A lot of people wiser and more knowledgeable than me say things like “Mission drives the gear.” The original purpose of drop leg holsters is to lower the bulk of the handgun to clear an armored vest/plate carrier. They are also handy when you need to clear the hip belt of a back pack. I have also heard that some people prefer them when wearing a repelling harness. Lately, they have become somewhat of a fashion statement.
They are everywhere and it seems no one’s cool-guy-kit is complete without them. Many users have lost sight of the drop leg holster’s real purpose. Fashion, rather than mission, is driving the gear. As a result, we often see these holsters being used in the worst ways possible.
Need Versus Want
The first thing you should do when you are considering purchasing a drop leg holster is think about whether you actually have a need for one. Do you need to clear armor? Do you need to clear a hip belt? Are you wearing a repelling harness? If not, you may want to consider a more traditional belt holster. Why would you want to extend your draw stroke or add weight to your legs when your hips are much better at bearing weight? Make sure you really need a drop leg holster or at least are being honest about why you want one.
Higher is Better
Letting the holster ride too low is probably the biggest mistake I see among drop leg holster users. The range is full of people whose holsters are down on their knee. There are 3 big reasons to keep your holster as high as the holster will allow. You will probably even need to modify the holster to allow it to ride high enough. Remember, the holster needs only to ride low enough to clear the armor/hip belt/harness – no lower.
First, holsters that ride too low place you at a mechanical disadvantage. Think for a second about a baseball glued to a yard stick. You are holding the yard stick at the end marked 1 inch. The baseball is glued to the 36 inch mark. Swing the yard stick and think about how difficult it would be to stop the yard stick and baseball quickly. Now think of the same thing, except now the baseball is glued to the 8 inch marker. How much easier is it to stop the yard stick and baseball quickly now? It is much easier.
When the weight is closer to the pivot point of your leg (closer to the hip) your leg will be able to bear the weight better and move with less effort. The closer the holster gets to your foot, the more you will notice it fighting the movement of your leg and the more it will flop around.
Second, holsters that ride too low elongate your draw stroke. Think for a moment. You are going to increase the distance that your hand must travel to retrieve your handgun and to bring the handgun to eye level. You are going to make your draw stroke slower and less efficient. Is it possible that a “tactical” accessory can actually make you less “tactical” (what ever that means)? Yes!
Third, holsters that ride too low are less like how you tend to carry a handgun when you aren’t playing dress up. Why would you want to throw away all of those practiced draw strokes that you do in your normal concealed carry gear (at least I hope you are practicing)? It makes good sense to have your drop leg (if you need one) mirror your everyday gear as much as possible.
If your holster doesn’t let the handgun ride as high as you would like modify it. Cut stuff, trim pieces off, remove straps, and fix it. If you can’t modify it – replace it with one that works. See Kyle Defoor’s blog post, Safariland Secrets and this thread on M4Carbine.net for some tips on modifying the Safariland 6004. The pictures at these two links will also give you an idea of how high the holster should rid. I like mine so that the highest part of the grip is not quite as high as my belt line. This is more than enough drop to clear my plate carrier and enough to clear my pack’s hip belt.
Watch this blog for an upcoming article on building a versatile holster kit that allows for “battle belt” carry and proper drop leg use. This may also be useful to those who want to modify what they already have.
The other mistake I see is people with loose leg straps. If the leg strap on your drop leg holster is loose you are inviting problems. Your holster will wobble as you move which can be annoying. More importantly, it can impede your draw. The holster will try to come with the gun as you draw and cause binding in some security holsters (the gun must be drawn almost exactly straight up and out). When the gun binds it is essentially wedged in place and you may have to re-start your draw or continue to tug it out.
Many drop leg holster leg straps have a short elastic section sewn into the strap. This is there for good reason. It is there so you can really tighten the strap down but still have enough flexibility to buckle the strap and be able to flex with your leg. It doesn’t have to be tourniquet tight but the strap should not be hanging loose on your leg.
Note: Notice I said strap, singular, in that last sentence. If you holster is riding where it should be, there likely will not be room for two leg straps. If you see a holster with 2 leg straps, that is your first clue that it isn’t riding high enough.
- Determine whether you need or want a drop leg holster based on your mission/the actual purpose of a drop leg holster. If you must run one…
- Make sure that it rides high enough. If it does not, modify or replace it.
- Make sure that you adjust it so that is tight on your leg.
If you stop and think for a minute you may not need a drop leg holster and if you do, at least you will know how to use it more efficiently.