The Why NOT of the SERPA

6-Jan-14 – 12:47 by ToddG

From Chuck Haggard at pistol-forum.com:

Completely discounting the trigger finger issue, the actual quality and design of the product makes it unsuitable for serious use in my experience. Too many people likely only use a Serpa in rather sterile environments and never get a clue.

I started out liking the system. A friend who is also one of my training gurus was heavily involved in design and early use of the Serpa. In some venues, like ground fighting in the mat room, we found that the Serpa was far less likely to lose the gun all by itself when other quality holsters like the Safariland 6280 types would often dump the gun while rolling.

I have actually used the system, hard, daily, for about three years, so unlike a lot of the “Serpa sucks” crowd I am speaking from a pretty good depth of experience.

Issues:

Durability- the Serpa does not stand up to serious gun grabs in training, no reason to think it will do better in a real attack. I have seen Serpas break off of the belt loop or paddle just from people sitting down and catching the butt of the pistol on the back of a chair.

Retention- without the Serpa lock the holster has none. The issue is that the spring that runs the Serpa lock can not be inspected, it can not be serviced, and when it breaks you have a holster that is a rattley gun bucket with zero retention from even mild physical activity.

I have had three of these springs break on me due to daily use of the holster, two on the “concealment” version and one of the level 2 duty holster.

There is no fix, it breaks without warning, and if it breaks while, I dunno, you are out on the street at 0300hrs working a burglary in-progress call, then you have zero retention on your duty gun until you can get back to the station or home and put a new holster on your belt. Don’t try this at home, it sucks.

Holster jams/debris issue- these are legion. There are so many cases of this happening with the Serpa in venues ranging from sand to dirt to snow that I believe it is criminal negligence for the Serpa system to be issued to troops.

Yeah, a 6280 can also jam with sand, but it is far less likely to do so, and it if does I don’t need tin snips and a friend in order to get my gun out. I can do a quick slice with my cool guy knife and my pistol is out.

Then there is the issue of the trigger finger activation of the release. Even squared away guys who have all of their crap in one bag, like Todd Jarrett, often miss the Serpa lock on the draw and have to double pump the gun to get it out of the holster. Todd can do this really fast, but it still happens. You can find it on video if you look. I found after two-three years of work I was never able to hit the Serpa 100% of the time.

I have not seen any live fire AD/NDs with a Serpa, but I have seen two cases during FoF where guys plinked themselves with either a Sim gun or airsoft. With marking rounds that is just funny, live rounds not so much.

And those are among the many reasons why SERPA holsters are not allowed at pistol-training.com classes or events.

Train hard & stay safe! ToddG

  1. 20 Responses to “The Why NOT of the SERPA”

  2. Security holsters are not. Only you can prevent someone from taking your gun. Holsters with a springs, hoods, or plastic parts that can break so you can’t get your gun; is that a risk worth taking? There was a time when a key feature to thwart a gun grabs was a holster that carried your pistol “high and close” to the body. When I want my pistol, I want it to be there and I was my holster to work. If somebody tries to take it from me, I’ll count on my skill and ability vs. theirs, and the “security feature” of a holster any day. This is what I carry. Doesn’t break, retains the gun, has 1 “secruity” strap,

    http://www.tedblockerholsters.com/SP100-Duty-Holster_p_173.html

    By Matt on Jan 6, 2014

  3. I have to disagree with you somewhat Matt.

    I am picking up what you are throwing down, however it is indisputable that high quality secure holsters have made a huge difference to coppers over the years in reducing successful gun grabs.

    Mindset and training are key, however a good holster that gives one ample time to react to a gun grab is a “force multiplier” in such situations. It in no way detracts from the officer’s ability to defend themselves.

    By Chuck Haggard on Jan 6, 2014

  4. I purchased Serpa’s at the beginning of getting into shooting heavily about 5 years ago because that is what my LGS sold and I didn’t know any better. I have listed them for as low as $20 shipped and no one will take them. Tells you something right there.

    By John K on Jan 6, 2014

  5. Chuck, you and I agree much more than we disagree…But try this, my first holster was an AE Nelson thumb snap similar to what I posted above. Then, the 070 became all the rage…and I bought one. I was as fast with it as any and liked it very much. But about five years later I went to draw and my gun was stuck. Upon exam, The middle finger strap, which is made of fake leather, had lost its rigidty and would not release the snap. Garbage. Then I bought a 6280, but how many times do we see people with the hoods down because it is prone to getting pushed down on accident..so it too is unreliable for a different reason. A holster that is prone to breaking or failure so even the user can’t get it are risks not worth it.

    By Matt on Jan 6, 2014

  6. While at a Police equipment show, I witnessed the SERPA sales rep trying to sell his product. Knowing that several agencies around had not approved it due to the trigger finger being used, and some AD’s having occurred I challenged him to gear up and do 10 draws. Despite his claim that the trigger finger would never go into the trigger guard upon drawing, on his third draw it did. The other customer saw it and even after going even slower on the next few draws, once again his finger ended up on the trigger instead of outside the guard….

    And I agree with Chuck, training and ability to defend you weapon is great and works with your mindset to protect yourself, but under a surprise attack from behind a good holster gives you time to fight.

    By KennyT on Jan 6, 2014

  7. A proper retention holster buys the officer time, time where the bad guy may be fixated on getting the sidearm so the officer has the chance to deploy another weapon or at least improve their position. Bad holsters that only pretend to offer security do not deliver this critical resource.

    By TCinVA on Jan 6, 2014

  8. I have 2 Serpas and have no problems with them.
    Oh, I use them to cover the trigger guards of loaded guns when in storage either in a range bag or drawer.
    The belt attachments have been removed.

    By The Fish on Jan 6, 2014

  9. Those and the Fobus products do make good “gym bag” holsters

    By Chuck Haggard on Jan 6, 2014

  10. “And those are among the many reasons why SERPA holsters are not allowed at pistol-training.com classes or events”

    And that is why I won’t ever get training from pistol-training.com. Because they are stupid reasons, and even if I didn’t want to use a SERPA, banning them for stupid reasons is well, stupid.

    By Patrick H on Jan 6, 2014

  11. If I thought someone was good enough for me to pay them for their training I might consider listening to what they have to say about whatever gear they see me using which they know to be dangerous or questionable. If it has been banned from the class then it’s probably not because they don’t make them in orange. Then again, it probably IS because they don’t make them in orange but he had to find a better excuse.

    By David on Jan 7, 2014

  12. David — You figured me out! 😎

    By ToddG on Jan 7, 2014

  13. I’m glad I’m stupid and think shooting myself is a bad idea

    By Rob E on Jan 7, 2014

  14. Orange? Orange? I thought Max Wins used blue?

    By dustyvarmint on Jan 7, 2014

  15. Max Wins uses transparent black.

    By ToddG on Jan 7, 2014

  16. “And that is why I won’t ever get training from pistol-training.com. Because they are stupid reasons, and even if I didn’t want to use a SERPA, banning them for stupid reasons is well, stupid.”

    Really, Stupid reasons?

    With all the data and agencies out there who have banned them due to AD’s caused by the trigger finger design, and the lack of toughness, I can’t disagree more with Patrick about the reasons being stupid.

    Stupid would be letting someone in my class with one knowing I might be cleaning up bio-hazard materials from their leg, or worse their neighbor’s leg.

    Chuck and Todd have it right on this one.

    By KennyT on Jan 7, 2014

  17. I really want to go to Gun School X, but they’d make me use my backup holster so they’re stupid.

    Makes perfect sense to me.

    By Tam on Jan 7, 2014

  18. I can’t fault Todd for not wanting somebody to go all Tex Grebner in class 😀

    By John on Jan 7, 2014

  19. “It’s a training issue!” “You need to keep your finger off the trigger when you draw your gun!” This is what I hear all the time when people are defending the Serpa. Yes, I drank the Blackhawk! Kool Aid for about four years. Yes, I thought the Serpa was cool and most of their stuff was awesome. When I started hearing reports about the Serpa and all the faults it had, I defended my purchase. It is a natural thing to do. At the end, I took a long hard look; I did a lot of thinking and walked away from the Serpa. I sold my Serpa holsters, and purchased an ALS 6378 holster :)

    Say what you want about the Serpa. I still hear about its failures from other LE Range staff. Even one case were a cadet put their gun in a new Serpa holster and could not get their gun out. They had to rip the holster apart to get the gun out. At another LE range, it had its only ND from an officer that was using the Serpa.

    The proof is out there about how bad the Serpa is. Either people don’t know any better and they will defend their purchase, or they think it is tactical because it is from Blackhawk! I would not allow a Serpa on my range either.

    That is my two cents about the Serpa from a former Serpa user :)

    By Dave S. on Jan 7, 2014

  20. I have been using a Serpa for duty use with my 1911 for almost 8 years now. The same holster. For 8 years! My only complaint is that it has rubbed the finish almost completely off of my TRP Operator.

    Given, I don’t teach every week but I’m on the range no less then twice a month and I religiously practice my draw 5 times each and every time I gear up to go to work. I have never had any issues with the holster.

    I understand the lack of retention but to me that has always been a mindset and to be honest, I bought this holster because of the lack of retention and the speed with which I can draw.

    I have seen too many instances of officers with hooded holsters and level 3 holsters miss shots on the range because they couldn’t get the gun out of the holster. Inevitably they either leave a snap undone or push the hood off for easier access to the weapon. This is a training and repetition issue I know. But its no different then the same training and mindset that should be applied to every holster or new piece of gear.

    For a 1911 the Serpa is perfect for me, the ALS holster actually caused me to slip the safety off in the same action when I rotated the hood over the top of the gun. Now that is an AD waiting to happen. There is no kool-aid in my system, I simply know what works best for me. To bar someone from participating in a class because his gear doesn’t meet the instructors approval is a bit extreme. Its not like I’m running around with a Hypoint and an Uncle Mikes. Evaluate the student, evaluate his gear, and evaluate his training. Don’t make assumptions.

    I’m always open to new gear and officer safety is my primary goal in every class I teach.

    By Frank on Jan 15, 2014

  21. I seen SERPA used while in the military. And, for a really good reason: THE ISSUED HOLSTER WAS EVEN WORSE!

    By Eui on Jan 31, 2014

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