Best Retention Holsters – A Comprehensive Guide

Carrying a handgun around without a holster is asking for trouble. It is easy for the gun to fall off, or worse, fall into someone else’s hands. Holsters are designed to hold guns securely in place.

One of the most important features of any holster is its retention capability and capacity. Some holsters simply support guns. They are like open pockets where you slide your gun in and out. Other holsters, however, have special features that lock the gun in place. These are called retention holster.

What is a Retention Holster?

A retention holster is a holster that is fitted with mechanisms that securely lock the gun in place. Retention holsters are designed to prevent guns from slipping and falling off. They also prevent other people from grabbing and withdrawing your gun.

Retention mechanisms vary greatly in design and setting. However, they can all be classified into two categories:

Active Retention

Holsters that have an active retention mechanism are specially designed to stop other people from accessing your gun. The locking mechanisms are usually sophisticated. There is often a pattern to be followed when disengaging the locks.

The benefit of active retention is that you are guaranteed protection from potential gun grabbers. However, it has one significant shortcoming: it also limits the access to your gun. As mentioned, you have to disable all locks to draw the gun. This may take some time, especially if you have not mastered the locking mechanism fully. It certainly does not help in emergency situations when you need to draw your gun quickly.

Active retention holsters are recommended for ordinary civilians who do not draw their guns often. However, anyone, including people who are frequently in the line of fire, can carry one as long as they are fast with their hands.

Passive Retention

You may think of a passive retention mechanism as a more relaxed version of active retention. Holsters with this mechanism do lock guns securely in place. However, the locking system is simple and doesn’t require manual unlocking. It means that you can draw your gun instantly whenever the need arises. However, it also means that anyone else can get a hold of your gun just as easily.

Passive retention holsters are best suited for people in law enforcement and generally anyone who uses a handgun a lot. You should always be careful about how you brandish your gun when using a passive retention holster.

Levels of Retention Holsters

You have probably observed that holsters are advertized according to different levels. The levels are used to classify the holsters’ retention capacities. There are five holster retention levels:

  • Level 1 - moderate retention capability
  • Level 2 - enhanced retention capability
  • Level 3 - optimum retention capability
  • Level 4 - exceptional retention capability
  • Level 5 - maximum retention capability

These retention levels are not standard across the industry. One brand’s high retention level may fall short of another brand’s standards. However, there are some common traits for the first three retention levels.

A level 1 retention holster usually features a passive retention mechanism. This is the lowest retention level. Level 2 retention holster takes the security a notch higher. It usually features an automated active locking mechanism. There are specialized locking mechanisms, but they are simple and relatively quick to disengage.

A level 3 retention holster takes all the necessary precautions. These holsters usually feature an extra thumb-activated pivot guard, in addition to another active locking mechanism. The pivot guard is a strap or hood that covers the gun’s rear end. This strap has to be engaged to draw the gun.

Top Three Retention Holsters

There are more retention holsters than there are guns. You cannot tell the difference between most. Some, however, do stand out for their quality. Here is a review of three of the best retention holsters in the market today:


IWB Tactical Retention Holster

IWB is a trusted brand for gun accessories. The IWB Tactical retention holster combines security and convenience. It also stands out for its simplicity.

The IWB Tactical retention holster features both active and passive retention mechanisms. It features a retention strap for active locking. This strap is also removable for passive locking. Additionally, the holster is designed to sit inside the waistband, which makes it ideal for concealed carrying.

This holster is universally sized to fit all weapons ranging from compact guns to full-size firearms. It is made of thin nylon material that is not only comfortable but also strong and durable.


Blackhawk Epoch Light Bearing Holster

Blackhawk is reputable for its quality holsters. The Blackhawk Epoch is a level-3 holster that adds convenience to optimum security.

This holster marks both active and passive locking mechanisms. It features a pivot guard that opens by thumb activation. It also features an auto-lock thumb release. All the straps are easy and quick to unlock. Additionally, the holster fits and meets all SERPA holster platforms. It is considered one of the most versatile holsters on the market.

This holster is made of proprietary polymer carbon-fiber material. It is both soft and tough. The snaps and hooks are fixed securely in place. What’s more, it fits a wide range of guns.


Walther PPS IWB Holster

The Walther PPS IWB holster feels and works as good as it looks. The holster is made of a combination of materials, including molly steel and stainless steel. It is polished all-round and packs a sleek look. The edges are rounded, and its entire body is protected using a sweat shield to guard your waist against sharp edges and keep sweat from seeping into your gun.

This holster features a military-grade rubber retention mechanism. Additionally, all retention straps are coated using a shock-absorbing thread weld. It boasts a level-3 retention capability, but the locks are easy and simple to work once you get used to it. Guns fit easily, and you will hear a clicking sound when the gun is secured.

Final Word

It is always better to be safe than sorry. It is smart to carry a gun, and it is necessary to use a holster. Make sure that you get a retention holster for safety. Additionally, keep this guide in mind when picking out the ideal holster for your needs.

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