August 2014

Hot-Weather Carry: Talon IWB, Ted Blocker S18 Are Best Buys

While your carry rig is chafing your tender areas this summer, you must wonder if thereís a better way to tote your sidearm.

There are many types of holsters and carry modes for concealed carry. Most work okay when a jacket or other covering garment is worn over the rig, but they donít work as well during hot weather, when only a pulled-out sport shirt or even a T-shirt may be worn. Also, when a T-shirt isnít worn between the holster and the body in hot weather, some rigs are terribly uncomfortable and become a chafing nuisance rather than a trusted friend. While concealment and access are the primary concerns for the CHL holder, few of us are able to afford disposable clothing, so wear and tear are also important considerations. When the weather is hot and humid, we either have to go to greater lengths in selecting our concealment gear or carry a light and possibly ineffective handgun. But a better choice is to examine the best holster technology.

A dark outer garment that drapes over the waistband is ideal for concealed carry with light clothing. Lift the outer garment and we have a Best Buy, the Ted Blocker S18 holster with the Smith & Wesson Shield 9mm handgun. The Blocker S18, below, looks like a soft suede holster, but it features a strong reinforced welt that holds its shape.

For hot-weather carry, we have to factor in a number of considerations, such as perspiration reaching the handgun, chafing, hiding blocky gun profiles, and, of course, presentation and reholstering issues. To find out which products worked for carrying a 38 Special or 9mm handgun in hot, humid weather, we got a selection of both holsters and carry systems, comparing their usefulness for carrying guns with the minimal weight and profile while still offering acceptable speed and retention. We should point out that we rated these hot-weather rigs head to head for this specific use. We did not compare them to traditional holsters that may have a better draw angle or offer more speed.

GRADE A BEST BUYS

Talon Holsters IWB Holster, $50. The Talon IWB features a reinforced holster welt advertised as the ďstay-open top.Ē The holster is vegetable tanned and water dyed and should not run when soaked in sweat or damage the handgun with tanning acids. The holster is thin enough and features a strong J hook with a well-designed clip that takes a bite out of the belt. The draw is sharp due to the design of the holster, even though the handgun is held tight against the body. The evaluators also tested a Talon holster for the snubnose 38 revolver; however, we feel that the greater challenge is in designing a working holster for a larger handgun. The challenge for the snubnose 38 holster is to balance the carry so that the handgun does not tip out of the holster. The Talon holster features a rough-out finish, which adds to stability. After some conference but little debate, the Talon IWB was deemed a Best Buy based upon quality, fit, comfort, and value. This is quite a product from a young company.

Ted Blocker Holsters S18 IWB, $46. Ted Blocker produces some of the best-fitted, blocked, molded, and crafted holsters in the world. We evaluated two holsters, one the open-top S18 and the other the S19 with thumb break, which is covered further down. If we were choosing one holster to represent Blocker, it would not be the S18. Just the same, the soft S18 is possibly the best choice among the Ted Blocker line for hot-weather use. The holster is constructed from suede leather. Sometimes referred to as Swedish glove leather, suede leather has a napped finish. Suede is the underside of the skin, mostly from lamb, and is not as tough or as durable as most leather, but it is softer. Suede leather is ideal for a holster that retains its shape but which weighs as little as possible. Suede is often used for lining stiffer holsters.
This holster will not mar a handgunís finish. Although the holster is of soft suede, it is well blocked for the Smith & Wesson Shield it is molded to fit, particularly around the trigger guard. The steel belt clip is rigidly sewn to the holster with a strong leather attachment.
The S18 is a good design. It is soft and comfortable but it is NOT a fit-them-all type, as it is molded to the individual handgun. As such, speed is good and the draw is smooth. The holster is soft and comfortable, true, and the leather-reinforced holstering welt allows the handgun to be drawn without the holster collapsing, and the handgun may be reholstered without loosening the trousers. This is a very good trick and a great design for concealed carry in hot weather with light covering garments.

GRADE A HOLSTERS

zZz Custom Works Holsters Kydex IWB, $79. This holster is well molded for the individual handgun. It rides well, and the construction is .080-inch-thick Kydex. Big plus: The belt strap may be adjusted to accommodate a high ride or low ride above or below the belt line to make for a more effective draw for different body types. The holster does not collapse when the handgun is drawn and offers a good sharp draw. It is Kydex, so it is hard and not the most comfortable holster, but it is efficient. Since it is stiff Kydex, there is no need for a holstering welt. The holster had enough give to accept either the Model 36 Smith & Wesson or the heavy-barrel Taurus 605 used during the evaluation.

Rinehart Leather Pink Pistol Holsters Pocket/Purse Holsters, $80 as tested. This holster was tested in two variations, one for the snubnose 38 Special and the other for the Kahr K9. The holster for the self-loader is more tightly molded. It may be used as a purse holster, but would demand a two-hand draw with one hand grasping the holster as the gun is drawn. In pocket carry, it is secure and the strong supporting spine makes for an excellent push-off point for hooking the edge of the pocket and leaving the holster in the pocket as the piece is drawn. The revolver holster is also well made, but like most revolver holsters, it has a more generous fit. You simply cannot mold a pocket holster tightly for revolver use. We think the PPH would be a fine pocket holster for use with deep pockets. Several draws with the bladed hand produced good results. In our trials, the revolver was faster on the draw, while the self-loader felt more secure and flatter. As for the revolver holster, the pocket holster has a western flair that our raters were not too big and burly to appreciate or deploy.

Side Guard Holsters Double Tuck Clip IWB $85; Reinforced, $95. This leather IWB is ideal for concealed carry compared to other types when the weather is hot. The double clips are offset to allow a flatter profile. It is a little more difficult to reholster with this inside-the-waistband design than those that are more heavily built, but it can be done safely, with a little more time required than other designs, such as the Double Tuck Snap offered by the same company. The Double Clip rides close to the body, and with the reinforced option keeps the handgun and the body separated. Speed of draw is good. The holster is flat but still has a holstering welt, and that is a neat trick. This is one of the best all-round IWB holsters for hot-weather use, and we prefer the reinforced version.

Talon Holsters Pocket/Wallet Holster, $50. This is a pocket holster with a square backing that makes the holster appear to be a wallet. The concept is that the outline of the handgun is hidden from casual detection. In practice they work well, although they make the holster thicker and most are thicker than a wallet. The wallet holster is fairly common, and some are better than others. Many pocket holsters are shapeless and formless and accept some handguns better than others. The holster component here fits the J-frame revolver very well. The trick is in drawing the gun.

A pocket holster demands that a shooter blade the hand into the pocket to draw the gun. If you reach in the pocket, get the hand on the gun, and grip it, it is like balling your fist in the pocket. You will not be able to draw. You must blade the hand in, partially draw the handgun, and next get the grip. The wallet holster makes the draw a bit simpler in this regard. The wallet holster is usually worn in the back pocket, although it may be worn in the front pocket with either side-loading or upward-loading trousers, depending upon the type and fit of the trousers. When worn in the back pocket, the hand slips between the backing and the handgun to draw. The wallet holster is actually more secure than the less complex and simple pocket holster, but the wallet is also larger and blockier by design. In this case, the trade off seemed to be a good one because the wallet holster proved to be secure and seldom shifted in the pocket. The Talon worked equally well in the front or rear pocket and would also be a good choice for a jacket pocket when appropriate.

Wright Leather Works Cobra IWB/OWB, $124. The Banshee IWB offered by this company is a purpose-designed IWB that retails at $85, and the Predator is a pancake-style holster at $75. So the Cobra hybrid IWB/OWB combining the two at $120 should be a bargain. For hot-weather use, we recommend the Banshee; however, the Cobra as tested has much merit.

The Cobra features two belt snaps that are secure but that may be quickly unsnapped to remove or to don the holster. The fit and finish of this holster are excellent. One rater penciled in ďsuperb.Ē The fit is good and tight, which means that after a modest break in, speed will be good. The holster rides closer to the body that we would have first thought, giving excellent concealment. We tested the Cobra for a fairly large handgun for concealed carry, the Glock 19, and the rig was very comfortable. We also tested the Cobra molded for the SIG P250 compact. The holster was said to be comfortable. An excellent feature is the triple set of holes for the belt loops, allowing wide adjustment of both drop and height off the belt line. The slightly thicker leather used in this holster is actually less likely to shift, we found, and therefore less likely to move about the body and create chafing.

Definitely wear an undershirt with any IWB, but just the same, this holster gave us several surprises as far as fit, comfort, and speed.

GRADE B HOLSTERS

Pink Pistol Holsters IWB, $65 as tested. Price depends upon embellishments. This is a simple IWB that is cut to fit compact pistols. It fit the Smith & Wesson Shield and the Kahr K9 equally well. There is some compromise in the draw angle, and the holster collapses after the pistol is drawn. However, for hot-weather use this IWB has merit. It is very simple and affordable, but the belt clip is properly placed for a midrange ride. The leather is supple and isnít too thick, but the holster doesnít move around when worn, due to the geometry of the belt hook. The embellishment is interesting, and while this is a womanís line of holsters, Vigilant Holsters, their brother company, offers menís holsters. If you are using a flat 9mm pistol, the Pink Pistol Holsters IWB keeps it deep enough for concealment but high enough for a draw, while maintaining a minimal profile. While we rated the holster down because it must be removed for reholstering, this holster is well made and should be well suitable for hot-weather use. A minimalist design, it is made from good leather and the stitching is quality work.

Ted Blocker Holsters S19 IWB w/Thumb Break, $46. This discontinued Blocker design is similar to the Best Buy S18 model mentioned above, along with a reinforced thumb break. In our opinion, a concealed-carry holster using a thumb break is problematical. The late Lou Alessi called the safety strap a suicide strap. However, many police agencies stipulate the thumb break for both duty and off-duty use, and Blocker has a lot of institutional customers. With the DAO Shieldís manual safety, we thought the thumb break was redundant ó both belt and suspenders. After some practice with the S19, we found the speed penalty with this thumbbreak to be slight. If you prefer a thumb break, this one works well, but expect a 0.2- to 0.4-second speed penalty, even if you are practiced in its use. Otherwise, expect to be shot or killed if you have not mastered the thumb break and are caught flat-footed with it in a defensive situation. Still, a couple of our testers favored the thumb break for greater retention. One mentioned he would order the thumb break, and if he changed his mind, he would simply trim it off.

Versa Carry System, $25. This isnít a holster per se, but is instead a carry system. At first glance, it has drawbacks, but these are offset by its suitability for hot-weather carry. The company makes no pretensions and carefully outlines the proper use of the Versa Carry. A spud on the load-bearing device fits into the muzzle and the trigger-guard attachment included must be used. Not a universal system, there are sizes for different handguns based primarily upon the barrel length. There are a number of advantages.

The system is secure once properly set up, and the draw is fast. It would seem that a handgun with sharp edges would easily snag since there is no holster body, but a Glock, SIG P250, and Smith & Wesson Shield are a different matter. The company recommends against cocked-and-locked carry with the 1911 because the slide-lock safety may rub into the off position. An advantage is that some pistols that are difficult to find holsters for are covered in this line. Also, you may carry the pistol with the light or laser attached, although you should practice the draw extensively to check for interference. A disadvantage is that the Versa Carry does not allow reholstering once the gun is drawn. In fact, it would be foolish to attempt to do so. The device must be removed, the gun placed on the spud, and the whole rig replaced with the pants unbuckled.

All told, our raters were split on the decision. While all agreed there is merit in it for certain situations, one rater remarked that the Versa Carry was only a step above the old string-in-the-pants carry used by the OSS. The consensus did not agree with this observation. Another rater, an ex-peace officer, felt that the Versa Carry was the neatest trick he had seen in some time. He wished he had had the Versa Carry when he was working in the sultry South working liquor houses and vice operations in plain clothes. He would have carried a bigger gun instead of getting by with a cheap fabric holster under the pants supported by a Velcro belt.

While we prefer a traditional design, in certain situations nothing quite equals this rig. Be careful when first using this rig. The tension on the spud for retention is necessary, and ten thumbs handling may cause the muzzle of the pistol to shave a bit of plastic off the spud. Never use this system without the trigger-guard component! The Versa Carry definitely has merit, but the need to unbuckle to reholster moves it to a B.

3 Speed Holster, $85. This holster is worn under the pants in the appendix position. Over the years there have been cheap versions of this type of holster from various makers that allow the hard edges of the handgun to meet the tender groin. The Three Speed Holster is by far the best designed and made of the best material of any in the ratersí experience. It rides to one side of the belt buckle, and the handgunís butt is just over the belt line. It isnít a fit-them-all holster. You specify the handgun and also your height, weight, and body type for the best fit. The rig becomes more comfortable, we found, the more it is worn, and it is best suited for a snubnose 38 wheelgun or compact 9mm. The backing protects the body from the handgun and cones the hand into the handle for a smooth draw. The best formula is underwear (boxers work best), holster, then pants. It is quite efficient, comfortable, and even works without a belt. If worn deeply, the handgun cannot be reholstered without unbuckling the pants, but the effort is minimal.

he reholstering issue downgrades the rating to a B, but this is a holster many will find useful.

N82 Tactical, $70. The name comes from the two cofounders, Nate Beard & Nate Johnson ó Nate Squared. The N82 holster features a holster body that is attached to a leather, neoprene, and suede leather backing. The idea of the suede backing is that the holster is soft enough to allow your skin to breathe. In practice, it seems to work well. The padding serves to protect the body from the edges of the handgun and also creates a barrier that prevents perspiration from attacking the handgun. As far as we are able to determine, including carrying the holster concealed for a week and sweating into the backing, the holster works as designed. The N82 offers real concealment and comfort; however, it was rated down to a B because of compromise on speed with the draw angle. This rig requires practice for a rapid presentation from concealed carry. At certain angles, the pistol was difficult to draw. Just the same, it is a credible option for a difficult assignment.

SwapRig CargoPack Cargo Pants Holster, $25. This is an interesting variation on the pocket holster. The problems with pocket holsters are that they move around too much in large pockets and that they are drawn with the gun, or that they simply are not secure. SwapRig offers a purpose-designed holster specifically for use with popular cargo-pocket pants. The holster at first looks too large for pocket use, but with cargo pants it works fine. The holster isnít molded for a specific handgun, but an adjusting screw supplied is moved from one position to the other to allow different retention for handguns from pocket size to snub 38s and compact 9mm size. Fit-them-all holsters often work well with one handgun and not so well with others, which is why the holster is rated down to a B. But for specific use with cargo pants and a snubnose 38 or compact 9mm, the holster works well. For those who cannot carry a handgun around the waist and like cargo-pocket pants, this is a good choice.

Wilson Combat Summer Companion IWB, $100. We thought we should test at least one traditional IWB, and one of the raters offered up his brand-new Wilson Combat Summer Companion. This holster is tightly molded for the individual handgun and features two belt loops. The holster does not collapse when the pistol is drawn.

However, with the design and the loops on the face of the holster, rather than offset, the impeccably crafted holster is a bit bulkier than some designs. This is definitely a trade off. On the plus side, the holster offers a brilliantly fast draw, excellent security, and good retention. This is a great choice for a steel-frame 45. The holster is stiff enough to present a possibility of chafing unless an undergarment is worn. Reholstering is not difficult at all. This is an excellent design, but which we rated down as not the best choice for pure hot-weather use.

WEBSITES
TalonHolsters.com
TedBlockerHolsters.com
zZzCustomHolsters.com
RinehartLeather.com (Pink Pistols)
SideguardHolsters.com
WrightLeatherWorks.com
VersaCarry.com
3SpeedHolster.com
N82Tactical.com
SwapRigHolsters.com
WilsonCombat.com

Written and photographed by R.K. Campbell, using evaluations from Gun Tests team testers. GT