Holster Retention

Safariland’s Retention Level ratings give the holster buyer a method to quickly determine the relative Retention Level of different holster models.


For years Safariland has set the standard of how firearms are retained within a holster.  For Safariland duty holsters, these standards are defined as Retention Levels, rating them as I, II, III, IV.  Each level subjects the holster with its single or combination of security mechanism and type of firearm release to specific tests that are reflective of the type of force expected of an adversary trying to release the firearm from the holster.   

For each level, a primary securing device is defined and then additional security mechanisms are added to reach each subsequent retention level.  A simplified way to think of retention is by the number of actions required to release the weapon.  For example, a Level I requires the operator pull back on the ALS is a single action to release the weapon.  At Level II, the operator must push down on the strap button then flip the SLS over (2 actions) before the weapon is free.  At  Level III, the added actions of LI and LII is a total of 3 actions.  Remember after each action the pull test is performed and the holster must pass that test to be rated the designated level.

Level I

Moderate Retention

Level II

Good Retention

Level III

Enhanced Retention

Level IV

Optimal Retention

Originally developed in the early ’80s, Safariland has refined the criteria of both retention tests and security mechanisms to the most stringent and clearly defined in the industry.  It’s important to know that there are no overarching rules for the industry itself and that manufacturers use different methods, tests, and terminology for their ratings, so be sure to know what you’re buying and to learn the difference.  With Safariland holsters, you can have the confidence to know that every device and every test is defined to ensure the safety of the officers who carry it.




A Safariland Level I Retention duty holster is a model 6390 or 7390, and it is equipped with the ALS® (Automatic Locking System) only. The Level I holster must pass the Safariland Retention Level Test, a simulated five second “grab and snatch” initiated by an adversary.

This is the most popular retention level for military and competitive shooters, as it firmly locks the gun into place, keeping it from dislodging during running or moving through obstacles.



The Safariland Level II Retention models include the 6280 or 7280, which have the SLS (Self-Locking System) only. The Level I holster must pass the Safariland Retention Level Test. If after disabling the initial lock, the holster can again completely pass the Holster Retention Test, then it is rated as a Level II Retention.

The holster models 6390 or 7390 can be rated at Level II Retention by adding an ALS guard, a button/cover that sits over the ALS lever.



The Safariland Level III Retention models include the 6360 or 7360, and they have both the ALS® lock and the SLS™ strap. Before a holster can be considered for a Level III Retention rating or above, it must first receive a Level II Retention™ rating, and then be tested for additional levels of security. This retention level is the most common model for patrol and general duty use.

The holster models 6280 and 7280 can be rated Level III Retention when adding an SLS Sentry Guard, a device that works for the SLS strap, similar to the way an ALS guard works for an ALS lever.



The Safariland Level IV Retention models include the 6360 or 7360, with the ALS® lock and the SLS™ strap, and the addition of the SLS Sentry Guard. Before a holster can be considered for a Level IV Retention rating, it must first receive a Level III Retention™ rating, and then be tested for additional levels of security. This retention level is not typically used for patrol and general duty, but is more commonly used by corrections.

Start of UNRATED tab
Safariland® RDS Tactical Holster


Safariland’s concealment and tactical holsters are not and have never been rated for retention.  Even though the quality and durability of the retention devices are the same as Safariland’s duty holsters, concealment and tactical holsters are not designed to be retention holsters. 

Safariland uses a pull test to simulate a “grab and snatch” situation. Duty holsters are attached via the Universal Belt Loop (UBL) and are worn on a sturdy duty belt.  Both are specifically intended to stand up to the rigorous pull test. Concealment holsters are worn on a variety of belts and Safariland cannot guarantee the construction of these belts would meet and pass the standard pull test every time. It is likely the belt would rip or tear before the firearm could be taken out of the holster. Therefore, concealment holsters are not retention rated.

Tactical holsters were initially intended for military use, and as part of the specifications the holster is designed to break away from the leg shroud at 140psi. This safeguard was established in the event that the holster was caught up during a jump etc., the holster would break away and allow the individual to be free from any restraints. Due to this design requirement, tactical holsters will not pass the standard pull test and cannot be retention holsters.

Bianchi patrol/duty holsters are traditional in design, are crafted from leather or nylon, and are generally used for concealment. They have a variety of security mechanisms, however these devices are not rated. The holsters are better suited for those who are not in a high risk patrol environment.  

retention devices EXPLAINED

The ALS is often called a thumb release or lever, and it sits to the inside of the body of the holster against the user. The system uses an internal locking mechanism that secures the gun in all directions simply upon re-holstering. To release the firearm from a positive lock, the operator must press the lever back. Once the device is released, the weapon can be drawn straight out of the holster with no twisting or other motion required. Additionally, holsters with this ergonomic design are completely operable with the thumb, and the straight up draw makes them very instinctive to use.

The SLS utilizes a rotating hood retention device, which allows for a smoother, single-motion draw and greater protection against attempted weapon takeaways. To unlock the mechanism, the user rotates the hood forward as they obtain the shooting grip, and holds it in the unlocked position, which allows an opening to draw the firearm from the holster.

The SLS strap has a ridge (a small flat purchase surface) along the inside area next to the operator. The ridge or button must be pushed down and then forward to flip the SLS strap out of the way, thus allowing the gun to be drawn.

The ALS/SLS combination provides an extra measure of security. Safariland’s patented ALS locks the firearm into place immediately upon holstering, while the SLS rotating hood and tension device ensure added security. The ALS/SLS can be elevated to Level IV Retention™ with the addition of the Sentry.

The ALS® guard provides additional security for select ALS® concealment, tactical, and duty holsters. This device covers the ALS lever to prevent any accidental or unauthorized use. It can be retrofitted onto existing ALS holsters without the SLS System. The ALS Guard can be added to the ALS to achieve Level II Retention.

The Model 6000 Hood Guard is a uniquely designed accessory providing protection for the SLS holster system. It will adapt to any SLS holster.

The Model 6001 Sentry Guard provides additional security to the SLS holster system. It attaches to any SLS holster and increases the level of retention by one.

The Model 6002 is a combination of the Hood Guard and Sentry. The Hood Guard provides added protection to the SLS holster system while the Sentry increases the retention level by one. It attaches to any SLS holster.