, but then the cylinder bulge itself can act as a pretty awful pressure point, plus the grip on the gun will be dangerously close to the belt line, which will make establishing a full firing grip difficult. All of these experiences with kydex revolver holsters leave me at the conclusion that for concealed carry, leather is better. Now I say that with a sample size of exactly one leather IWB holster, the Galco Summer Comfort. But it’s also the first time I’ve bought a holster for a CCW gun and thought “man I got this right on the first try.” My sample size for kydex IWB has been a lot larger, and I’ve honestly not found a great kydex IWB solution for the round gun. I have a lot of Kydex holsters that I really, really like for OWB carry and competition, just not for IWB revolver carry.

Garrett Industries Silent Thunder OWB Revolver holster

I am going to cut right to the chase here: now that I’ve had the time to practice with it, use it, and really work it, I can say that the Garrett Industries Silent Thunder OWB is the best revolver holster I’ve ever owned.

Garrett Industries Silent Thunder OWB

The holster itself is an interesting idea: take a kydex holster and line it with leather. The name “Silent thunder” comes because your gun doesn’t make any of those tell-tale clicks and clunks that you get drawing from a kydex holster. So you get the draw and re-holstering feel of a leather rig with the durability of a kydex holster. Not a bad deal.

There’s nothing on the interior of the holster to snag your draw, and the gun comes out clean. There’s also nothing to impede your ability to holster, so it’s easy to put the away when you’re done. Retention is acceptable for action shooting activities, and can be tightened down if you’re going to use it for a carry holster. It is an OWB holster, and for a four inch revolver the only realistic carry method is going to be under a vest or jacket. But its footprint is still smaller than equivalent holsters from Safariland and Blade-Tech, which are enormous and basically impossible to conceal without massive printing.

The holster is priced right – 85.00-100ish dollars, depending on options selected. They also make IWB holsters, one of which we have in the office for a seldom carried Kahr PM9. It’s a great holster as well. My experience with the Silent Thunder OWB has made me curious about their AIWB offering, having just ordered a Wiley Clapp SP101 for T&E, I’d like to get a good rig to carry that in. The order process with Garrett is pretty simple: pick the holster you want, type in the gun type and info, pay them. You can even checkout with PayPal, which I love. And yes, if you’re wondering, I actually paid for this holster with money. It’s pretty great, and I’d recommend it to anyone looking for a range/competition holster.

Speaking of holsters

My quest for the perfect revolver holster continues. You’ll remember last year before Indoor Nationals, I talked about making sure my Blade-Tech holster met the IDPA rules for concealment, specifically the dowel rule. If you remember that post, the Blade-Tech holster in its stock configuration failed the dowel test for two reasons: additional offset due to the cylinder bulge, and I’m not 300 pounds. I was able to make it legal by swapping out the BT belt loops on the back of the holster in favor of a Safariland paddle. To be honest, I sort of assumed that putting a Safariland paddle on a Blade-Tech holster would open a portal into the nether, but I was wrong.

Photo by Garret Industries
Photo by Garret Industries

I happened to be browsing Modern Service Weapons and I saw their review of the Garrett Industries Silent Thunder OWB, which happened to be holding a GP100 in their photos. The Silent Thunder is not a holster that’s new to me, Shelley has used one to carry her Kahr PM9 for years now. It’s a great holster – a kydex outer shell that’s lined with leather. I had no idea they made one for the GP100, so I immediately ponied up some cash and ordered one. It should arrive tomorrow.

You know it’s serious when a gunwriter voluntarily pays for something! I kid, of course. But in all seriousness, I’ve liked the IWB versions of the Silent Thunder quite a bit, so I’m hoping this will work out for my needs.

Safariland 5377 GLS Outside Waist Band holster review

This review is about the Safariland 5377-83 GLS OWB (Outside Waist Band) holster for Glock 17s (Glock 19s and 26s will fit as well).  There is a paddle variant of this holster, denoted as the Safariland 5378 and a clip model, the Model 5379.   This model is also known as the “GLS” or Grip Locking System.  The holster is classified as a Level I retention holster in that it can withstand active attempts to remove it for at least five seconds without the safety/retention device enabled.

This holster was generously provided for review by my friend Chris Abernathy of XS Sights.  Since reviewing this, I made sure to purchase one as a gift for my brother, who is now a full time cattle rancher and prefers a retention OWB holster he can rely upon when a’horseback.

The holster is typical Safariland quality, in that it’s (excuse the pun), nearly bullet proof.  Heavy duty plastic, felt lining (not thick felt though), and a sturdy belt slide which is adjustable for cant, three positions.  You may adjust the tension of how securely the weapon is retained with a hex key.  The holster is compatible with all of the Safariland three hole mounting systems.

 

Adjustment for cant is accomplished using one of the three holes at the bottom

Safariland bills this as a concealed carry holster but that is most certainly not the case in real life.  This is the holster to have for anyone considering OWB (outside waist band) carry that doesn’t want a slow draw but does want Level I retention.  The GLS is noticeably thinner than the industry standard (and standard for many police and military) ALS.

 

The GLS and Dark Star Gear OWB compared.  The GLS is much more bulky due to design.  Note the release button on the GLS.

Views showing the weapon inserted and comparison shots.


The silver hex head is how you adjust tension with regards how securely the pistol is held in the holster

Using the GLS is easy and…..instinctive.  Simply bump the button with the knuckle of your middle finger as you draw.  It took me roughly ten dry fire draws before I was drawing and dry firing without thinking about hitting the button.  Reholstering is similarly easy and instinctive but you do have to shove the weapon down into the holster until you feel the retention device engage.

Using sand, Virginia dirt, and talcum powder; I was not able to disable this holster’s locking mechanism (anything can be disabled with enough dirt, I concede).  Adults were not able to wrench the unloaded weapon out of the holster when I was wearing it.  My body was literally pulled and twisted around as folks tried to (in testing) to wrench the pistol out of my holster.

Using my shot timer, I was not able to register a statistical nor perceived difference between the GLS and my “go to” OWB holster; the outstanding Dark Star Gear OWB.  However, using one made me miss the other:

  • Using the GLS made me miss exactly how well the Dark Star Gear OWB hugs my hip.  I really don’t think OWB holsters are “concealed” for the most part but the Dark Star Gear OWB is the best OWB in my “box o’ holsters” for concealment with an untucked shirt.
  • Using the Dark Star Gear OWB made me yearn for the simple, intuitive, and secure GLS retention system.  Once you use it, you “get” the need for it.  You understand WHY? people like retention holsters.

  In the past, I’ve written about a certain trend in the Open Carry movement; that of using the junk SERPA holster or a SERPA knockoff.  Open Carry folks, please consider the GLS.  It’s a whopping fitty bucks or so shipped and at that price, it is worlds better than the SERPA or Uncle Mike’s you normally carry.  It’s even made for the Open Carry movement’s pistol of choice: the Springfield XD.

  Law enforcement personnel, if a Level I retention holster is mandated by your department; This.  Is.  It.  Just get one.  The draw speed is such that you can take your retention duty holster to your local IDPA/USPSA gun games and not miss a beat as you compete with your duty gear.  Hikers, folks who work outdoors, get you one of these.  It’s the ideal retention holster when concealment is not an overriding priority.

  Safariland knocked this one out of the park.  Now if they can follow up on their success and make a true CCW friendly GLS; that would make many gun owners very happy.  Ditch the requirement for the three hole Safariland mounting system capability and just give the holster two belt loops.  It’s OK to make CCW only holsters, Safariland.  Also, Safariland…..please consider working on your website’s layout and navigation.  It’s in desperate need of a refresh. 
I would like to note that I received the GLS holster as a loan and am sending it back to Chris at XS Sights.  The Dark Star Gear OWB was bought and paid for by myself.

Why I put a $700 HK in a $25 nylon holster

If you follow me on Instagram (and you totally should if you booze, cars, guns, and pictures of my dog) you might have seen this photo and caption:

HK VP9 Blackhawk nylon holster

I’ve never been more ashamed of a holster than I am of this. I’m so sorry, HK for putting your excellent VP9 in this holster. I needed a rig that fit the gun with a Crimson Trace Railmaster.

Continue reading “Why I put a $700 HK in a $25 nylon holster”