Sunday, October 18, 2009
Strong side hip holsters make my pistol readily available to my strong side hand. I am right handed, thus I carry on my right side. If need be I can also draw with my left hand because I make sure to carry in a holster I can reach with either hand. This is an important consideration when carrying a pistol because if you are ever in a confrontation in which either hand is injured and put out of commission you will need to use the other hand. Become proficient using both hands for drawing and firing. A strong side hip holster has other advantages. These include being able to protect regarding weapons retention. Having a pistol in something like an ankle holster makes it almost impossible to protect in a grappling scenario. Hip holsters provide just about the strongest retention factors. In addition when drawing from a hip holster you can bring your weapon to fire almost immediately upon clearing leather with a reasonable chance of hitting your target. Drawing is also fastest, in my opinion, from a strong side holster. Neither of the last two traits come to play with ankle, shoulder, groin or cross draw holsters. As a matter of fact, when drawing from cross draw holsters your weapon has to swing around in front of you before you fire at a target in front of you. If you are close in to an opponent this is a good time for him to try a take-away. With a strong side hip holster I can draw with an opponent close in by simultaneously doing a push off and drawing. That is very difficult with a cross draw holster and almost impossible to effectively perform while you are drawing from either an ankle holster or a groin holster.
Besides my preference for strong side hip holsters, there are some other things to consider regardless of where you position your holster. You want to assure that whatever holster you buy for carry purposes has at least one active retention device (a device that requires action on your part to free it so you can draw). I prefer a thumb break holster with snap lock. This type of holster, if in good repair, assure I will not drop my handgun while running, climbing, crawling, tumbling and so forth. It also makes a gun take away harder for the person trying to get it and easier for you to retain. Of course, the thumb snap/thumb break provides just about the minimal benefit among holster retention devices. There are other holsters out there providing much more security regarding firearms' retention. Some of these are single device type, others have two or three retention devices. I tend to shy away from them because it means that it is so much the more complicated to draw my weapon. I see guys at work with holsters that have triple retention devices and I wonder how in hades they are ever going to draw with the weak hand should their strong hand be injured in combat. Yeah, they can do it at the range, but it sometimes requires fiddling, squirming and twisting to do so. On the other hand, it makes it all that much more difficult for a bad guy to take your gun away from you if you are wearing one of them.
I also insist on buying a holster that attaches to the outside of my belt by loops and that rides high - both features that help with firearm retention and with ease draw and holstering to some degree. I will never use a clip-on holster or a paddle holster if one that attaches to my belt by way of the belt threading through it is available. It makes it that much harder for someone to grab the whole holster, give a good twisting yank, and come away with my holster and gun in his hands. It also makes it much less likely that when I draw, in an attempt to protect myself, the whole holster will not come with the gun. I have seen this time and time again with clip-on and paddle type holsters. When it comes to belt loops on a holster I much prefer ones that are designed as part of the holster body itself as opposed to ones that are more like flaps sewn onto the holster. Design is key here but sometimes I will accept a holster with the sewn on belt loop because I know that the stitching is of the highest quality. Even then I insist that at least one of the belt loops (yes I want more than one loop to attach my belt to my holster) is of the type that is integral to the body of the holster and not just a sewn on flap pf leather. That way even if someone rips away that flap while trying to get my pistol while still in the holster - it is unlikely that it will come way because the other loop is part of the holster body - that is of course if I am wearing a good quality belt because a poor quality belt can break just as readily as a belt loop on the holster. One big advantage of the type of holster with a flap type loop and an integral type loop is that it can be reinforced along the front of the mouth of the holster thereby assuring that the holster is less likely to collapse and close in after you draw. While this also can be done to a pancake holster to some degree it is much more feasible on this type of holster. The holster pictured above is a Don Hume Enforcer and is of the type just described.
Another option I strive to have in all of my carry holsters is a good lining. A lining inside a holster adds to the overall strength of the holster. it helps assure that the holster will retain its shape longer and thereby last longer. If made of the right material (usually some sort of suede) it helps assure less holster wear to the finish of the pistol. Besides protecting the gun from holster wear - a good liner also helps with pistol retention should a retention device like a thumb snap ever come undone. The liner usually assures that the pistol fits in the holster more snugly and this is a plus should the retention device ever come undone.
An open bottom to the holster is another feature that I prefer. Closed bottom holsters keep out debris - at least prevents debris from entering the holster from the bottom but closed bottom also retains debris that has entered from the top. If you use a closed bottom holster, especially in winter when wearing sweaters that produce lint, make sure to vacuum out the inside of the holster weekly. It is amazing just how much lint can accumulate inside a holster in a short time. As for the length of the holster I prefer that the bottom completely cover the barrel of the pistol I am carry. I do not like half length holsters where the front sight is exposed much preferring a covered/protected front sight. I also prefer to purchase a holster in which the trigger area of my pistol is totally covered by the holster. Most holsters on the market today seem to offer this safety feature. It goes a long way to prevent you from having your finger inside the trigger guard area, and therefore onto the trigger, while drawing or holstering.
Of course, any holster I buy in which I intend to carry my primary self defense weapon will have to have been designed specifically for the gun I am planning to carry. I do not buy holsters designed to fit 3" barreled pistols, or small pistols as opposed to medium pistols as opposed to large frame pistols for my carry piece. Holsters like that are fine for sporting revolvers and pistols but not for weapons you plan to carry for self defense. Features of a holster designed for a specific model are that they are actually molded to fit your pistol. Therefore if they have a sight channel, your sight will slide through it like greased lightning and not catch. The holster will snugly fit the exact pistol you plan to carry. The holster will not likely, or at least should not, be used by you to carry various pistols thereby assuring a longer good fitting life of the holster relative to the one pistol you do carry in it. The Bianci Shadow is pictured here and it is form fitted for a wide variety of pistols.
As for the materials out of which my holsters are made, I prefer good quality leather holsters over all others. A good quality Nylon holster is also okay but I have found that my leather holsters seem to take more punishment and last longer. I guess that has something to do with the fact that regular maintenance can be performed to extend the life of leather holsters such as application of leather preservatives and polish. Be careful of applying anything that softens the leather allowing it to stretch.
I much prefer carrying in a holster over in my waistband, under my belt, in a groin holster, a belly band or in my pocket because there is much less chance of the firearm catching on anything when I draw. It is also simply faster for one to draw from a strong side hip holster than it is from a cross draw, an ankle holster or any of the others mentioned in the previous sentence. Try a comparison sometime and see what I mean. Have someone time each of your draws. You will soon come to realize the truth of what I just wrote. Certainly aim, stance, use of sights and other things are very important. Speed is not everything when you need to draw your weapon and fire but you can bet that any time saved is more likely to make you a winner if you are equally proficient at all other aspects of self defense shooting.
Finally a strong side hip holster makes it easy for me to reholster after shooting - easy enough for me to do with one hand should it be a quality holster that remains open after the weapon is out of it. You would be surprised how many holsters partially collapse and require you to use two hands to reholster. Design of the holster is all important here. You do not want the retention device flapping away either so that it hangs down in the way of the pistol when you try to reholster - again design is everything in this regard.
Now, you may decide to go with something other than a strong side hip holster and that is your choice to make. I strongly recommend that if you choose another design though that you definitely consider making sure it has some of the same features I talked about above. make sure it attaches to wherever you attach it securely, make sure it has at least one active retention device/feature, make sure it is made of high quality material and so on.
So what will a good holster cost you? I figure to pay a minimum of $50 for a holster that meets my criteria. Usually though they cost more - probably something along the lines of $65 to $75 and up to about $100. More than that is pretty much money spent on window dressing or a name. The black holster pictured way up above is a Don Hume Enforcer and is of this type of holster. Does it have all the features I would want - almost all as far as I can tell and it lists for $57.00 on the Don Hume site. Here are the features I mentioned above that this holster has: The integral and sewn on flap belt loops, a thumb break design with thumb snap, a reinforced holster mouth, molded to fit specific weapons, leather construction, double stitching (high quality stitching), high ride design. Some features I am not sure it offers are: suede lined, sight channel. The price is within my estimate at $57.00. Another $20 to $30 would probably add a suede liner if not already there. I can say that on Don Hume holsters I have carried in the past there was always a suede liner but to be sure on a new purchase I would check with the manufacturer before considering a purchase. The DeSantis pictured here goes for $65.00.
I consider all three of the mentioned holster dealers to be ones who offer good quality holsters at reasonable prices. Of course they also offer holsters in the budget price range. I would be wary of any holster that even they sell that is listed as 'budget'. Pay a reasonable price and expect good to excellent quality that you can depend on. Pay too little and it may be too late to complain about it when the times comes and you cannot draw your pistol or when it falls out of the holster while you are running or when it gets ripped off of your side still in the holster. Pay too much - well if you have got the money to burn on a custom made holster from a big time designer - go ahead. I'd rather spend my money on a reasonably priced well made holster with the features I want and then spend the left over money on
ammo so I can go to the range and practice shooting from the draw while breaking in my holster a nice dinner with my wife.
All the best,