Question of the Day: Do You Use a Retention Holster?

When I was in Montana this week, I got a lot of trigger time with the BLACKHAWK! GripBreak retention holster. It’s a pancake-type OWB holster with a release lever by your thumb as you grip your holstered pistol. I’m one of those who thinks concealed carry beats open carry in almost all cases, but now that open carry is almost here in the Show Me state, there may be times when I’d venture out of the house with an M&P out there, loud and proud on my hip. That would require (or probably should) a retention holster. Having someone sidle up and snatch your openly displayed mohaska from behind could ruin your whole day. I liked the GripBreak’s design enough that I’d use it even when carrying concealed, but more on that later. In the mean time, do you use a retention holster, however it is you carry?


  1. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

    Yes. I’ve got Blackhawks for several of my gats. OWB styles. I like the serpa.

    1. avatar JoshinNC says:

      I am also a fan of Blackhawk’s Serpa line. I have a level 2 for all of my handguns. I most recently purchased the Serpa model for the P99 to use with my PPQ M2 and have had no issues with the fit. I don’t remember the model number off the top of my head. I would recommend some Loctite on the screws to keep them in place. Heavy use does tend to loosen paddle.

  2. avatar Hobbez says:

    Concealed carry? no
    Open carry? yes

  3. avatar Danny Griffin says:

    I open carry with a Safariland SLS.

  4. avatar Jay in Florida says:

    I use IWB holsters for 99.9% of my carry guns.
    Or open top OWB holsters once in awhile, well almost never,
    My body shape plus my gun belt offer more then enough tension so the screw isn’t needed.
    Sometimes if the screw is used.
    I can hardly withdraw the gun let alone reholster it without pushing and pulling my holster all over the place.
    I recently got a really nice boned Gould & Goodrich holster IWB for my pair of 9mm and 45 acp 1911 compacts.
    I cant holster the guns with the screw in place.
    Its that tight a fit as is.

  5. avatar freezercharlie says:

    At this point I only open carry when in the woods, so I’ve not felt the need for an active retention holster.

  6. avatar Another Robert says:

    No, I pocket carry with a pocket holster. At some point, I may use a shoulder holster that my brother gave me, it has a retaining strap, I guess that would be “level 2.” The only other holster I have is a full-flap military style, if handgun OC comes to Texas I might use it

  7. avatar 0351 says:

    I also use a safari land locking holster with my 45xdm on the occasion where I open carry. That’s usually only if I’m in the mountains or hiking. It’s very comfortable and secure. IWB leather for CC everywhere else.

  8. avatar Nick87 says:

    +1 for the Serpa

    …and NO the release lever is not too close to the trigger guard. Unless you have dyskinesia you should have no problems safely drawing your weapon from a serpa holster.

  9. avatar Ralph says:

    My retention device is a second gun. 🙂

    1. avatar Geoff PR says:

      Curious, Ralph – Is your second gun set up for your non-dominant hand?

  10. avatar tk says:

    Level I for concealed. Level II for open carry.

  11. avatar Scrubula says:

    Yeah, level 1 OWB is just asking for trouble.

  12. avatar Matt in FL says:

    The only time I open carry is at the (outdoor) range, or while hunting, so no, my holsters don’t have retention. If open carry was a part of my lifestyle, I’m sure I’d upgrade my options.

  13. avatar Spider Elliott says:

    Yes. A “professional” IWB by N82 Tactical for each of my carry guns. Twist toward me to release.

    I have a non-retention OWB by Blade Tech that I use for trainings and classes at the range.

  14. avatar onezero says:

    Concealed, no. I don’t open carry. Where I work, I see a lot of people open carrying, just because they can. At least half of the holsters I see have no retention. The vast majority of the people are young and don’t look like they’ve had any training (observation of body language and how close they let strangers get to their gun).

  15. avatar Mark N. says:

    What is this “open carry” …heard of it, never seen it (except for LEO). It’s a California thing.
    With that in mind, no. I have a pocket holster and a Kirkpatrick pancake, no retention.

  16. avatar mp says:

    Can anyone explain the different “levels” of retention?

    1. avatar JasonM says:

      If only there was a video at the top of this page that did just that…

      1. avatar Jeff says:

        +1! I laughed after having just watched that video and seeing this post! 😉

      2. avatar Jay says:

        I’d much, much rather spend ten seconds skimming an article on the topic than waste two and a half minutes waiting for someone to get to the point, already.

  17. avatar JasonM says:

    I’ve never seen a holster that didn’t have at least level 1 retention. Would level 0 be the waistband tuck?

    When I carry, open or concealed, I use a level 1 holster. To minimize the risk of somebody stealing my gun, I always block access to my left hip, by standing near an obstacle, such as a wall, or near a person I trust. Or if that’s not an option, I keep my arm in the vicinity of the gun. I also maintain good situational awareness and ensure nobody gets too close.

  18. avatar Ross says:

    No, all I run are Liion Defense rigs, great stuff.

  19. avatar Clayton says:

    Open carry, Yes
    Plate carrier, Yes
    Conceal carry, No

  20. avatar ThomasR says:

    I OC with Black Hawk Serpa. Then I increase the security with 1911. Since I’m a lefty, and with a thumb activated lock; it increases the steps a person would have to perform to use my own gun against me.

  21. avatar Larry says:

    What ever happened to wearing A Jacket or a sport coat With a shoulder holster it is the way I have carried since the 1960s.
    At first with a modified GI ww2 vintage one With my 1911 and then when I was Older a modern one from Kirkpatrick for my Dan Wesson model 12 with its Snub barrel and grip. Still my go to rig when I have to go to the city.

    But they get no coverage or realy any development to reflect the way modern cc pistols be carried other than on the waist or perhaps ankle… Except for tactical Vest and harness rigs of course that are not much use for concealed carry.

    Why have they fallen so far out of favor

    1. avatar bigfinger76 says:

      Probably because the wearing of sport coats regardless of weather or situation has also fallen out of favor.

    2. avatar Danny Griffin says:

      Why have they fallen so far out of favor

      Most people who wear shoulder rigs everyday find them uncomfortable.

      1. avatar Tominator says:

        One of the reasons is that the populace as a whole is over weight and ‘the rig’ continually rubs and bounces. Genes and a healthy lifestyle leaves me loving my Safariland ‘Sonny Crocket’ rig and my Officers Model my favorite carry method….though only in the winter.

        Though I have many handguns and various OWB holsters if thetre was ever a legal way to OC then it would be in a LE style retention holster period!

  22. avatar Michael says:

    Yes for cc…and lots of situational awareness.

  23. avatar MamaLiberty says:

    I’d like to see documented proof of a gun being snatched from open carriers by random thugs passing by. Cops, occasionally, and cops get their guns taken from them when they engage in altercations at times, but it is not a problem with ordinary people who OC, regardless of what holster they use. This is another CC holy writ myth.

    Doesn’t happen. The purpose of rational “retention” is to keep the gun in the holster during normal movement while carrying. I don’t do much hanging from my heels, but I might take a tumble in a parking lot or something. I have a thumb break strap that retains the gun just in case… and it’s been tested on such things as seat belts that get snagged. The gun doesn’t come out unless I take it out. And I’ve never had anyone approach me dumb enough to attempt taking it from me. Sure, anything can happen, but the remote possibility is hardly worth all of this hysteria.

    1. avatar ThomasR says:

      Yep. It’s also the idea a bad guy wiil shoot an OCer to get his gun or before going on a shooting rampage.

      It has happened with cops and with armed private security; but has it ever happened with a private citizen? I’ve never read of this happening. Probably because a bad guy planned to shoot a cop or private security but most bad guys try to avoid a person that can fight back.

      . But I ‘ve read of plenty of CC people getting targeted by predators just because the bad guy doesn’t know if you’re carrying a gun.

      1. avatar Mike says:

        A guy in the Milwaukee area was robbed of his OC weapon at gunpoint, he was not shot. Obviously retention did not matter in this situation, but I think this is the perfect example of needing to have your head on a swivel if OC’ing, retention is a good idea, IMO.

    2. avatar KB Dave says:

      I don’t know if I’d call it “hysteria” but as you said, anything can happen. So why not use a retention holster? I’ve open carried with a DSG Alpha series open top kydex holster, but I prefer the peace of mind that comes with my ALS. You just never know what’s going to happen, so the tradeoff of a very minor slowing of my draw is worth it to me.

  24. avatar Marcus Aurelius Payne says:

    Man, I really need to get my permit.

  25. avatar KB Dave says:

    For open carry, yes. Safariland ALS for my Glock 21. For concealed carry, the natural retention of my kydex holsters is plenty.

  26. avatar Giacomo says:

    I carry concealed, so only friction. However, I have a couple of Uncle Mikes OWB holsters which require a small twist to withdraw the gun. I use them very occasionally (because they’re bulky) and mostly for training classes.

    Which highlights the most important elements of using a retention holster — training and practice. It’s embarrassing as hell to fail a draw on a timed shoot at Gunsite in front of your entire class. If your gunfight comes, it may be fatal.

    So if you use a retention holster, practice the shit out of drawing with it, and see if you can figure out a way to have to draw fast under stress and without warning.

    1. avatar Mike W says:

      I agree – training is the key!

  27. avatar Accur81 says:

    Uniform rig is definitely a retention holster, with an added elbow over the top when I can’t avoid an elevator. I really do hate being in an elevator in uniform.

    Off duty is always concealed, and occasionally with zero retention. The Glock 27 and Smith 340 PD are in leather pancake with snap OWB holsters. The Glock 23 and 35 are an RKBA and Ares Armor Kydex holsters that retain on a streamlight TLR.

    The difference in speed is huge.

  28. avatar Deuce says:

    I carry a Glock 17 w/light in a Safariland ALS at work but I carry IWB in regular life.

  29. avatar TroyBilt says:

    I open carry with a Fobus thumb lever holster. I love it.

  30. avatar Don Nelson says:

    Even though open carry is perfectly legal and pretty common here in South Dakota, I only carry concealed, never with a retention holster. The last retention holster I used was a full-flap military holster for my issue 1911 until I de-mobbed in 1982.

  31. avatar ChuckN says:

    When hiking, hunting or moving around a lot, then yes.

  32. avatar Michael in GA says:

    My IWB is open but my thigh rig has a thumb break.

  33. CC for me. Usually in a pocket but when I go holstered I use a serpa for my M&P 40c.

  34. avatar Chris Mason says:

    Massad Ayoob once stated that a study was done on New York cops that compared uniformed cops to plain clothes cops in regards to maintaining control of their weapon and the study found that cops in uniform were less likely to lose control of their service weapon in a fight than plain clothes cops. The reason was that uniformed cops were found to be more aware of the fact that their weapon was not concealed and tended to guard it more carefully, whereas plain clothes cops had a false sense of security from the weapon being concealed. As a result, while Mas still recommends concealed carry, he recommended using a retention holster to prevent this problem.

  35. avatar Delmarva Chip says:

    I only open carry, and right now I use an OWB Blackhawk SERPA holster. May switch to a Safariland holster when I have more money to spend … I have heard good things about them.

  36. avatar John in Ohio says:

    I EDC my hogleg in a custom Tom Threepersons from Graveyard Jack’s Custom Sixgun Leather. It has a retention thong. In fact, the first three photos at under “Threepersons for single action revolvers” are of my actual holster for my Vaquero (before the thong was attached). He is currently working on an identical one for my 1911.

    IDK if it counts as retention but it’s the most I ever use. I carry openly or concealed with the same holster.

    1. avatar John in Ohio says:

      After reading the good link Matt in FL posted upstream in the comments, I guess my answer is now, “Yes, level II.” 😀 Previously, I only considered it as prevention from branch snags because I’m often on a small dual sport motorcycle in the brush.

  37. avatar FoRealz? says:

    Yes. 90% of the time.

    If it’s leather I have a thumb break, IWB or OWB.
    If plastic (cough, polymer) OWB I use Safariland ALS holsters.

    I would like to find a Kydex/Plastic holster similar to the Blade Tech Nano IWB but with a thumb break.

  38. avatar JebNY says:

    I like my Bianchi Model 83 PaddleLok level 3 for my G19.

  39. avatar Ben Eli says:

    I’ve got a serpa and a fobus roto holster. the fobus was a freebie that my family friend/ LGS owner threw in when i bought my first handgun. the serpa was an upgrade simply because the fobus stuck out too far and I kept hitting walls. I like have the retention just because it feels more secure than my other holsters. I don’t feel the need to put my hand on it. Also i did have an incident once when my gun was pulled out of my holster. the e brake failed on my sister’s car while i was unloading boxes from it, the grip caught on the inside of the door frame, and my gun was pulled out of my holster while trying to keep the car from rolling away. so yea, big fan of retention.

  40. avatar DoubleTapper says:

    What about the differences between level 1, level 2, and level 3 retention? Active vs Passive retention? Adjustable retention? Watch and see what I mean…

  41. avatar Timmy says:

    MO has always been open carry legal as long as I can remember. Although, the law is weirdly written and most cities and counties have there own policies in place. You know those open carry guys that walk around video taping officers reactions? Yeah, we have one in franklin county. Thank you, mr douche canoe for giving open carry guys a bad name.

  42. avatar Timmy says:

    Update: new law prevents cities from banning open carry. Also lowers ccw age to 19.

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