Time to Ditch the Thigh Holster?


Alright, so you all have probably learned by now that under new management, Defense Tech hasnt shied away from attacking a few sacred cows here and there.

Witness the MRAP obsession and M4 vs. 416 dustup.SOF-afghan-web.jpg

Well, here comes another one folks.

I had a little chat the other day with my good friend, inventor and ballistics expert, Dave Woroner, who said hed been getting red in the face over the current love affair with thigh-rig holsters in the war zone and their increasing use by law enforcement personnel.

He enlisted two of his fellow gun nut buddies noted experts in the defensive handgun business to lay out the case against thigh rigs in favor of chest-mounted holsters. More and more Ive seen special operations forces adopting the chest-rig concept, with regular grunts sticking to the thigh holster almost as a Western movie flashback or status symbol.

Everyone knows wearing body armor makes it difficult, if not impossible, to employ hip holsters. But Dave and his amigos argue the thigh rig is a worse option.

Ive excerpted their debate below:

From David Woroner:

There comes a time to question the "status quo. This is how we move forward as professionals - adjust, adapt and overcome.

The focus here is on where our pistols are carried. Currently beat/street officers and certain military personnel carry their pistols either in shoulder rigs or hip holsters. And for them, that is fine.

But an increasing population of military and law enforcement personnel on the front lines are opting for the cowboy style thigh holster. But the time has come to make it standard procedure to carry your pistol on your chest instead.

There are several products out there that make such a move a lot easier, including the BlackHawk STRIKE Bandoleer and the Specter Gear Holster for Molle Mounting.

Heres the deal: The drop-leg thigh holster is horrendous specifically in two areas. 1) Its a wide-open target for retention and grab problems. 2) The doggoned thing loves to snag on everything (as Dave and John will attest below) not to mention the greater risk of being disarmed wearing a thigh rig.

Wearing a chest rig, however, the weapon is pretty much right in your face and if you need it in an instant, you dont have to look around for it on your leg.

Moreover, anyone who has had to run for his life with a thigh holster on knows it wobbles and wiggles all over the place - not ideal for drawing quickly on the run.

So heres the rub troopers: Loose the thigh rigs. Theyre no longer a status symbol and its gonna be mighty hard for an enemy to grab a pistol off your chest. The chest rig puts your handgun in a place that you will not forget under duress.

And besides, it adds a little additional armor to your vest.

Dave Spaulding adds

Ive spent 30 years in law enforcement, including 12 years in SWAT and five years on a drug task force. Ive been involved in hundreds of raids and forced entries and Ive tried all types of holsters.

I admit that I have never been a big fan of the leg or thigh holster, as I could never find an elevation where the thing was comfortable. If the rig was left low on the leg, it swung around the leg when moving and the gun snagged on every doorframe or fence railing that it encountered. Of course, a moving holster is difficult to draw from quickly.

If the gun were pulled up high and tight, the leg straps would cut off circulation to the leg as well as "pinch the boys" on occasion. The short vertical strap also limited movement in regards to how well the leg could move when climbing or running.

So, I mounted a holster on my carrier vest over my body armor in a low, forward cross draw position before such rigs were readily available.

Most carriers of the time had the holster located under the offside arm like a shoulder holster, which made rapid access difficult, but moving the gun to the front of the body eliminated this problem.

The lone drawbacks, at least in my experience, to mounting the gun to the chest was when you slung your rifle or went face down prone. Taking note of where the pistol is suspended in relation to where the long gun hangs could easily minimize these concerns.

Nothing is perfect, but I admit that if I were involved in entry work at this stage of my life, I would be holstering my handgun on the front of my vest in some place so that I would have both rapid access as well as freedom of movement.

Some will say that if the vest comes off, so will the pistol. Well, in a hot zone, the vest shouldnt come off and in a LE situation where the vest might come off while an evidence search is conducted, the pistol can easily be transferred to a simple hip holster...maybe one of those nylon styles that will push flat when not needed.

Everything is a compromise and nothing is perfect.

John Farnam puts in his $.02

When we carry pistols, openly or concealed, we like the gun to be within the elbow arc. That is, we want it high enough that we can strongly defend it against snatch attempts. Unfortunately, when we don heavy body armor, our normal waistline often becomes ineligible as a carrying place for pistols.

One popular option is to move the pistol down until it rests on the outside of the thigh. As with all solutions, there are strengths and weaknesses. A great strength is that the gun is still reachable via the strong-side hand, and the existing draw-stroke need be only slightly modified. The bad news is that this pistol is now well below the elbow and thus not particularly retainable. In addition, the system significantly adds to the carriers body width, so it will routinely snag it on doorframes.

Another option is the chest carry. The draw-stroke is different, and the pistol is still vulnerable, but one can get both hands on it quickly when it needs protection. In addition, it won't bang into door frames and furniture, and it can be readily concealed.

When the normal waistline is available, it should be used. High-on-the-waist is still the best carry position, open or concealed. For domestic patrol officers, this is usually the best way to go. Putting the pistol low on the thigh when the waist is available is silly.

-- Christian

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