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Retention Holster Showdown

A veteran use-of-force trainer scores the latest duty "leather" on retention, comfort, and ease of draw.

September 01, 2007  |  by Steve Ashley - Also by this author


The Max Safe Holster Level III from DeSantis has a very high-tech look about it. It's solidly built from a combination of materials that make it look like it would survive being run over by a truck.

Unfortunately, solid construction has its drawbacks as well as its benefits. The Max Safe is both the shortest and the heaviest of the holsters that I tested for this article.

The DeSantis Max Safe has the most complicated design of any Level III duty holster that I have used. It is not adjustable for cant but has a slight forward angle incorporated into its design.

As for its retention concept, that's where things really get complicated. The weapon is holstered by pushing it straight down into the holster, then rocking it back to engage a security device around the trigger guard. Once this is done, you manipulate a large flap of material, sort of like an overgrown strap that wraps around the front of the pistol rather than over the hammer. This flap incorporates two retention snaps, one that functions as a thumb-break, and the other—set farther rearward on the inside surface of the holster—that is released by your middle finger during a draw. Re-securing a weapon takes some effort and several distinct movements. It took some time for me to master it, as the holster has very tight tolerances. This may become easier if and when the holster loosens up.

To draw the weapon, you unsnap the thumb-break with the edge of your thumb, then you release the finger break with your middle finger. The pistol must then be rocked forward in order to clear the locking device in the trigger guard. Unless the pistol is rocked forward, it cannot be pulled straight up and out of the holster.

This is a very sturdy and workmanlike design, but I found it the most difficult to use and the most uncomfortable to draw from. After several draw/reholstering cycles my hands were pretty sore.

Gould & Goodrich

The Gould & Goodrich K-Force Triple Retention Duty Holster Model K380-226 is well constructed with a three-position adjustment on the belt loop that allows you to change the cant of the holster.

It also has a nice fit on the handgun when holstered. The strap is a stiff, rubbery type that attaches to the outside surface of the holster and extends straight up. To secure the weapon, you fold the strap over the hammer with a cupped hand and then squeeze to snap it. Snapping is a little awkward at first, as the strap apparently has no "memory," but it becomes more natural after a few tries.

When the firearm is holstered, a latch engages the trigger guard. To release the weapon, you pop the strap loose with your thumb, then continue your thumb's downward motion onto a plunger device on the rear surface of the holster. The plunger is pushed down and slightly to the rear as you assume a shooting grip, and the weapon is then drawn straight up and out of the holster. No twisting or rocking is required.

The mechanism is simple to operate and appears to hold the pistol securely. The weapon can be easily drawn despite the three retention elements: the thumb-break strap, the downward action of the plunger, and the rearward action of the plunger.


Safariland sent two holsters for this article. Both of the test holsters were Safariland Model 6360 ALS Level II Plus Retention Holsters. One of them has the optional Sentry feature, which boosts its retention level from Level II Plus to Level III Plus.

Both of the Safariland holsters that I tested are well made and have a nice finished look to them. Both are equipped with Safariland's UBL, or Universal Belt Loop. The UBL has a stripped down, basic look to it, really looking more like an old-fashioned belt "slot" than a loop. However, it works well in practice and is engineered in such a way that it removes the need for tensioning screws to hold the holster stationary on your duty belt.

The 6360 has several retention features. The most obvious is a strap with a false snap that acts as a pivot for the "hood" action of the strap. When the strap is swiveled up and into position, it latches into place and is then released by pushing down on a plunger on the back side of the holster.

Retention device number two is the ALS (Automatic Locking System), which is an internal mechanism that locks into the pistol's ejection port.

The third retention device is the optional Sentry feature. This is a rolling block lever that moves under the thumb-break plunger, preventing it from being pushed down. The Sentry does not move easily, requiring some effort to slide it out of the locked position. An officer on the street might opt to leave it in the unlocked position, unless going into a crowded environment or during prisoner transport.

To draw your pistol from the Safariland Model 6360 ALS Level III Plus, you first move the Sentry rearward to the unlocked position, then push down on the plunger, and swivel the hooded strap forward (there is no snap to undo). Then the ALS lever is moved slightly to the rear, releasing the ejection port, and the weapon is drawn straight up and out of the holster. There is no twisting or rocking required.

This process sounds more complicated than it is. In reality, I was able to draw fairly quickly after just a few practice tries. Reholstering was even smoother: just push the weapon down into the holster, and swivel the hooded strap into place. The Sentry is locked last.

One additional feature of the Safariland Model 6360 ALS Level III Plus is a hood guard, which extends slightly above the holster and is curved to prevent a suspect from "chopping" his or her hand downward to release the thumb-break. I noticed that the position of the hood guard forced me to properly position my hand and thumb for a rapid draw, which is an added bonus.

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