Holsters. We all need them; well, at least we do if we carry handguns by choice or because of our career. This article will discuss a duty holster from a company more commonly known for its concealed carry holsters.
This holster debuted at the 2020 SHOT Show, and there has been an awful lot of discussion about it since. Some of that discussion is informed by hands-on experience; other opinions were based more on the internet reputation of the manufacturer.
During SHOT 2020, I went looking for the holster and conversed with one of the manufacturer’s representatives. At the time, no named agencies acknowledged having used the holsters. And they were only being made for Glock 17 size pistols. Since I do not carry a Glock 17, I was less interested.
Then COVID hit. Between that and the civil unrest during the rest of 2020, I forgot about the holster.
One of the first projects I was asked to address when I became the editor was this holster. So, here we are:
Alien Gear’s Rapid Force Level III duty holster
While I’ve heard of the company, I have never used one of their concealed carry holsters.
They sent me two Rapid Force holsters, both for a left-hand Smith & Wesson M&P. One for a traditional duty belt, which I worked with, and the other with a paddle attachment.
Starting with the belt attachment. In the first of multiple unique things, the attachment piece is adjustable based on width and hole placement for the size of the belt. It does not thread onto the belt. Instead, the belt hanger is unscrewed, then slid over the top of the belt and into position. Once everything is aligned, you screw the hanger back together, and it is set. The holster can be detached from the hanger by pressing two opposing levers. I was concerned about this, but we addressed it.
That brings up the screws. There are a lot of them on this holster. There are at least five in the belt hanger portion and a minimum of sixteen on the holster body. None of them appeared to come loose during the testing. Were I to carry this on-duty, I would use a thread locking compound on each screw, re-tighten, and mark them for visual verification?
The belt hanger has an interesting twist to it. It allows the user to configure it as a straight drop, muzzle forward, or muzzle rearward orientation. I prefer a muzzle forward cant on my duty holsters, but I had to buy after-market adapter plates. The Rapid Force is factory designed for it.
This holster is advertised as pistol-mounted optic compatible and capable of accepting either Surefire X300U or Streamlight TLR1 weapon-mounted lights. I tried M&P pistols with Aimpoint Acro P1 & P2 optics, a Trijicon RMR, and a Holosun 508T sight in the holster. It accepted each of those designs. I’ll venture it will take others, but I won’t say for sure without testing.
And both the Surefire and Streamlight pistol lights fit in the holster just fine – if they are used without a remote switch. Since the Surefire DG switch would not work, I did not attempt to check Streamlight’s offering. Many newer users do not use the remote switches, but a fair amount of us old guys grew up using them.
How does the holster work?
A rotating bale – which clears any optic I used – is released by pushing downward on an inch-long pad with your thumb as you begin to establish your grip. There is a vertical guard in front of that pad. Once the pad is down, you swing your thumb towards the rear of the holster to a spring-loaded lever. After that lever has been pushed to the back, the holster releases the handgun for your draw.
Impact resistance was a concern with other instructors and officers I’ve spoken with about this holster. I dropped onto the holster from a high kneeling position ten times during one of the three range sessions. I did not notice any damage to the holster body; no cracking was found with other duty holsters of late. And the dirt wiped off easily.
Retention is a concern with any duty holster, some designs more so than others. Since I still work part-time for my old organization, I took the Rapid Force to a quarterly arrest and control tactics training session. After showing one of the tenured instructors how the holster was designed to work, I asked to break the pistol out of the holster while it was on my belt. He could not break the gun out of the holster. Even trying to do pull-ups on the pistol frame would not do it; he did succeed in dragging me to the ground more than once. Because he knew how the pistol would release, he could remove it from the holster but not by breaking it out.
Ok, what don’t I like about it? I already mentioned its inability to take a remote switch for my weapon light. The other thing that concerns me is the steps to release the pistol in conjunction with establishing a solid grip for both shooting and retaining the gun. For 26 of my 29 years full-time, I carried handguns with a frame-mounted safety. The Rapid Force procedure has the thumb moving away from the safety at a time when it should be riding atop the safety. This may have contributed to draw and single-shot times at 10 yards that averaged 1.74 seconds (Safariland ALS averaged 1.47 by comparison).
Also, after I changed the release pad and lever to the taller versions that came with the holster, I tried using my M&P 1.0 with a Trijicon RMR and suppressor sights. The pistol could not be removed from the holster. An email exchange with Alien Gear explained that the holster would not work with the taller sights. I disassembled the holster and recovered my gun.
At this point, it comes in black basketweave and flat black, injection-molded plastic finishes with a traditional duty belt or paddle attachment.
The Rapid Force holster can be found at: https://aliengearholsters.com/duty-holsters