When to Change a Holster
In many cases, departments consider duty gear to be a one-time purchase, meaning the purchase should last the officer’s entire 20- to 25-year career, under normal circumstances.
The problem with this approach is that it doesn’t account for advancements in duty gear technology. In recent years, we have not only seen a variety of new retention holsters, we have also seen a growing demand for lighter, more comfortable duty belts.
The following is a training regimen that we would recommend you follow when transitioning to a new holster.
Start with a basic orientation. If an entire unit or agency is switching its gear, this can be accomplished in a classroom. But a single officer making a transition to a new, agency-approved holster should also follow this procedure.
To keep things simple, we’re going to address the rest of this section to individual officers. If you are a trainer or supervisor, you will easily be able to adapt these training instructions to suit the needs of your officers.
Make sure that you know how the holster operates, how to draw and reholster, and how the holster needs to be placed/stabilized on the duty belt in conjunction with other duty equipment.
Once you understand the operation of the holster, it’s time to practice drawing and reholstering your weapon. It’s critical that you build skills drawing and reholstering before progressing to more complicated training.
After you have achieved proficiency with basic drawing and reholstering from the new holster, it’s time to work on non-traditional drawing positions and support hand drawing drills. Since not all drawing and reholstering of the firearm is going to take place in a standing position or with the strong hand, alternative drawing positions and draws must be practiced prior to real-world confrontations where both operator and equipment limitations may lead to tragedy.
Remember that when you are on the job, unless you are plainclothes, you will be wearing a full uniform and your ballistic vest and duty gear. You need to make absolutely certain that you can draw your weapon from your new holster in the field and that none of your gear or clothing will impede your draw or your reholstering.
So once you are comfortable drawing and reholstering your firearm from your new holster, put on your uniform and your vest, outerwear, gear, and gloves. Now practice drawing and reholstering from a variety of positions and stances. We call this the “dress rehearsal.”
You are now ready for the most important phase of the transitional training. Can you draw and reholster your weapon quickly and effectively under stress during an unchoreographed, unrehearsed simulation? Have some friends work up a role-playing scenario or use a simulator for this test. If you can draw and reholster your weapon successfully under stress, then you and your holster are now truly ready for the street.
Putting It All Together
Buying a new holster for yourself or for an entire department is not a task to be taken lightly. The holster must be evaluated for safety, durability, appearance, and, most importantly, utility. Then, once the holster is selected and acquired, you will have to train with it until drawing and reholstering are second nature.
If you are a trainer, supervisor, or administrator who is outfitting a number of officers with new holsters, you should keep in mind the professional management paradigm. The rule here is that maximum officer preparedness can be achieved by choosing equipment, in this case, holsters, with protocols that provide a fair and comprehensive evaluation, by requiring officers to train with the new equipment before using it in the field, and by making sure that each officer has adequate supervision.
But please remember that all officers are still responsible for their own safety. Each individual officer needs to take the equipment in hand, use it, evaluate it, train with it, and properly place/stabilize it on his or her belt in conjunction with other equipment.
Dave Young has served more than 20 years as a military and civilian law enforcement officer. He is the director of specialized programs for the Tactical Training Division of Fox Valley (Wis.) Technical College and a member of the Police Advisory Board.
Gary T. Klugiewicz served 25 years with the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Department, retiring with the rank of captain. He is the director of training for the Tactical Training Division of Fox Valley (Wis.) Technical College.