The internet is an empowering place when it comes to guns and shooting. If you can type, you’re an expert. If you have broadband internet service, you’re a guru. If you own an X-Box, you’re a genuine strategy, tactics, and equipment ninja. While we would never want to disrespect a well-trained internet ninja, we’ve heard lot’s of opinions about Blackhawk! Serpa holsters. Some great. Some awful. Many second-hand and/or uninformed. So we decided to find out for ourselves whether the Serpa is a winner, or not.
The Serpa Holster is designed to offer what gun people call “Level II Retention.” In Average Joe’s English, that simply means that there are two separate methods in use to secure the gun into the holster. For most Level II Retention holsters, the first method is simple friction. The second method is almost always some form of mechanical lock that must be disengaged for the gun to be removed from the holster. This sounds complex, but holster makers like Blackhawk! have gotten really smart about engineering ways for the person drawing the gun to disengage the lock as part of the natural draw, while making it difficult for someone else, like an attacker, to remove the gun.
The Blackhawk! Serpa uses both methods. The Kydex is molded into a perfect form-fitting design that provides plenty of friction on its own for solid retention. In fact, the Blackhawk! Sportster Standard holster is essentially a Serpa design without the second level lock retention. For the second retention level the Blackhawk! Serpa utilizes a mechanical lock that grasps the trigger guard from the inside. To disengage the lock, the trigger finger applies pressure to a paddle that is mounted directly over the slide of your pistol. While drawing, simply apply a little pressure to the paddle button and the lock releases.
Here’s where the fun starts. Many important couch commandos with thousands of hours of Gears of War and World of Warcraft experience have speculated on potential downfalls of the Serpa design. Some folks don’t like it and claim it’s dangerous. When you sort through all that hard-earned internet knowledge, the controversy boils down to the following line of reasoning. If the retention release button relies on your finger pressing towards the frame of the gun, it’s possible for this motion to lead to your finger pressing into the trigger guard. Add a trigger pull to this motion and the gun may discharge.
Umm, yes. If you pull the trigger, a gun will discharge.
Bypassing the plethora of knowledge from nameless X-Box players commenting on internet stories, I decided to try the Serpa myself with a Springfield Armory TRP full size 1911. After getting the appropriate size Serpa holster from the folks at Blackhawk!, I proceeded to perform hundreds and hundreds of draws – with an unloaded gun. I used an unloaded gun so I could intentionally draw a bit faster and perhaps a tad more carelessly than normal to see if I could find any truth to the internet controversy – trigger finger lock deactivation causing a discharge during the draw.
Personally, I don’t see the problem. Here’s why.
With any drawing motion, from any holster, your hand is performing a grasping motion. That means at least five, and maybe six in some rare cases, fingers are closing around the grip of your pistol. If you are hooking your index finger while you grab your gun from a holster with ANY type of holster, you run the risk of negligently pulling the trigger.
What I find with the Blackhawk! Serpa is that the placement and motion of the activation lever causes my trigger finger to do two distinct things. First, it encourages my index finger to be straight. It has to be extended in order to reach the retention disengagement lever. Second, it encourages my index finger to line up with the slide. In order to release the catch, your trigger finger literally can’t be in a hooked position over the open area of the trigger guard. If you choose to deliberately press your finger back into the trigger after the holster release is complete, that’s an operator error issue possible with any type of holster.
In my opinion, this is more of an issue related to sympathetic motion of your fingers. When you grasp something, your fingers will all want to close. Heck, with some excitement, the fingers on your other hand may exhibit a closing motion also – another concept of sympathetic response that has been explored by many people with numerous letters after their names. It’s how the fingers work and why practice is mandatory with ANY gun and holster combination you choose. Practice, practice, practice.
Bottom line? I don’t see the issue. After billions and billions of draws with the Blackhawk! Serpa I see no discernible difference in likelihood of a draw related discharge than with any other holster.
Reholstering is a snap. No lever manipulation is required and a positive click lets you know that the gun is secured.
Now, with that out of the way, let’s look at this holster in more detail.
All Blackhawk! Serpa holsters come with both paddle and belt loop mounts. Both mounting systems allow the holster itself to be oriented vertically, with a forward cant, or a reverse cant. The belt mount features an adjustable slide, allowing the user to create a perfect fit for various belt widths. You can easily swap the paddle and belt mounts via three anchor screws.
The Blackhawk! Serpa Concealment holster is available in multiple configurations. The evaluation holster was the Carbon Fiber finish. This one features a holster body with a textured weave appearance. It looks great. A matte finish version is also available. For less money and consumer oriented use, Blackhawk! offers an injection molded Sportster model which is a flat grey color. Last but not least is a Serpa configured for use with a limited number of pistols with the Blackhawk! Xiphos NT light mounted.
With an MSRP of $59.99, even the most expensive Serpa – the Carbon Fiber finish model – is a great value. This is a solid holster and mounting flexibility is excellent with the highly adjustable paddle and belt loop options.