Retention Holsters: Just Say No

Retention holsters seem like a good idea. They keep the gun locked in place—avoiding embarrassing episodes of Skittering Gun Syndrome (a.k.a. negligent brandishing). They also prevent unauthorized personnel from withdrawing your weapon and using it to cap yo’ ass. Or, in the case cited in the video above, attempting to start a stampede in a crowded Mickey D’s. On the flip side, TacticalTuckFard clearly and correctly states that the [perceived] need for a retention holster goes away if you practice concealed (as opposed to open) carry, which is the tactically superior option. But then TacticalTuckFard kinda loses me; he carries openly at McDonald’s and carries concealed around the house? Maybe he needs to think this retention holster thing through again. Allow me to help, in my own prone-to-ignorance sort of way . . .

The primary consideration for a holster is its ability to enable a rapid, secure draw on target. In a gunfight, the person who gets the first shot (or shots) on target generally wins.

In other words, the sooner you shoot someone in a place where it does some good/bad, the sooner you stop your aggressor from shooting, stabbing, assaulting and/or maiming you or someone you’re trying to protect.

Bonus! As around half of all lethal threats involve more than one attacker, the sooner you shoot one antagonist, the sooner you can shoot another. And another. I think I’m trying to say that speed is of the essence.

So is simplicity. The easier it is to get that initial shot or shots off, the more likely you are to do so. ‘Cause gunfighting skills tend to go to shit in an emergency. A holster retention button you used a thousand times in practice (hopefully) can suddenly turn into a Gordian knot. That’s not good.

[NB: It’s the same logic that leads to the conclusion that external safeties are a bad idea for a combat gun. Hence the reason they don’t have them.]

Also, shit happens. You need all the mental bandwidth you can muster to maintain situational awareness. IF the retention button is a problem, it will slow you down mentally and ratchet up Force disturbing fear and anxiety.

Another thing: you should withdraw your weapon from the holster with your trigger finger as high as possible on the gun (e.g. on the barrel). I know of no retention holster where the release button is positioned high enough to allow you to put your trigger finger where thoughtful gun gurus (e.g. the rabbi) believe it oughta be.

Cops need retention holsters. They’re authority figures who open carry all the time. Their guns are an obvious target for violent people whose tenuous grip on reality is further loosened by regular infusions of mind and body-numbing chemicals. To reverse quote Christine O’Donnell, they’re not you.

For you, the danger of losing your weapon to an attacker is smaller than the danger of not being able to fire your gun quickly and accurately enough to win a gunfight. And once you recognize the danger of losing your gun, understanding that you need an inviolable “bubble” around your gun, the risk decreases further still. Avoid open carry, and you can round it down to zero. And use a non-retention holster.

comments

  1. avatar Patrick Carrube says:

    I assume we're talking about "push button" retention holsters, and not holsters that include a thumb-break snap If we are, I'd like to note that I can draw just as fast with a thumb-break as I can with an "open top" (statistically speaking of course). While I prefer open-top IWB holsters, there are situations where I want/need/prefer a holster with a little more security. These situations are mainly hunting, motorcycling, and hiking/camping.

    1. avatar Randy Nuttle says:

      I agree, i like retention holsters. If your active, live an active lifestyle where things not planned tend to happen they are a good thing. I carry both ways concield and open all day every day. But i feel better when ii know my weapon is secure. And it makes practice or training eaiser . Just my thoughts.

  2. avatar Chris Dumm says:

    I have a different view on retention holsters. First, I believe that with practice they are very nearly as fast as non-retention holsters, and secondly I prefer a holster with a uniform presentation. Soft non-retention IWB holsters, as I've mentioned before, can behave very differently when worn with different pants and belts.

    Sometimes it takes two or three good yanks to get the gun from a holster that suddenly seems too tight; sometimes (if it's a clip-on holster) the gun comes out with the holster still attached to it. Neither of these are a good thing.

    Having said all that, what do I typically wear? A Blade-Tech IWB that has no active retention features. It's custom-molded to the contours of my gun for excellent passive retention, and it's rigid Kydex so it always presents the same way. The best of both worlds, for me at least.

  3. avatar Brett Solomon says:

    Blackhawk! as not a way of life?

  4. avatar MKEgal says:

    “The easier it is to get that initial shot or shots off, the more likely you are to do so.”
    “In a gunfight, the person who gets the first shot (or shots) on target generally wins.”
    “the sooner you shoot one antagonist, the sooner you can shoot another. And another. I think I’m trying to say that speed is of the essence.”

    So why do you then go on to recommend people carry concealed… adding at least a layer of clothing to get out of the way before you can draw on your attacker? That slows you down.
    Besides, most criminals avoid armed people. The FBI interviewed felons & found that they generally avoided people & houses they even _thought_ were armed.

    1. avatar Nicholas Lee says:

      If your in a store i want to rob, an your armed guess who’s gettin shot 1st? lol U also take on the role of law enforcement when u open carry, not a good idea bud ow ya P.S. if i also want to come up on a new gun to sale guess whos getting robbed at gunpoint for there gun hehe think again bud.

  5. avatar BReeves says:

    I feel somewhat amazed at your entire posting all due to the fact that you’re entire focus is on the drawing ability of the holster, which don’t get me wrong, is obviously of great importance but another matter of importance is safety. A retention holster keeps you and others safe from your gun being in the wrong hands and to anyone with practice drawing their firearm the timing of a retention holster is not an issue. Also a hardened retention holster can act as a safety feature by simply not allowing the trigger to be touched until the gun is removed and safely(hopefully) in the grip of the user. And finally with regard to keeping your finger off the trigger while drawing, the saffariland ALS holster has its lock release near the back of the slide, actuated by your thumb when gripping your gun as you naturally draw it. This would allow you to keep your trigger finger along the barrel or just under it. Also again with proper practice this is easily accomplished with either the blackhawk SERPA or the Sig Sauer brand retention holster. My main shock was your near complete disregard for speaking on the safety of the matter and only focusing on a combat situation . If you want statistics, statistically you are more likely to need the gun tucked away than to need it for a firefight. But should that need arise, if as you say police officers use retention holsters, don’t you think they’ll be good enough for civi’s too?

  6. avatar k marler says:

    It strikes me how much emphasis is put on drawing speed everywhere i look. It usually degrades into some macho contest on who has the “fastest draw in the West” argument. Seriously? That’s because in every mass shooting I’ve seen, by the time you see the shooter he is already possibly pointing the gun at you and pulling the trigger- no one can draw faster than a bullet that i know of. The only time you can be of use in any situation is if he is a really bad aim, or shooting at someone else when you spot him, i.e., Gabby Gifford, the people closest to the theatre shooters, the people in the center/back of the crowd in Riverside (or in the restroom), many bystanders at the various mall and other shootings. Obviously, 3 cops sitting at McDonalds, with Glocks and nice holsters and rapid drawing skills, still did not get off one shot, or even draw possibly, before he killed all 3 in California. Put that in your gun and smoke it. (See my comment on facing the entrance door below!)

    So, if you are not the immediate target, it probably doesn’t matter if you have a retention or non retention, IWB, paddle, belt slide, or even ankle holster, because they all should allow drawing in 5 sec at most and reduce fatalities at any of these except the McDonalds. All of the convenience store and fast food robberies I know of were prevented by someone who the robber’s barrel was not pointing at, at that moment, giving them time to draw and position their weapon. You can talk about how good is the shooter’s aim too, but that is largely an unknown, although reports of the shooter’s gun jamming at the critical moment are NOT uncommon.

    Most of all, home invasions, statistically more likely for all of us than being the immediate target of a mass shooter. One should have time to get out of bed, retrieve your gun, and take a tactical/advantageous stance before the robber encounters you. I really don’t understand all the emphasis on speed. Do you walk down dark alleys or high crime neighborhoods often? You probably should have your gun drawn already if that’s the case. Even if I were to inadvertently drive through a bad neighborhood, which I have done more than once thanks to my wonderful on board computer navigation that doesn’t care where the gangs hang out, I have my gun in my shooting hand, resting on my lap already. I’m sure there could be a billion comments/criticisms on my droll, but for me, even having my little 380ACP in an ankle holster (heaven forbid!), is way better than nothing, and could have made a difference at most of these mass shootings.

    There are other factors at least as important as whether you have a Kydex or leather holster. I always sit in the most tactical seat in a restaurant I can get, always facing the entrance, and always knowing exactly where my gun is. Often, I even put it on the seat next to me and eliminate the holster/clothes/drawing issues altogether! My home piece is next to my bed, cocked and loaded, bullet in the chamber (JHP), with a second magazine next to it, both positioned for my left handed reach and grab. Even Ron Goldman (God bless him), would have had a fighting chance with any gun anywhere on his body. In a recent Pizza delivery woman armed robbery attempt in Atlanta, though the robber had already wrestled her to the ground, she was able to retrieve her handgun and shoot him point blank. He must not be from Georgia, where even pizza delivery women carry! Lol If more responsible citizens just had CCW period, the world would be a safer place. Liberals don’t even waste your breath, there’s no evidence to support a “Wild West” scenario. But there is evidence that cities that have the MOST STRICTEST gun BANS, the shooting have increased! Hmmm, Chicago comes to mind for one. Thanks for proving our point, Rom! Fortunately, the number of CCWs are growing every day. My NRA gun class of 6 students had 3 women, none of whom had ever shot a gun (school teacher, single parent, and housewife)! And one man was the husband of a Middle East-deployed military wife and had never held a gun!!

    If you still want to be Russell Crowe in “3:10 to Yuma”, I only hope you have also had sufficient tactical training (my next course), to avoid shooting the wrong person in the wrong location or the wrong situation and end up in prison. That’s meant to be advise, not sarcasm, my friend.

    1. avatar Randy Nuttle says:

      Great stuff here, situational awareness, practice untill its muscle memory. .

  7. avatar Eh says:

    “[NB: It’s the same logic that leads to the conclusion that external safeties are a bad idea for a combat gun. Hence the reason they don’t have them.]”

    Methinks you know less than you think you do. All the combat firearms I’ve encountered have had an external safety: M16A3, M4A1, M9, M240B, M249, M2 Browning (a US Army modification to the original design), even the M203 and the AT4! Those are just the ones I’ve personally handled, and all but the AT4 I’ve personally fired (though only plastic shells for the M2 and dummy rounds for the M203).

  8. avatar CJ says:

    This entire article is beyond flawed. All of my active retention holsters, primarily FOBUS, do not result in a slower draw. The retention button is placed exactly where your finger would naturally fall during a draw anyway, and takes almost no pressure to activate. The notion that it would drastically slow down your draw is ridiculous. If you can’t put in the little bit of extra time to become familiar with your gear, then you shouldn’t be carrying anyway. Active retention should be a must for anyone, open or concealed. It ensures that gun is going to stay where it belongs, even when something weird happens. The person writing this article obviously has little to no experience with any of the top designs from Fobus, Aliengear, Safariland, or the other designers that allow for an instant draw, even with level two retention.

  9. avatar P Miller says:

    Open carry in public means if you are spotted you’re the first person murdered in an armed robbery. Not mention it invites a perp to sneak up behind you at McDonald’s, grab your weapon, and run out the door with it.

  10. avatar MBrown says:

    Respectfully, I disagree. I wish to put aside the incorrect perception that retention holsters measurably slow down the draw or that somehow I will magically forget the years of muscle memory training under stress. In addition to personal time at the range, I regular engage in professional training (ie Gunsite). I will also put aside the inaccurate perception that manual safeties are also “not on combat guns’, which is not supported by evidence. Whether one likes a 1911 or not, it would be hard to argue it is not a combat gun. Lastly I will put aside the incorrect generalization that all retention holsters are of the SERPA design, a design I don’t like. One need only look at the Safariland ALS or newer 7TS design. We now reach the fundamental error in the author’s assumption of negative interpersonal relations.

    One is far more likely to get into a physical hands on battle with someone than a gunfight. Also, if the individual is up on you there is little time to draw a weapon. I train in the unarmed combative arts (both impact and grappling) and statistically I will more likely be fighting closely with someone than having a shoot out. And that is where the problem occurs with a regular holster. If I am hand to hand striking and grappling, suddenly both the bad guy and I have equal access to my weapon. In that situation, I don’t want my weapon coming out. I want it to stay right where I put it, in the retention holster, while I am going ‘hands on’ with the bad guy. And that is a fundamental error in this article. The assumption that every negative interpersonal interaction is going to result in you drawing your weapon. It is the vast minority of these negative encounters that are appropriate lethal force. In the rare attack that warrants a lethal force response, I will likely have to go hands on with this violent attacker before I can get enough control and distance to draw and shoot.

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