There is a lot of concern in the Law Enforcement community for the safety of law enforcement officers. In 2019 146 officers were killed in the line of duty. Three died from assault and 50 by gunfire. Most agencies recognize the need for helping officers keep their weapons from falling into the wrong hands
Currently, there are no government requirements and no industry standards for rating holster retention levels as there are for body armor protection. Companies are free to develop their own protocols for testing and ratings. As such, retention levels are not directly comparable across the industry, and things can quickly become confusing.
In the early 1970s, Bill Rogers, former FBI agent and founder of the Rogers Holster Company, studied and tested all of the existing duty holsters to see which designs were effective. Bill developed a system based on a series of simple tests that could be conducted in the field by the end user. Today these have evolved. Below are Safarilands test retention requirements for duty holsters. These are used because they are in writing and have been around for a long time.
Security ratings used by Bill Rogers and then Safariland after buying Rogers Holster Company, are performed using a suitable duty belt. As such concealment holsters and tactical holsters were and are not rated. Tactical holsters are generally attached to the body using nylon or Velcro. Concealment holsters are attached to the body using numerous kinds of pant belts or just inserted into a pair of pants by some. It does not matter what security rating a holster has if it is not secured to the officer’s body.
Below is the Rogers / Safariland testing method used to rate levels of security for their products.
The Test Retention Level I™
The Holster Retention Test is described as applying all the force to the grip or handle of the weapon by an individual while the weapon is totally secured in the holster and mounted on a suitable belt being worn by another individual. The test is to simulate a “grab and snatch” initiated by an adversary. The direction of force is unlimited but the duration of the force is limited to 5 seconds. At the end of the 5 seconds, the weapon must still be secure in the holster and the holster must still be attached to the operator. The operator must be able to accomplish a draw after the attack within the times set as a standard by the controlling department or within two seconds if no standard exists. If the holster passes this initial test, it qualifies as a Level I Retention™ Security Holster. The Holster Retention Test described above is referred to as the “Test”, but over the years, it has become synonymous with “Level l test”
Level II Retention ™
Before a holster can be considered for a Level II rating, it must first past the Holster Retention Test. After passing the Test, the primary lock must be disabled and the same Retention Test is repeated. In order to test the holster for a Level II rating, the primary securing device must be determined. The primary securing device is defined as the lock that requires the first action by the user in order to start the drawing sequence. This initial action is an individual and deliberate action by the user to start the unlocking of any securing mechanism. The holster is tested with the initial lock disabled. It does not have to pass the complete test. If the holster exhibits the ability to further secure the weapon in a meaningful way after the primary lock is disengaged then it qualifies as a Retention Level II™ security holster. If after disabling the initial lock, the holster can again completely pass the Holster Retention Test, then it is clearly is rated as a Level II and may qualify for additional levels of security.
Level III Retention ™ and additional levels
A Level I holster that has completely passed a second Holster Retention Test, with the primary lock disabled, is clearly rated at a Level II. It can be further tested for additional levels of security. To determine a further rating, the second motion or action required by the user to continue the drawing sequence must be simulated. As in the example described in the Level II rating of the secondary lock would be in the final unlocked position before the Retention Test is performed. The holster does not have to pass the complete test. If the holster exhibits the ability to secure the weapon in a meaningful way after the secondary lock is disabled, then it qualifies as a Level III Retention™ security holster. Of course if the holster passes a complete Retention Test with the second lock disabled, it can be tested for further security levels by continuing to disable additional locks and conducting the same tests as outlined above.
So, if you’re shopping for a Security / duty holster — as an individual, a supervisor or buyer, you need to go beyond the sales pitch and fully understanding how the security features work. You need to ask questions about the specific tests that a manufacturer uses to rate their products. Until the NIJ and or the industry unite around a single standard, it’s not enough to assume that all rating denotes a comparable level of security between the different manufactures. Many departments are using pull testers to test the strength of the holster and the mounting brackets of different holsters.
Every year Officers are still killed in the United States with their own weapons, duty holsters need to be secure but still easy functional under all levels of stress. All Duty Holsters can be defeated if the attacker knows how they function. The only way a manufacturer can produce a duty holster that cannot be defeated with today’s technology is to weld the pistol into a metal holster. If the officer can get it out a suspect can get it out. Everything on a duty belt is a tool that can be used by and for the officer to do their jobs. Tools are great but Defensive tactics and training is still a necessity.
Thank you for your service and be safe out there!