Who would have thought years ago that the hunk of hardened and shaped leather we wear on our hips would evolve from a simple holster into a high-tech, lightweight firearm retention device? Not me.

Back then I had a push-button clamshell rig and figured it would last me through the next 20 years. It didn't. In lineup, before hitting the field, the new sport became reaching over to your buddy's holster and pushing the button. The sound of the spring-loaded outer clamshell popping open and the revolver striking the floor got everyone's attention. Thank goodness there were no accidental discharges.

But it made a lot of us think. If Officer "Jerry Lewis" could make my gun drop to the floor so easily, so could a not so funny bad guy.

Next in level of importance of safety equipment to your firearm is your duty holster. Every year a tragic number of officers are gunned down with their own weapons, after street thugs or deranged subjects grab their holsters.

This is why many of the leading manufacturers of duty holsters have put so much time and effort into upgrading the security features on their products. Using high-tech materials and innovative designs, holster makers have created a number of models that enhance weapon retention without hindering the wearer's ability to draw and fire quickly and accurately.

The following is a gallery of some of the best new duty holsters available to law enforcement officers. As detailed in the discussion of their features, these holsters display some of the latest innovations in design and materials.

If you're a working cop out on the mean streets and you're concerned about weapon retention, maybe it's time to break out the cutting torch, open your wallet, and get yourself a state-of-the-art, 21st-century duty rig.

Aker Leather Products
Blue Line

Aker Leather Products' "Blue Line" holsters were developed to meet the demanding requirements of a major U.S. federal agency. Each Blue Line is fitted with a thumb break retention strap that is backed up by an adjustable tension screw at the trigger guard. It attaches to the standard equipment belt (21/4 inches) with a steel-reinforced leather drop-loop hanger. The Blue Line is available in a standard or high-ride configuration, and is available for most semiautos. This Nichols design holster is made of top-quality cowhide and features a heavy-duty leather overlay that reinforces the rig at key points. The suede protects your gun's finish and a full-length sight channel protects your front sight from damage and misalignment.

Bianchi International
SL3.2.1 SpeedLok Holster

Bianchi’s new SL3.2.1 SpeedLok Holster brings duty weapon security to a whole new level. You can actually lift an officer off the ground by the butt of his or her gun and never get the holster to release the gun without pushing the SpeedLok Lever. You just holster your duty weapon, and it’s secured. There is no requirement for engaging any external devices. Equally important, with SpeedLok, there is no requirement for can-ting, twisting, turning, or contorting of the duty weapon as part of the drawing motion. You simply deactivate the SpeedLok device and use a natural, straight up draw. The SL3.2.1 SpeedLok Holster is available in Accumold and Accumold Elite for just about any standard duty weapon.

DeSantis Holster and Leather Goods
Bike Patrol Holste

DeSantis Holster and Leather Goods has introduced a new Bike Patrol holster. The rig is designed primarily to meet the needs of bicycle patrols but is also ideal for warm climates and coastal environments. Don’t let the name fool you; the Bike Patrol is just as at home in a patrol car as it is on a bike. It is lightweight but very substantial. The holster comes in Level II retention as the Model N-52 or in Level III protection as the Model N-57. It is made of padded ballistic nylon with a hard synthetic outer shell and mounted on a tough engineered synthetic belt hanger. The Bike Patrol is available for most Beretta, Glock, SiG, and Smith & Wesson autoloaders.

Gould and Goodrich
K-Force with M-6 Light

Gould and Goodrich’s K-Force holsters are constructed with a weatherproof polymer laminate and are extremely durable and scuff resistant. All K-Force duty holsters and accessories are hard molded to take the kind of punishment law enforcement personnel dish out. The K-Force holster for weapons equipped with the Streamlight M-6 combination Tactical Light and Laser, Model K-370, is grab-resistant, yet allows rapid draw with a simple twist-then-up motion. This mid-ride rig fits belts to 21/4 inches, has a channel to protect your weapon’s front sight, and is suede lined. The K-Force duty belt will not sag with the weight of a weapon and all the other gear we wear into the field. This holster is available for the Glock 17, Glock 20, and the Beretta 92FS Vertec.

Levitation Raptor Holster

The new Safariland Levitation Raptor Holster incorporates the company’s famous SLS (Self Locking System) and features the same draw action as the popular SS3 model. This is a level III retention rig that can be equipped as a level IV with the addition of the optional Sentry locking device and hood guard accessory. The Levitation Raptor is designed with a molded ejection port insert that locks upon reholstering and releases with a middle finger tab. Safariland’s Levitation System is a revolutionary new belt, holster, and accessory system for duty wear. It’s light, secure, and it immediately contours to your body for comfort. When you wear the Levitation system, nothing touches your body but the Velcro belt. There is no point of contact to allow pinching, rubbing, or irritation. The flexibility of the molded tubes makes the system comfortable for both male and female officers.

Uncle Mike’s Law Enforcement
Pro-3 Duty Holster

Uncle Mike’s Pro-3 duty holster positively locks the gun to make snatching it extremely difficult, but the wearer can work the thumb break and draw the gun cleanly and smoothly without the need to release any complicated system of snaps and straps. The Pro-3 has an internal locking device, a thumb break, and an adjustable internal tensioning device. For support, strength, and rigidity, the holster is suspended within a thermoplastic exoskeleton. Additionally, a molded sight track protects the front sight and reduces holster wear. In response to popular demand among agencies that wear green uniforms and from officers who are being tapped for “peace keeping duties” overseas, Uncle Mike’s has just introduced the Pro-3 and a number of its basic components in OD Green.

Sgt. Dave Douglas of the San Diego Police Department is an expert on handgun leather and a POLICE magazine contributing editor.