The ShapeShift Modular Holster System from Alien Gear is just that, a system. The ShapeShift starter kit comes with all the parts necessary to make four holster configurations: a standard inside-the-waistband (IWB) holster, an appendix IWB holster, an outside-the-waistband (OWB) belt slide holster, and an OWB paddle holster. Reviewers have compared the system to a Lego kit for people who need concealed carry options.
Alien Gear founder and CEO Thomas Tedder says the ShapeShift modular holster concept grew out of the company's switch from thermoforming its holsters to making them from injection-molded polymer. "At the same time that we started using injection molding, we also built an engineering department with the goal of making our parts better, and we started experimenting with design," he says.
The company's expanded engineering capabilities also included rapid prototyping on high-end 3D printers. Tedder says he set a goal of producing a stronger shell with a smaller footprint than thermoformed shells. The shell is the envelope of material that actually covers the gun in a holster. "The shell we developed was barely larger than the handgun itself," he says. "And once we got that shell shrunk down, we came to realize that it could do just about anything really well. It could be mounted in a variety of configurations." That shell was the foundation for the ShapeShift concept.
But it took about two years from idea to engineering to prototyping to create the ShapeShift system that is now on the market. "We went through hundreds and hundreds of iterations of designs," Tedder says. "That's the benefit of our fast prototyping capabilities. We can have an idea, 3D model it, 3D print it, test it, and later that day reject it and have a new prototype to test."
One of the reasons the ShapeShift went through so many iterations is that Tedder insisted that it be comfortable to wear. "That was the main project of one of our engineers for a whole year," he says. "We wanted to get the cut of the fabric and the design of the plastic just perfect. So I'd wear it for a while, and I'd tell him it was 'pinchy.' He got really tired of hearing that. But the result is that this is the most comfortable and concealable holster system on the market."
Tedder says the key to making the ShapeShift comfortable is not just its smaller size compared to similar holsters. "It's flexible and it's breathable," he says. "We put a neoprene backer on our holsters to make them easier to wear, and the neoprene is perforated so it breathes."
In addition to its comfort benefits, Tedder says the ShapeShift offers substantial economic benefits to Alien Gear customers. "Why buy four complete holsters for as much as $200 (total) when they are the exact same shell with different backs? For under $100, our starter kit lets you carry in four different configurations with one shell and four backs."
Alien Gear offers much more in the ShapeShift line than just the starter kit. The company currently offers all the holsters in the starter kit for individual purchase as well as an ankle holster, a MOLLE holster, a drop leg holster, and a backpack holster. "You can buy one holster and every expansion kit will work with it," Tedder says. "People really love buying the expansion kits. We have customers that buy each expansion kit as it gets released." Tedder says the company plans to release five or six new ShapeShift expansion packs later this year.