The Dark Star Gear Orion holster, shown above, is available in 13 different color options and can be attached to the belt through loops or a polymer clip.
It’s a loaded question, I know. “Who makes a good holster?” There are as many answers as grains of sand on a beach, or some other zen expression. At the core, what you really are asking is, “Who makes a holster that won’t fall apart, drop my pistol on the floor or allow me to shoot myself, all at a price I am willing to pay?” There are hundreds (more than likely, though, thousands) of options out there, and separating good options from merely convenient ones can be downright tricky.
For me, it’s easy. We happen to have a knowledgeable Handguns editor who does a fair amount of shooting (note: that is a significant understatement) and knows (as we say in my home state of Massachusetts) some “wicked smaht” folks. When she recommends a product, it generally means she both knows the manufacturer and agrees with their philosophy and operation. She's also used the gear extensively and found it suitable for her needs.
That’s how I came across the wares of Dark Star Gear. Tam had recommended the company’s holsters in several print and online articles, and with such a recommendation behind them, I knew this was something worth checking out. We’re always on the lookout for quality gear for Shooting Illustrated’s “I Carry” series, so I reached out to Dark Star Gear for an M&P holster, one of the latest in the company's lineup.
Tom Kelley at Dark Star Gear recommended the Orion holster, a kydex variant set up for either IWB or AIWB carry. One-way, snap-strap loops or a sturdy, plastic belt clip hold the holster in place (the AIWB-ready rig I received had the strap loops), and both ride height and cant can be adjusted as needed. Traditional colors like black, tan and gray are available, typically at no extra cost, although Dark Star Gear did send this “Tru-Hide” variant because, well, it’s neat-looking.
Anyway, back to the whole “listen to the people that know things” part of why I opted for a Dark Star Gear holster. The fit is excellent. I’ve got two Smith & Wesson M&Ps, a first-generation VTAC in 9 mm and a M2.0 Compact (also in 9 mm). Both fit, which is not surprising in and of itself (Smith & Wesson was smart about designing the outside dimensions of M2.0 so you wouldn’t need new holsters), but the ease of the draw is nothing short of amazing. While the Orion holds the pistol firmly, with a solid firing grip getting it up and out of the holster is clean, quick and without hindrance.
Carrying the Orion is equally painless, once you have it properly situated. Naturally, the Compact M&P is more comfortable, but even the full-size variant disappears under minimal cover and carries well all day long. I raved about the PHLster Skeleton holster changing my outlook on AIWB carry; the Dark Star Gear Orion is on the same plane. The Orion allows me to comfortably carry a full-size M&P with a minimalist cover garment (a “dressy” vest that stops, literally, at the belt line) all day long. Whether seated, standing or in motion, the Orion stays where it’s supposed to be (the Raven Concealment Systems Vanguard Claw really helps with that) and just sits right, with minimal jabs and pokes.
One word of caution, from experience. If/when you want to change ride height/angle/etc., be careful with the screws holding things together. There’s a definitive right and wrong way to do it, and if you’re not patient, it might be possible to strip the screws. When moving positions, take an extra breath, put the holster down and come back to it if you’re having trouble properly seating things. It will eventually fit together, and you won’t have to reach out for replacement hardware (for the record, no, I didn’t, but I came close a couple times.) In the end, the modularity is well-worth the time investment, but if you’re the impatient type, you’ll need to practice your calming chakras.
If you’re looking for a solid, comfortable IWB or AIWB holster, Dark Star Gear is a solid choice. The company offers fits for Glock and (recently) Smith & Wesson pistols, as well as popular small-frame revolvers. There’s even a few fixed-blade sheaths for those so inclined. MSRP on the Orion starts at $80, with a slight upcharge for extras like the Vanguard Claw or exotic finishes. Delivery times are a reasonable 2-4 weeks, depending on options.