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.
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.