The worst part about buying a new gun ………is the cost of all the accessories! It seems that your estimated amount you allot for the purchase of a new firearm doubles or triples by the time you’re finished getting everything you need with it. Hands down, AR’s are the worst! Slings, magazines, different stocks, lasers, lights, scopes, sights, more magazines, BUIS, grips, forward grips, rails, rail covers, bipods, bayonets, NVG, even more magazines, assault cases, hard cases, ammunition and finally even more magazines. It is no wonder that your $1000 AR (that you got a great deal on) ends up costing you $3000 or more!
Second to the AR…is the pistol. Pistols require holsters (unless you’re strictly a range guy). If you’re an occasional carrier, you can get away with a holster or two. But if you’re more likely to not have your wallet (or purse) on you than to not be carrying a sidearm, then you likely have bins of holsters.
While I may get in trouble here, holsters to one who carries are like shoes are to the ladies. Each holster serves a different purpose. While a single holster might (with effort) be marginally adequate for a variety of situations, selecting the right holster for the situation will get the job done better and more comfortably. I usually end up with 5 to 10 different holsters for each model firearm. Body weights change. Climates change. Purposes change. Clothing changes (ever try a belt holster while wearing a flight-suit or coveralls?). And some I just tried, didn’t like, and tossed in a box.
There are advantages and disadvantages to every style of holster and that can be dictated by the situation for which you are wearing it.
If you’re a hunter, you have either carefully selected what holster will give you maximum comfort while protecting your weapon and having easy access to it….or you have suffered the pains of rubbing, weight, sore backs, etc.\
The same for CCW holders who likely chose comfort, concealment and speed, whereas officers are looking for security, speed and comfort.
What area is often overlooked are the factors that go into considering a holster for TEOTWAWKI.
Let’s start with materials. The common holster materials out there are:
- Injection molded plastic
LEATHER – Leather is probably the oldest material out there for holster construction. Properly cared for, leather holsters seem to last forever. There are numerous holsters out there that are easily in excess of 100 years that still do the job when demanded of them. A fine crafted molded-for-your-gun is a thing of beauty (and unfortunately is sometimes priced like designer shoes). Over time, the leather will loosen up (usually over many, many years) and if the holster is friction fitted, it may loosen up too much. While slower to bring into action, a thumb-break style will continue to securely retain your weapon even when the leather loosens up. Leather, depending on the climate, can also rot out, dry out, retain moisture (which can rust your firearm) or tear. With some basic leather working skills and tools, many can be repaired (usually snaps and stitching) with a little time and effort. In addition to usually a higher price, another downside to most leather holsters is that they usually only hold one type or model of firearm (or variations within that same model – i.e. 1911 Govt vs. 1911 Officers).
NYLON – There’s good nylon holsters……and LOTS of bad nylon holsters. The majority of nylon holsters out there seem like they were sewn at the end of a 60hr work week by a half blind monkey using the remains of a used nylon duffle bag. While lighter than a lot of holsters, they seldom retain their shape well and unless reinforced, collapse when not filled with a firearm (making re-holstering one-handed a challenge). They tend to move around a bit more than leather holsters, regardless of whether they’re on your belt, ITP, or as a shoulder rig. On the plus side….they are usually inexpensive. They also dry out faster and require less maintenance than leather. Unfortunately, they’re also extremely ugly, though they can often be made to reflect and complement your choice of camouflage patterns.
KYDEX & INJECTION MOLDED PLASTIC – Kydex and Injection Molded Plastic (IMP) are the “latest and greatest” in the world of holsters. Generally more inexpensive than molded leather, the majority utilize a friction fit. Often as light as nylon, they retain shape, shed water, are impervious to most chemicals, are low maintenance, and (at least the quality ones) don’t move around much on your belt. They are usually extremely fast for a weapon’s presentation and are highly favored by CCW holders and off duty cops. On the down side…….they break. And when they break, they are usually NOT repairable. If they utilize a retention system other than friction (i.e. thumb break, SERPA button, SLS/ALS, etc) those parts also wear out and break eventually.
A TEOTWAWKI holster is different from other holsters. It has different requirements and as a result, different characteristics. While not all of characteristics may apply to your situation, please consider each individually and how it can or might apply to you.
First, the TEOTWAWKI holster might possibly be the LAST holster available to you. Finding a replacement holster, or repair shop is likely NOT an option. Select a holster that will last! Kydex and IMP holsters usually last me 1-3 years with daily carry (I carry daily, though it might not be the same holster every day) before breaking. While I love them and use them often for CCW, they are not TEOTWAWKI holsters.
Second, the perceived majority of the time, in a TEOTWAWKI situation for prepared individuals, the pistol will be for convenience and backup. It will NOT before primary defense, or hunting, or, god-forbid assault/counter-attack. Those functions will be taken up by long arms. In the majority of situations, “fast draws” are NOT a reality. Instead it will be “fast shots” from a weapon already out of the holster because you’re in a bad area/situation and were smart enough to pull it out of the holster before you needed it, OR you used a long gun instead.
Third, since your sidearm is technically your backup, it should be protected so that when needed IT WORKS! While I love my Wilderness Zip Slide holster and Galco’s Yaqui Slide holster, they don’t do the greatest job of protecting the weapons from damage, loss, moisture, dirt, etc. Remember, this is TEOTWAWKI. For those who bugged OUT, you’re likely crawling through brush….not walking down a sidewalk. Crawling through brush and dirt is hard on gear, especially exposed handguns! There’s a reason a lot of the older military holsters had flaps. They were protected from weather and debris and rarely “fell out” accidently. A lot of hard molded holsters are crushed (when empty) to the point of the firearm no longer being able to be slid in when the person is done rolling around on the ground, and certain brands are known for getting debris in the release mechanism and disabling the release, thereby not allowing you to take your pistol out of the holster.
Fourth, who says you’ll be using your sidearm? What happens when you lose your sidearm (theft, misplaced, lost, confiscated, etc)? You may acquire a new sidearm, but you might not be lucky enough to get the holster for it. A holster that fits a variety of models and styles adequately may be better than the holster that fits one model perfectly.
Fifth, who says that you’ll be able to carry it for your dominant hand? Accidents happen and with accidents, come injuries. On several occasions, I’ve had to carry with my “off-hand” when my dominant hand is injured. As a result, in addition to regular “off-hand” shooting practice (both off-hand only and off-hand side with two hands), I try to maintain at least two or more left-handed holsters for some of my more common carry pistols.
Sixth, who says you’ll be the one using the sidearm and holster? While this may not affect everyone, it will certainly affect many. Not even going into the discussion of loaning a weapon to a “new” team member, or an extra handgun to a friend/member who lost theirs (again, theft, misplaced, lost, confiscated, etc), I’m talking about family! Especially the kids! While your 14 year old loves “his” .38 spl or 9mm, don’t expect that to last as they grow. Right now, my .22LR Ruger MkIII, which I purchased with my very own money, somehow no longer belongs to me. It now belongs to my daughter! In a TEOTWAWKI situation, I can easily see her returning the Ruger for something stronger, and I can guarantee that it will also be something I purchased, for me, with my very own money! Are all your family and friends all right or left handed?
Lastly, while weight and comfort are always an issue, for those who don’t already daily carry, it will be a new experience. The holster that works for a few hours hunting or at the range or target shooting, are rarely comfortable all day every day unless you’ve really done your homework.
Holsters For Consideration
While there are numerous brands and styles out there, I can only comment on ones I’ve seen and used. I’m not advocating giving up your custom leather or Kydex rigs. However, while I’m sure everyone has prepped with spares for everything, you might also consider getting a few spare holsters as well. For those on a budget, gun show discount bins, pawn shops, Craig’s list postings, etc are excellent ways to find new and used holsters FOR CHEAP!
Blackhawk makes several nylon tactical thigh holsters that carry a variety of models/sizes. They are reinforced to stay open for re-holstering and will last a lifetime even under harsh conditions. One of my favorites is their “Special Operations Holster” with the protective flap, perfect for protecting the weapon when rolling around, while allowing easy access. The flap can also be fastened out of the way when necessary while still securing the pistol with a thumb break.
If you like the old military leather flap holsters, originals and reproductions will fit many of the current stock of sidearms. Just make sure that you care for and maintain the leather. Bianchi offers a nylon version of the leather military flap holsters.
Wilderness’s Safepacker will also completely protect a sidearm while allowing easy and fast access (with practice). In addition, the Safepacker holster is a “low-key” holster that doesn’t scream, “Hey! This guy is armed!”
The Zip Slide holster, also by The Wilderness, while it doesn’t protect the weapon very well, it is great as a backup/spare holster to stick in your pack. Extremely small and light weight, you won’t even notice it. When I take a larger holster, like the Special Operations holster, I usually throw in a Zip Slide holster in the event that I need a CCW holster (or just am tired of having something strapped to my leg all day).
Condor’s Tornado holster is a great lightweight holster. It comes in a variety of colors (including Multi-cam). Not only is it adjustable to fit a LARGE variety of pistols, it does so without the “loose slop” of many of the other “one-size-fits-all” holsters. Easily fitted to your specific sidearm, it can be also be adjusted for carrying a sidearm with, OR WITHOUT, a light/laser mounted on the weapon’s rail. It is an extremely versatile holster for a generally good price.
Lastly, because I’ve said too much already, is Safariland’s Model 567/568/569 “Custom Fit” holster. It comes as either a belt, a clip, or a paddle holster and can be adjusted for both strong side and cross draw. With just four different sizes, this holster will accommodate over 100 different kinds of handguns. More of a CCW style holster, it can cover the times when the larger holsters are excessive (those Sunday-go-to-meeting times for example).
A spare holster (and for that matter a spare rifle sling) can be worth its weight in gold! While I’m sure trading will be active during a TEOTWAWKI situation, and that numerous talented individuals will begin handcrafting products, it seems that more and more holsters are made for ONLY a specific model, and during TEOTWAWKI, the likelihood of happening to find your model holster for trade is right up there with finding free food sitting on the sidewalk. Prep now! Carry later!