How do you Draw? The Perfect Gun Holster

August 30, 2017

As law enforcement officers, we often spend a good deal of time deciding what tools of the trade are most important to our jobs, as well as the proper boots, uniform, and gear to wear that ensure we’re both comfortable and mobile. But perhaps one of the most overlooked pieces of equipment is our gun holster.

This vital piece of duty gear is the interface between your gun and your body. There are two requirements for every holster:

  1. It must keep your gun secure when not being used.
  2. It must let you get to your weapon quickly when needed.

In other words, your holster must protect your gun and allow you a quick draw.

Holsters come in a variety of styles with different attributes and costs. When choosing a holster, you must balance price with quality. You don’t want to unnecessarily spend a fortune for a holster, but you also don’t want to focus on saving a few bucks when your life and safety are on the line.

So what should you consider when picking out the right holster to suit your needs? Let’s take a look.


Gun retention is the idea of securing your firearm and not letting the bad guy take your own weapon away to use against you. A balancing act must be found of the right amount of retention. Too little and your gun isn’t secure. Conversely, too much retention and you can’t draw your gun as quickly.

How does the gun remain secure?

Holsters employ devices to prevent the loss of a gun during activity. Many use snaps or bands across the opening of the holster where the gun sits. Some of these devices take force to trigger opening, while others can be easily opened by flipping the gun up against it.

In most instances, law enforcement personnel use security holsters and are required to have their gun be forced up or pushed down before the gun can be removed.

Active vs. Passive Retention Devices

What do we mean by active and passive retention devices? Passive devices have to be manually engaged by the user, so that unless you as the user engage them, your holster is basically just a pouch for your gun. These types of devices include hoods and thumb-brakes.

On the other hand, active retention devices allow you to simply push your gun back down if it starts to come out, and the retention devices do the work for you, safely securing your gun in its holster via an automatic locking system (ALS).

Holster Retention Ratings

When shopping for a holster, you’ll notice that most holsters come with a retention level rating, usually I, II, or III. But what do these levels mean, and how were they devised?

Bill Rogers first introduced them in 1973 as a way to determine a holster’s retention level based on a five-second attach when the attacker was trying to take a gun away. Unfortunately, they were never adopted as an industry-standard and to this day, there is still no industry-wide standard when it comes to retention rating. Each individual company is free to develop their own protocols for testing and rating holsters, so that retention levels are not comparable across the industry.

That means that as a buyer, you need to look past a simple number designation for retention, and research how each individual holster’s security features work. What criteria does the company use to rate their holster? Brand X’s criteria may be completely different from Brand Y’s.

What does it all mean?

The bottom line when it comes to retention is that it’s really up to you and personal preferences on what level of retention is important to you. Do you feel better knowing you have a great deal of retention safety in place to keep your gun out of the wrong hands? Or do you prefer to sacrifice some of that retention for a faster draw? You must decide what’s most relevant to you and your everyday duties and situations.

Types of Holsters

There are a variety of holster-styles to choose from, and which one you pick depends largely on your duties. As a patrol officer, you may be limited to an everyday side-hip, duty holster. Other types of holsters include:

  • Cross-draw holster – Perfect for someone who spends a lot of time in a car. For a right-handed person, the holster and gun will be on their left side which allows for a more natural and quick draw with their dominant hand.
  • Shoulder holster – A favorable alternative, especially with detectives, this holster style is comfortable and its adjustability means it fits well with most body types.
  • Paddle holster – This beltless option is designed to be worn against the body on the inside of the pants, allows for a quick draw, and is easy to put-on and remove. Because it relies on friction to keep it in place, this holster presents a disadvantage in its physical security to the body

Where do you wear your holster?

The hip is the most common area law enforcement personnel wear a holster and gun, and is the standard for any uniformed officer. The location you wear your holster can, but rarely, affects the level of retention you want. It does, however, often dictate the style of holster you choose and how you draw your gun.

Keep in mind that you should train with the holster and gun in the location you plan on wearing it.This is critical. If, for whatever reason, you decide to change the location of your holster and gun, spend time training with it in the new location so that you are comfortable with it there and prepared to draw like it’s second nature.

As A.J. George, a sergeant with the Scottsdale (AZ) Police Department says, “If you move the gun, you need to let your brain know where it went.”

Leather or Plastic?

Another important variable to consider when choosing a holster is from what type of material it’s constructed. Historically, the most popular option has been leather. As with all things leather, the holster is durable, long lasting, aesthetically pleasing, and protects your gun well.

The problem with leather holsters is that after drawing the gun, the material often “collapses,” making re-holstering your firearm difficult. Although they look great and last many years, putting functionality over style is important.

That’s where synthetic materials come in. These materials offer many advantages like scratch resistance, toughness, maintenance-free, and ready to go right out of the package without breaking them in.

Synthetic materials also hold their shape, making drawing and re-holstering your gun a breeze. Perhaps the most popular material for holsters is Kydex, a thermoplastic that combines the best of all materials and offers key benefits like weatherproof and waterproof construction, cost efficiency, and durability.

So to summarize, the key attributes to look for when choosing a duty holster are:

  • Retention and security
  • Durability
  • Construction materials
  • Comfortableness
  • Look
  • Price

Invest your time and energy in choosing the right holster for your needs. Making the right choice now can be a lifesaver down the road.