Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Blackhawk Serpa Holster: Red-headed step-child of holsters


The Blackhawk (manufacture) Serpa (model name) holster is the red-headed step-child of the holster world.

Without going into excruciating detail, two issues have been identified with this holster.

One issue is that if you don't have sufficient repetitions, there is the possibility that your trigger finger might drop into the trigger-guard and discharge the firearm when drawing it under stress. I consider that a training and lack-of-proper-repetitions issue.

The other issue is (possibly) design or assembly related. It involves the holster locking-up and not allowing the user to pull the firearm from the holster.

Yesterday, I had an opportunity to get a close look at a Serpa holster and the firearm it was carrying.

I was wrong

My initial assumption that I would see a roll-pin pressed in as the pivot for the retention feature.

I was wrong. It was a solid pin. So much for assuming the groove on a roll-pin was the issue.

The only other moving part...

The only other moving part is an injection molded detail that is intended to "snug up" the firearm in the holster and eliminated rattling and the relative motion that can scuff off blueing.

That piece is far more interesting.

For one thing, the anti-rattle feature is retained by a single screw and can be installed/misinstalled by flipping it over. There is no inherent "error-proofing" in the design.

If installed in the direction shown in the illustration shown above, there are two features that can interact with the grooves on the bottom rail typical of most, modern semi-automatic handguns.

While the features might not interact EVERY time, the polymer used for the anti-rattle is flexible and clearly not glass or mineral reinforced. Given the nature of polymers, the surface contour can creep and conform to the sharp steps at the fronts of the grooves, effectively locking the handgun in place.

Another failure mode might occur in cold weather. The end of the anti-rattle feature could break due to glass-transition issues and the blunt, broken end could lock into the grooves.

Finally, if the anti-rattle piece is a nylon material, it can become brittle under very low humidity as experienced in deserts or in houses in cold climates when heated.

Great Big Giant Disclaimer

You are on your own if you modify an engineered product, especially if it relates to items that can kill you or bystanders.

That said, if I carried a defensive handgun in a Serpa holster I would strongly consider removing the anti-rattle feature. I cannot definitively say the anti-rattle feature is the culprit because I haven't had a chance to examine "failures" in the field. But as Asimov once wrote, "In an infinite universe, the improbable becomes inevitable."

This is a case of packing your own parachute. 

Comments will be appreciated.

Bonus picture: What the anti-rattle feature looks like when flipped over. This is when the part fracturing could come into play.


  1. I've seen dirt or crud get into the finger mechanism, and totally lock up the retention feature so that it wouldn't let go of the gun. (Happened to a friend at a match)

    I've also been present at two other matches were a competitor had an ND while drawing or reholstering and shot themselves.
    I have a Serpa that I bought before I knew better, but now I use it as an example to show to others.
    Not just the Serpa, but any holster that uses your trigger finger to activate the retention device? Bad idea, accident waiting to happen.

    I believe that something like the Safariland ALS is much better, your thumb operates the retention device instead. The ALS and the Serpa were almost exactly the same price, the last time I checked.

  2. The Serpa is the Taurus of holsters. Poor design, poor quality, poor materials. The plastic it's made from can break easily. As Thomas wrote above, I also have seen dirt jam the release mechanism. Friends don't let friends by Taurus firearms, Serpa holsters, or Winchester/Remington rimfire ammo. The cheap plastic holsters like Blackhawk, Safariland, and Comp-Tac are all very bulky and terrible for comfortable, concealed carry. Give me kydex or leather every time.

    I like the mechanism of the Safariland GLS also. The knuckle of the middle finger hits the lever to release the pistol and with practice works well. But for absolutely reliable retention and release, I still prefer holsters with straps and thumbreaks.

  3. I believe Comp-Tac uses Kydex to make their holsters...could be wrong though.

  4. I had a Serpa lock up due to sand in the mechanism at a class when shooting off the ground.


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