Why you need to learn the “411” on Holsters ( part 1)
By Dr. Bill Chachkes
Before I offered to give several years of my life to our “Government,” I was a student at a well known Criminal Justice College in New York City, prearing for a career in Law Enforcement. Having a lot of family who were Career Police and Career Military, you get a lot of Advice. One Uncle I was very close to had been in the Service and was a policeman, but also was in the Guns and LE equipment and outdoor sporting goods business. I remember many conversations we had when I spent time in the store on Saturdays growing up. One of the great “Talks” he gave me was about different Holsters and why that segment of the business was learning that a well fitting holster was just as important as your Ammo and Speed loaders or Magazines. This was the the ’70’s, when most of the NYPD and other surrounding areas’ department still used and Issued Revolvers, but some agencies were starting to go over to various Autoloaders. A lot of Outdoorsmen ( And even a few ladies) carried Autos “Just in Case” there was a run in with a Bear or a 2 legged Agressor. My uncle would talk with each customer about what they would be carrying the gun for. Although the Shop had grown when it left the Bronx for Westchester just to the North of the City line, it was still a family run business. My uncle and his partner believed in personal service. He’d never want to hear about an LE customer (or any customer) dying in the line of duty, especially because of equipment failure.
One Saturday I watched him work with a Father and Son, the Father a Veteran officer, and the Son a Rookie still at the academy. The young man could not get out of his head that he should have some kind of “Gunfighting low slung” duty holster. I guess he watched a lot of old western movies. My uncle told him he would sell him whatever he wanted for his own personal guns, but an On Duty Holster had to pass certain” Criteria ” to be worn on Duty. His Father agreed, and he left the store with 4 different belts to try out, two duty belts and two belts strong enough for off duty wear. When I asked my uncle why, his answer was simple. “You sell a new guy on the job more then he needs, with the promise that he can bring back what he doesn’t like after trying it out, and get a credit.” The young man had been issued an S&W 4″ service revolver, and bought both a Chief’s special and a Charter Arms undercover as back ups/off duty to test out for himself. He also was learning the 9MM S&W auto he had bought prior as well. The next week he was back to return one of the On Duty belts, but he kept both off duty belts, and all three handguns. He had chosen the Safariland duty holster and belt rig, and his department allowed 3 speed loaders to be carried, so he bought the speed loaders and pouches, as well as some strip loaders. My Uncle catered to his personal taste, while making sure he had a wide-ranging choice of the gear he needed.
Holsters become a personal choice for almost all of us, and no more so today then ever before with so many different guns we can choose to carry in many different ways. Many folks who open carry for work or as a personal defense choice, do so with Hip/Belt holsters made with either different textured leather, or leather & Kydex, or Kydex alone. Some also opt for Ballistic Nylon holsters as well. I have had and still have many different types of holsters for different Applications. Some who need to work in a car all day have adapted the Chest carry holster from military service pilots and crew, since various shoulder holsters had become popular with Aviators from World War Two and beyond. Many who carried under a jacket, especially detectives, preferred the shoulder carry, either with the Grips vertically carried, or with the gun hung horizontally. When folks go Holster shopping today, they can quickly get “lost ” trying to figure out what will work best for them.
Having worked and learned from my Uncle with some extra experience from my Dad, I’d see other young Army officers I was working with get that lost look. I used to help them figure it out. I’m still doing it today for friends, 40+ years after spending Saturdays at the shop. I always ask: A) what will you carry for, and will you be carrying Openly or Concealed? How many reloads will you carry? Will you carry it strong side? Or weak side cross draw? Shoulder Rig? or a chest rig? Once someone can answer these few basic questions, it gets easier to narrow down the field of choices.
Ex.#1: Friend is a former Army MP, who now does uniformed bonded private security at a bank. He is allowed 2 guns to carry, a Back up as well as a primary, But they must both be Revolvers. After we talked one day when a few of us went to the Indoor Range & Shop we frequent, I was able to have him try a few different belt holsters for his primary, and both an Inside the waist and an Ankle/lower leg set up for his back up. He got both guns in 357, with a 4″ on his hip and a 2.25″ for back up. Eventually he ditched the Ankle/Leg rig anyway and went with a “Tightrope” style in the small of his back.
Ex.#2: Friend is a former Marine, and now a local PD officer. His agency recently switched from officers choosing whatever Caliber they wanted off duty, but one on duty caliber and bought their own ammo with a stipend from their Department, to standardizing one caliber for both off and on duty, the 40 S&W, and only 3 brand guns, the SIG, the Glock, and the S&W. for on Duty.
After making his Choice, the SIG 226, he (we) built everything around his Gun, and not the other way around. Next was Ammo. Federal American Eagle LRN’s for Training, and he picked out some different approved SD Ammo to try out. Next came the Belt and assorted extras. He chose the Blackhawk setup, with 3 Mag. Pouches. He set up the belt to take 2 vertically and the third horizontally just behind the first two. He had the Blackhawk Serpa which he liked, as his Holster.
It’s very important to practice not only live shooting drills, but draw and Aim “Dry” drills as well. Not enough folks put the extra effort into different “Practice Disciplines.” Every(Handgun/Small Arms) trainer I ever had who was “Good” at what he taught, worked through many different “role play situations.” This method, that many used in the armed services, would expose trainees to different active shooting situations to help them learn the correct methods needed to get home every night. When I get ready to buy a new holster I will ask myself the questions back in the third paragraph to make sure I get the right choice, the one that fits me best overall. I don’t dislike the less expensive nylon or the Kydex rigs, i just have a “thing” for a good leather rig. That being said, I live in the High desert now, and as I have been told “A leather holster in the Desert becomes wet and smelly.” One of my favorite Inside the waistband holsters is the Insider by DeSantis. It’s not too thin, but not very thick, yet holds it’s retension and stays stable even with extended daily use. it’s the only Leather IWB rig I still use, as I make the move to kydex. The clip design lets you adjust both the height of the holster on your belt, as well as giving you some room to move the gun to the desired angle of cant. I also have Three pocket holsters, one Neoprene which rides in my “Man Bag” by “Sticky” and the other two suede models by Blackhawk
Now that I’ve gotten to know a few folks who make Kydex rigs, I have come to like a few “Off the rack”, but find the custom made ones so much better, even if they cost a little more. In Part 2 I will discuss the benefits of a custom designed “Just for you” Kydex Holster, but I want to end here with that, and there will be more to come in Part Two. Thanks for reading.