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Field Test: Drop-Down Tactical Leg Holsters
Tactical Response recently conducted a Field Test of drop-down tactical leg holsters. The evaluation included holsters from six manufacturers: 5.11 Tactical, Blackhawk, Blade-Tech, Safariland, Tactical Assault Gear and Uncle Mike’s.
The holsters tested are the standard, generic drop-down holsters for SWAT team members—holsters that any operator on the team would wear. They are neither task-specific nor stack-specific holsters. Instead, they are suitable for one and all on the team. The drop-down holsters could also be used for certain patrol functions, such as K-9, but the primary purpose is use by SWAT entry team members. The holsters provided for evaluation were chosen at the manufacturers’ discretion.
The drop-down holsters were sent for evaluation to several testers across the U.S. The participants were tactical and police officers from a variety of regions and agencies who used the holsters in tactical training and during operations.
The holsters were evaluated based on the following criteria: positioning, security, draw, reholster, fit and finish, and tactical use.
The holsters were given a score from 1 to 5 in each category, 1 being “poor” and 5 being “excellent.” Following is a review of how each drop-down tactical leg holster ranked among the evaluating officers, including which features were most praised and appreciated, what problems officers found and the overall average score of each holster.
TACTICAL ASSAULT GEAR
Universal Drop Leg Holster
AVERAGE SCORE 2.2
The Universal Drop Leg Holster is intended to be just that—universal. Adjustable for barrel length, slide widths and small tactical lights, this holster from Tactical Assault Gear is designed to accommodate a multitude of handguns, from full-size to compact models.
This, however, seemed to cause issues for the testers regarding positioning, security, draw and reholster. Many remarked that the cant or angle of the holster could not be changed, though they did note that the height, leg straps and weapon fit were all easily adjustable.
This holster is made entirely of nylon with no plastic back-plate to secure or support the weapon. Some suggested the lack of plastic made the holster more comfortable, while others thought this caused the weight of the loaded pistol to bear uncomfortably on the thigh. The construction and durability of the nylon and stitching were reported to be of good quality; however, many felt that this was an outdated design for a tactical holster.
All of the testers had difficulty engaging and disengaging the thumb strap. They said it was nearly impossible to operate with one hand, and often difficult even with two. Though many said reholstering was simple, engaging the snap retention once the weapon was in took too long and could be unsafe for tactical officers. There is no automatic locking security device, so the thumb strap must be snapped to secure the weapon. Some also reported that the strap came undone during normal tactical activity.
Overall, testers did not feel that this holster was suited for tactical use. They appreciated that the holster was highly adjustable to conform to almost any weapon, including accommodating different tactical lights mounted to the weapon, and they conceded that the construction was durable. However, the difficulty encountered while engaging or disengaging the retention strap was considered highly unsafe for tactical scenarios, and many also remarked that the adjustable nature of the holster resulted in bulkiness and allowed the weapon to move in the holster.
The Tactical Assault Gear Universal Drop Leg Holster received an overall average score of 2.2 out of 5. The MSRP for the Universal Drop Leg Holster is $110.95.
Pro-3 Tactical Holster
AVERAGE SCORE 3.3
Among Uncle Mike’s top selling holsters, the Pro-3 has an internal locking device intended to provide automatic retention under all conditions. A retention strap is included for additional security.
Most testers found the automatic locking device to be a simple and effective mechanism which allowed for easy reholstering. The weapon was secure against accidental release with this system, even without engaging the retention strap.
To draw, the automatic locking device requires the user to twist the weapon to remove it from the holster. Some found the twist feature awkward and inhibiting, while others easily adjusted to the motion and found it an effective safety feature.
This additional thumb strap, however, is where many had trouble with the Pro-3 holster. While it was easy to unsnap, most said it was very difficult and clumsy to secure the thumbbreak with one hand. Testers found that they had to look down to align the snaps in order to engage it, which can be time-consuming and therefore unsafe.
The cant of the holster was not adjustable, though height could be adjusted and had sufficient strap length to do so. Some testers complained about the lack of elastic in the leg straps, which caused discomfort and made for an inadequate fit.
In general, testers reported this to be an “average” holster. They approved of the overall appearance and quality of construction and reported that the holster did its job. However, many had issues with positioning, draw and reholster, and it seemed to sit awkwardly for some.
The Uncle Mike’s Pro-3 Holster received an overall average score of 3.3 out of 5. The MSRP for the Pro-3 is $89.95.
WRS Tactical Thigh Rig
AVERAGE SCORE 4.2
The WRS (Weapon Retention System) Tactical Thigh Rig from Blade-Tech is designed with a spring-loaded hood that snaps forward when released by pushing the thumb-lock inward toward the body. The hood is simply rotated back over the gun after it is reholstered.
Testers found this holster to be very versatile. The thigh rig was adjustable for height and cant, and the leg straps could be adjusted to fit the user’s thigh. The leg straps were also non-slip and incorporated elastic for increased comfort and fit. The adjustability made it more comfortable for extended wear. The thigh back-plate was reported to be flexible and well-contoured for any position.
One tester particularly appreciated the clip that rotates between the belt attachment and holster, which he said allowed him to move more freely and naturally when walking or bending.
The double retention locking system met with mixed reviews. Some had difficulty adjusting to the hood release, found the thumb motion unnatural, and thought it took too much time to engage or disengage the locking device. Others felt it was a very efficient system which allowed for quick and easy drawing and holstering. The hood could be left locked for more security, or disengaged for a faster draw, as the holster also contains an internal locking device.
With the Blade-Tech holster, testers were able to easily draw and reholster their weapons with one hand. The inclusion of the hood made for a larger opening which facilitated reholstering. Testers also noted that the rigid, molded Kydex construction made it easy to holster their weapons.
Overall, this holster was well-received, with the only real point of contention being the hood device. Most found the holster to be very durable and well-constructed, with a high quality fit and finish. Some mentioned that the belt loop attachments were a little thin and short and could be more substantial. Yet testers generally reported that the holster functioned as designed, was less bulky than some other holsters, and was well-suited for tactical use.
The Blade-Tech WRS Tactical Thigh Rig (with Light) received an overall average score of 4.2 out of 5. The MSRP for the full WRS system is $144.95.
AVERAGE SCORE 4.4
The ThumbDrive Holster from 5.11 features a thumb-activated safety designed to secure the weapon at all times. To draw the weapon, the user simply pushes down the thumb mechanism while pulling up on the weapon.
Testers were very pleased with the drawing and reholstering ability provided by the ThumbDrive Holster. The weapon locks automatically upon reholstering, which is easily accomplished with one hand and does not require the user to look down at the holster. No follow-up action is necessary to lock the holster.
Testers reported a very easy, very positive engagement of the locking mechanism. Once the weapon was in the holster, it remained secure regardless of activity. Wearing gloves had no effect on their ability to draw or reholster their weapons.
Drawing was accomplished as easily as reholstering. The security device was easy to disengage, and the weapon could be drawn in one quick, natural motion. Testers described the draw as smooth, quick and effortless. Many also reported that there was enough room for the weapon’s grip to be fully and easily obtained.
The overall design and construction of the 5.11 holster was highly praised. Most were pleased with the adjustability of the holster as far as height and leg strap tension. The leg straps include a non-slip feature as well as elastic, allowing for increased comfort and security.
Multiple testers remarked that the holster was very sleek and not at all bulky. They also felt that it contoured well to the thigh and allowed free range of motion. Overall, the 5.11 holster was found to have a simple, effective design that is well-suited for tactical use.
The 5.11 ThumbDrive Holster received an overall average score of 4.4 out of 5. The MSRP for the ThumbDrive Holster and the drop-down thigh rig together is $89.98; the MSRP for the holster alone is $49.99.
Level 3 SERPA Tactical Holster
AVERAGE SCORE 4.6
Blackhawk’s Level 3 SERPA Tactical Holster features two security mechanisms, one of which immediately locks in the weapon upon reholstering. Testers reported that their pistols were extremely secure and would not accidentally release once holstered.
Yet the double locking mechanism met with mixed reviews. Some had difficulty managing the two security features and found the hood lock slightly cumbersome, making for a delayed reholstering process. One tester mentioned that both mechanisms were unnecessary, and he would have preferred just one.
The majority of testers, however, were able to draw and reholster quickly and with ease. One tester described the Blackhawk system as “natural, fluid and ergonomic.” Testers were able to operate both mechanisms simultaneously and found that the weapon slid easily out of the molded holster. They appreciated the double retention feature of the automatic internal lock, combined with the secondary hood which securely covers the back of the slide.
There was also some contention over the adjustability of the holster. Some found it highly adjustable, while others found it limited or average in options and range. The leg straps met with approval as far as fit and adjustability; they incorporate elastic and embedded rubber to prevent unwanted movement.
The Blackhawk holster also includes dual vertical straps for attachment to the belt. This is different from most other holsters and was considered an advantage by some as it more evenly distributed the weight of the pistol. The belt loops adjust to fit any size belt. The back-plate was praised as being well-contoured and flexible.
Overall, the Blackhawk holster was regarded as a well-made, quality molded holster. Most felt that it was not very bulky, and some remarked on the excellent grip. The majority of testers felt that their weapon was very secure with the automatic retention lock, though some felt they could do without the secondary hood lock. This holster was reported to allow a very fast draw and a smooth reholster, both of which were achievable with one hand and without visual confirmation.
The Blackhawk Level 3 SERPA Tactical Holster received an overall average score of 4.6 out of 5. The MSRP for the Level 3 SERPA is $152.99.
Model 6305 ALS Tactical Holster
AVERAGE SCORE 4.7
The Model 6305 ALS (Automatic Locking System) Holster from Safariland secures the weapon once it is holstered and comes standard with a hood guard. The adjustable vertical leg strap incorporates a quick release detachable leg harness.
With its double retention locking system, testers felt that their weapons were very secure in the Safariland holster. The pistol is instantly fastened upon reholstering with the Automatic Locking System, and then as a secondary precaution, the holster includes a thumb-engaged hood.
Many felt that the retention devices were extremely easy to operate and allowed a quick draw and reholster. Some, however, were not completely satisfied with the hood device, which had to be manually pushed down or pulled back. One tester noted that he would prefer the hood to be spring-loaded. However, he also remarked that with the double retention system, the weapon would never accidentally come out of the holster.
Most found that, with just a little practice, they were able to draw and reholster their weapons with ease. The molded construction facilitated reholstering, and the opening was large enough that testers were able to easily insert their pistols without looking. After the gun automatically locked, the hood could be snapped back with minimal effort.
Some remarked that the cant or angle could not be adjusted, though they seemed to be OK with this. Height was easily adjustable, as were the thigh straps. Fit seemed to be excellent for all. The one large belt loop could not be adjusted for size, but testers said it was large enough to fit standard tactical belts. The back-plate was reported to be flexible enough that the holster could be comfortably positioned anywhere on the thigh.
Grip was excellent with this holster. Gloves did not seem to make a difference, whether for grip, draw, reholster or operating the retention devices. There was no interference from the holster as far as grip, and all the mechanisms could be operated with one hand.
Testers were impressed with the fit and finish of the Safariland holster. The rubberized inner coating on the thigh straps kept the rig from moving too much, and all the plastic edges of the holster itself are rolled so as not to be too sharp. Testers found the holster to be smooth, sturdy and not too bulky.
The only real point of contention seemed to be on the hood guard, which some felt was not entirely effortless to operate as it had to be pushed all the way up or down. Other than that, testers found this holster to be highly suited to tactical use and weapon retention, and one tester even said this holster is the standard by which all others should be measured.
The Safariland Model 6305 ALS Tactical Holster (with Quick Release Leg Harness) received an overall average score of 4.7 out of 5. The MSRP for the Model 6305 is $220.
PANEL OF TESTERS
Kevin Davis: Patrolman; Akron PD; Akron, OH
Darin Dowe: Lieutenant; Broward County Sheriff; Fort Lauderdale, FL Juan Duran: Tactical Officer; Chicago PD; Chicago, IL
Don Munson: Deputy Sheriff; Benton County Sheriff; Oxford, IN Scott Oldham: Sergeant; Bloomington PD; Bloomington, IN
Jason Sturgis: Sergeant; Golden Valley PD; Golden Valley, MN
Steve Tracy: Officer; Park Ridge PD; Hainesville, IL
Photo credit for in-service images to Don Munson.
Published in Tactical Response, Sep/Oct 2010
Rating : 9.0
Click to enlarge images.