8 questions to ask before your next holster purchase

Holsters – Buying Protocol

Disclaimer: PoliceOne’s Buying Protocols are a growing set of questions to ask and things to consider when purchasing Law Enforcement products for yourself or your department. They are not designed to be hard and fast rules for buying equipment, but to encourage thought and discussion as you consider your individual product needs and preferences.

Overall Holster Questions

1) What duties will I be performing while wearing the holster?
a. Outlining the duties performed while wearing the holster is important because it can help determine which type of holster is needed.
i. If you are primarily on patrol duty — which requires sitting, running, fighting and crowded areas — you may need a different holster than if I was on tactical operations, or courtroom security.
ii. Factor in climate where duties will be performed. If you are on patrol around a lake year-round, leather duty gear may not be ideal.
b. Consider where you feel the holster is most comfortable to be worn, and is easily accessible for your duties. Options include the following:
i. Hip worn, cross drawn, high ride, mid ride, thigh, pan cake, break front.

2) What security level holster do I need?
a. Level 1 holsters secure the firearm through tension fit. Primarily worn for undercover work, plainclothes operations or for backup guns.

Pros: They offer concealment and speed.
Gross or fine motor skill operated.
Cons: Offers very little retention capabilities.
At times, they are worn in uncommon, less-accessible areas.

b. Level 2 holsters usually have a secured thumb break (safety strap) and retention system that requires a specific motion to negotiate the firearm from the holster. These can be found in most standard police applications.

Pros: Gross or fine motor skill operated.
Various types of construction.
Cons: Offers little concealment.
May be more difficult to draw from compared to Level 1. *

c. Level 3 holsters feature three mechanisms that provide an added level of protection to safeguard the weapon.

Pros: Very secure retention of the firearm.
Cons: Offers virtually no concealment.
May be more difficult to draw from compared to Level 2. *

* (make sure you are very comfortable and practice drawing from any holster you

3) What type of material do I want my holster to be made out of?
a. Injection-molded plastic or nylon is best for durability but may be uncomfortable.
b. Leather may be more comfortable and professional looking but is also more susceptible to weather.

4) What type of finish should I choose?
a. Always check with your department to see if they have specific requirements.
Patten leather or plain black are the standard, plain black and non gloss are best for officer safety.

5) Does the manufacturer provide any recommendations/testimonials from other agencies that are currently using their product?
a. Check with your local agencies if none are available.

6) Does the manufacturer have any new versions of their holsters being released in the next 12-18 months?
a. It is always a good idea to check if any new models are coming out before you invest in a holster.
b. Inquire if the manufacturer or your distributor has an upgrade or exchange policy.

7) Does my department have any appearance or safety requirement for holsters?
a. Many departments require all officers to have holsters with the same finish and/or material, and/or may have retention level requirements.

8) What is the warrantee on the holster I am considering purchasing?
a. A properly maintained holster can last a career, but typically, holsters last 5-7 years.

About the author

Dave Young is the Founder and Director of ARMA, now part of the PoliceOne Training Network. He is also the Chairman of PoliceOne.com Advisory Board, and a training advisor for CorrectionsOne.com. Dave graduated from his first law enforcement academy in 1985, and now has over 25 years of combined civilian and military law enforcement and training experience. He was a sworn corrections and law enforcement officer in the state of Florida and has served as a gate sentry, patrol officer, watch commander, investigator, Special Reaction Team (SRT) member, leader and commander in the United States Marine Corps.

Dave has participated in and trained both military and law enforcement personnel in crowd management operations throughout the world. Dave is recognized as one of the nation's leading defensive tactics instructors specializing in crowd management, chemical and specialty impact munitions, protocol and selection of gear and munitions, ground defense tactics, and water - based defensive tactics.

He has hosted television shows for National Geographic TV Channel on Non Lethal Weapons and the host of Crash Test Human series.  He is a former staff noncommissioned officer in the United States Marine Corps, a member of the Police Magazine advisory board, and a technical advisory board member for Force Science Research Center. Dave is an active member of the American Society for Law Enforcement Training (ASLET), International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA).

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