So with (licensed) Open Carry coming to Texas, that means some (licensed) people are going to carry their handguns openly.
If you chose to do so, please do so with thought, wisdom, education, skill, and respect.
One part of this equation? Holster selection.
As the law has been passed, open carry of handguns in Texas can only be done if the handgun is carried in a shoulder or belt holster. As well, the law mentions “restraint holster” (whatever that is, but I’m sure they mean a holster with some level of mechanical retention), but only within the context of classroom instruction and the instructor – that is, it doesn’t APPEAR that you actually HAVE to carry in a “restraint holster”. However this is where wisdom comes into play, because you would be foolish to open carry in anything other than a retention holster.
Note: the above is somewhat speculation as we are still waiting on the Texas Department of Public Safety to interpret the law and implement the necessary portions within the licensing program (which I guess is now just a “HL” instead of “CHL” program?). We (C)HL instructors are still waiting to hear on things, so you’ll just have to be patient like the rest of us. And meantime, err on the side of caution and well… don’t be stupid.
Going with that, as an instructor, while I have my reserves about open carry, I acknowledge people are going to do it, and so it’s best as an instructor to have as much knowledge and experience in the matter as I can so I can most effectively guide people to good and reasonable choices.
So after talking at length with a Deputy friend of mine and doing a bunch of my own research, I picked up a Safariland 7377.
Why get one? Again, while I don’t see myself open carrying as a general rule, I want to be educated and have first-hand knowledge, so having my own holster(s) and actually using them is part of the knowledge equation. Ignorance never serves any positive end.
Why get this particular one?
Safariland is pretty much the gold-standard. This is life-safety equipment – more so given this particular context – and I don’t care to entrust my life and the lives of my wife and children to anything less than the best. Will I explore other brands? Sure, but might as well start with the gold standard.
Why the 7377 model?
First, I didn’t want any true duty holster. Why? I’m not a cop. But more simply, the duty holsters tend to be fashioned for duty belts, which can be 2″ or 2.25″ wide. I don’t have such belts, nor pants made with such wide loops. I have a 1.5″ belt, so duty holsters are not appropriate. Thus I went with Safariland’s “concealment” (i.e. same basic holsters but with mounts for 1.5″ and 1.75″ belts), but with a wonder just how well it would actually conceal.
Second, why the ALS system? I appreciate the fact that all you have to do is reholster and it’s locked – you don’t have to flip or engage anything to activate the retention feature. Granted, ALS-alone is only a level-1 retention, but still it’s something. As well, my understanding is the older SLS feature can deactivate if you’re rolling on the ground, etc.. Finally, there are people in this industry whose knowledge, skills, and experience I trust, and they recommend ALS.
Third, of the different models of Safariland, concealment line, ALS, the 7377 seemed more likely to conceal (vs. the 6377). I haven’t been able to compare the two in person, but at least from pictures, videos, and descriptions, it does seem the 7377 is able to be made thinner thus more concealable.
Why am I worried about concealment? This is an open carry issue! Because at least in my context, I see any chance of me being openly carrying as a state change. For example, wearing a suit, gun on my hip under the jacket, take off the jacket and now I’m open. Thus I need the ability for one holster to handle both states.
So after looking and much consideration, the 7377 was settled upon.
While I was at it, I also picked up a 6006 ALS Guard, because why not order it at the same time. Try it both ways, and if I do like it it makes it Level 2 retention.
BTW, if you’re curious what all this “retention level” stuff means, here’s Safariland’s explanation. Also note that Safariland only rates their duty gear with retention levels; their “concealment” line doesn’t get such ratings/verbage.
I placed my order, and it came in yesterday.
While the holster itself seemed fine, I’m not sure about the belt mount. It’s the 567BL Injection Molded Belt Loop. It feels solid enough, but some of the flex makes me wonder. Plus the little bars that go through the belt loop that you are to cut out to make fit a 1.75″ belt? I’m curious how well those hold up to abuse. So… the holster seems fine, no better nor necessarily worse than any good kydex holster. Just a wonder about the belt mount.
BTW, I have seen this and other retention holsters sold with a paddle mount. FFS… no, just no. I could maybe see it if you had it on a training version of the holster, but for actual carry? No.
The ALS worked like a breeze. Heck, I could barely tell it was even there! It’s quite a natural drawstroke, tho depending what you do with your thumb you may have to adjust. Me, I do tend to get a full grip when I draw, so I do have to (re)train to adjust for this, and certainly had more than enough times when I didn’t successfully disengage the lock because training artifacts and n00b (tho that mostly happened with the Guard installed).
I installed the ALS Guard. Holy crap! That beats your thumb up pretty quickly because it’s mighty stiff. Yes, it’s a good level of protection, yes it adds some complexity to the draw, but it’s still generally a natural motion. But disengaging is so stiff well… after a couple dozen draws I stopped because my thumb was getting tender; it’s a lot of impact on your thumb’s distal joint, which doesn’t have much padding. I could not see going through an all-day training class with hundreds of draws with this setup. But if this was something I had to carry, I would just suck it up, practice daily, and just build up a callous/tolerance.
The holster itself compared favorably in size to my Dale Fricke Nehemiah. The holster itself is just a hair larger, but not by anything I’d consider relevant.
Of course, the holster does sit further away from the body. I think something could be done to bring it a little closer, or at least get it so the gun butt is angled in a bit more with the contour of the body. I’ll have to play with it.
Did it conceal? Yeah, but it was very clothing dependent. Some t-shirts I conceal IWB with no problem manifested this huge wart on my hip. But some of my 5.11 concealment shirts concealed it reasonably well. Yes, I could bend and move and you might see the shirt move or bunch in an odd way, but most people are unlikely to notice. Jackets and coats shouldn’t be a problem. I would say this holster CAN conceal, but I wouldn’t call it a concealment holster.
So that’s just my first impressions. Overall I dig it. I look forward to trying it out more and even trying other brands/models to further my knowledge of the topic.
BTW, here’s a good article on such holster selection. It is oriented towards cops, but much of the reasoning here is same and sound, e.g. buy good gear. I don’t agree with his saying the Serpa is a good system, but otherwise his approach is reasonable and worth a read.