Level 2 retention holster with GLOCK 19 (courtesy The Truth About Guns)

On January 1, 2016, Texas becomes a [licensed] open carry state. Your humble correspondent will be exercising his natural, civil and Constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms by bearing arms openly, where allowed. He will be doing so with a retention holster. That’s a holster that prevents a “gun grab.” Like this [via chicagotribune.com]  . . .

A suspect in a domestic incident who was being treated at a Minnesota hospital grabbed a gun from a sheriff’s deputy and killed the officer early Sunday, prompting hospital security officers to subdue the suspect with a stun gun, authorities said . . .

The Aitkin County deputy killed was Steven Martin Sandberg, a 60-year-old investigator with the sheriff’s office. The suspect was identified as Danny Leroy Hammond, 50, who lived near the city of Aitkin.

On the face of it, this tragic tale doesn’t make any sense. I don’t know of a single police department that doesn’t use retention holsters: holsters that require at least one “extra” action to remove the firearm. So I called Aitkin County Sheriff Scott Turner. He told me that Deputy Sandberg was in plain clothes at the time of the murder and wasn’t using a retention holster.

A retention holster may – may – have saved Deputy Sandberg’s life. It’s not clear if Mr. Hammond snatched Deputy Sandberg’s gun from his holster or his hand. Two very different – though equally dangerous – scenarios. But it’s certainly true that retention holsters are extremely effective at stopping gun grabs. Which are far more likely with open carry than concealed, obviously enough.

Just to be clear, I’ve argued against retention holsters in the past. For concealed carry. Here’s an excerpt from another article I wrote on open carry that applies here:

Retention holsters come in three levels: 1, 2 and 3. Each level indicates the number of motions needed to extract a firearm. A Level 1 holster holds the firearm with friction alone. You pull the gun out. One motion. A gun owner using a Level 2 holster must perform a second, separate motion to extract the gun: push a lever, press a button, twist the gun, etc. A Level 3 holster requires a third motion; usually pushing a guard or “hood” away from the top of the holster.

Retention holsters are a double-edged sword (so to speak). The more motions you have to perform to extract your firearm the less likely it is that someone will be able to remove it and use it against you. That someone could be a bad guy. But it could be you, too. Unless you practice using a Level 2 or 3 retention holster – a lot and properly – you could find yourself unable to draw your weapon safely, quickly and efficiently. In certain situations that would really suck.

Level 2 and 3 retention holsters are bulky and awkward; they stick out from your side like a motorcycle sidecar. Sitting in a tight chair is an issue – which makes drawing your gun while sitting in a chair problematic. Retention Level 2 and 3 holsters also aren’t the most beautiful holsters in the world. And if you’re going into a victim-rich (i.e. gun free) zone, you can’t ditch your gat and pull your shirt out to cover your empty holster for a stealthy entrance (as you can with most non-retention outside-the-waistband holsters).

Even so . . .

If you’re open carrying I highly recommend carrying in a Level 2 retention holster – at least. If you don’t, kick your situational awareness up a notch or three. Keep an eye on anyone getting close to your gun, especially in stores and other public places. If you have the slightest suspicion a gun grab is in the offing (I’ve seen people do it “just for fun”) turn your body so that your gun is harder to reach.

And yes, carrying a gun with a manual safety adds an additional layer of security – and an extra step for you to screw-up. But hey, no one said this open carry thing was going to be easy or as safe as carrying concealed. As always when it comes to guns, there are ways you can minimize the risk. Were he alive today, I’m sure Deputy Sandberg would recommend risk reduction via a retention holster for anyone open carrying a firearm. You have been warned.

72 Responses to Self-Defense Tip: Use a Retention Holster for Open Carry

  1. I still haven’t found a good retention holster for my Sig P320. Hogue makes one but it’s insanely uncomfortable so I went back to my blackhawk pancake holster.

  2. So far, I can’t find a left-handed, Kydex, Level 2 retention, OWB holster for my EDC, Ruger SR9c. Plenty of Level 1 retention, but I don’t find that to be helpful.

    • Chip,

      Blackhawk makes their Serpa Level 2 kydex hoslters for the Ruger SR9. I found a post from someone who said it works just fine with the SR9c. The kydex part that surrounds the slide is a little long. If the unnecessary additional length of kydex beyond the muzzle is a problem for you, you could cut the end off with a hacksaw and clean it up with a sharp knife and a little sandpaper. Shortening it would take all of 10 minutes, if that. For reference I didn’t bother to see if it was available in left hand. Since all other Blackhawk Serpa holsters that I have seen are available for either hand, I imagine this one is available for left hand as well.

      In case you are interested, here is a link to discussion and a photo:
      http://www.rugerforum.com/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?t=87520

    • Squared Away Customs makes Level II retention Kydex holsters. My Level I in Kyrptek Mandrake works like a champ for my Sig 226 Tac Ops. Delivery took 3-4 weeks, though.

  3. Ah the freedom to have the need for an open carry retention holster. Not for me though that’s another legislative fight

  4. Almost everyone I know or have seen around here wears a retention holster. The only person I can think of off the top of my head that doesn’t is–you guessed it–a cop. He wears a Yaqui slide.

  5. Having carried a sidearm professionally for half of my life as a LEO/CLEO, Armed Personal Protection Officer & Private Investigator, as well as an “Air Cop” with the Air Force, I have found my preference for holsters can be well fulfilled by Safariland; so you may want to start here:

    http://www.safariland.com/holster-finder

  6. Apparently the Safariland 578GLS will fit just about anything from $40-60. While not marked explicitly some say even my P07 will fit! I’ll be sure to try it out soon. It’s supposed to fit “over 175 different firearms”.

    I don’t know anything about this retailer but they explain the holster well and have good descriptive photos: https://www.cop-gmbh.de/product_info.php/products_id/7787
    Does anyone have any first-hand experience with this?

    • Like most Safariland products, the 578 works great. I have several, as when I get one adjusted correctly for one gun, I like to keep it that way rather than readjust for a different gun (eg competition vs carry). Order direct from safariland to ensure you get the latest version. There have been several revisions since I saw bill Rogers demonstrate it at shot show 2015. Note that the middle finger release is perfectly unconscious and natural, for MOST hands with MOST guns. Even if your gun is not on the list, it can probably be adjusted to fit. I got my CZ P09 to fit by loosening up some of the screws. It’s all polymer so if you had to make further adjustments or change the length, you need no more than a dremel, knife and sandpaper. Less expensive than most safariland holsters. Downside to mechanism is that it can’t handle anything mounted on a handgun’s rail. I’d say give it a try.

  7. I like level twos. I have several for different hand pieces and they are all the same brand with the same release. I like consistency.

    • That’s an excellent point.

      While experiencing a full adrenaline dump is no time to ask yourself “What holster is this one???”…

  8. I have a better idea: conceal carry so no one knows you’re carrying and you don’t have to buy a retention holster to be safer from a gun grab.

    A gun that isn’t visible, isn’t easily grabbed. Keep your open carry out in the woods and fields where you need the fastest draw you can get in the event a wild animal or animal thinks you’re the next meal.

      • Why are you jumping on TT’s ass? He’s just giving his opinion, like everyone else on this blog. I happen to agree with his philosophy, so now I suppose your going to tell me to “mind my own business”.

        • Yes. Whether someone else chooses to carry concealed or openly is nobody else’s business.

          Note the conjunction if implied in the title: the recommendation to use a retention holster only applies if someone chooses to open carry. Telling someone who has already chosen to open carry that they should instead carry concealed is completely off-topic.

          It would be analogous to telling someone to open carry, in a comment to a post about recommending someone use a hybrid IWB holster for concealed carry.

        • ” He’s just giving his opinion, like everyone else on this blog.

          No he’s not; he’s giving advice…that’s less advice and more an imperative. Notice the pronoun “you” and the commanding tone of the sentence structure.

          “I happen to agree with his philosophy, so now I suppose your going to tell me to “mind my own business”.”

          What part do you agree with? The part where you, individually, prefer not to OC, or the part where he is telling the rest of us what to do?

          If the former, no beef; your choice. If the latter, then yeah, a “mind your own business” would be in order.

        • JR,
          Sure didn’t intend to open a can of worms.
          What part do I agree with? The first part, I would rather carry concealed (in the city) & open, in the country.
          I’m still not sure why it is so offensive, what he said. I reread his post several times. Where he said, “keep your open carry out in the woods” maybe you and chip thought it sounded like a “request” or “demand”? I don’t think he meant it as something you “should” do, but I can see how others might construe it to be.
          I very seldom criticize others on this blog. Opinions are like buttholes, Everyone has one.

        • “Why are you jumping on TT’s ass?”

          That is Chip’s MO. He is a real charmer.

    • Word to the wise: Given the number of anti-OC asshats out there, you’re basically asking to get abruptly told to f*** off with this comment, even if you aren’t, yourself, one of them.

    • When I see the words “gun grab” I think of armed federal agents busting down my door.

      People with bad intentions see me OC and proceed with caution, that’s called a deterrent.

    • ” Keep your open carry out in the woods and fields where you need the fastest draw you can get in the event a wild animal or animal thinks you’re the next meal.”

      What idiotic logic leads one to think that one does NOT need the “fastest draw you can get” for the two legged animals one might encounter when not in the woods?

      Just stunning.

  9. This is precisely why I have a Safariland 6378 for my Sig P226. Thumb swipe retention that grabs onto the ejection port, and open top for easy draw. Its quick enough that I use it in competition, but provides some peace of mind (piece of mind?) against an attempted theft off my waist. That and good situational awareness 😀

  10. All of my handguns have a holster with level 2 retention on them. All are leather, all are comfortable and all are good looking. Have had all prior to OC in Texas was passed, except a new Bianchi model 77 black leather with retaining strap for Ruger LCR .38 +P special

    • I’m moving off the subject a bit, but I’m wondering what kind of accuracy your getting out of your LCR. I just bought one, took it to the range and fired a couple groups at 25 yds. (no target holders any closer) They were bigger than expected, about a foot or so.
      Thanks, Gunr

      • I’ve got an lcr .357, shooting .38+p out of It I can create a group about the size of a fist firing as quickly as I can at 5 yards. At 15 yards shooting a little more slowly I usually get 3 -4 inch groups. Not bad for a snubbie, though I can get 2-4 at 25 yards with a Glock

  11. My primary carry holster would be considered a level 1. However, it holds my XDs 40 so tightly that it can only come out at a forward angle, the way I have the holster set, and with a strong yank. At first I really did not like it. But then I came to appreciate the benefit. Anyone trying grab my gun is going to have to do it just right. But that means they will have to grab my arm and move it because of where I carry my holster. My other holster for my 45 has a strap across the top with Velcro. It is what I used when I was active duty. My 3rd holster is a Bianchi shoulder holster for revolvers. Besides the strap with a snap across the top, the holster is set up to pinch the barrel like a spring. Don’t know if you would consider that a level 3. But I can promise that even after unsnapping the strap you have to pull the gun so that the holster expands to release the barrel. Quite a set up.

  12. I recently landed a job as a security guard with a company that let’s you carry a personal sidearm so I was recently faced with this question. More to the point, none of the major duty holster manufacturers make one for my model, a beretta px4 compact. There are plenty for the first full sized model, but because of the twin slide stop, the two aren’t compatible. I eventually stumbled on m3 tactical and so far it’s working out pretty well.http://www.m3tacticalkydex.com/rti-shell/

  13. Robert, don’t open carry unless you promise to post every one of your “Am I being detained” videos to YouTube.

  14. A bit OT: It sometimes seems as if anyone who doesn’t carry a glock or 1911 is SOL for finding a holster off the shelf (i.e., where one can actually get a decent look at it and determine whether it’s worth buying BEFORE plunking down the money).

    I’ve managed to find the aliengear and Fobus holsters for CZ-75s “in the wild” but I doubt either one of them qualifies as “retention.”

    • “A bit OT: It sometimes seems as if anyone who doesn’t carry a glock or 1911 is SOL for finding a holster off the shelf (i.e., where one can actually get a decent look at it and determine whether it’s worth buying BEFORE plunking down the money).”

      Not OT at all.

      Good holsters are rarely inexpensive. Buying a number of them to find the right one is very expensive.

      Here’s an idea for someone who wants to start a business:

      Buy a bunch of holsters (folks who have a drawer full of them are ideal candidates) and short-term rent them for folks looking for a holster to see how well they will work for them.

      My .02 and worth half that amount…

    • To be fair, not all custom holsters are created equal. While it’s true that with most companies you’re looking at a 3 to 4 week wait on average, 2a holsters is really good about getting you your product asap. I’ve ordered from them several times and they’ve always shipped it out within 72 hours. Shipping was a little slow, but it was also free and it arrived within the week.

    • I don’t know what CZ you carry. I carry a Glock 19 in their Quandry AIWB and my CZ-75D PCR Compact in an Antero at 3:30. They are local to me, and Josh the owner has secured several local, domestic, and international contracts with Police agencies and has been approached for Military contracts, but doesn’t have the facilities nor staff to facilitate that large of an order at this time.

      However, his products are hand made, mind numbingly perfect and attractive as well. The Level II holster uses a spring loaded thumb released hood, and the quality of the Kydex is phenomenal. If you can’t find one that fits your gun, or if you have any questions, give him a call. He’s a really cool dude. I’m not sponsored by him in any way, I just think he makes a great product, and the only ones I use for my daily concealed carry.

      http://lsholster.mybigcommerce.com/holsters-for-the-pros/

  15. Lots of excellent advice here. I’m copying down links, makes and models for reference.

    Now, who can help me with a level 2 or 3 retention holster for my KRISS Vector SDP? Just the one, right handed. Twin vectors a la “Resident Evil”, well, that’d just be silly.

  16. For the small percentage of open carry obsessed with enough common sense to acknowledge or admit that a quality level 2 or 3 retention duty holster secured on a quality duty belt will mitigate the risk of having the handgun they so proudly display taken away from them; most will likely balk at purchasing a LE type rig once they realize it will set them back $150 to $200 and up.

    Once the new wears off, the few who actually invest in a quality retention holster and belt will come to realize what anyone in LE already knows, not only is a duty rig expensive for an individual footing the bill, but they’re also cumbersome and uncomfortable as hell, which is why no off duty LEO in their right mind even considers wearing a duty rig when off duty and instead opts for a much more practical and comfortable level 1 retention holster to carry their off duty weapon concealed with a shirt, vest, or jacket.

    When 1-1-16 rolls around here it Texas we’ll no doubt see many more of the attention seeking open carry obsessed who economize with $20 Fobus on a flimsy $20 dress belt instead of a $120 Safariland level 2 and $75 duty belt.

    As I’ve said many times before, the big plus for open carry here in Texas is that it makes it easy to spot armed dumb@$$e$ who were always there but invisible before open carry becomes State law; so if I spot any of those attention seekers wearing a quality retention holster and belt, at least I’ll know they’re a safety conscious armed dumb@$$.

    • Hey if carrying IWB with a jacket or over shirt in the middle of summer is comfortable for you, who am I to judge? But if openly exercising a right with a t-shirt and a quality rig makes one a dumb@ss then I guess it’s better that being an uncomfortable chickensh$t.

    • Ted,

      Carrying a handgun openly visible in a holster on your hip is also a First Amendment exercise. Furthermore, open carry is a form of public education and outreach. Why you would label someone a dumb@ss for exercising their First Amendment rights and teaching the public is beyond me.

      Additionally, open carry can be a LOT more comfortable in hot weather as Darenger already mentioned.

      Finally, carrying an openly visible handgun could be a fashion statement for some people … every bit as “interesting” as a person who dies their hair green or sports a Mohawk … or a woman who goes topless in New York City.

      • Not mention that there is at least one DOCUMENTED case of armed robbers casing a joint, seeing OC-ers inside and rejecting that place as their target.

        So, in a rational analysis by someone with an IQ above the high in Miami today, OC is more than just an activity for “dumbasses.”

        These anti-OC mud-slingers are at their core just as much Statist control freaks as the anti’s. But they’ll NEVER admit it because…self superiority is a deeply entrenched by-product of Dunning-Kruger.

        • “These anti-OC mud-slingers are at their core just as much Statist control freaks as the anti’s.”

          Shout it from the mountain tops, jimmies will be rustled!

      • +1. Good article, RF.
        Always good to roll thru all the good basics for beginners. I have learned a lot here at TTAG and am sure there are many more lurkers who have done the same, thanks to you and your writers. Keep up the fine work, just keep Nick away from those atv’s and no one gets hurt…

    • Um… a Serpa is 40 bucks and a decent belt can be had for as little as 30, and they are both very comfortable and very secure. I have OCed for about a year with that exact setup. I don’t know what malarkey you’re trying to peddle but it definitely doesn’t take $300 dollars just to securely open carry a pistol.

    • Does your argument have any further depth than “these people disagree with me so they’re attention seeking!!!”????

    • “Texas we’ll no doubt see many more of the attention seeking open carry dumb@$$e$ ”
      Stereotype much? There could be a number of reasons for OC, that has nothing to do with “attention seeking” I have bad knees & recently had partial hip replacement, CC pocket carry LCR with trigger block (Trigger Stop by Garrison Grip) I would rather carry my EAA Pavona 9 with 13 round magazine, cocked/locked with one in the chamber, but w/3.60″ barrel it’s not a pocket gun. I use a quad cane every day when I’m out & about. What does a utility cane announce? I’ll tell you what it announces to a predator, easy prey. Since cane is for better balance, will probable always carry one. I not only don’t need to attract attract attention attention, would rather not have to deal with attention for the cane or full size pistol in retention holster on my hip. There probably other people who have their own reason for OC other than mine, so would not insult those who do, in order to not be a dumb@$$e$ yourself

  17. Screw it, SCCY is coming out with the CPX-3 10+1 .380 at the end of the month, and I’ll just pocket carry the thing.

  18. I just won a Sig P250 with a retention holster included about 2 months ago. Man is it an awesome rig. I proudly wear it everyday, oh wait, I live in Illinois. Never mind.

  19. Sorry for this OT topic, but I wanted to share this bit of trivia that I got during a training exercise with some of Tel-Aviv’s finest. The good folks shared that all Israeli police are required to use a retention holster AND have their pistols in empty-chamber condition. Because the Israeli’s have been constantly dealing (almost since the Jewish state was born IIRC) with the problem of Palis grabbing guns off of the waists of armed police/ soldiers/ civilians and then immediately using the snatched pistol on the unfortunate wearer. Having their pistols with an empty chamber gives the person who had their pistol nicked the chance to take immediate offensive action while the perp is busy chambering a round.
    FYI

    • And just an fyi, Israeli carry is an idiotic idea that has been thoroughly debunked. It relies on a sterile environment where you have time to draw and chamber a round and having both hands being free instead of needing one, for example, to stop someone from impaling you in the jugular. Take away any of those components and you’re left with a club of varying merit depending on the size of the weapon.

  20. I liked the comment about situational awareness. Watch who is watching you, keep your ears open for whistles, and if you see more than two shady looking characters about, I’d find a defensible position. The attack will come from behind, it will come quickly, and they’ll be looking to hurt you real bad to get your gun.

  21. I couldn’t agree more, a retention holster should go without saying for open cary.

    I have a wonderful L2 Safariland molded duty holster that is meant for a Beretta but fits my CZ and Jericho perfectly and I got it for only $10 because it was left handed!

    I’d love to find a similar holster for a 4″ N Frame Smith, anyone have any suggestions?

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