Every so often, the somewhat humdrum world of holsters throws a curve ball. What you expect isn’t what you get. While there certainly have been innovations over the years, some of them rather surprising, the basics of holding a gun are the same across the board. Having reviewed close to 100 holsters over the past four years, I’ve seen many styles from many brands -- not just the big guys but smaller holster makers, too. But, Safariland sent me a holster with something I had never seen before in a civilian concealed carry Kydex IWB setup: Level 2 retention.
In case you’re not familiar with retention levels, here they are in a nutshell:
- Level 1: The gun is held inside the holster by tension, mainly from the friction created by tightening a screw against the trigger guard or by tightening the whole shell so the gun won’t come out on its own.
- Level 2: It’s the same principle as Level 1, but with the addition of one mechanical device, typically a button attached to a lever inside the holster that clamps onto the trigger guard. The only way to remove the gun is the press the button while drawing.
- Level 3: Everything Level 2 has but with an additional mechanical device -- usually a hood on the outside or angle barrier inside the holster -- that requires an additional step to defeat and extract the firearm.
Level 2 and Level 3 holsters are normally outside-the-waistband rigs used by law enforcement and the military, who are likely to encounter both harsh conditions, such as running and facing off against bad guys who might try to steal the gun. These retention levels reduce the odds of allowing someone who isn’t perfectly positioned to pull the gun out of the holster.
Almost all civilian holsters are Level 1, mostly because they are concealed and not likely a temptation for someone looking to steal a gun. As such, I was surprised that the Safariland GLS Pro-Fit IWB Holster has Level 2 retention built in.
At first, I was leery of it. Why was it necessary? How hard would it be for someone who isn’t used to Level 2 retention (i.e., pretty much all concealed carriers) to draw the gun under pressure? Would they struggle to pull the gun out as the bad guy is bearing down? Legit questions, all.
Fortunately, Safariland apparently asked themselves the same questions because they answered them.
When I started playing with the holster, naturally the first thing I tried was the draw. Safariland explains in the directions that the retention button should push naturally and release the firearm if you grip the gun correctly during the draw. I teach pistol grip to students all the time, so I have it down pat. I reached for the gun the way I always do and pulled. Safariland was right. My middle finger hit the release paddle perfectly, releasing the gun for an easy draw, and it came right out as if the retention device were not even there.
Keep It Concealed
Next, I put the gun back into the holster and tried to grab the grip only and yanked. Nothing. The gun stayed locked inside. Again, perfect function.
So, why would a civilian CCW IWB holster benefit from Level 2 retention? First off, if you’ve ever worried about your gun falling out while running or moving around, stop worrying. The entire holster would have to fall out for that to happen. Second, if you should get into an altercation with a bad guy, he’s less likely to take your gun away if he can’t defeat the retention mechanism; he probably isn’t even expecting there to be one.
The holster is made from all Kydex and comes with a choice of two belt hook options: a J hook and a regular belt clip that it shares with the Species holster. Both hooks attach with a single screw point with tiny teeth to keep the hook from moving unless the screw is loosened. There is even a tiny wing-like bump to help bring the grip tighter to the body to reduce printing. The bump looks too small to work, but it does.
The Safariland GLS Pro-Fit IWB Holster is remarkably comfortable for being stiff Kydex. It stayed in place throughout my everyday activities, not slipping loose a single time.
Overall, I was highly impressed with the holster. It was comfortable, worked well for EDC, and gave me added peace of mind knowing the gun wouldn’t come out unless I wanted it to. Not bad for $72.50.