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Doug  Wyllie

Doug Wyllie

Doug Wyllie has authored more than 1,000 articles and tactical tips aimed at ensuring that police officers are safer and more successful on the streets. Doug is a Western Publishing Association “Maggie Award” winner for Best Regularly Featured Digital Edition Column. He is a member of International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA), an Associate Member of the California Peace Officers’ Association (CPOA), and a member of the Public Safety Writers Association (PSWA).

Lou Salseda

Lou Salseda

Lou Salseda is a retired LAPD sergeant with 34 years of law enforcement experience. He is the chief instructor of TAC-1 Defensive Firearms Training in Santa Clarita, Calif., and is a consultant for law enforcement training and litigation.

Nick Jacobellis

Nick Jacobellis

Nick Jacobellis is a medically retired U.S. Customs Agent and former New York police officer who was physically disabled in the line of duty while working undercover as a federal agent.

Should You Consider a Custom Holster?

A holster fitted snugly to your sidearm gives you another edge against the bad guy.

August 12, 2010  |  by Brian Ostro - Also by this author

Black Hills Leather's Police Duty Holster is designed for law enforcement agencies. Photo via Black Hills.

For the street officer and the plainclothes detective, the handgun is the go-to weapon of choice because it is portable and convenient. Much debate and discussion has been given to pistol selection, but much less has been devoted to holster options.

What you carry is no less important than what you carry it in and how you deploy it in action. Before a possible engagement begins, keeping the handgun out of the hands of the bad guy is a priority. Being surprised by the bad guy is bad enough; being surprised by the bad guy because of poor holster selection is unacceptable.

For the street officer and those able to carry in plain sight, the handgun is carried on the belt. The visible handgun presents a more difficult retention challenge for the officer as well as a tempting prize for the assailant. For those who carry on the belt in plain sight, a Level II holster is by far the best option.

Level II holsters provide two levels of retention. The first level is a thumb break (button or velcro), followed by a rocking motion or tacticle action that unlocks or disjoints the internal locking mechanism and allows for a quick and smooth draw, while at the same time, preventing the assailant from retaining the gun if he or she should successfully breach the thumb break.

I have seen literally hundreds of these holster types on the market. They are made for the most successful pistol lines for virtually every model of Glock, Sig Sauer, Beretta and Smith & Wesson. The problem is that Level II holsters require a lot of practice to achieve a smooth and quick draw. While quickly navigating the two layers of retention, this takes a lot of practice, particularly when using a generic holster, regardless whether its made of genuine leather, synthetic fabrics, or Kydex polymer.

Enter the custom holster, which I think you should consider. Even if you're a plainclothes detective with a pistol that's hidden from plain sight or want to carry concealed while off duty, you should still prioritize, especially if the fit of the holster does a better job of preventing your rig from printing through clothing and being a possible liability by giving you away.

Although many private holster makers exist, the term custom does not necessarily mean a holster made to order. Galco, Safariland, Bianchi and High Noon offer police holster lines that are made to higher standards of specification and with better materials or options in mind. Fit and finish are given extra attention, resulting in a better eventual contour fit to your belt, body, and gun, once the rig is "broken in."

These better levels of tolerance in the manufacturing allow you to breach the two levels of retention with a smoother action, resulting in a confident and quick on-target draw.

Think of these custom lines as you would a custom shop from a gunmaker or carmaker. Police shooting competitors practice with Kimber and Springfield Armory 1911s from the aforementioned gunmakers' custom shops in the same way that race-car drivers prefer the Mercedes Benz AMG line of custom cars.

While holsters from the "custom" lines of such holster makers as Galco and Safariland can cost 20 to 50 percent more than their respective "generic" lines for the same model of pistols, I think they should be given consideration by those serious about practicing and gaining every possible advantage against the bad guy.

Whether you carry in plain sight on a duty belt, or concealed in a plainclothes or off-duty situation, quick retention and presentation/draw are universally important.

A quality holster that offers better fit, finish, and attention to detail should be given serious consideration. As always, please check with your agency or commanding officer as to the approved options for holsters. You may find that the extra cost is well worth it.

Comments (4)

Displaying 1 - 4 of 4

[email protected] @ 8/13/2010 12:46 PM

Yep! I've seen it happen so many times that worries me: guy buys an excellent gun and then slips it into a cheap holster; wearing an even cheaper belt! That's the "penny wise-dollar-fool" mentality at work. The excuse I hear most is: "Well, duh, I spent too much money in the gun, I bought the holster and belt with what was left..." My immediate recommendation: purchase a good-quality/medium-price gun first and get a custom made/custom produced holster and belt for it. There are a lot of excellent 1911's models out there, at a fair price. In time the holster will break-in nicely (an still be in great shape) so it will be ready for the top-of-the-line pistol you always wanted. The same principle applies to several other pistol and revolver models. I own several quality-made holsters that are well over a decade old and still look, work and feel great. One of them is a "Mitchell" (that's the trademark Mitch Rosen used many moons ago). Another of my holsters is made by Kramer. Both were worn daily on better quality "gun" belts. The only thing that has changed is my belt sizes - Then they were in the mid 30's. Now they are in the "major caliber" classification. But still in excellent shape (I'm talking about the holsters). So, go and get the best holster/belt combination your money can buy.. always. You'll never be sorry. Follow the advise in the article. It is based on solid foundation.

walkin' trails @ 8/21/2010 5:57 AM

Custom leather made by an established gunleather manufacturer, such as Milt Sparks, Alessi , El Paso Saddelry, or Blade Tech will last a lot longer than the lower priced stuff. The initial investment is higher than the mass produced gear, but its not money you'll have to spend every year to replace broken or worn out gear.

CAPT.M.BOHANNON JR @ 2/2/2013 1:42 AM

Been in Law Enforcement now for about 27 yrs.,I. dbl and tripple retention holsters...PERIOD!!!!!!

DaraHolsters @ 10/6/2014 11:43 AM

Our company makes custom made to order Kydex Level II Duty Holsters. The first level of retention is the military grade rubber retention system, this is completely adjustable. The Second is the ever reliable thumb throw retention system.
While it is true that you have to practice to have a quick smooth draw with a Level II retention holster, it is well worth the money in the long run to invest in a quality holster. We have many customers who have tried every cheap holster under the sun, only to learn that they should have bought a more expensive quality product to begin with.

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