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Eric Loden

Banning the Blackhawk Serpa holster?

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The topic of the Blackhawk Serpa style holsters continues to be brought up by students on the range when they see most of the ADAPT staff, and a high majority of the student body wearing the Serpa holsters.

People are reading posts, blogs, announcements, reviews, and hearing poor information passed along from other sources stating that the Serpa holster is unsafe, unreliable, and even "deadly" to carry.

We do not do many formal product reviews as we do not want to give the impression that we are sponsored, endorsed, or compensated by any manufactures for helping to promote their products as we are not.

When asked our opinions about guns, and gear, we like to be forthcoming and honest. If we don't know, we state that.

However we do ask questions, and encourage our students to ask questions to themselves.

Here are just some of the questions to ask yourself when considering any holster.

  • Accessibility vs. conceal-ability? Are you going to be open carrying or concealing the weapon? (The nature of your work, or your operational environment.)
  • Passive retention, basic retention, full retention? What is the likelihood that you will be engaged in a physical altercation where an attempt to remove your firearm will be made by another person? (The nature of your work, or your operational environment.)
  • What is your level of training in weapons retention techniques? (Have you received any formal training in close contact combative techniques, specific to retaining a weapon on your body and defending yourself from attempts by others trying to remove it?)
  • Weighing the pros and cons of the holster. (In no particular order although we put safety first, considering this topic is concerning the safety of this holster in question.)
    • Safety = (Is this product on the market because it is unsafe? Are people using it in an unsafe manner? Is additional training in the proper use of the product recommended, or required to operate it safely?)
    • Cost / Value = (Expense vs. longevity of use, and number of uses.)
    • Versatility (Can this one item be used for multiple situations (different operational environments, activities, or on other individuals besides myself?)
    • Functionality = (Will this product be able to perform the tasks that I need it to?
    • Reliability = (Is this product going to function when I need it to?)
    • Durability =  (Is this product going to last me for as long as I want it to?)
    • Availability = (Do they make the product for my equipment, and is it readily available?)

 

In order to find out the information for yourself it may be very time consuming, requiring hours of research, (not just reading one blog, or thread on the internet... like this one.) Instead visiting many sites and reading the reviews and more importantly the way the reviews were conducted (how did the reviewer gather their data to form their conclusion.. or in some cases their opinions.)

Below we will list how we arrived at our decision:

We have decided to offer the Blackhawk Serpa holster as one of our recommended holsters for most individuals, and their specific situations. Is there a better holster for you? We are sure that there are many equal options, but better depends on you.

First let us begin by stating that you should:

ALWAYS TRAIN THE WAY YOU WANT TO FIGHT, AS YOU WILL FIGHT THE WAY YOU TRAIN!!!

Let's discuss Safety:

Very few items on the general market are inherently unsafe. The manufacturers spend time and money in the research and development phase even before the production and product testing phase begins. If an issue comes to their attention that is truly a safety concern stemming from the design or manufacturing of their product responsible manufactures should do a recall of their product, however if a incident occurs that causes injury or property damage during the use of their product they should exam the way their product is being used and how the incident occurred and make recommendations on how to use their product in a responsible and safe manner to possibly avoid future accidents or injuries.

In the case of the Blackhawk Serpa holster all of this has been done already, but apparently needs to be reiterated, in further detail for some individuals. This will be covered in more detail later in this article.

Let's discuss operational environment:

Method of carry:

For individuals that are required to carry in an outside the waistband belt mounted holster such as Law enforcement, Military, or Security Officers. To these individuals we always recommend that their holsters have some element of positive retention built into it. (Meaning that an additional action or function is needed to remove the weapon) That level of retention is a personal choice based upon their operational environment, their skill level, and personal preferences.)(Level 2, Level 3)

For individuals who simply want a holster for "Range" work, even though they will never carry one in their daily walk, we believe it is good for starting safety and fundamentals but encourage people to eventually move into training from the holster that they will carry daily. For range exercises we recommend some form of passive retention (meaning that while moving the weapon will not simply fall out, but no additional devices need to be disengaged to remove it.)

Physical environment:

Based upon the terrain you will be operating in their may be limitations to your gear. (You should evaluate all of your gear, not just your holsters by this same process.) If it is too hot, cold, wet, muddy, dirty, etc... it may effect how your gear functions.

For many of the individuals that carry daily on the streets they will not face many of the extreme situations that our Military may face abroad.

We note an instance where an operator was unable to remove his weapon from his holster.

Location: Middle east

Environmental conditions: High heat. Sandy, rocky, gravel terrain.

Method of carry: Weapon mounted in a Blackhawk Serpa holster on a Molle chest rig, right hand position, lower left abdomen placement.

Circumstances of the failure: The operator had gone prone and while crawling on his stomach a pebble became lodged into the channel of the retention button and he was unable to release the weapon.

 

Serpa_obstructed.jpg

(Here we induced an obstruction using a paper clip, then highlighted it for the photo)

So in this instance a failure was discovered, we learn to modify the gear for the environment (different holster, different carry position, etc...)

Cost / Value:

The cost of various styles of the Blackhawk Serpa holster is comparable to other holsters on the market, and ranges from $40-$140. With so many styles and pricing options most people find one that suits their needs easily.

Versatility:

With so many methods of carry and mounting options and the ability to switch between platforms easily this holster also rates highly in the versatility category. Along with the ability to carry many similar weapons in the same holster such as Glock 19,17,22, etc.. (always check to ensure your holster is appropriate for the weapon you are carrying) the holster also lends it's self to being able to manipulate the weapon to a certain degree that would be prohibited with other holsters. (We will be posting a specific instructional section with techniques we have adapted to suit this gear in the future.)

Functionality:

As far as the holster holding the weapon in the position you would like, we have noted that there are many mounting options and methods of carry, as for the retention device retaining the weapon under normal conditions it performs perfectly, as for retaining the weapon against one who is determined to remove it from you.... it accomplishes the task of impeding their intentions. Every holster can be defeated, or else it would not be of any use to the wearer. If an adversary has the same level of familiarity with the holster as the wearer, or worse... even more, then they will in time release the weapon. With this reasoning we here at ADAPT also emphasize that weapons retention is a part of your training and not the device on your holster.

With the lack of more complex methods of retention the Blackhawk Serpa lends itself to be one of the fastest holsters to learn how to present from while still offering some protection from others. When speed out of the holster is a concern, and it could make the difference between life and death, training with any holster is the key, not the holster. You can see demonstrations of the speed of the individual while wearing the Blackhawk serpa all over the internet.

There was an individual that passed the Handgun Combat Masters test while wearing a Level 3 retention holster (make and model unknown).

Reliability:

With the above stated incident where the release button became obstructed, there is another incident that was made popular on the internet for a moment where in the user had inserted the weapon in a backwards configuration during single hand malfunction clearances and the weapon became lodged in the holster and was unable to be removed. After reading that post I asked all of our instructors to try to simulate that circumstance with their own weapons and holsters and they were unable to duplicate the effects. Even knowing the specific make/model of the holster and firearm, we were unable duplicate this in order to substantiate this claim.

Serpa_reversed.jpg

 

We here at ADAPT also encourage our students to "know their gear" becoming more than familiar with it, letting it become an extension of ones body.

Another post about the reliability of these holsters specifically was already made and can be viewed here. Blackhawk Serpa Holsters

Durability:

This subject is also covered in the link to the other article.

Availability:

Due to the popularity of the holster and apparent success of its design the holster is carried in almost every single gun store in America, and even internationally. It can be ordered straight from the manufacture, and ships within a few day and arrives within a few weeks at most so it is considered readily available.

Techniques and training methods:

Now that we have discussed how we came to the decision that we made in detail, we would like to go a step further and illustrate the appropriate technique and recommended training methods to ensure the safe use of the Blackhawk Serpa holster.

There are many documented cases where an individual has shot themselves, while wearing a Blackhawk Serpa holster, but there are also many documented cases where an individual has shot themselves while not wearing a Blackhawk Serpa holster. In both cases you should note the sentence structure. "There are many documented cases where an individual has shot themselves,.................. while wearing a Blackhawk Serpa holster."

To clarify let's use logic to determine how this may have occurred:

Would you agree that it is impossible to pull the trigger of the weapon with the trigger finger, to the rear causing it to fire, while properly inserted and retained in the holster?

Would you also agree, that It requires the trigger to be pressed in order to make most weapons fire? (Rule 3)

Lastly, would you also agree that it takes the muzzle of the weapon to be pointed at the individual at the time the weapon is fired in order for the person to be struck by the bullet (not a ricochet)? (Rule 2)

So in an instance where an individual has obviously removed the weapon from the holster in order to have fired it at themselves the holster is no longer involved in the incident. (Rule 4)

This logic is too simple and arguments will be made that the holster cause the shooter to place their finger on the trigger after the weapon has left the holster.

This could be a result of one of the following factors:

  • Improper or lack of professional firearms education
  • Improper or lack of appropriate education in the use of a belt mounted holster
  • Improper or lack of sufficient training in the specific use of a Blackhawk Serpa holster
  • Excessive speed above the skills and abilities of the user resulting in an unsafe condition
  • Inability to perform the task safely under stress due to the lack of stress conditioning i.e. "insufficient training"

Let us also define a few terms. Education is taking a class or course of instruction. Training is what you do every day with the knowledge gained. Are the individuals who are misusing the holster educated or trained?

How to use the Blackhawk Serpa holster:

The appropriate use of the holster would begin with asking the questions above, it is the right holster for you. Once those questions are answered and you have decided that it is then the appropriate technique for safely using the holster is the same technique we use to teach all of our students in the use of any outside the waistband holster.

Step 1. Establish a proper firing grip on the weapon with the trigger finger straight down the side of the holster in line with the frame of the weapon. (Count 1) [Essentially with a proper hand placement, and a straight and not curled finger the retention is disengaged without having to even teach an additional step. i.e. making it one of the easiest holsters to teach to use, and thereby one of the easiest to use.]

Step 2.Disengage any retention devices that are on the holster such as thumb breaks, flip hoods, or cants or pivots that need to be made. (Count 1)

Step 3. Pull the weapon straight up from the holster allowing the trigger finger to rest along the side of the frame of the weapon pointing straight down at the ground. (Count 2)

Step 4. Keeping the trigger finger straight, pivot the weapon downrange towards your target. (Count 3)

Step 5. Allow the support hand to join the firing hand and begin to establish a two handed grip. (If that is the technique we are working on, this option becomes modified depending on the technique we are teaching.) (Count 4)

Presentation_Cycle.gif

and remember........ Rule 3 "Keep your finger off of the trigger until you are ready to fire." (This step becomes modified as skill levels increase.)

The negligence occurs when the retention button is pressed with a curled tip of the trigger finger and with that shape and tension once the weapon is removed the body is essentially already being told to press the trigger. It is a matter of training to properly condition the muscle memory to perform an action as a trained reaction and not a thought process or uncoordinated stumble.

"Amateurs train until they get it right....Professionals train until they cannot get it wrong" What do you want to be?

How to train with the Blackhawk Serpa holster:

Daily! Slow and smooth and perfect. Speed comes as a natural result of perfection. Speed is nothing without control. There are no shortcuts, there is no magic trick, there is simply the willingness to do what is necessary in order to achieve your goals. What are you training for? You decide how good you want to be. 

"We want to make you a perfect as you want to be in the time we are allowed here."

On a personal note:

As a Senior Rangemaster, prior to leaving the largest firearms training institute in America, (that has since banned the Serpa holster) I would often give this tidbit of friendly advice.

"If you go to a school to seek education and instruction and they cannot justify why they won't teach a certain technique, utilize a certain piece of gear, or do what they do.... you may need to seek further education elsewhere."

This was obviously a fairly positive post about the Blackhawk Serpa holster. I wanted to recommend some of the other forums where the holster was discussed but could not find one without unnecessary use of profanity, degrading others based upon their skill level, or previous Military, Law Enforcement, or Professional backgrounds so I hesitated to list any links.

If you are going to comment on this article understand as a community which promotes family training no vulgar language, or rude comments will be tolerated and your post will not be approved or it will be removed.

Keep it clean, keep it relevant, be polite, be professional, be prepared.

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Thank you Steve. I am surprised with over 100 views there are no other comments. I would love to hear some other opinions (similar or alternate) on this topic. It is the communities responsibility to help. 

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Guest Richard A Jackson Sr

Very well done! Clear precise descriptions that anyone with a good understanding of the English language can comprehend. I am a member at the a fore mentioned facility. I will continue to attend since my life membership is paid for and as long as I keep getting something out of the education. As with any training I take the best and leave the rest.  I would like to attend your facility eventually. Dave C. recommended your school to me. 

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Thank you Richard A. Jackson Sr.

 

I hope you can see this, never replied to someone who was not a member on the site, so I can only hope that the thread alerts you to a reply. (Still learning the potential for this website.. I am not a programmer.)

 

We would love to have you come out, bring Dave along too (I know what trouble I am asking for.. lol)

 

Take care. Stay safe. Train hard. ADAPT

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I was able to get the front sight stuck.... the previous statement above where we were unable to duplicate the insertion of the weapon into the holster backwards and have it become lodged in the holster just recently occurred while instructing a student in our Pistol 101 course.

The holster is a Blackhawk (non retention) style holster.

When inserting the weapon (we tried the Glock 17 and 22 model) backwards for single hand retention and malfunction clearances. The front sight can become lodged behind the bar that adds passive retention.

The Serpa models do not seem to have as aggressive of a bar as they feature the positive locking retention feature.

I just wanted to follow up on this article and get the news out there.

Know your gear! Stay safe. Train hard. ADAPT.

 

Glock_Stuck.jpg

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Eric, I appreciate all the information you provided in your article regarding the Blackhawk Serpa holster, consequently I purchased one for my S&W pistol from Amazon for $25. I received it yesterday, it is everything you said it would be I'm looking forward to begin practicing with it.

 

Thank You

Craig Smith

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FLETC Serpa Holster Study.

What happens when you put a bunch of untrained individuals into new gear and push them for speed over skill?

You get an equipment solution for a training failure.

Know your gear, know your area of operations, and know your limitations.

FLETC Serpa Holster Study.pdf

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