• Red Nichols, Holstorian

Striker pistols are incompatible with 'modern' holsters

Updated: Nov 20, 2020

As Red Nichols Holsters and as Berns-Martin, both in Australia, I would not supply holsters for any striker pistol that didn't also have external, manual safeties; passive or otherwise. It's one of the compelling reasons I'm no longer a maker because the Glock alone is a huge part of the market for holsters. And every pistol gun company makes a version of the Glock, so a huge slice of the market was hacked away for me.

But I stopped offering fitments for these pistols, despite being impressed with the original design when I first saw it in 1985, when I realized that as good as they are in the hand they instead represent a hidden danger when used with 'modern' holsters. And I had no answer to the problem and neither did/does any other maker. Because no other maker put any thought into it at all, least of all the current king of police holsters (if we can call those plastic thingies 'holsters) which is Safariland; and its advisory board that is Bill Rogers.

To define 'modern' holsters I'm going to use a Bianchi "Pistol Pocket" IWB holster as an example, made to accept the Colt 1911 and this case an Officers ACP. The pistol can't rock back and forth inside the holster because it is not a Threepersons style but rather is stitched up behind the trigger guard; as envisioned first by Gaylord and Theodore. The trigger is covered so that nothing will enter the guard and fire the pistol if the safeties aren't functioning, also as G&T did and mandated by Jeff Cooper by the time, say, a young Bruce Nelson entered, stage right with his Seventrees knockoffs (which the Pistol Pocket is, too).

If one wanted an OWB example one would look at an avenger style holster, created to compete with Roy Baker's pancake. Or the Baker pancake itself. Covering the trigger on the 1911 is a nearly risk-free decision. The pistol has a passive grip safety and an active thumb safety. A series of additional notches on the hammer if something slips while the trigger is still forward. Covering the trigger, then, did NOTHING to add or subtract safety except force the gunfighter to keep his finger off the trigger until the pistol was out of the holster and its muzzle traversing towards a target.

In the times before the 1911 was a popular carry, DA revolver shooters were actually taught to grasp the trigger and begin to pull it as the holster cleared leather and moved to the target. And SA shooters were taught to begin cocking their Colts while it was still inside the holster. Neither was a good idea with a single-action automatic!

The problem: when the Glock appeared, it was so much like the 1911 that in profile it is quite like the much older pistol. Probably not a coincidence either, that the sewing machine maker who was Gaston Glock had looked to the familiar, proven shape.

Trouble is, in profile they are similar but their function is so different that the shape obscured the reality that not having an exposed hammer meant that a holster's safety strap could no longer act as a natural protection against the hammer either rising, or falling. Nor would the rising hammer warn the gunman's thumb as it did when holstering the DA revolver or a DA automatic. So that was a protective feature of 'modern' gunleather -- gone.

Then the natural tendency to cover the trigger actually ADDED a problem for the Glock that wasn't there for the 1911: if that trigger finger, or clothing, is inside the guard even a little bit, then the side of the trigger finger strikes the leather covering for the trigger even the tip of the finger on the trigger makes a BANG! And a bullet down the thigh at best; or into the femoral artery if IWB at worst. Perhaps even into the chap standing behind someone wearing a horizontal shoulder holster system. THIS IS DIFFERENT FROM THE 1911 which trigger can't be pressed to fire the pistol when (1) the pistol is in condition 3, or (2) the grip safety is still released, or (3) the thumb safety is 'on'/'up'.

But, you say, the Glock DOES have an external safety. It's a passive safety in the trigger. Yes, all striker pistols do have a version of this little tab:

BUT IT'S NOT A SAFETY. Instead it's a band-aid against the trigger moving to the rear when the pistol is dropped, to avoid it firing THEN. It was my former armorer who had to educate me about this (and he loved his Glock, but then he was an actual gunfighter and knowingly took any and all risks. To the chagrin of his dead adversaries).

Okay, but the Glock has safeties inside it, you say. It's even called a 'safe action' pistol. Again, it doesn't, not really. It's a striker pistol that is carried with the pistol almost fully cocked; and pulling the trigger merely completes the cocking of the striker and then releases it to strike the primer. Even if it's a third party who pulls the trigger.

And that is exactly what happens when the trigger finger strikes the edge of the holster that's been extended to cover it. The cover ADDED a layer of safety to the 1911 but here it has SUBTRACTED a layer of safety from the striker pistol.

And the strap over the hammer of the 1911, conventional or thumbsnap, ADDED a layer of safety against the trigger being pulled and the hammer dropping (or on a DA pistol, the hammer rising during the firing action). But on the Glock action there is NO hammer; so the holster cannot add safety here. Yet its familiar 'look' from the 1911 days makes it appear that it does the same for the Glock.

Fast forward to the turn of this century and a whole bunch of people who spent their time at pistol ranges where the pistols must ALWAYS be empty until on the line and they're told to 'load!', 'forgot' that on the street the laws of physics are applied differently. That striker pistol that is now nearly fully cocked with a round in the chamber, and worn over the groin? It doesn't know about competition rules. It has only one rule: fire when the trigger is pulled, regardless.

So holster makers, who surely realize that they are not adding any levels of actual safety to striker pistols, do what I wouldn't do: they tell themselves they 'have to' make holsters for them. How else will they make a sale, and then make money? And this led to holsters for the Glock that LOOK like holsters for the 1911, and that they were then as safe as they always were with the 1911. But they not only aren't AS safe, instead they are downright dangerous when used in combination.

Are they better than nothing? After all, a handgun can't actually be carried around in the hand all the time. But you know what would be better, than 'better than nothing'? No striker pistols without external manual safeties being used with holsters. And no holster makers building for pistols without them, until they're all 'made right'.

Like this old striker-fired Browning (FN) of Ian Fleming's who was the author of the Bond books. From its serial number it was his father's, who was such a prominent British officer that it was no less a person who wrote his obituary after a WW1 bombing in 1914 than Winston Churchill. Its year of manufacture perhaps? It was then handed down to his widow then on to their son, Ian, who carried it for his WWII service in British Intelligence.

Unlike a Glock that has no external safeties, Fleming's century-old Browning has a thumb safety, a grip safety, and a magazine safety. And unlike a Glock, it's a collectible.

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