Holsters are Important
From Down Range TV
Gear does not make the combatant, but good gear can certainly enhance performance. After three plus decades of practical street experience and a lot of time spent researching the topic of interpersonal conflict, I truly believe combat is 90% attitude and 10% physical skill. Skill needs to be so familiar that it can run on auto pilot and having the right gear for your real world of work will only enhance your ability to operate without conscious thought. Being able to access critical pieces of kit by feel due to proper placement is certainly part of the “Time Is Life” concept. I recently read a news report of an off-duty police officer who discharged his gun in a crowded shopping mall. It appears the officer was carrying his Smith & Wesson M & P pistol in his waistband without a holster, relying on friction to hold it in place. Obviously this did not work as the gun slid down his pants and as he tried to grab it, the gun discharged into the ground with debris stinging a nearby shopper. I was involved in the early development of the M & P thus I know the gun is as safe as anything human designed and engineered can be. The culprit here was improper carriage that led to an un-safe human condition.
Holsters are important and they should be given as much thought as the handgun being carried. For 16 years, I wrote a column for Guns and Weapons for Law Enforcement Magazine called “Plainclothes” and while I did discuss tactics and techniques, I also saw a large number of holsters over the years. Some were good, some bad and some just OK, but one thing that was obvious is there is no one holster that will work for all people. A combative carry holster, especially a concealment rig to be worn everyday in street clothes, should be selected based on the normal mode of dress, gun used, body shape, any physical limitations to the draw action and other personal considerations. In a nutshell, the holster needs to fit YOU and not some writer or instructor, not that such people are ill-informed, they just are not you.
I have gotten to know a large number of skilled holster makers over the years, people like Milt Sparks, his protégé Tony Kanaly, John Bianchi, Neale Perkins, Tex Shoemaker, Ted Blocker, Thad Rybka and Ken Null just to name a few. These “masters of leather” can hide a large gun on a very small person if the individual involved will truly commit to a concealed carry life style. All are/were gentlemen but the man I got to know best was Lou Alessi who passed away a few years back way ahead of his time. Alessi Holsters are still being made while Lou’s former partner, Skip Ritchie, still makes holsters in the original Alessi shop under the name Ritchie Leather. Like many people who have used a large numbers of holsters, I have my own opinions on the features that go into a good holster and on one visit to Lou’s Amherst, NY shop I got to have my say. I was showing Lou how he could improve his designs when he stopped, looked at me and said “OK as—ole, you’re the expert…show me how to do this!” Lou said it good naturally so I was not going to waste the opportunity. I described a holster with less cant for wearing on the side of the body, an outside piece of leather molded as a pocket, reinforced mouth band for one hand manipulation and a shorter profile to take up less real estate on the belt. To make a long story short, the result was the Close Quarter Covert (CQC) holster which Lou told me was his best selling holster just before he passed on. I pushed Lou for an easy on/off version which resulted in the snap on/off CQC-Snap (S) holster which might be the most copied holster in the holster industry. Both of these holsters are still available from Alessi and Ritchie Leather.
As Kydex grew in popularity, I saw the advantages of having a CQC-S style holster made in fast on the draw Kydex, but Lou was too busy to venture into the increasingly popular synthetic. With Lou’s blessing (he was that that kind of guy!) I approached Jim Murnack of Fist Holsters and asked him to make a Kydex version. Jim has mastered a process of stitching Kydex together much like a leather rig which helps keep the holster thin and low profile. Jim was able to capture the ride of the CQC-S in Kydex making it flat riding and fast into action. Square Kydex holsters are popular these days and this Fist holster rides just a close to the body as these rigs but with the advantage of being easy to take on and off the belt. Jim named the holster the “Dave Spaulding” and I am flattered, but I do not make a dime from its sale. So if you have a problem with me, don’t let those feelings keep you from trying a very good holster design. The accompanying photo shows a Dave Spaulding rig with a leather appliqué on the front to make it look like leather, but it is Kydex underneath.
I have long been a fan of paddle holsters but found very few were well executed. The design became popular with revolvers where the gun’s center of gravity is in the middle (cylinder) of the gun which is not the case for pistols. Grip heavy semi-autos are not stabilized on the belt with a traditional paddle design allowing the gun to rock and shift constantly as the body moves which hinders an operator from intuitively drawing the gun without conscious thought. Groping and searching for a shifting handgun is not conducive to maximum performance but the idea of a high performance paddle is enticing. I took a Kydex rig from a very well known manufacturer and modified it over several months in an effort to create a close fitting, stable and comfortable paddle rig and finally arrived at what I (and a number of my students) felt was the right combination. Unfortunately this holster maker blew me off, so I took it elsewhere.
Dan Hillsman is a little known custom maker to the shooting community at large, but very well known in the Special Operations and federal law enforcement community. Dan made the holsters worn by actor Denzel Washington in the Tony Scott film “Man On Fire” after Mr. Washington was trained for the role by Don Rosche of Advanced Weapons Training International, one of Dan’s very satisfied customers. Dan makes his holsters from Bolatron which allows him to mold his synthetic holsters to a degree that rivals leather… they are simply the best Kydex-style holsters available! Dan likes a challenge so I contacted him and explained what I wanted. The holster needed to lock on to the belt and waistband as I wanted the added support trouser material offers a belt mounted gun. I also wanted the paddle/lock pad (not sure yet what to call it…see the photo) to be screwed to the holster body as constant on/off motion eventually cracks a Kydex paddle that is molded over the belt from one piece of material.
After months of trial and error, Dan was able to create a holster that locks on to the belt keeping the grip in one position, can be made in various cants, is as close to the body as a pouch-style holster can be and is very fast on the draw while staying concealed. As a matter of fact, Dan was so impressed with the speed this holster displayed he named it “The Scalding Spaulding” though, once again, I do not make a dime from its sale. Both holsters that carry my name I believe are top of the line carry rigs that will work for a wide range of end users. Are they the “end all be all” of handgun carriage? Hardly, but I think they are good ones and deserve your consideration. At least scope them out and see for yourself. They are not inexpensive, but if you are looking for something cheap try Wal-Mart…they have few holster selections.
About the author:
Dave Spaulding is the 2010 Law Officer Trainer of the Year and Law Officer’s Firearms columnist. A 36-year law enforcement and private security veteran, he retired at the rank of lieutenant. He is the founder of Handgun Combatives a training institution that focuses on the combative application of the handgun. He has worked in corrections, communications, patrol, evidence collection, investigations, undercover operations, training and SWAT—and has authored more than 1,000 articles for various firearms and law enforcement periodicals. He is also a graduate of most of the nation’s best known shooting schools. He’s also the author of the best-selling books Defensive Living and Handgun Combatives. Visit his web site at www.handguncombatives.com and like him on Facebook. His DVDs “Handgun Combatives are also available on Paladin Press.