Previously here we've written about the BLACKHAWK! Serpa holster. Also, about a reported issue with the holster. Now, it is time to really 'dig' into another possible problem.
The Serpa retention holster uses a mechanical latch to capture the trigger guard, and will not release the pistol til the latch is properly depressed. Being mechanical, it can fail to work, and some folks have reported their holster keeping their weapon hostage.
The biggest concern is dirt and debris getting under the release lever and preventing it's operation. To test that issue, in our wholly unscientific and unsophisticated way, the holster had a training dummy inserted into it and was then buried in a bucket of muck. Truly nasty stuff; Good old Pennsylvania farm dirt, with rocks and twigs galore.... and water poured on just to create a really gooey mess.
The video below shows the results... but first I would like to offer some thoughts.
Having a lifetime of mechanical experience, I now have a career teaching the subject to young students. Given the right circumstances, even a round ball of hardened steel can be made to fail each and every time. That doesn't mean we refuse to use ball bearings in a thousand different ways every day, just that we use them properly and in the right conditions.
The Serpa holster is just like that... a mechanical device that can fail in any number of ways, just like the pistol it's made to carry. There is a chance either unit can fail in normal or weird ways, and it's almost assured each will at some point. Just as with ball bearings, we accept the risk in exchange for the benefit of using them.
Yes, I suppose there is a possibility the Serpa holster could fail to release the pistol under some rare conditions. Balanced against that is the purpose of the Serpa mechanism, to retain the pistol when an unauthorized person tries to take it away. It's a trade off.... and an important one to consider. Most of life is like that, take a certain level of chance to reach a certain level of reward. Some days, the very risk of walking out the the front door is substantial, yet we still manage to make it pay off... most of the time, at least.
The features of the Serpa retention holster make it a very serious contender for duty on a police officers gear belt. The same for a soldiers kit. In both cases, physical scuffles with bad folks happen, and far too many officers are murdered with their own weapons. Far more, I believe, than are killed by simple gear failures like a failed retention holster. That has to weigh heavily in the equation.
As the video below shows, an outstandingly extreme situation was created to pack debris into the Serpa holster mechanism and recreate the reported problems. This time, it worked as designed and the pistol was easily drawn (honestly, I was surprised it did). Next time? The thousandth time? The ten thousandth time? Who can say... except that it's a calculated risk balanced against another calculated risk.
I did finally get the holster to fail, in a way. When I packed the empty holster with mud, it didn't manage to lock on the pistol when it was inserted... although it still acted as a holster. Of course, we could get any holster in the world to 'fail' by pouring it full of gravel, or pounding a 2x4 into it.
So.... watch as the BLACKHAWK! Serpa holster is treated to a very, very bad day in Carteach0's hands......
My conclusion? I now own two of the Serpa holsters. One provided by Blackhawk (the one in the video) and another I bought for my Glock 30. I'll use both as range holsters, competition holsters, and occasionally as concealed carry holsters. I've tried hard to find flaws with the Serpa system, and have yet to dig up a real one. The rig is designed for high retention levels while still allowing a rapid draw, and easy re-holstering. It does exactly that, and still comes in at a very reasonable price level.
Besides, they are the only holsters I own that I can clean by tossing in the dishwasher.
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