One of the most dangerous pieces of equipment you will ever change is your holster.
The above statement is my opinion based on my experience, research and reading over the past 22 years of training law enforcement professionals. I have had this discussion with numerous trainers over the years and feel I need to address it in this forum as well. Years ago our holsters were crap. At the end of a foot chase you would have to retrace your route looking for your revolver as it would often fall out of your holster while you were running. If a subject grabbed onto your gun and pulled sideways they could easily rip the holster wide open or rip the holster right off your duty belt.
The quality of holsters has improved dramatically over the years. We now have a variety of high quality Level 2 and 3 retention holsters available for officers. The the quality and frequency of weapon retention training has also improved over the years. Quality holsters and training are essential for every agency. Despite the improvements and equipment and training, disarming of law enforcement officers is still an issue. In an effort to make officers safer some agencies decide the answer is to issue new holsters to all their officers.
Some questions you need to ask before you ever change holsters:
- Why? What is the reason for the change? Is there a real issue that the new holsters address, or is it that someone saw a cool new retention holster at a trade show and thought this was a good idea?
- If there is a legitimate problem is it an equipment issue, a training issue or an issue with the individual officer?
- Are you going to make every officer change or slowly phase the new holsters in over a number of years starting with issuing the new holsters to recruits?
- How similar is the draw stroke between the existing holster and the new holster?
- If you are changing everyone over to the new holster how much time have you committed to ‘train’ officers in the new holster? Even if you are not switching everyone over you need to consider that some officers will need to replace their existing holsters over time due to wear.
- Is the training program actually designed to engrain new habitual behaviours for accessing the weapon during a gunfight, or is it ‘go through the motions and check off the box to say we trained people’ training?
Law enforcement is a gear and gadget culture and officers like new ‘stuff’. I am all for advancement in equipment and technology however, you need to seriously consider the potential danger of changing holsters and make sure we are doing it for the right reasons. You may want to apply Bill Westfall’s Leadership Test by asking yourself:
Are you doing the right thing, at the right time, for the right reason and in the right way?
I started this blog with the statement ‘One of the most dangerous piece of equipment you will ever change is your holster.” I believe there are officers who died in gunfights because either they or their agency changed their holster and failed to ingrain the new habitual behaviour required to get the gun out of the holster in the dynamics of a deadly force encounter. The officers was found dead at the scene with his or her gun still in their holster and everyone wondered why. Why did they not draw their gun? Why did they not fight back? Why did they die with their gun still in their holster?
Too often we wonder why, then we move on without the answer and without taking steps to ensure it does not happen again.
The answer to the question “Why?” may very well be what behavioural scientists refer to as spontaneous recovery of extinguished behaviour. In the tense, uncertain and rapidly evolving event that threatened their life, the officer reverted back to the original draw stroke and was unable to get the gun out of the holster.
Next week we will talk about how you can best train officers to minimize the chances of this occurring.