Photos courtesy of Blackhawk.

Photos courtesy of Blackhawk.

Nearly a decade ago retention holsters, especially Level III retention holsters, had a reputation for being somewhat difficult to use. Many of them involved the shooter performing a series of complex manipulations before the holster would release the gun. Then a wide variety of retention holsters started to be developed by leading manufacturers that featured simple release mechanisms.

One of the best retention systems on the market is Blackhawk's SERPA mechanism. Unlike a lot of retention holsters designed for law enforcement, the SERPA actually facilitates a proper drawing motion. The release button on the SERPA is on the side of the holster, and the release and draw motion results in a proper grip and also makes it easy for the shooter to index his or her trigger finger safely alongside the frame and ready to fire.

Because of its innovative design, the SERPA was a hit, and it even won some awards. But there was one drawback to the SERPA retention holster: Its mechanism did not work with most weapon lights. Blackhawk produced a SERPA for pistols with lights, but it would only work with the Blackhawk Xiphos model light. Officers who used popular weapons lights from Streamlight and SureFire could not use Blackhawk retention holsters.

A little more than two years ago, Blackhawk started working on a solution for this problem. Holster developer Eric Yeates and his team of designers produced the Epoch, a new kind of Blackhawk Level III retention holster that works with the market's most popular pistol lights.

Liam Yarbrough, ATK-Blackhawk's product marketing manager for holsters, says Blackhawk decided to develop a new retention holster because of customer demand. "People would come up to us at trade shows and say, 'I love your SERPA holster, but I really want to use my light with it.'"

Creating a holster that would meet that demand was easier said than done. Yarbrough explains that the primary retention system of the SERPA holster could not be modified to work with most weapon lights. "The way the SERPA engages in the trigger guard just doesn't allow for enough purchase with a non-Blackhawk light to use that mechanism. The throw has to be far enough to pass the light and then come back into the trigger guard, which is why the Blackhawk Xiphos was designed with an offset."

Blackhawk decided that the solution was to develop a completely new retention system. The Epoch uses an opposing wedge system that works with most weapon lights.

In the Epoch system, a wedge engages from the side of the holster and locks into the ejection port. The wedge is released when the shooter grips the pistol to draw and pushes down on a plunger with his or her thumb. This releases both of the holster's primary retention mechanisms, the Pivot Guard, which covers the top of the pistol, and the wedge, which locks into the ejection port. In addition to these mechanisms, the holster also features a tension adjustment screw.

The new Blackhawk Epoch holster is available in matte, basket weave, and plain finishes. It is not produced in high gloss because, according to Yarbrough, Blackhawk has not found a manufacturing solution that would meet the requirements of law enforcement. Epoch holsters are expected to ship this summer.