Editor’s Note: Just yesterday I enjoyed a conversation with a family member about “the best way to carry concealed.” Since “the best way” is a personal choice and often circumstance dependent, I felt it might be good to republish this article. All comments and observations are appreciated.
In the past week, I’ve received a couple of emails requesting information about retention holsters for off-duty or plainclothes use. In an ideal world, a holster with equal retention features to our duty holsters, but easily hidden and immensely comfortable would be easy to find. Unfortunately, we don’t live in an ideal world. The best we can hope to find is a holster that is comfortable; that secures the weapon to our satisfaction; and from which we can present the weapon without delay.
In pondering this review, I had to use the off-duty holsters that I have available. So, this week we’re going to take a look at an Uncle Mike’s Kydex dual retention holster; a BlackHawk CQC SERPA dual retention holster; a DeSantis Chek-Mate dual retention holster; and an Uncle Mike’s Pro3 triple retention Off-Duty holster.
Let’s start out with the Uncle Mike’s Kydex dual retention holster. Now I should state from the beginning that I like a holster that provides a passive but positive retention feature. I like being able to jam my gun into my holster and know that something is holding there besides gravity. The formed Kydex holsters – from all of the major manufacturers – offer this feature: the kydex is semi-molded to fit the weapon and “grabs” the gun when you push it into the holster. Other design features that secure the weapon are additional and can be engaged as time permits dependent on circumstance.
That said, this Uncle Mike’s Kydex dual retention holster utilizes the following security features:
1) the kydex grip as just described, and
2) a trigger guard hook that engages upon holstering the weapon.
To disengage the trigger guard hook, you use the middle finger of your weapon hand. As you grip the weapon your middle finger pushes the lock-lever in toward your body, thus disengaging the trigger guard hook and allowing you to draw the weapon.
The holster fits most belts up to 1.75″ and rides in a straight vertical position – no cant either way. Due to the design of the weapon, this puts the gun a little higher on the belt than I prefer, but that’s mostly due to the few extra pounds I have around my middle. Another officer made the observation that even someone more fit than myself – if they were wearing a vest – might find this uncomfortable. My response was: This holster wasn’t designed for duty wear. If you’re in uniform and wearing a vest… or if you’re working a plainclothes assignment that is of sufficient risk that you’re wearing a vest, this probably isn’t the right holster selection. All in all a serviceable and comfortable holster. It secured my G26, G19, G36 and G17 (bluegun) equally well. I was surprised that it held the G36 since the dimensions are slightly different than the 9mm models – but it was a pleasant surprise and added to the versatility of this holster.
Moving on, the BlackHawk CQC SERPA dual retention holster is next. As you can see in the photo below, the CQC SERPA holster offers two types of retention:
1) the form of the carbon-fiber grips the weapon and that grip can be adjusted via a tension screw, and
2) the SERPA active retention system that automatically engages when you holster your weapon.
I have to admit that I think BlackHawk did a great job on this holster. One of their family of companies – the Delta Design Group guys – did an excellent job. The carbon fiber body has proven stronger than kydex in brute-force testing, and the SERPA retention device is just as strong if not stronger. I took one of my CQC SERPA holster for a 1911 and drilled an extra hole in it below the SERPA device – immediately below the tension screw. Through that I threaded some 550 cord which I attached to 1/2″ rope and hung the whole thing from a tree in my backyard. Into that holster I put a 1911 blue gun and began to perform a couple of pull ups. On the third one the blue gun broke. To me that indicated that the holster was plenty strong enough.
To make things easier on the end user, BlackHawk sells these holsters with both paddle and belt mounts. The pancake mount you see here is available only for the Glock holsters (last I checked) and conforms nicely to the wearer’s body. This is a holster that I highly recommend and wear regularly. In fact, this design has been beefed up somewhat for use as a tactical holster and I’m eager to try my hand at breaking that one. Report to follow. The CQC SERPA that I have to fit my G19 also fits my G26, G17 (bluegun) and G36. It goes without saying (and applies to the first holster as well) that these holsters will fit all Glock 9mm, .40S&W and .357Sig weapons (except the G34 & G35 – it MAY fit them but I haven’t tested it with either and don’t want to say that it will for sure).
Next on the list is the DeSantis Chek-Mate dual retention pancake holster. What makes this holster stand out as a plainclothes duty hoslter is that it retains the brown leather finish while incorporating a secondary retention device. Like most holsters, tension is one form of security and the Chek-Mate has an easily accessible tension screw that you can adjust to make the holster fit your weapon tighter or a little looser to fit your preference. In addition to that tension, there is also a rather unique trigger guard hook. It’s unique in that the release mechanism isn’t at the bottom of the trigger guard as you might expect, but instead is located at the top of the holster where it’s easily disengaged by your weapon hand thumb.
So if you’re interested in a dual retention holster for investigative or administrative duties, the Chek-Mate may be perfect for you. This is such a new DeSantis design that they didn’t have any on display at the SHOT Show last January. There should be plenty of them now though and you shouldn’t have any trouble getting one from your local holster dealer.
That brings us to the last, but not least, off-duty / plainclothes holster: the Uncle Mike’s Pro3 triple retention pancake holster. Last week I made the statement that the Pro3 is one of my favorite duty holsters – and indeed it is. There are a great many holsters in use today. Some triple retention holsters require that the shooter push the gun out of the holster to the rear to complete the draw. Under stress, in a gunfight where injury / threat is immediate and imminent, the body’s natural reaction is to collapse forward to increase the thickness of the muscle tissue in front of the large organs. If the body is collapsing forward, how is a police officer supposed to draw a weapon to the rear? It certainly can be done – and the answer is lots of training.
Shown here side by side with the Pro3 duty holster, the off-duty version looks remarkably similar. The off-duty version is a bit bulkier than a standard Uncle Mike’s nylon pancake holster, but that’s due to the structure they had to incorporate into the holster. First, there is no way for this holster to collapse. Holstering is always easy because the mouth of the holster is held open by the internal design of the holster. Tension is adjustable via the screws on the outside of the holster body. The thumb-snap strap is completely adjustable so that you can position the break where you want it. Some prefer it higher or lower than others. Just like with the Pro3 duty holster, once the snap has been opened, you have to turn the grips into your body and draw the weapon straight up. Now, again, if you’re a bit pudgy or wearing a vest, that might inhibit an easy draw.
In testing this holster I got out my usual collection of Glocks as listed previously: G17 (bluegun), G19, G26 and G36. It fits and secures all of them with one required change for the G36 – that being an adjustment to the thumbsnap strap to give it just a bit more length. Still, again, if this holster fits all the Glock 9mm, .40S&W, .357Sig and at least one .45ACP, it’s pretty versatile. As yet I don’t have a Glock 37, 38 or 39 (in .45GAP), but I see no reason why these holsters wouldn’t also fit those weapons as they utitilize the same size 9mm/.40 frame.
So, four off-duty or plainclothes use holsters that offer you more than a pouch with a strap at the top. Each of these holters offers at least two levels of retention and one offers three. Pick whichever best suits your needs. I know what I’ll be wearing off-duty… The BlackHawk CQC SERPA holster might as well stay threaded onto my belt simply by virtue of how light and strong it is. The Uncle Mike’s Pro3 pancake is next. It’ll be interesting to see what design upgrades either of these manufacturers incorporate in the future.
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