Once again, another holster comes calling to the Carteach0 Big Box 'O Holsters. Will it find a home there...... Or..... will it pass the tests and see daily use?
This time, a tricky rig built by BLACKHAWK! (Yes, that is how the write it... it's a long story). The SERPA holster is unique in design, having a secondary retention lock unlike any other. The trigger finger activated release is the most obvious difference in the SERPA design, but there are others lurking inside it's precision molded plastic heart.
First, an explanation of 'retention levels'. It's surprisingly simple. If a holster has but one means of keeping the pistol from falling out, it's a level one holster. This can be as simple as an area of the holster that squeezes the pistol, until draw force overcomes the grip. A level two holster has two distinct methods of retention. A level three... three methods. It's really that easy.
The SERPA concealment holster is a level two rig. It shares this with the entire product line of SERPA holsters, excepting the ultra-trick super retention level three rigs. The first feature that stops your pistol from falling out is a simple adjustment screw that tightens the holster on the trigger guard area of the pistol. Think of it as an adjustable speed bump. The second retention device is what everyone notices right away, the lever deactivated positive locking mechanism. The SERPA design has a super tough finger that automatically latches inside the leading edge of the trigger guard when the pistol is holstered. It makes an audible click on activation, but that can be defeated by depressing the lever as the pistol is holstered.
The only way the pistol can be drawn is with the shooters hand in proper position on the pistol, and with the trigger finger indexed along the weapons frame as we've always been taught to place it. Then, simply grip the pistol firmly and apply pressure with the trigger finger as the pistol is drawn. As the pistol clears the holster, the shooters grip is forced to be correct while the trigger finger indexes on the frame just as it should.
The main advantage to this is self evident, and why many police departments choose this holster as standard duty gear. It's very, very hard for a bad guy to take an officers weapon by surprise. It's nearly impossible to snatch the weapon from someones SERPA holster without multiple tries, and no officer will stand by while the bad guy tries that.
Another advantage.... weapons do not fall out of SERPA holsters by accident. They simply don't.
How tough is the locking mechanism? Blackhawk tests the holster by hanging it from a tree with a pistol in it, while several grown men swing from the pistol grip. I understand they are up to three guys so far, and are not sure how to add a fourth to the pile. Like I said... tough stuff.
Okay, so the holster works well to keep the pistol where it belongs till it's needed. How well does it work when you want to draw the weapon? That was the question on my mind as I was treated to a rare opportunity... testing the SERPA holster on a police range, under the guidance of Todd Jarrett. Yes... THE Todd Jarrett. Four time world champion, nine time national champion.... and a man who just might know something about holsters.
Todd put myself and a handful of other bloggers through our paces, all of us using borrowed Glock 17's and Blackhawk SERPA holsters. He spent about five minutes coaching us on the draw, and the rest of our time was spent doing shooting drills under his supervision and coaching.
Jarrett explained his experience with the SERPA, and voiced the opinion the holster actually improved his draw since he began using it. The reason.... It requires the shooter to have a proper grip when drawing the weapon.
My experience was positive that day, and has been since. With only minutes of practice the draw is positive and smooth, most of the time. Accepted doctrine says it can take three thousand practices to build muscle memory. While I can't argue with that, I imagine it will take less to master the SERPA holster reliably. Any retention holster will have a learning curve, whether it be a thumb snap or Kydex with an internal speed bump. I've had the somewhat embarrassing moment of attempting to draw my paddle mounted Uncle Mikes kydex holster, only to end up pointing pistol, holster, and all at the target.... and that's something that won't happen with the SERPA rig.
The holster itself is formed of a proprietary formulation of polymer and carbon fiber. This allows a semi-flexible holster that retains shape well in any temperature a human is likely to encounter. As for how tough the material is..... well.... it appears nearly indestructible by any means short of open flame or cutting tools.
It comes with two belt mountings.... one that slips on the belt itself, and a paddle attachment as well. Both attach with screws, and the holster can be mounted at various angles to suit the wearer.
The Blackhawk SERPA holster is not terribly expensive, running from $30 to $50 retail, and is available for less occasionally. The holster for this review was supplied by Blackhawk, which saved me from buying one on E-bay. Frankly, they may be sorry they gave me this one, after they find what I plan to do with it next......
There is one idea regarding the SERPA holsters that circulates the web. That is: If dirt, sand, or small rocks get jammed into the mechanism, the pistol cannot be drawn. I have mostly been told "I heard of this guy" stories, and only one "I know this guy" tale of a locked up SERPA. That's not going to cut it for old Carteach0.... I'm going to have to find out for myself!
In the near future I'm going to do something terribly abusive to this holster. It will be buried in a tub of wet sand, dirt, and rocks.... multiple times. I'm going to drag it through the muck down in the creek, and roll around on it in loose dirt out at the training area. To put it simply, I'll do my damnedest to make it fail spectacularly.
It's not that I do any of those things on a normal day (ever), but some folks who buy this holster do. There are tens of thousands of the SERPA line gracing police officers belts every day, and our special forces and seal teams use them as well. I'm sure each and every one can do their own holster torture test just by wearing it to work.... but I want to see for myself.
Look for more here on the Blackhawk SERPA holster. Range time, carry reports, and of course the upcoming torture test.
Meanwhile, what's an old country boy going to do to check out how well such a holster retains the weapon? Why.... go on over to the neighbors and get his buddy to try it out! Watch this short video for a graphic demonstration of how hard it is to take someones weapon away while they carry in the SERPA. This is under no pressure, and with no resistance at all. The second part of the video shows the same man now wearing and using the Blackhawk SERPA holster, and able to draw decently with only a few minutes practice.
Please note: As stated above, BLACKHAWK! supplied the holster for this review. It's possible they might regret such a rash action in the future, but I owe them thanks for their gracious offer. What I don't owe them is a slanted review... I writes what I sees, no punches pulled.