Switchback Ambi Holster
Hands-On: Galco’s FasTrax PAC Reinvents the Fanny Pack
Kydex and Leather Holsters
Shoulder Holsters Compared
Driving Holsters Compared
We look for the best holsters for driving, sitting for long periods, and by extension, riding a horse or motorcycle. We found a number of good choices, though some are pricey.
A Look at Left-Hand Holsters: Picks for Southpaw Shooters
We test units from Hunter Co., Quest, Uncle Mike's, Swap Rig Holsters, Jason Winnie, Barber Leather Works, Blackhawk, 1791 Gun Leather, and Jeffrey Custom Leather.
Holster Help for the EZ380
Now once again, this holster is NOT actually designed for the EZ380, but it works great, and is real comfortable to wear. No issues with the holster catching on the mag release. Now, since I really only have one pair of jeans for IWB carry, I still wanted an OWB holster. For this I tried a different local gunshop, closer to home, and they let me try a few "universal" holsters off the shelf. The one they suggested fit the gun okay, but like you, when I pulled the EZ out of the holster, just with my hands, the magazine came flying out! So back on the shelf that model went.
We Test Inside-The-Waistband Holsters for $50 and More
Shooters know that quality leather gear is increasingly expensive. Like a good shoemaker, workmen capable of making quality holsters are few and far between. For many of us, this means buying off-the-shelf holsters. In this installment, we test more than a dozen holsters from makers large and small. While we tried to keep the price around $100 or less, in several cases we went over. This was a result of the raters adding options such as special reinforcements and sweat guards.
Testing Plastic and Kydex Holsters: The CYA Is a Bargain
The holster must have a balance of speed, security, and access. It cannot be buried under the clothing to the extent that it is difficult to access. A very fast draw isn't necessarily the main ingredient of a successful concealment rig. Good concealment that allows surprise is. Perhaps the adversary doesn't know you are armed, and he should not. There should be no indicators that show you are armed.
Let's look at reality. There is no draw faster than a standard belt holster carried on the point of the hip. This is also a holster that isn't compatible with concealed carry. The holster must be worn behind the hip under a covering garment at the least, and for better concealment, we move the holster inside the pants, or inside the waistband fashion as we call it. You must practice the draw to clear clothing, and is a real danger when clothing becomes tangled. The appendix carry requires less movement. Also, during the course of the day, you sometimes encounter people who like to bump into you or perhaps give a friendly pat. Some know you are armed; most should not. If they pat the groin area, they probably know you pretty well.
Revolver Holsters: Balancing Comfort, Speed, and Retention
Revolvers remain an important part of the personal defense scene. In some shops, the majority of handguns sold for personal defense are revolvers, usually small-frame 38s and compact 357 Magnum revolvers. The 357 Magnum remains a popular handgun among a large and loyal group, such as for outdoors carry and animal defense. Still other shooters deploy big-bore revolvers in 44 Special and 45 Colt chamberings. In all these cases, the shooter has to have a good holster to carry these handguns.
The design of a holster is important, and there are features specific to the revolver. A high ride keeps the revolver cylinder off the belt line. The revolver handle must be tilted into the draw, so the cant of the holster is important. The holster must retain a balance of speed and retention. The revolver cylinder presents a problem with concealment. The cylinder bulge inhibits the design of an inside-the-waistband holster, as an example. If the cylinder bulge rides below the belt line too much, the draw is affected. One of our senior raters noted that in the early days of police transition to the self-loader handgun, many of the holsters offered were simply revolver holsters without the cylinder bulge. The difference in balance and center of gravity wasn't understood or tended to.
In this evaluation, we considered that the modern revolver holster should be an individual design. Our focus is on concealed carry, with consideration given how revolvers might be used in the field. We tested a number of holsters from major makers and found them satisfactory to excellent in fit and function.
The fit of the holster should be sufficient that the revolver may be carried during normal day-to-day movement, even a brisk walk or run, with no danger of losing the handgun from the holster. The holster should allow a good sharp draw. After the revolver is drawn, the holster must not collapse, and the user should be able to re-holster the handgun without difficulty. Here's what we found.
Good Buys, or Goodbyes? We Test Experienced Wheelguns
Before law enforcement changed over to semi-automatic pistols, most officers carried a 357 Magnum revolver. Though some write off revolvers as the firearms equivalent of rotary phones, many of our staff consider the revolver to be a simple-to-operate self-defense firearm with built-in safeties and no magazine to lose. We also like the 357 Magnum cartridge. In addition to self-defense use, some team members have used the round to hunt medium-size game, so power isn't an issue.
Because a good revolver stands the test of time and usage well, but also depreciates enough to become affordable for more folks, we assembled three used revolvers from what was once the big three of U.S. revolver manufacturers—Colt, Smith & Wesson and Ruger. In general, we would rate the condition of these revolvers from 80 to 90 percent by NRA standards—we could tell they have been used, but we could not see where they had been abused. All samples were chambered in 357 Magnum, and all were designed for self-defense with barrel lengths that ranged from 2.15 inches to 4 inches and double-action/single-action trigger modes. Safeties are built into these three revolvers. The S&W uses a hammer stop, while the Ruger and Colt use hammer transfer bars.
From that starting point, this pack then diverged, with each offering characteristics that ranged from thumbs-down to thumbs-up for our shooters. Some incorporated an excellent grip that helped tame the felt recoil of the 357 Magnum; some were slim and more easily carried concealed, and some were equipped with large, easy-to-align sights.
With any used revolvers, we have a process of testing the chamber-barrel alignment with a range rod, and we found all were aligned. We also check the timing to see how the cylinder rotates in DA mode and SA mode to ensure the chamber is aligned with the bore of the barrel. They were. We also look at the gap between the front of the cylinder and the forcing cone or rear of the barrel. We use a feeler gauge and expect to have .006 clearance. Any less and there is a chance the cylinder may bind after shooting as fouling builds up. Any more and the user might experience splatter from burning gases escaping from the gap. We also look for forward and rearward play in the cylinder when locked in the frame. These revolvers were tight and stood as good examples of the revolver manufacturers' art and science.
We tested accuracy at 25 yards, which pushed the envelope of these revolvers' capabilities, depending on the user. We also found these revolvers had good accuracy. In close-range testing, some of these revolvers could get lead downrange fast and in good groups. Test ammunition consisted of Winchester PDX1 Defender 357 Magnum with a 125-grain bonded jacket hollowpoint, Aguila 357 Magnum with a 158-grain semi-jacketed hollowpoint, and SIG Sauer 38 Special +P, loaded with a 125-grain jacketed hollowpoint.
We had no issues with any of the revolvers. They all performed in DA and SA mode and loaded and ejected empties if we did our part and used gravity to our advantage. We did find that the S&W had the advantage as a concealed-carry revolver, but the Ruger and Colt were quite capable. Here's what we found out about these handguns after the brass cooled.
22-Caliber Handgun Shoot-Out: Smith, TacSol, Beretta, Colt
In this installment, we are looking at some of the best 22-caliber pistols for all-around target shooting and training for marksmanship and personal-defense practice, with an emphasis on viability for personal-defense training. Some handguns are just fine for general plinking, but the modern shooter demands the ability to train with combat lights or even a red-dot sight. All 22s do not allow this type of versatility. Let's look at four 22-caliber handguns and see how they stack up as modern trainers.
The 22 self-loading handgun is a great firearm that every handgunner should own at least one of. The 22 is a great trainer, and it is also a good small-game handgun, and it is even useful in some forms of competition. The absence of recoil and muzzle report compared to centerfire handguns is often touted, but recoil and muzzle blast are there, simply in easily manageable portions. The shooter is free to concentrate on trigger press, sight picture, sight alignment, and grip. Practice in offhand fire, combat practice, firing for extreme accuracy from a solid rest, clearing malfunctions and hunting game are just some of the practice that may be accomplished with the 22 pistol. For small-game hunting, excellent accuracy is demanded. For combat practice—and this is an important point—the handgun should be similar to the centerfire defense gun in accuracy. In that manner, the shooter isn't given a false sense of security by a 22 that is much more accurate than the 9mm or 45 they use for personal defense. When practicing with the 22, the serious shooter should use the same grip and trigger press that he or she uses when mastering the 9mm or 45. Using a lighter grip or shooting fast just because the 22 is so controllable doesn't cross over into personal defense skills; it is simply shooting for fun.
We collected two 22-caliber handguns and two 22-caliber conversion units for comparison. One of the handguns is a new model and the other, a relatively new and often overlooked pistol. The firearms tested included the Smith & Wesson Victory 22, Beretta Neos 22, Tactical Solutions' Glock conversion unit, and a Colt 22 Ace conversion unit.