The high-tech gear from Blackhawk is state of the art in both design and construction. Photos Dave Spaulding
Blackhawk’s SERPA duty holster does not require clumsy hand manipulations. Photos Dave Spaulding
Blackhawk nylon gear is precision-molded for each piece of equipment. Photos Dave Spaulding
Gould & Goodrich gear offers a classic appearance and simplicity. Photos Dave Spaulding
Gould & Goodrich’s model K373 duty holster carries a semi-auto pistol with a mounted white light or laser in place. Photos Dave Spaulding
The author likes the simplicity of the Gould & Goodrich duty gear. Photos Dave Spaulding
FEATURED IN TACTICS AND WEAPONS
My first duty rig was a one-piece affair in which the swiveling holster was mounted opposite a swiveling portable radio and handcuff pouch. On the back of the belt, a series of loops stitched in place held individual .38/.357 cartridges. Policy required these cartridges to be brass and shined to a high luster. (This went by the wayside once it was discovered they could get officers killed. We used Brasso polishing solution to shine the casings, but it also deadened the primers, making the cartridges worthless for defense. In my agency, we fortunately discovered this on the range instead of the street, avoiding a senseless tragedy.) The one-piece rig sat heavy on the hips and actually hurt to wear, so I ditched it right after the basic academy for a state-of-the-art (at the time) Garrison belt and a front-break duty holster.
The Garrison belt and front-break holster were just as heavy as the one-piece rig, but looked better. More importantly, I had a cutting-edge holster that would actually stop someone from grabbing my gun and using it against me.
Using the heavy-leather, steel-lined front-break was quite an adventure. While it looked quick and simple, nothing proved further from the truth. Drawing required a unique motion using your wrist to flex-and-push the gun out the front of the holster. Complicating matters, this method varied according to which holster model you had. One required the grip and frame to exit first, with the barrel clearing leather last. I did not like this because my small hand tended to slide down the back of the gun s grip. In a subsequent model, you rocked the barrel out first, which I found more efficient. Regardless, neither was as fast as the manufacturer would have you believe, and maintaining proficiency required a great deal of practice. But I was comforted by the thought I had weapon security literally at my side. This lasted up until the moment I lost my gun in a fight.
The fight occurred in front of a bar and involved a drunken suspect. Yeah, I know hard to believe. It started when the disorderly suspect refused to leave, and ended with me rolling around the parking lot going fist-city with the guy. I had backup, but she did nothing but dance around us radioing for help. Years later, they made her a captain. (Yeah, I know hard to believe.) At one point during the fight, I threw an elbow strike at the subject s chest, causing him to fall back. As he tried to grab hold of me to break his fall, his hand landed on the butt of my holstered model 19 .357 revolver. The thumb break disengaged, and he fell back and my gun went with him out the front of my holster. To this day I don t think this was an attempt to disarm me, but something that just happened. All the same, he ended up lying on the ground with my gun upside-down in his hand. I immediately stepped on his arm, trapping the gun and arm against the pavement. The suspect realized he had inadvertently escalated the event and gave up. I rolled him over and handcuffed him.
This was the day I realized weapon retention is a function of the officer s alertness and not their equipment. I shifted my security strategy to simplicity. I bought a high-ride, thumb-break holster I could draw from with less practice, and I made a point to keep my forearm resting above the gun s grip. The only way the gun could come out of that holster was to get it past my forearm. I added a few simple but effective weapon-retention techniques, and I completed my career with no additional lost weapons.
Officers concerned with weapon security must spend time at some point, either practicing with their high-security holster or working with weapon-retention technique. Either way requires time. Being a self-professed nuts-and-bolts kind of guy, I ve found it easier to work on awareness and weapon retention than I have trying to get my small hand to properly manipulate all of the devices needed to release a gun from a triple- or quadruple-retention holster. Of course, this decision remains yours to make.
Not all current-duty gear offers a high level of complex retention. Some designs remain quite simple, while others are what I consider high tech, offering advanced retention capability without the hand-twisting and finger-reaching some holsters require. Take, for example, the new SERPA Auto-Lock holsters from Blackhawk. These precision-molded polymer holsters secure a semi-automatic pistol in the holster pouch with locking devices located in positions the shooting hand will likely pass on the way to a solid firing grip. This provides the patrol officer a secure holster they can bring into action quickly using a natural gripping and drawing action up and out, with no pushing, pulling or twisting to remove the gun. The jacket-slot belt loop positions the gun s grip at belt level, which provides a good elevation for both drawing the gun as well as sitting in a patrol car. Available in both level II and III retention, the flat-black holster looks like leather but remains scratch-resistant and lightweight.
Supplementing the SERPA duty holsters are Blackhawk s new nylon duty belt and related accessories, offering the good looks and abrasion-resistance of Cordura nylon. Blackhawk has discovered a way to precision-mold the nylon to the exact implement it s designed to carry. This means the belt and pouches will not only look professional, they ll also offer superior retention to the normal bag-looking nylon found elsewhere. The duty belt measures 21/4" wide, with rolled and molded edges so it doesn t get heavy on the hips as the day goes by. The Blackhawk magazine pouches are designed to attach either vertically or horizontally on the belt to meet the needs of the individual officer. Needless to say, Blackhawk offers state-of-the-art duty gear with a great deal of thought, research and development behind it before it hits the market.
What if you re a bit of a traditionalist and still like your gear to be made from classic leather or at least a leather-looking material, and want your gear to remain straightforward and simple to use without the bells and whistles that seem standard these days on uniform duty gear? There are more of these types of officers out there than some of the holster companies would have you believe, which is OK. As I said, weapon retention is the function of an alert, trained officer, not a gizmo or gadget. Gould & Goodrich (G&G) understands this, and while the company offers several high-tech security holsters, it also offers a classic thumb-break rig.
What I really like about G&G gear, however, are the leather duty belts and precision-molded accessories. They are robust, simple to use and quite effective. Take, for example, the model K617 magazine pouch and model K86 handcuff case. Both offer a non-traditional, minimal design and function.
The open-top magazine pouch holds the spare magazines in place with a tension screw that compresses the composite, non-stretch, leather-looking material against the magazines. This design offers greater reloading speed due to the absence of a retention flap and more of the magazine protruding above the pouch than in other designs. Many don t like open-top pouches, believing that flaps offer greater security as well as protection from the elements. But you can tighten this open-top magazine pouch to the point where the magazine cannot be withdrawn.
The handcuff case also dispenses with the traditional flap and substitutes a single snap-down strap you can release with a solid tug on the handcuffs themselves. A snap-down strap is not any less secure than a snap-down flap. As for protection from the elements, during the last 30 years, I ve seen many an officer ignore their belt-mounted gear after inclement weather because they thought it was protected only to discover their handcuffs and magazines had turned into a rusted mess. Anytime your personal gear is exposed to the elements, you must clean and care for it just like your duty firearm, which you don t cover under a protective flap.
These days patrol officers commonly carry a white light or laser mounted to the dust cover of their pistol. While there are pros and cons to this practice, the concept is here to stay. To meet this need, G&G has introduced the K373, a belt-slot duty holster that uses a conventional thumb-break strap and muzzle-retention screw to secure the gun. The leather-like composite holster will accept either SureFire or Insight Technology gun lights. Like the Blackhawk SERPA, it s a medium-ride holster that enables a patrol officer to sit in their cruiser without pushing their duty belt up and away from their body.
I have said before that awareness and willingness are the keys to personal defense and an important component of willingness is making sure you have the gear that works for you, even if it is at your own expense. After all, it will be you that will be fighting for your life at 2 a.m., not your chief or sheriff.
Blackhawk Products Group
4850 Brookside Court
Norfolk, VA 23502
Gould & Goodrich
709 E. McNeil Street
Lillington, NC 27546