Saturday, September 10, 2011

Blackhawk! Serpa CQC Holster

With summer still in full force, I'm beginning to think fall and winter.  Yep, my favorite seasons are coming up, and what better way to prepare than to buy a new holster for my gun? 

Seriously though, I was actually looking to buy an outside-the-waistband (OWB) holster for my Beretta 92FS.  However, when I went to Sportco today, they had no Beretta holsters, but they did have an oddly large amount of Blackhawk! Serpa holsters for the Ruger SR9.  I really wasn't looking to buy a holster for the SR9, but I remembered that I have yet to buy one for it.  So, this day is as good as any, I imagine.  Plus, what better thing to buy for the mule gun than a holster to test out?

Honestly, I've been intrigued with Blackhawk! holsters for a while now, but didn't want to pay some schmuck $10 to deliver a $35 holster to my door.  Last week, I discovered that Sportco carries a whole slew of them, so my interest as of late has reached a fever pitch.  I knew I was going to buy a holster this weekend; I just didn't think it would be for the SR9.

WAIT!!!  The gun in the picture is a SR9, yes, but James, the gun pictured is the SR9c - not the full size.

How correct you are!  Indeed, I snapped this picture while wearing the Blackhawk! Serpa holster with the SR9c holstered instead of the full size and for good reason.  It fits both!  Of course, the SR9c doesn't extend all the way to the bottom, but that doesn't matter.  Once I adjusted the tension for the full size SR9, I discovered that the SR9c fits just as well.

The whole point of this is to gear up for the fall/winter carry seasons.  I can get away with a lot more in the concealed carry department during colder months than in the hot summer months, and for good reason; layers.  Yep, more layers of clothing means that larger guns hide easier and OWB carry is just as effective as inside-the-waistband (IWB) carry.  Besides, OWB is much more comfortable than IWB, period.

Blackhawk! Serpa holsters are unique in their design due to the retention system.  In the Serpa CQC carbon fiber holster above, you can see the Serpa Autolock release mechanism.  If you are unsure, look at the mechanism between the weapon's barrel lug and the holster retention screw.  It is an L-shaped device.  What it does is lock the weapon in the holster so it cannot be removed unless the button is pressed.  It is pretty stout too.  I tried to remove an unloaded pistol from this holster, using quite a bit of excessive force, but was unable to release the gun.  Of course, as soon as I pressed the button/lever inward, the gun released effortlessly.  Another part of the passive retention system is directly related to that screw on the holster.  The more you tighten that screw down, the more retention is placed on the gun.  With the Serpa lock, you don't need to have a crap load of retention on the gun though.  If you want, it can be a little loose, so that when you draw, it comes out like butter.  Personally, I like a bit of drag on the draw (getting back to gun scabbard roots here), so I cranked it down so it holds the gun a little more firmly.  There is no wrong way to do it; it's just a way.  Do whatever feels right for you!

Another thing about this holster is that it is speed cut for a fast draw.  The holster doesn't ride up, covering part of the grip, or get in the way.  On the draw, I can get my thumb all the way around the gun frame for a very secure and fast draw.  In about half a second, my gun is removed from the holster and up on target, making this holster a force multiplier as far as concealed carry goes.  With many other holsters, you have to compromise your grip during the draw, especially IWB.  With IWB, the gun rides so close to your body that you need some material between the gun and your skin.  Otherwise, it is uncomfortable after a few hours.  So, in order to satisfy comfort (and increase the likelihood that you will carry), the draw is compromised.  The rationale for this is that you will probably never have to draw your gun in a fight.  So, knowing that 99.99999999% of the time, the gun stays holstered, you make this concession.  Not with the Blackhawk! Serpa!

Since it rides OWB, with belt loops, the gun is by default, further away from your body.  In fact, with some body types, the gun may not even touch the skin.  Even with a spare tire around my waist, my gun barely makes contact with my body.  This is great because when I drive my hand down to draw, nothing is in the way.  I take a firm grasp of the weapon, depress the Serpa lock, and draw the weapon.  More on the Serpa lock later.  The belt loop allows you to adjust the cant of the weapon.  It comes from Blackhawk! in a neutral, barrel straight down position.  To adjust the cant to your liking (I prefer a FBI cant), you simply remove three screws on the belt loop mount and then rotate it to your liking.  And once it is adjusted, it WILL NOT MOVE.  The holster also comes with a paddle, for those who prefer that.  I like it okay for range use, but the paddle pushes my weapon out even further from me, and that's a no-no for concealed carry.  For open carry or range use, it would be ideal because you can put it on and remove it easily.  This is especially good for car travel.  However, the Serpa lock is so easy that it is possible to unholster the weapon, place it in the center console and then reholster upon exiting the vehicle, without anyone noticing.  And let's be honest... who will really notice?  Okay, besides me?

The Serpa is the heart of this holster.  Without it, the holster is just another me too plastic holster that nobody cares about.  The Serpa does two things for you.  The first, and obvious, is that it provides security for your weapon.  Weapon retention (and I'm not talking about how tight the holster grips your gun here) is paramount, especially in concealed carry or open carry - more so with open carry.  You need to be in control of your weapon at all times and retain it.  With some scabbards, the top of the holster is left open, and anyone can come up and grab the gun from you.  That's very bad.  You need to have a positive retention/security system in place.  Be it a thumb snap, a strap a Serpa lock, a security hood, or any combination of these, a retention device, something to retain your weapon on your person, is not only important, but is mandatory.  The Serpa lock does a good job at retaining the weapon in the holster until the operator unlocks it and draws the weapon.  Then, when the gun is reholstered, a positive "click" is heard, signalling the operator that the weapon is now holstered and locked.  You can tug on it all you want now, and the gun isn't going to budge.

But what about the second thing the Serpa lock does for you?  This isn't so obvious, but it is just as important, if not more so, than retaining the weapon.  This is a training reinforcement issue.  When you go to draw a gun from any holster, your finger must not be allowed to enter into the trigger guard until you are on target and ready to fire.  Forget Hollywood, where actors point guns at everything with their fingers in the trigger guard (IE: Die Hard and Lethal Weapon come to mind).  That is an unsafe condition.  Remember that scene in Pulp Fiction where John Travolta is pointing his single action semi auto at that dude in the backseat of his car, and his finger is resting on the trigger?  BOOM!!! The next thing you know, blood splatter and brain matter are all over the inside of the car.  Kudos to Quentin Tarantino for making that distinction.  So, the long and short of this is that when you draw, and reholster, your finger is out of the trigger guard, and indexed on the side of the frame.  This is the magic behind the Serpa lock.  You use your trigger finger to defeat the lock and then draw.  Since your finger is pointed straight out to disengage the lock, it is automatically straightened and in the ideal position to index the frame of the weapon on the draw.  Neat, huh?  It is fast, safe, and quick.  Those attributes of a desirable quality holster.

So, testing begins.  I'm wearing it right now, with a loaded Ruger SR9c in it.  I'm not going to get a ton of carry time with this piece until the summer is over and jacket weather takes over.  As it is OWB, it sticks out and won't hide under a t-shirt as easily as a Ruger LC9 in a Crossbreed Supertuck.  But you can bet that as soon as the weather cools down, or for some reason I feel like open carrying, this holster will be on in full force.  Some tests I have are not really field torture tests, but rather some domesticated everyday living ones.  Getting into and out of a car without the belt loops cracking, sitting in chairs with arm rests, walking around, lounging on the couch, doing yard work, range use, etc.  These are everyday activities that we tend to do frequently.  As this holster is intended for concealed carry work, it should be up to measure when it comes to doing everything that goes with concealed carry, like being available when a thug rolls on you at a 7-11 to being out of the way when walking through the mall with your wife's latest shoe purchase in a designer bag in your hand... because somehow you become pack mule when it's time to hit the mall.  Anyway, if this holster measures up, I will probably add more to the collection.  They are reasonably priced and seem durable.



  1. James, any comments now on how the Sherpa is working for EDC concealed. I love my DM Bullard OWB leather, but if I open carry I would want a retention system and the Sherpa sounds perfect.

  2. Well, it definitely doesn't make the weapon hug my body like my Crossbreed IWB does. But under a light jacket, or a large coat, it conceals well. I certainly cannot conceal the weapon under a t-shirt with this holster. Fortunately, colder weather is upon us and I can easily get away with it. I also like the retention system on this holster. IT IS FAST!!!

    1. Thanks for the info.I'm about to place an order now for my p95 ruger