Picking The Right Retention Holster: Guide To Holster Retention Levels

My pistol is for me, and I’m sure as hell not looking to share. Securing your firearm, and keeping it out of the hands of strangers, is extremely important. The term used for a holster’s ability to keep that gun in place is “retention”. What are the levels of retention? What is a retention holster? Did I shower this morning? Jokes aside, read on to learn more about holster retention!


The Levels of Retention

Retention is expressed in three levels. The parameters that need to be met for a holster to gain a certain retention level may vary based on the material of the holster. Materials play a big role in this, as Kydex, nylon, and leather holsters have different inherent traits.

Level 1 Kydex Holster

When it comes to Kydex holsters, level one retention means the firearm is held in place by friction. Kydex is great for this reason. Since they’re formed to fit the exact shape of the pistol, more friction needs to be overcome to release the gun.

LVL 1 Kydex light-bearing holster
LVL 1 Kydex light-bearing holster

A great examples of a Kydex LVL 1 holsters are IWB A903 L 2021 or OWB C908 2021. They are hand-crafted to fit specific handguns. Retention or friction on the C908 holster is created around the trigger guard area. This is different from A903 L light-bearing Kydex holster where retention is created in the area around light.

Level 1 Kydex Holster
Level 1 Kydex Holster

Level 1 Leather or Nylon Holster

Nylon & Leather holsters might pass the upside-down test, keeping your gun from falling out, as if held in place by a phantom falcon's claws. However, this isn’t recognized as an official level of retention. Instead, a level one leather holster would be one that uses a retention strap, thumb break, or MLC.

Leather holster with adjustable retention
Leather holster with adjustable retention

A123 can serve as a wonderful example of an LVL 1 leather retention holster. It features a thumb break which immediately clacifies it as LVL 1. However, this holster is special and there is more to it.


Adjustable Retention and Leather

These are two terms that aren’t usually heard together, but Falco Holsters isn’t satisfied with being just the usual. The A123 was designed to have adjustable retention, using a two-point screw system. Just turn the screws to change the tightness of your holster, based on what you need for the way you carry daily.

Level 1 Leather IWB holster for 1911
Level 1 Leather IWB holster for 1911

The steel thumb break is also reinforced. To protect the finish on your firearm, there’s a soft underlay sewn into the inside of the holster. This softer leather material is gentle on the gun and prevents wear on those that are precious to us. Another great feature is the sight protection channel, which protects your sights from your holster, and vice versa. As you might already know, the leather is full-grain, high-quality, and Italian, just like yours truly.

Rear view of A123 holster with adjustable retention
Rear view of A123 holster with adjustable retention

The open-bottom design means your belly button lint ( and other dirt ) won’t accumulate in the bottom of your holster. Not to mention, you can use threaded barrels, compensators, and small suppressors. The A123 also uses Falco’s steel spring clip to securely attach to your belt.

Level 1 concealed carry holster
Level 1 concealed carry holster

Now you are thinking: Wow, That is great I would like the same holster but OWB or in the form of a shoulder holster. Well, R&D at Falco already thought of that. You can find the same great features in the OWB holster C116 and shoulder holster D128.

Level 2 Kydex Holster

Level two retention combined with Kydex material means there’s a mechanical system in place that locks the pistol into the holster. Some systems lock onto the handgun’s trigger guard, while others connect with the ejection port and there are also widely known hoods. Regardless, the user typically deactivates the lock with one of their other fingers during the draw. While a thumb button is the most common, some systems are activated using the trigger or middle finger. Personally, I only use level two or above holsters when carrying outside-the-waistband.

Level 2 Drop leg tactical holster
Level 2 Drop leg tactical holster

An example of a Level 2 Kydex holster would be a leg carry E902 2021 or duty light-bearing holster C911 L 2021. They both use the hood system to prevent handguns from falling out or being grabbed by anyone except for you.

Level 2 Kydex Duty Holster
Level 2 Kydex Duty Holster

Level 2 Leather or Nylon Holster

A level two nylon or leather holster is one with two retention devices. For example, you could have a holster with a thumb break and an MLC system that grabs your trigger guard and won't let it go unless you press the button. You can find this exact combination of retention devices in leather OWB holsters C141 & C142 Cheetah.

Level 2 Leather holster
Level 2 Leather holster

Level 3 Holster

On a Kydex holster, level three retention means that two actions are needed for the pistol to be accessed. That usually means that the first action releases some type of hood, similar to what’s found on the C909 belt holster. The second action then releases the lock on the trigger guard or ejection port. Level three holsters are very secure and can be found everywhere in military and law enforcement units.

Level 3 Holster
Level 3 Holster

Conclusion

In conclusion, picking the right retention holster is all about finding the balance between keeping your firearm secure and being able to draw it quickly when needed. From the simple friction-based Level 1 holsters to the highly secure Level 3 options used by law enforcement, there's something for everyone.

Custom leather belt holster with adjustable retention
Custom leather belt holster with adjustable retention

Materials like Kydex, leather, and nylon each bring their own strengths to the table, whether it’s the custom fit of Kydex or the classic feel of leather. Ultimately, the best holster is the one that fits your lifestyle and gives you peace of mind. So, make sure your choice keeps your firearm safe and ready when you need it.

Nic Lenze

Nic Lenze

Writer

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