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May 24, 2012
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Andrew L. Butts Firearms Evals
with Andrew L. Butts

Product Review: The 5.11 Tactical ThumbDrive holster

The 5.11 Tactical ThumbDrive holster has been available now for a couple years but, up to this point, has only been available for Glock handguns. Well, 5.11 changed that at SHOT 2012 by adding holster models to fit pistols from Smith and Wesson, SIG Sauer and Beretta. I was able to examine several of these new models at the SHOT Show and recently received a ThumbDrive for review.

My sample is made to fit the standard 4" M&P 9mm, 357SIG or .40 handgun and I used this holster at a recent CQB/team tactics class. The holster worked well in this environment and I experienced no problems with it in two days of shooting.

The ThumbDrive comes with two different removable belt loops. One is a paddle and the other is a more conventional loop that uses an adjustable spacer. By removing the spacer, I was able to mount this holster to a 2.25" nylon duty belt without issue. The removable belt loop is attached to the back of the holster with three screws that not only secure the back plate to the holster but allow for a certain degree of adjustment to the holster’s cant.

Built-in Retention
What makes the ThumbDrive unique is the built-in retention feature. Inside the holster is a small wedge that snaps over the pistol’s trigger guard. This wedge locks the pistol firmly in place until the button on the inside edge of the holster is depressed. The wedge stays unlocked until the button is released.

The wedge automatically snaps over the trigger guard upon holstering so there’s no need to use the button unless the pistol is to be drawn. This system reminds me of the ALS retention system from Safariland but locks on the trigger guard rather than the ejection port. Also, the button on the 5.11 ThumbDrive must be pushed straight down rather than swept off as with the ALS. With that said, shooters who are familiar with or accustomed to the Safariland system should have no difficulties using the 5.11 holster.

Intuitive Design
Drawing a pistol from the ThumbDrive is a very intuitive process. As the fingers of the shooting hand circle the pistol’s front strap, the shooting thumb is kept straight. This positions the thumb directly over the ThumbDrive’s release button. As the shooter establishes a grip, the thumb will naturally depress the button, allowing for a quick and smooth draw. In addition, the release button is located in such a position that it is easily accessed with the non-shooting hand for use in down-and-disabled drills and whatnot.

I found these drills easier to conduct by removing the L-shaped plastic chock block from the holster but would recommend that the chop block be left attached for most uses, as this should help with pistol retention and accidental depression of the release button. 

While the ThumbDrive is easily accessed, it isn’t foolproof. I found that I would fumble my draw if I tried to depress and release the button while lifting the pistol from the holster. A more trouble-free method seems to be to drive the release button all the way down with the shooting thumb while using the pushing motion of the thumb to help lift the pistol. This method helps assure an unimpeded draw by keeping the release button depressed until the gun is lifted past the locking wedge.

The ThumbDrive is made of a very durable and rigid plastic material that is both heat and scratch resistant. 5.11 claims their polymer material will withstand heat that will otherwise deform or damage holsters made of Kydex. While I didn’t put this claim to the test, I do note that the holster has suffered no ill effects from being left in a sealed car cab in the hot New Mexico sun.

Several mounting options are available but were not tested at this time. These options include a dropped and offset belt loop as well as a mounting plate for use as a thigh holster.

I enjoyed using the ThumbDrive and will continue to experiment with the holster. It should appeal to anyone looking for a durable system that offers a good level of retention while retaining immediate access. I imagine the holster will particularly appeal to three-gun competitors who want a holster that will securely hold a gun while running, jumping etc but will still allow for speedy access.

The ThumbDrive retails for $64.99 and is currently available in black only. 

About the author

Andrew Butts has served as a soldier in the Army National Guard and also served as a correctional officer in Montana, and is currently with a federal law enforcement agency. Butts currently holds an Expert classification in IDPA and an A classification in USPSA in both Limited and Single Stack Divisions.

Contact Andrew Butts


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