Holster Fit and Weapon Retention
A good holster should retain the pistol during reasonable physical activity. Of course, if a holster would retain the pistol during any activity, it would also prevent drawing. If draw speed were not an important component of the pistol/holster system, the solution would be relatively simple—multiple positive closure devices. When the “utilization at upper performance levels” comes into play, functional clarity and design precision are critical. Experience in practical shooting has shown that absent some special purpose, the unfastening of a retaining device is best avoided. As well as being generally time consuming, retaining straps in many cases interfere with proper firing grip to some degree even when well designed. The fit of the holster therefore is important. In all cases holsters should be precisely fitted to the pistol they are intended to carry and should be used for only that pistol, or a pistol with identical dimensions. The practice of selling holsters marked “Medium Auto” or “Large Revolver” is common but unacceptable if serious use of the holster is intended. A holster which fits many pistols is not likely to fit yours very well. In fact, a new holster should fit like a new pair of shoes. When broken in, it should then be just right. Heavily oiled holsters should also be avoided since the good fit they initially may have will last only a short time, after which they will become soft and pliable. Other traditional retention devices such as thump-snap straps and adjustable tension devices are called for or even required under certain conditions and will be more fully discussed in the model description section.
Holster Balance/Pistol Weight Distribution
Often when a holster style or design is created, the manufacturer proceeds to create conceptually identical patterns for all pistols for which it is made. This practice, while useful for marketing or production simplicity, does not account for important differences in pistols. The exact wearing relationship between pistol, holster, and person is influenced, sometimes significantly, by pistol weight distribution. Consider the simple case of the comparison between semi-auto pistols and revolvers. While a revolver centers its weight in the cylinder area and sometimes forward depending on barrel weight, a semi-auto’s center of balance is often in the grip area with very little weight forward. The effect of this can be seen, for instance, in the notion of making a so-called “high-ride” holster. Particularly in the case of the semi-auto pistol placing the trigger guard any higher than belt level places up to 80% of the weight of the pistol from one to three inches above the belt. The only way to conceal a top heavy holstered pistol of this type is to uncomfortably tighten the belt and even this may not work. In general each design must be made with the individual pistol, not the style or visual look of the holster, as the central factor.
Holster Belt Fit
Consistent presentation of the pistol from the holster demands that holster and belt fit snugly to avoid any wobble or shifting of holster location. It is probably best to purchase both holster and belt from the same maker and to specify belt loop size to match your belt, since there are variations from one maker to the next. The same principle, of course, applies to magazine pouches.
When you buy good leather gear, you want and expect it to last. How long it will serve you depends on several factors, namely, the quality of design, the work and materials used, the frequency and conditions under which it is used, and the type and degree of care you give it. The truth about leather gear, any leather gear, is that it is not going to last a lifetime, unless it is not used or used very little. It is made of natural materials, not stainless steel. However, it can last many years if it is well made and receives care and maintenance.
I could fill a book attempting to describe all of the design and material choices which must be made. It should suffice to say that factory produced holsters must and do make compromises in their designs. Even if the designer of the mass produced holster has any firearms background, he is usually required to design for one factor that has nothing to do with what the holster’s function—this factor is ease of production. A holster factory is made up primarily of people who have no interest in shooting. They usually are trained on the job with no previous background in leather work. The holster then can be no better than the least skilled people who build it. This is a prime restriction on the functional sophistication of most holsters produced in a factory environment.
The second restriction on quality is that the very best materials are expensive and in some cases hard to obtain in quantity. When a mass produced holster is discounted up to 50% for the dealer, costs have to be cut somewhere to make a profit. The same goes for finishes, hardware, etc.