Holsters are to handguns as slings are to rifles and shotguns. That is where you securely store the handgun when it’s not in your hands.
In my old department, 1911 pistols were common when I started as a patrol deputy in 1990. One popular holster was a muzzle-forward, open-top design from Bianchi. As those senior patrol deputies replaced their gear or retired, holsters with a muzzle rearward cant became common. Eventually, I wondered what had happened with that style.
Safariland’s 295L that they built for Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department
Companies like Davis Leather Company and Ted Blocker Holsters have continued to make muzzle-forward duty holsters – out of leather. Safariland built a 295L for the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department.
A muzzle forward design from Gordon Davis – photo courtesy of AmCop author Darryl Bolke
Right around the time I retired, I bought a copy of -holster maker – John Bianchi’s book Blue Steel and Gunleather. The most interesting section covered duty holsters – including muzzle forward designs. It answered my questions and motivated me to revisit the design for duty use.
Blue Steel and Gunleather – Biachi’s book on holster designs
Why did many holsters end up with a muzzle rearward orientation, sometimes known as the FBI cant? I found in the reading that the intent was to reduce injuries from unintentional discharges when holstering or unholstering. When asked, Bill Rodgers of Safariland attributed the injuries to open trigger guard holsters more than the angle and direction. Ken Hackathorn said it had to do when thumb breaks de-activating thumb safeties.
A problem with the muzzle rearward cant is its adverse impact on your draw. With a muzzle rearward holster, you draw with a compromised wrist. And you have to rotate the pistol even farther to get the muzzle on target.
In an unrelated meeting with US Duty Gear, we talked about their near 0-degree cant. They said that came from discussions with working officers and listening to their input.
I began to develop a proof-of-concept project. Then I came across a Canadian police officer who was already during a lot of research in this area. He was looking at and sharing his data about holsters and muzzle orientation, ride height, and mounting locations on one’s gun belt. In exchanges with him, he asked that I only identify him as a Canadian officer who goes by his Instagram handle of @The_Theory_Police.
Back when basket weave was the norm, this angle worked.
His research, using co-workers, spanned months and involved a shot timer. It looked at forward, rearward, and neutral muzzle orientation, considered high, low, and mid-ride holster mounting, and where on the body’s clock it was most efficient to wear one’s holster.
While subject to individual variances, his work distilled down to a muzzle forward orientation on a low or mid-ride holster, mounted near 2 to 2:30 on the clock (9:30-10 for us left-handers).
Several competitors, instructors, and practitioners advocate a locked wrist when shooting. My wrist must unlock when I grip the pistol in a muzzle rearward design. However, when I grip a pistol in a muzzle forward holster, my wrist is locked and stays that way throughout the draw.
The sweet spot is with the muzzle forward at 10-15 degrees, depending on one’s position.
When this concept was being discussed, the most frequent concern I saw was, “sure, it works on the square range, but I drive a patrol car. How will it work for me?”
Drawing from a muzzle-forward holster, at about 2:30, while seated and seatbelted.
Centrifuge Training has shared videos of this set-up being used while seatbelted in a pick-up. I am no longer on the road ten hours a day; however, it has not been an issue when I have been in a vehicle or seated in desk chairs.
Safariland, Blackhawk Industries (T series), and others have modified their factory belt loops to accommodate different cants. Safariland now has multiple belt loops that are adjustable for angle and elevation. Those are the Q (quick adjustment), Cantable, and Vertical universal belt loops.
One of Blackhawk’s T Series holsters adjusted for muzzle forward.
After Market Belt Attachments
I have been using equipment from Blue Force Gear since 2005. Within the last year, BFG released a purpose-built holster adapter to work with their CHLK PALS/MOLLE compatible gun belt. I have been using it for a few months now.
True North has been selling an adjustable belt hanger for a few years; however, I have not used it.
The older muzzle forward holsters were attached to a belt loop that created the desired angle. Muzzle rearward designs are attached in the same way.
Black Box’s NCP before adding the QLS.
Working from the @the_theory_police design, Black Box Customs created a piece that attaches to the holster. The belt loop is then bolted onto it. This piece was known as the NCP (Negative Cant Plate). Another first-generation model, the NCP-E, allows you to attach a tourniquet holder in front of the holster. There are two improved versions of the plate, the NCP-2 and -3 – allowing the user to choose different angles for the holster; however, I have not had any time with it.
The author’s duty and training holsters with NCP-E and NCP plates beneath the QLS.
There are individual and organizational choices when it comes to equipment. I am in a position where I can adapt my equipment in ways that will benefit me. Based on the research followed by my experience with the NCP and NCP-E, I have adopted them for my duty and teaching equipment.
If a muzzle forward cant on your holster would benefit you, you can utilize a mounting plate like the Black Box Customs NCP/NCP-E or belt attachments from various manufacturers. Both paths will get you to a muzzle-forward orientation.
Black Box Customs https://black-box-customs-us.myshopify.com/
Blue Force Gear https://www.blueforcegear.com/holster-adapter
Davis Leather Company https://davisleathercompany.com
Ted Blocker Holsters https://tedblockerholsters.com
US Duty Gear www.usdutygear.com
Holster Optimization Paper