FLETC, the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, is a facility in Georgia where over 90 federal agencies send their new recruits to be trained as law enforcement officers. That includes firearms handling, and is sometimes a recruit’s first time on the range. Needless to say the equipment and skills used and learned at this facility carry some weight with the new recruits, which is why the news that FLETC is now banning the use of Blackhawk SERPA holsters at their facility is so newsworthy.

I’ve spoken at length about why I think Blackhawk holsters are a terrible idea and need to be discontinued (and RF agrees) but for some reason people still use these holsters.

There are safer ways to carry a firearm. And while any holster is better than “Mexican carry” I highly suggest you discontinue SERPA use as well. If we’re at the point that even the Government realizes there’s a problem (the same people who brought you the Bradley Fighting Vehicle) then it may warrant some additional consideration on the part of civilians as well.

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59 Responses to SERPA Holsters Banned from FLETC

  1. If you don’t train with your equipment, you will eventually fail to operate it properly. I understand the concerns involved with this particular holster, but for months I have used a serpa and several of my fellow handgun users have as well. We have yet to have a ND. If you use a handgun with no “real” safety (slidelock/trigger block/firing pin block) and use this holster, you have to train much more often. I would put this in the same category with the grabbers blaming the equipment, not the user.

    • I agree…. I wore mine for about 6 months then put it in storage… shooting steel or ISPA you are not allowed to wear it….

  2. Judging from how run of the mill law enforcement generally (mis)handles their firearms in spite of trigger safeties and heavy trigger pulls,perhaps this says more about the unwillingness of the public establishment to train their members in proper gun handling than anything negative about a gun acessory that does exactly what it is designed to do.

    This statement will ruffle feathers,but I am of the opinion that law enforcement gun training policy is decidedly NOT the standard to set for anyone truly interested in being expert at handling a firearm.

    Remember;these law enforcement recruits that the FLETC are so afraid will shoot themselves are the folks who will be responding to your defensive gun use crisis of tomorrow!

    • ^^^THIS^^^

      Most cops are NOT gun people and instructors know that. Most will never draw their handguns and most will only shoot the department-mandated qualification courses.

    • This statement will ruffle feathers,but I am of the opinion that law enforcement gun training policy is decidedly NOT the standard to set for anyone truly interested in being expert at handling a firearm. ”

      *****************************_*_

      No feathers ruffled here, having served as a LE firearms Instructor, it is all about the best training and equipment possible.

  3. When under an adrenaline dump and your personal survival is at risk, you revert back to your gross motor skills and level of training. I can tell you that I have experienced instances where I did not actively remember drawing my weapon, but all I found was a sight picture where it needed to be. Even thinking back now, I can’t remember how the weapon left my holster. I for one also advocate the ALS over the SERPA as it uses the thumb to release the firearm.

    One could argue both the SERPA and ALS both use fine motor skills, but the SERPA does indeed encourage curling the user’s trigger finger as that is how you disengage the retention mechanism. The user is actively applying pressure TOWARDS the trigger and drawing the weapon at the same time (ie–the trigger is now exposed). On the ALS, should the user continue forward motion with the release digit, it is inconsequential.

    Perhaps the solution is extensive training and practice, but how many of you actually practice drawing, moving, and engaging on a regular basis? Now couple this with a lack of fine motor skills beyond your physiological control. The SERPA is just asking for a ND.

      • Safariland does indeed make them for the 1911 according to their site. I’ve noticed their site is not always accurate as I’ve seen Beretta 92 ALS holsters advertised on other sites and it isn’t listed on the Safariland site.

      • Yes, I have one for the 1911 as well as service size Glocks. I agree the ALS or SLS is likely safer, but the Serpa holster has it’s uses. Regardless of what you use, you must train! There’s been more NDs with strap retention and soft nylon holsters than will ever happen with any modern Lvl ll or lll retention holsters.

    • Since when does the serpa encourage finger curling? Keeping your finger flat and extended is not that difficult. If federal law enforcement can’t teach muscle memory maybe they need to find a new career field.

      • And the release button on a Serpa holster is NOT in line with the trigger – it’s in line with the slide.
        So, what’s the problem ?

    • The Serpa absolutely does not encourage curling your index finger. It in fact is much easier to release the retention by keeping your finger straight. When used correctly, the Serpa release will align your trigger finger with the frame above the trigger… Exactly where it should be. Works on my Glocks, my 1911’s, my XD’s and my Beretta.

      I think I’ll continue to use my Serpa’s.

  4. I’ve used Serpa holsters for years. First in the Military then for my personal firearms. Not once during qualifications or general practice did my finger land on the trigger. I’ve used Serpa’s for 1911s, HK 45, XD (XDm), and M&P with no problems. I’m a bit puzzled to why there have been a rash of NDs with people using them.

    • I’ve never had an issue with them personally, but I can definitely see problems arising with end users not having adequate training. Throw in some adrenaline and that is just a recipe for disaster. Why tempt Murphy when there are better alternatives out there?

    • The issue is the SERPA isn’t a beginners holster. People without a lot of practice with them pick them up and then hit the release like you would press a button. This action can cause your finger to press straight into to the trigger guard. If you use it properly, your finger lays on the side of the holster and hits the release with the finger indexed like it would be on the frame of your pistol. That way when you draw, your trigger finger is on the frame of the pistol immediately, not poking into the trigger guard like you’re ready to fire which can cause you to shoot yourself in the leg.

      • I understand the point you are making but I found them intuitive to use from the beginning. The issue still puzzles me but I know not everyone moves or thinks the same way. Nor is their hand shaped the same.

        • Drawing from a holster isn’t for beginning shooters, period. Learn the fundamentals, THEN progress toward more “dynamic” use situational training.

          If I had a buck for every student who said they ate experienced, then induce double-feeds and have to switch hands to lock a slide to the rear… Wait. I get more than a buck per student.

          Crawl, walk, run. There are still trades and activities where you shouldn’t try to go out of order. Anyone can buy a gun, ammo, holster, and learn how to use them from YouTube, but it doesn’t mean they’re “trained.”

          Hook the trigger drawing from ANY holster and you’ll punch a hole in yourself.

      • The issue is the SERPA isn’t a beginners holster

        That’s my experience. A Serpa’s lock foiled my draw several times during a training day. I’m not in the biz and don’t open carry so a conventional holster seems better for me.

      • I only use my Serpa for airsoft, but I’ve practiced and practiced with it, witch I think is the key difference.

        I’ve also; put gaffers tape on my gun stuffed it in the holster and hit it with a heat gun to give it a better fit, removed the tension screw and plastic do-hickey entirely, and I also actually use the depression of the button to push against the holster while pulling up with hand/arm. Lots of fine motor actions to that draw. Would I be able to do it when it matter? I hope I don’t have to find out! 😀

        I don’t think the Serpa should be banned, but its definable not a entry level item, and I think these guys would have ND issues with a Raven Concealment or ALS holster. A roaming booger hook will do that…

        • The problem I see with the SERPA (and the RSR copy) is that the user’s finger is placed right on the edge of where the frame becomes the trigger pocket; NOT ON THE L2 INDEX (at least on the M&P and small frame Glock versions). Now combine this with adrenaline, fatigue, wet/sweaty hands on a slippery plastic frame while apply pressure towards the triggerguard area WITH the trigger finger.

          I’ve never had an issue with the SERPA holsters I own, but I can see a valid point when it comes to any LE agency not wanting to incur the liability of a ND especially since very few officers shoot on a regular basis. The ALS, thumbsnaps, and other retention holsters use a motion that is:

          1. Does not require the trigger finger to apply inward pressure towards the trigger guard area.

          2. Should the user apply too much pressure under stress or slip, there is no contact between the release finger and trigger.

      • Hogwash. So everytime you sortof screw up a drawstroke you throw that holster away? No. You work on it more.

        • Bingo. I was trained (and teach) that if you bork a draw to stop, safely reholster, and start over. There’s no point in teaching or reinforcing bad habits at first. Certainly not worth blaming the gear.

          In a fight, you’re better off having taught yourself proper grip, draw, and presentation than having pushed through every sloppy draw and not learning anything.

  5. Maybe the single action revolver is the way to go? I personally don’t know, but is it possible to bring a single action into use with anywhere near the speed of the semi-autos? It sounds like most of these ND’s are happening during training and not in a real situation (as opposed to a competition).

    • Just keep in mind that most law enforcement officers have sub-par in service training when it comes to firearms. Qualification in many departments occurs once a year. Sometimes the safest place to be during qualification is in front of the muzzle with the way some officers handle a firearm. The ones that read and post here (and likely practice outside of work) are the exceptions and not the rule.

  6. Nick, you’re entitled to your opinions (“everyone’s got one”), misguided as they are in this case. Having your own blog, and something of an audience, though, you should take care to avoid the pitfalls of memetics in the digital age – especially around the gun crowd.

    The hatred for the SERPA system is more of a reflection on what a barely-trained civilian public can do with an Internet connection moreso than it is a deserved excoriation of substandard kit.

    There are tens of thousands of SERPAs out in the world being used every day and literally tens of situations where someone went all Grebner on their thigh meat – every one of those being caused through misuse of the system.

    Guess what – some firearms products require training, diligence, and professional mindset. Hell, MOST of them do.

    Unless you’ve worked as a range officer full-time or spent a major amount of time behind a gun counter (not in front of it), you’ll never truly see just how often Cooper’s Rules are rectally violated on a regular basis.

    Let’s be clear – the SERPA’s main retention device is NOT intended to be “pushed” – it’s designed to release when your trigger finger is properly indexed to the firearm.

    CAN you release the lock by poking your fingertip at it? Yep. Can you shoot yourself by screwing up with ANY holster? Yep.

    …just like every “special” guy or gal at the range who picks up a gun and finger the trigger or grabs a phalange full of bang switch at the gun store (usually pointing at the salesman’s crotch).

    Schools are banning it because there is a HUGE group of shooters buying Tacticool gear they see on TV and thinking they know how it works with little or no training. Then, when they foul up or rush things, it instantly becomes the equipment’s fault.

    Can we please go back to hating on Taurus? So much more deserved… 😉

    • As we are all human we all make mistakes whether we like to admit it or not. I would rather err on the side of caution when using a holster. While some of this can be avoided with training, the SERPA still forces the user to apply finger pressure towards the triggerguard area. With other options out there that do not require pushing your finger towards the triggerguard, why introduce a device that can increase the chances of a ND?

      To each their own, but having owned both SERPA, ALS, and traditional thumbsnap holsters, I would take the leather thumbsnap before the SERPA for the reasons mentioned above.

      • Sorry, only improper use would put pressure toward the trigger. Stop blaming perfectly good kit for perfectly dangerous use. My right foot hits a gas pedal every day – if I turn that same foot at an angle and jam it to the firewall, I could put it into a ditch and harm a crap-ton of people.

        Proper use puts the trigger finger against the frame (and it’s a tiny fraction of a pound of pressure) – precisely what any school worth it’s salt will teach you to do. Why can’t you guys figure this out??? It’s not a “button” to be pushed with the tip of a finger.

        These “bans” by good schools are attempts at keeping their liability minimized since ANY accident is bad for business and it’s much easier to ban a holster than embarrass a dumbass student or, worse yet, watch them go and pull a Grebner.

        If you’re not comfortable with the gear, that’s FINE. But stop the posturing and libel toward gear tens of thousands of cops, soldiers, and armed citizens rely on every day.

        • I’m perfectly comfortable using a SERPA, but in my OPINION (it’s worth what you paid for it); there are better options out there. You say that the user does not need to push their finger towards the triggerguard. By design, it is necessary to apply pressure towards the triggerguard to release the weapon. If it works for you, fine. I carried one on duty for about a year before I moved on to a Safariland Level 3 ALS holster that accommodated an attached weaponlight. I don’t want to have to think about how much or little pressure I need to apply if I am in a life or death struggle to draw my weapon.

          I have also heard mixed FIRSTHAND reviews about the SERPA mechanism jamming due to debris lodging under the release mechanism. No one is libeling the SERPA holster. We are pointing potential issues associated with its usage.

        • Do you find any speed difference in your draw with the ALS? When I carried an XD on duty I had an ALS level III and hated having to rotate the hood out of the way first. Now I use a level III SERPA with my M&P and find it a much faster interface.

        • I found that my split times were a little better with the ALS after a couple weeks of practicing. the SERPA does have the advantage of having a spring loaded hood, but that is also easier to disengage by a suspect. I have short thumbs and that hood caused a lot of grief for me at first. With practice it isn’t to hard to rotate the hood on the downward motion with the thumb and have the said thumb right on the release lever/button thing while completing a full firing grip.

          If you are faster with the SERPA, then use what works best with you. There is no best one-size-fits-all holster out there.

      • “I would rather err on the side of caution when using a holster.”

        “the SERPA still forces the user to apply finger pressure towards the triggerguard area.”

        No.It.Doesnt.

        The button to release the SERPA locking mechanism is located up and on the slide. NOT ON THE TRIGGER Its at least an 1″ above the trigger on my g20 model.

        What causes these ND’s is people putting their finger on the trigger, and pulling it. Err on the side of caution, dont put your finger on the trigger. L2 slide index.

        • Maybe this is where the misunderstanding starts. Both my M&P and Glock 22 SERPA holsters place the finger right at the edge of where the frame rolls into the trigger box. I can see where 1″ above the trigger is perfect for indexing your booger hook, but I dislike the placement on both the smaller frame Glock and M&P models. This means that indeed you are pressing your trigger finger towards the trigger guard area. I never said it forced the user to press towards the trigger specifically, just the trigger guard area.

          Like I said earlier, I’ve never had a problem with my SERPA. I just believe there are better options out there. Also the purpose of this article was that FLETC was prohibiting their use which in my mind is fine since most LEOs do not get enough range time or training.

    • The Serpa, with the inward pressure required to release the mechanism, causes two possible motions. One, the pressure from the trigger finger tends to cause the gun to angle in, rather than stay straight as it comes out of the holster. Two, in a stressful situation, not practicing dry firing at home, the shooter can push too hard with the trigger finger, even with it straight, and it can get into the trigger guard. The design is bad in theory. The trigger finger, for one, shouldn’t be doing anything except getting ready to pull the trigger (by being indexed as the gun comes out of the holster), and two, shouldn’t be pressing hard TOWARD the trigger at all. People say train, train, train… WHAT and how much training is enough to guarantee that in a stressful situation, you won’t press too hard, and guarantee that you won’t curl your finger pushing the button? Until you’re IN that stressful situation, you don’t know what your little trigger finger muscles will wind up doing. And in those stressful situations, fine motor skills, fingertip feel, etc, tend to fade.

      Simple fact: If the button is not under the trigger finger, you wouldn’t have to push WITH the trigger finger. No, that won’t eliminate negligent discharges. Unfortunately, nothing will eliminate them. But if I wasn’t pushing on the lock with my trigger finger, my finger most likely wouldn’t have pushed into the trigger guard, firing a round into my calf. And that was after approximately 150 rounds doing the same drill that day, and about the same amount a couple of weeks earlier, doing the same drills successfully.

  7. My trigger finger NEVER fails to land on the slide of my 1911 when I withdraw it from my Serpa CQC. No curling of the finger occurs: You lay your index finger flat against the release paddle, pull up, and your straight index finger is straight against the slide. My draw speed has never been faster, and that’s without even trying. Hardly any training is required: The release paddle is in the exact location where you would place your trigger finger when withdrawing your firearm from any other holster; thus the withdrawing motion is completely natural and effortless. Its low profile makes it the perfect OWB concealment holster in my book. Perhaps when my finger lands on the trigger of my (safed) 1911 I’ll reconsider. Until then, my Serpa CQC is my number 1.

  8. Here’s an “assignment” idea for TTAG – since you will invariably have at least one person at SHOT next week, have someone try to get 10 or 15 minutes with a rep from Blackhawk! and actually talk about this SERPA debacle.

    • I never said the gear sucks. I merely stated there are better options out there. This is especially true if you are talking about law enforcement since there is typically subpar training. As a general rule, most cops are not “gun people” and many hold the attitude that they will not practice on their own time since they aren’t getting paid for it. For every LEO you see at a range, there are easily 20 that you never will.

      If you are training people who will shoot twice a year (when coerced through IA), you might want to consider a different retention system. You’ve even stated that training is a major issue here and I completely agree.

      • There is an easy solution to this problem. Mandate all law enforcement officers use a Revolver for standard duty.For those who care about their lives enough to practice a separate qualification should be established to allow genuine shooters with a badge to carry any semi-auto they see fit.

        This way when the unmotivated lawman falls to the “spray and pray” technique he or she only has 6 chances to shoot an innocent bystander. Having a greater magazine capacity than the criminals is irrelevant since the same unmotivated lawman will be hit from the perp’s shots before the high capacity magazine can be emptied.

        This situation will of course not happen, but this solution is a better use of electrons than a post denigrating an inanimate object for user-induced failures.

        • I’m OK with that. I hate to dime any one agency out so I’ll just say that most municipal through federal LE agencies have similar problems when it comes to firearms proficiency. If ALL cops were “gun people,” we wouldn’t have some of the absurd laws currently in the books.

  9. Your comment degrading the Bradley Fighting Vehicle destroyed what little credability you may have on this subject. Having fought in two wars while mounted in the BFV, I can now see how your opinion was probably formed by other second hand information…

    • I’m thinking he was more critical of the initial design and procurement process rather than the current state of affairs when talking about the Bradley. It is a fine vehicle as it stands, but does carry with it a dubious and bureaucratic inception.

  10. This is outright nonsense!

    SERPA Holster Retention systems cant physically even come close to having any contact with the Trigger of any gun, they Latch onto the front of the Trigger Guard and the latch does not protrude anywhere even remotely close to the Trigger.

    The problem of SERPA Negligent Discharges are not the Holsters it is the Users getting their fingers in the way.

    I use a SERPA every day myself and have “Never” had any issues.

    FYI I do not work for, own stock in or have any affiliation with Blackhawk.

    I Am however a Satisfied Owner and User of SERPA Holsters.

    • If you read our posts, we are not discussing the retention mechanism but the position it leaves you trigger finger.

  11. The ThumbDrive holster is my preference but I could not find one for my Glock 30 so I bought the Serpa and this concern arose but I practiced with an unloaded weapon and found that if I simply pushed with my finger in the slightly curled position that my finger came off the release before I could withdraw my firearm and it remained locked in place. Maybe the size of my hand hindered an ND-type of situation, I am not sure. I did find that when I reverted to “gross motor skill” situations, I could not withdraw the firearm at all until the split-second gave me better thought process…until I got a lot more practice with the gear. This proved to be a better situation than having locked onto my target and forgetting that the “safety” was still on with past firearms. I think this gets back to practice and drills. Now that I have extensively practiced, I automatically think of the practiced process of retrieving my firearm, keeping me emotionally separated from the situation at hand.

  12. Over my 28 year career in an L/E environment, I have certainly seen my fair share of well trained individuals accidentally shot themselves on the range. Each one of these events happened while the individual was wearing a Safariland holster. While each circumstance was different, never was it the fault of the holster. I have participated in many successful training evolutions with the SERPA, and have yet to have anything other than positive experiences with the SERPA. My recommendation is get professional training and not assume this system is just like all others you have been using.

  13. First off I guess I’m screwed up in that I like the Bradley Fighting Vehicle. It served me well back during the little dust up known as Desert Storm and again in 2003 during the fight into Baghdad in what we like to call the “major combat operations” portion of another little dust up known as Operation Iraqi Freedom.

    In three tours in Iraq I have carried my M9 (now there is a piece of kit I do truly detest) in a Blackhawk Sherpa on the front of my body armor. I have never had an NG, and despite unholstering many a time under what one might consider duress, my finger has never some down anywhere except on the side of said M9.

    I did once screw up royally and allow a very agitated MAM (military aged male) to get way too up close and personal, and he did his damndest to snatch said M9 from my Sherpa. In the 20 seconds we wrestled for my pistol (before my driver gave him a love tap on the side of the brain housing group with the butt of his M4) the pistol never left the holster and the holster never left my body armor.

    Of course I don’t carry my G30 SF (I have a TX CCW) in a Sherpa, it’s tucked safely away in a Galco Jak Slide or IWB holser depending on how I’m dressed at the moment.

  14. I was a Range Instructor in the Marine Corps and have now been a Firearms instructor for 10 years in the Law Enforcement world. The Federal Government gets scared over anything and cant fart without permission from someone, who needs permission from someone else and so on and so on! I have trained with the feds in the past but stopped because of all the rules and regulations. You cant even shoot on some of their ranges without a combat helmet on, no moving and shooting allowed “Really”?? Train your people correctly and it doesn’t matter what holster they use if they know what they are doing. Don’t put to much into the “Federal Government” Banning anything, it just means no one wants to accept accountability to say, “Yeah, I approved that” If you wanna change because you think its safer, then change, but don’t do it because “They are”. Stay safe Brothers and Sisters!!

    • I’m a retired police Sgt. with close to 31 yrs. on the force, also 4 yrs. in Air Force as an Armorer and currently a Deputy Sheriff. I have used many different revolvers, semi-auto’s with various holsters. During my police career we shot at the range at least 4 / 5 times a year, in the heat, snow, rain, sunlight, cloudy days and at night. We shot without lighting at times on the midnight shift, with flashing red / blue lights, wigwag lights, and multiply targets, were you ID the bad guy / good guy, shoot /don’t shoot situations, moving targets, bailing out of vehicles. NOT ONCE using the different types of holsters did we have and accidental discharge. We also qualified with shotguns, AR-15’s, bean bag, grenade launchers. We shot from 8 to 10 hrs. per qualification / training sessions. I believe that practice, practice and more practice keeps an officer on top of their game. We were under stress, timed shoots etc. Again it’s not the Holsters fault, it’s the human error.

  15. It was a result of lack of proper training with the gear. They were not taught to apply downward pressure, then defeat the retention device, and then lift the pistol. I have never once drawn a pistol from the SERPA and ended up with my finger on the trigger before the barrel was oriented at the target.

  16. It is all about trainin in my opinion, I learned from some of the best instructors in the world in Israel and I carry with no bullet in the chamber and hammer forward. I use SERPA due to it’s retention capability in a situation where the opposing force would like to engage in a tussle over the gun. I practie my draw every day at least 5 minutes just draw know your finger mechanics and acquire muscle memory you will highly reduce your chances of an accidental discharge that way. Key point keep your index finger straight at all times slide your finger over the button and find where it rests when you fully cover the release that is what you practice for as this is your release point.

    And for those of you that don’t like the Israeli style believe I can draw pull and chamber just as fast as you can draw the question is who is the more accurate. So yes I like condition 3 remember you never know when a person with bad intent is going to engage you and try for your gun. And you will be surprised how many people today don’t know how to opearate a SA auto loader.

  17. And on that line at close range you better be ready for CQC and the possibility of having to draw a knife (Karambit is my Choice from Emerson) not all encounters end with gun play you better be ready for all kinds of battle. Ultimately is about safety for you and others around you. Remember once you fire you can’t call that bullet back.

    And is not about confidence issues I am well trained and highly able to use every weapon at my disposal yet know that safety always.

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