Why You need a Holster with Retention for OWB Carry

— Jason MosherCADRE Dispatch

For multiple reasons, it is important to have a holster with security mechanisms. The biggest reason is to keep your gun out of the hands of anyone else, which I will discuss more in detail below.

Carrying a gun is a big responsibility and that responsibility isn’t just while we are handling the firearm. Responsible gun ownership involves storing it, carrying it, and of course, shooting it correctly.

The focus of this article is on carrying a firearm — and more specifically, why you should pay attention to the holster used to carry a gun.

Safariland drop-leg holster.
Pictured here is the Safariland 7305 RDS with a QLS. [Photo: Jason Mosher]

When I received my concealed carry permit, I was not in law enforcement yet and had very little experience carrying a firearm. I had grown up around guns and shot them with my grandfather, but I had never carried one.

Because of this, I grabbed the cheapest Black Friday holster I could find, thinking I had struck a bargain. About a week later my gun fell out of the holster onto the concrete steps leading up to my house. I was lucky it didn’t go off, but it did scratch the heck out of the gun.

It goes without saying, I was just a little perturbed at myself and the holster.

Back then, I had never heard of “retention” on a holster. Cheap holsters were made of nylon and good holsters of leather. But then polymers came along and thus began the reign of plastic molded holsters, guns, and just about everything else.

Why retention and security on an OWB holster?

If you carry a gun, you don’t want it to fall out of the holster. It needs to stay on your belt or wherever you attach it and protect the gun while holstered. You don’t want someone grabbing it from your holster, so it needs to be hard for them to get out. On the flip side, it should be easy for you to draw your gun. Also, a holster that is too soft risks the possibility of something pushing against the holster and pressing the trigger.

It can seem that holsters are simple, but in reality, they are complicated little devices. If you are going to trust a device to carry a loaded gun on your side, it should be secure and safe.

Safariland was the first to develop and use retention levels as part of the overall security of a holster. As the leading manufacturer of quality holsters with security mechanisms, security is their primary concern.

Safriland 7360 duty holster.
The Safariland 7360 RDS is a level three holster. [Photo: Jason Mosher]

I’ll talk about security features in a minute, but first, let’s discuss what functions a holster should perform.

The dangers of not having retention

In the law enforcement world, using a holster with retention is a no-brainer. Sadly, it’s common for people to attempt to grab a gun from a holster during an incident.

Years ago, someone attacked one of my deputies and tried to take his gun out of the holster. They rolled around on a gravel road for several minutes while the suspect tried to get ahold of the gun. He was unsuccessful, and the gun stayed securely in the holster. Once the deputy was able to get to his feet, he drew the firearm to protect himself.

He was using a Level III Retention Holster from Safariland, and if he hadn’t been using that holster, the outcome may have been much worse.

Safariland tactical holster.
It’s important to have some level of retention on any OWB holster you carry. Pictured here is the Safariland 6280. [Photo: Jason Mosher]

Police are more likely to encounter those types of incidents because they are called to deal with violent suspects. But, it can happen to anyone. If you have a gun in a holster where it can be seen by others, someone could attempt to grab it. It’s also possible it could fall from the holster during an incident, which is also unacceptable.     

A good holster should be secure enough to withstand the harshest of incidents and keep the gun safe until it’s needed. Several companies make holsters with retention, but not all holsters are created equal.

After working in law enforcement for several years, I can say there are very few holsters I trust like a Safariland holster.   

Why choose Safariland?

Because Safariland makes holsters for the military and law enforcement, there is no room for error. I’ll refer to the story mentioned above as another example. If something were to break and the gun to be drawn by the suspect, things may have ended differently.

When Safariland designs a holster, they conduct their own testing to make sure it will not fail. If it does, they go back to the drawing board. Every level of retention is tested separately, including the attachment method for the belt.

Safariland 7360 RDS duty holster
The Safariland 7360RDS duty holster (pictured here with a 9mm Glock 45). [Photo: Jason Mosher]

A gun can be purchased in varying levels of quality from poor to excellent. A holster, however, should only be purchased if it falls into the excellent category. There are just too many things that can go wrong with a cheap holster.

I can’t even count how many times I have run through the woods, into houses, or ended up on the ground fighting suspects. But I’ve never once had my Safariland holster come off or my gun fall out.  

If you are not familiar with Safariland, they make a wide range of holsters suited for anyone. They are popular in the military and law enforcement world, but they are available to the public as well. From military/combat, to tactical, EDC, and concealed carry, they make every type of holster.

But it’s the focus on retention and security mechanisms that make them worth considering. They even offer a Quick Locking System (QLS) so you can move holsters around without taking the belt attachment off.    

Safariland’s most protective holsters are designated as Duty Rated. These are meant to be worn on a duty belt and have security mechanisms that provide retention: Level I, Level II, Level III, and even Level IV.

These tested retention levels set performance expectations that allow departments to issue the right gear to officers. But, they’re just as relevant for those who aren’t in public service.

Make sure your holster is secure

If you are going to spend money on a firearm and take on the responsibility of carrying a gun, buy a good holster.

If you plan to carry that gun with an OWB holster, make sure it has retention to secure the gun. While your gun protects you, your holster protects your gun. This keeps it out of the hands of the wrong person and ready to draw when you need it most.

Safariland low-ride holster with Glock 17.
The Safariland holster finder can help locate available holsters for a specific firearm. [Photo: Jason Mosher]

Here are my recommendations for setting up a holster:

  • Minimum of a Level 1 Retention (like the 6390RDSO). This holster has an auto-locking feature so the gun locks in place when you holster it.

  • Safariland holster finder. If you want to see what is available for your handgun, try Safariland’s holster finder. It allows you to input the make, model, caliber, barrel length, and attachments. Once you select your gun, it will show the holster options.  

Safariland holsters are available for just about all popular styles of handguns and some that are not as popular. They offer a wide range of colors and materials to choose from as well. If you don’t have a good holster, don’t wait until something goes wrong. Make sure it’s secure for when you need it.

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