When it comes to the process of making a firearm purchase, I find choosing a firearm is sometimes the easiest decision. Choosing the right holster, however, is a decision that some shooters make in haste...if they make the decision at all. It is not uncommon for shooters to reuse, recycle and renew a holster in their collection to accommodate a new firearm and that is a dangerous practice. Choosing the right holster is at least as important a decision as choosing the right firearm, if not more. It is such an important decision that it should be made before the final decision on the firearm is made. The process for selecting an appropriate holster is one of research, deliberation, and prioritization.
Determine The Holster's Purpose
When I decide to purchase a firearm I consider, first and foremost, its intended purpose. I would like to say that I have always applied the same thought process to my selection of holsters, but I haven’t. I speak from experience. There is nothing more frustrating or disappointing than purchasing a new firearm, only to discover a suitable holster for it doesn't exist or isn't immediately available. What adds further insult to injury is when a holster does exist but it does not incorporate the desired features.
I doubt that I’m the only person who has begrudgingly purchased ‘throw away’ holsters. Most of us have them. But just to be clear, these are the holsters that we never wanted to buy, but bought anyway in response to a hasty firearm purchase. Having a substandard holster available for immediate purchase is worse than not having one available at all. It's not only a waste of money, but it can be dangerous. I suspect that with a little patience and research, I could’ve saved myself hundreds of dollars in holster purchases that were nothing more than impulsive, temporary ‘fixes.’ Thank goodness for gunbroker.com! (I'm kidding! I use my throw away holsters as a visual aid in training for what not to buy.)
I've purchased holsters to carry concealed firearms, to use for competition, and to secure my duty weapon. There exists a plethora of holsters that may or may not meet our needs. Holsters are expensive and can cost as much as some firearms (especially when you have to keep buying holsters to get it right). With that in mind, do yourself a favor before you purchase a holster and contemplate the potential benefits and drawbacks of each holster. Once identified, prioritize them based on the features that best meet your needs. To narrow the prospective purchases further, keep in mind the purpose of the holster and ask yourself a few questions.
1. Is this holster made by a reputable manufacturer?
2. Is this holster designed for the exact firearm I am going to carry?
For whatever reason, shooters frequently use holsters that are not specifically designed for the firearms they are carrying. Maybe they do it to save money, maybe they do it to avoid the break-in time, or maybe they simply don’t know any better. Just to be clear… just because the retention mechanism closes doesn’t mean the gun ‘fits.’
My first experience with this occurred when I was a law enforcement range master. While I was in that position, my agency transitioned to new firearms. I observed officers during the qualification and noted that many officers were having malfunctions out of the holster. I watched these officers racing to get their weapons functional. Upon closer inspection, I observed that they were using their old holsters with the new firearms. When I inquired as to why, I was told that officers didn’t want to break in a new holster. In the officers’ minds they were saving time and energy, but in exchange they created a potentially life threatening situations. It turned out that the sight on the new firearm would catch inside the holster (depending on the angle the firearm was inserted). This snag caused the slide to move to the rear just enough to take it (and keep it) out of battery. This would then cause a failure to fire. Thankfully this was discovered in training and not on the street.
3. What is the training committment necessary to operate this holster?
When we purchase holsters we must be committed to train with them. Consider that it takes thousands of repetitions to develop muscle memory. The more complex the physical task the longer it takes to develop muscle memory. Holsters with intricate retention mechanisms, or that are located in atypical positions require repetitive practice to achieve fluidity in operation. Because of the necessary dedication to practice, we must be cautious when purchasing multiple holsters as this increases the amount of time we need to dedicate to training.
Purchasing a holster can be a significant financial investment. Ironically, cost actually has little influence on my holster purchases. Nevertheless, I do not enjoy throwing good money after bad. So, after years of spending money on inadequate holsters, I have learned to slow down and make thoughtful decisions. My decisions are now based on my intended use of the holster, the reputation of the manufacturer, the holster's compatibility with the firearm model I possess, and the commitment to training that is necessary to achieve a level of competence with its operation. When these considerations are adhered to, they won’t just help save you money…they just might save your life.Photos by: Sara Ahrens, Michael Ahrens, Trisha Starks (Chicago Photo Safari)