Holsters- A Subjective Analysis of the Waist Mounted Handgun Conveyance

18 April, 2014


In the “Tacticool” world, the type of handgun holster you use, supposedly separates the “men” from the “boys”. This is one of the problems with the whole “tacticool” line of thought. A piece of gear is only a means to an end, and the holster is there to provide security, protection, and efficient speed of deployment of the weapon for the user (it’s only a status symbol to the morons that want to impress the ignorant). Those that have to have the newest, coolest, and most expensive gear, are usually only covering up for inadequacy in other, more important areas ( training is the usual that area).

Holster selection is important, but unless you have a need for super fast deployment, (either because you’re carrying your handgun as your primary weapon, or your long gun has limited capacity and/or slow rate of fire) minimal mechanics (less to go wrong), protection and security of your handgun should be higher on the priorities list than a fast draw for a handgun used in the field. Contrary to the depiction in most movies, handgun use in infantry type operations is usually minimal, and although I would not be without a handgun in the field, I understand the reality of it’s actual use in combat, without any fantasies attached. These are MY experiences with different holster types, your mileage my vary.


Pictured are an assortment of belt holsters From the top is the Bianchi M84 flap holster with the thumb break included. Next is the Safariland SLS level 2 security holster. Bottom is the Blackhawk Serpa with the Quick Disconnect Kit to change between weapon types.


First on the list is the military flap holster. It’s simple, durable, protects well, and with the thumb break attachment, is relatively fast when needed. I’ve used this model of holster for a couple decades now, and it always works, and protects the weapon better than any other type of belt holster. When you feel a need for quicker access, you can tuck the flap behind the belt, so the thumb break is the only retention device in use.


The Safariland SLS level 2 security holster (below) has a self locking thumb lever (activated upon holstering), as well as the rotating hood (to draw, you rotate the hood forward with your thumb, and then draw the thumb back across the release, it’s actually pretty fast), and  does a very good job of retaining the weapon. Having two different mechanical systems that can be jammed with debris at a critical moment (after crawling through the mud) might be a reason for not choosing a particular design (and yes, I’ve seen this model fail, just from extended use, even without the mud). Safariland has a system to change out holsters on the mounting system similar to what I mention is available for the Serpa below, It’s just more expensive, and not adjustable ( holster cant). Mounting options for these holsters can be found to mount them on almost any gear you can come up with (Molle, belt, thigh). It’s a good holster, and should be considered when your shopping around for a new one. Just a side note on security holsters, please tell me why someone believes they need to be worried about someone trying to get their weapon out of the holster on their combat rig, to use against them? If a bad guy is close enough to take your pistol, he’s probably already got hold of you, and if that’s the case, whether he can get your pistol out of the holster or not becomes a moot point, don’t you think? You’re Infantry, not cops, they have a reason for a security holster ( sometimes they have to do hands on, without drawing their weapon), you don’t!


Blackhawk makes the Serpa holster. I’ve used a Serpa for a number of years, and although I’ve never had a complaint about it’s retention, and reliability, it’s still has a mechanical release (less complicated than the Safariland though), so take that for what it’s worth. Serpa’s are one of the cheaper “fast” holsters on the market, when compared to holsters like the Safariland, and the accessories are cheaper too.


One of the accessories I use is the Quick Disconnect kit (G21 left, M9 right). This kit gives you the ability to switch out weapon systems for others, without having to take the mounting system off of your gear. Just like I like to have rifle and pistol mag pouches that will take mags for any of my weapons, I want my holster to either take any of the handguns I either use a universal holster type(Bianchi M84 flap holster), or have a quick way to switch that holster out. Serpa’s are available with mounting options similar to the Safariland, (first pic above is the way I chest mounted it for vehicle ops) but are generally cheaper, and more adjustable. I wouldn’t consider this Serpa to be a security holster, the only retention/release is the button under your trigger finger tip, it’s simple, and it’s fast.





.Pictured here, starting at the top: Blackhawk Serpa drop leg rig, next down is the Safariland SLS drop leg rig, and finally a Tactical Tailor drop leg rig.

There have been a lot of guys out there that have promoted the drop leg/thigh holster, but when you examine the credentials of some, you find the background and experience of those individuals doesn’t go any further than two extended tours on Modern Warfare 3. Yes, the thigh holster is sexy (especially on Mila Jovovich in Resident Evil) but the reality isn’t as sexy. Thigh holsters generally suck (my opinion) for rural dismounted Infantry operations (urban and mounted operations not so much). Yes if you can and do modify it to ride higher, it’s better, but ask yourself “Why wouldn’t I just put it on my belt?”. If you’ve walked any distance with your gear, you will realize pretty quickly, that anything tight against your legs will start to chafe (there’s a reason BDU’s fit loosely), whether it’s caused by too much stuff in your cargo pocket, or straps on your inner thigh, being galled there is a suckfest. Modification of these holsters is generally pretty easy, if they can be modified at all. This process consists of removing the highest of the two straps (if it has two), and raising the actual holster high enough to ride even with, or within an inch or two of the bottom of the beltline. Every holster model is a little different, so trial and error is the method to find the exact height that it will ride comfortably for you.


First on the list is the Safariland thigh holster above. The remarks I’ve already given for the belt holster, also apply to this holster, since the only difference is it being mounted on the thigh platform. As stated earlier, remove the top strap, and slide it higher to ride closer to the bottom of your beltline. I actually had this holster hood jam up on me once after experiencing a sand storm, so take that as a warning for the mechanical release holsters, it does happen!


Next on the list is the Blackhawk Serpa thigh holster. Advantages of this holster is the quick release buckles (remove from the belt) and easy access to your front or knife pocket. It’s also faster out of the holster than the Safariland SLS at thigh level, since it’s just a finger tip press then straight up, and not a rotation forwards then backwards as the SLS requires (more give of the holster at the thigh level, so it takes a little more movement). The disadvantage of this holster is raising its height ,for the most part, is not an option. You have to  completely modify the attachment points, and do away with the quick release buckles to accomplish this. If you like low riders, this is the one for you, but they have no place in dismounted Infantry operations.


Last on the list of the Drop leg type holsters that I’ve used, is the Tactical Tailor thigh holster. Other than the fact that it’s a thigh holster, I’ve not experienced any disadvantages in this model. It’s simple, durable, and plenty fast enough to get your weapon out quickly if needed. The retention device is the lowly thumb break (nothing to jam up). It also has the jump strap for extra retention when your not concerned about a quick deployment of the weapon. I’ve used this holster for ten years, and used it in combat operations, and it has never let me down.

A note about adjusting the thigh strap, don’t tighten it all the way, leave a little space for movement. If you have to tighten it that tight to keep the holster from shifting around, it’s a poor design. Both the Safariland and the Tactical Tailor holsters have a semi-rigid piece extending from the belt attachment point, all the way down to the bottom of the holster. This rigidity keeps the holster in the same stable position for the draw stroke.

Well, that’s it. As I said in the title, this is a subjective article, based on my experiences with different waist mounted holster types, brands, and models. Hopefully it will help you avoid spending large amounts of cash on multiple holsters, when your trying to figure out what works for you.  I use the Safariland SLS every day, I generally use the Bianchi UM84 (sometimes the Serpa) in the field, and I use the Tactical Tailor thigh rig, for mounted ops. Pick your poison, and train your ass off with it. As I often say to students, if you don’t train hard, your defense will be a noisy version of suicide.

We’ll cover chest mounted and shoulder holsters in a later post.


American by BIRTH, Infidel by CHOICE




20 thoughts on “Holsters- A Subjective Analysis of the Waist Mounted Handgun Conveyance

  1. Excellent post.

    Ive never used a leg holster myself though I considered the blachawk Specops holster do to its protection qualities that I need in Alaska, but i didn’t do it. There was simply too much holster there and I like my legs to be free, they have enough work to do here. For me in Alaska I generally use a shoulder type rig that puts the gun up high either under my pit slightly or on my chest. Recently I have started using a surplus MOLLE vest and have it directly on my lower chest just above the pouch line and the holster is like your black one pictured above in image 3, but in OD. Regardless of the shoulder holster or rig holster I always try to use one that covers the weapon to protect it, otherwise I end up with half of Alaska in the nooks and crannies of my pistol, plus they just simply get beat to piss in the rough terrain of rocks and thick forests or weather has at them.

    I like the idea of the holster in the very 1st picture but my pistol would be in ruin after a few trip to the AK wilderness. It sure would make me feel better to have such a convenient style holster for a quick draw when having bear around or Chinese..

    This page is under construction but it pretty much shows my current rig I haul..


    again great post..Ill share it on my Blog.

    Alaska USA

    • I agree about your reasoning behind the shoulder rig, it provides protection that few other holsters do. I figured I’d split up the holster type posts, since an all inclusive post would be very long. My BUG (same caliber as the full size duty gun, whatever I’m carrying) is in a shoulder rig in the field (it falls under first line gear), and I usually (but not always, depends what I’m wearing) carry my off duty gun in a shoulder rig. The chest mounted holster is great for vehicle ops, but sucks if your performing rural dismounted patrols. One of the advantages to the Serpa quick disconnect feature is that you can mount it on the chest or on the belt with a quick switch, if you already have the mounting hardware in place. This goes against some of the convention of always having it in the same spot for your “muscle memory” ability, (Yes, unlike some morons, I use the understandable term “muscle memory” to explain your body’s abilities through repetitive motion training) but makes it handier to access in some instances, and this could be critical.

  2. Pingback: JC Dodge: Holsters – A Subjective Analysis of the Waist Mounted Handgun Conveyance | Western Rifle Shooters Association

  3. Let me preface with that everyone should use what they like, what they train with. With a few years wearing holster rigs of various styles; I have never liked leg or thigh rigs. They throw me off balance when running, and I always seemed to knock the shit out of them when loading up or disembarking from armored vehicles. A hip rig on the strong side is uncomfortable when ridding in just about any vehicle but horse or motorcycle or walking of course, which as a civilian is how I usually carry. But when driving a vehicle at home I have a cross draw rig for same handgun as I carry on the strong side. Much more comfortable and more easily accessible when someone attacks you while you are sitting in a car or pickup truck. When overseas and going outside, I.E. wearing my vest with attachments, as in the picture shown I wore a chest mount Blackhawk with rapid disconnect so once arriving at destination I could dump the vest and switch holster and M9 over to strong hip side carry. Just like the mission determines the gear one takes, the occupation, situation and type of conveyance determines my handgun carry methods. Like the author so adequately stated, practice and practice some more with your gear and the methods you plan on using when they are most needed.

  4. Agree with Bergmann. Using a shoulder-rig here in AK works but if I’m just screwing around in town I use a belt holster. Good article.

  5. Sightly off topic, but worth mentioning.
    One thing I learned while riding around in a squad car is that a seat belt extender is a very good piece of kit to have. Otherwise the seat belt release is buried under your holster, making it difficult at best to un-ass the vehicle in a hurry and nearly impossible to clear leather in a timely fashion. That was with a belt-mounted holster loaded down with cuffs, TASER, OC, keys, flashlight, pistol, magazine pouches, and radio. There was also a baton that was never left behind in the vehicle. Not that I am retired, I carry less gear, but that seat belt extender is on my POV.

  6. Interesting, and concur. Many years ago when the drop legs came out I went to them for”practical reasons” my position as a distance shooter required that I do a lot of crawling into hides.

    I quickly learned that the drop leg holsters in any length quickly turned into a shovel. While crawling high or low, the dam holsters would in every instance rotate towards the ground and literally pack itself with dirt and fluff.

    Only took one garden mission, and a lot of equipment review before I went back to a belt holster high on my right hip. Ammo high on the left hip.

    Over the years it seems like I always end up going back to The Cooper Doctrine, simple is better, simple is faster, and simple has historically proven to be in my best interest.

    I also stayed away from Velcro, and kydex holsters. A good leather holster is dam hard to beat.

    Just thinking out loud.


    • I make my own leather sheaths (and anything else i need that leather will work) for my knives and choppers. Cant beat kit you make with your own hands and experience you know will work.

  7. Military style flap holsters are probably the best choice and have stood the test of time. A grizzley or brown bear charge out of the bush requires nearly instant action. As a friend of mine was told in a Missoula MT sports store years ago, if a bear charges and you are holding a rifle, you have one option. If you are going to the latrine in camp and run int a bear, the holstered pistol is the only option and you had better be fast! ! ! Hunting in the Bob Marshall Wilderness area some years ago a grizzley charged the guide and my partner and me from about 25-30 feet out of nowhere. We each got off one rifle shot and dropped the bear within one step of us. Three hits but only one instantly fatal – a round between the eyes. Snap shooting, never determined who hit what. You do not even have time to pee in your pants!

    • I concur. I killed a 600lbs grizzly bear with my Ak74. I had 0 time to grab my pistol from my webbing belt in a protective holster where i had it that day. The Ak74 was tearing it up as it closed in a lightening flash from 50 feet. If i had anything else that day in that low light and being out of breath from the hike up the mnt, id be dead.


        • Thanks Pal..

          I fired 13 rounds. 3 were warnings as it charged. The rest was fired in two volleys and were aimed. I found 7 holes. I wanted to find the rest but I didn’t have time to find them as it was skinned out. One shot I remember distinctly was an aimed shot at the front leg. I have the bone sitting here next to me where the 545×39 thoroughly shattered the leg bone and I remember it flopped about just before it fell off the cliff side..

          I think back now how many times I went out with just a pistol before I got my Ak74 and how foolish i was for that.


  8. Pingback: Tactical Training by Max Velocity | JC Dodge Sends: Holsters

  9. Late to the party, but JC, I wanted to mention if you hate the safariland SLS holsters with the hood, try an ALS- no rotating hood, just the easily removable thumb shield and a thumb release stud. It’s really fast to draw. And any Safarialnd holster should mount to a leg plate, so you could get say, a 6395 ALS and simply remove the SLS and bolt the ALS holster on.

    Another one to look at is the G-code XST, which is also quick to draw since the hood is spring loaded and pops forward as soon as you push a thumb button. The Bladetech WRS is also similarly springloaded, but has more of a thumb break style release.
    Downside here is… I don’t trust springloaded stuff like that….

    Also, for anyone else here looking to get a Safariland holster, or if you already have a standalone that you like, but want to DL it, check out the 6004-10 leg plate- it’s designed with only 1 leg strap, and is a little less huge than the standard leg plate.

    • That being said, going back a second, on the plus side for something like the WRS is that it’s a little slimmer than the SF holster.
      My own holster is a 6395 on a 6004-10 leg plate (so now you know I’m totally biased in what I recommended… 😀 ) that I replaced the strap on (because the factory strap sucks), and I quite like it, but I do agree that it is a little fatter than I would prefer.

  10. Pingback: Chest And Shoulder Mounted Handgun Rigs | Prepper's Survival Homestead

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