Blackhawk SERPA, A Bad Idea

This is not a holster review. This is a report of my experience with this holster.  

I received a Blackhawk SERPA holster for my Ruger SR9c for Christmas. Fine. I had been wanting an OWB holster with active retention for some time. This one, I thought would be a good choice: modern, technical, widely available (that had to be a good thing, right?).  

Not so much. 

Right off I installed the paddle. Easy on, easy off, I thought, no belt loops to thread or unthread. Yes for the belt loops. No for the easy part. The contortions I put toward getting the thing on were nothing compared to removing it. I made a number of attempts, each trying a new approach but nothing worked without much travail. 

I got the screwdriver out, removed the paddle and attached the belt loops. This made the holster easier to put on, but not very comfortable.  

Next, I checked the passive retention. Decent. No need to adjust that. Then, I tested the active retention, the reason for getting this holster in the first place. It worked. Then it didn’t work. Then it worked. Then it sort of worked. The variable seemed to have been how much draw pressure I put on the gun and when I applied it. Grasp the grip, but don’t pull up, then at the same time push the release button with your trigger finger and then pull up the gun to draw. That is the sequence you must follow to get the active retention to release the handgun.

If grabbed the gun in a hurry, like I might do when under sudden pressure brought on by fear for my life, then tried to push the release button with my trigger finger one of two things happened. Either the gun would stay locked in the holster because the upward pressure exerted on the gun by my draw stroke would not allow the locking mechanism to release the trigger guard, or if,I put a strong enough pressure on the release button my gun would suddenly fly from the holster and my trigger finger would snap into the trigger guard and engage the trigger. Because I was pushing hard on the release button to force it to release the gun, that tension in my finger drove forward in a firing motion the moment the gun came free.

Not good. Bad. If my gun had been loaded I would have had a negligent discharge. I could easily have shot myself. 

Looking into this issue afterward, something I should have done before opting for this holster, I found that this is a known issue reported by a number of credible reviewers and firearms trainers. There is a video online actually showing a man shooting himself in the leg while trying to quickly draw from a SERPA in a close up training scenario. https://youtu.be/zYvAxLX6OzE

”Things just tend to happen,” said Tex, the man who shot himself. Yes, life is a compilation of things that happen to people. Not all of them are bad. Sometimes a person makes mistakes and bad things happen. In order to learn one must take responsibility for one’s actions and decisions. This kind of firearm discharge is called “negligent” for a reason.

Tex also said, “I don’t blame the holster.” Well, he should blame the holster as much as himself. He had been practicing this same draw and fire drill with a different holster and had no issues. When he changed to the SERPA, which required his trigger finger to press to release the gun, he shot himself. I would say the holster design is at least a major contributing factor to his negligent discharge. 

Additionally, the holster has a reputation for locking up and not releasing your gun if something should get into the release mechanism and foul it’s operation, like dirt or a stone, and in one documented instance, snow. One LEO's SERPA had his weapon locked in the holster after being in a fight with an assailant and being dragged a few yards across an asphalt surface, which ground down the plastic edges of the release preventing it from freeing the gun. Fortunately, the officer had backup and he was unharmed.

For another view on this holster and these situations, see: https://youtu.be/GDpxVG9XFJc 

I think another interesting and unsettling effect of this last video are the responses posted on YouTube. The majority are supportive of the holster and blame the user for all problems that they might experience using it. They blame the user not the equipment, which is to say that even with faulty gear, one has to take full responsibility for any problems that result. This is fundamentally stupid. If one buys a faulty tire, then has an accident because that tire fails, why would any sane person blame the person who bought the tire, not the tire? Doesn’t make sense. In one respect you can say that it is the responsibility of the user to understand the limitiations of equipment he or she may purchase and use, but that is not always possible. Early adopters of new technology experience this as there is no or little information available about a new product until it’s been used, evaluated and reported which takes time. As to supporters of the “it’s not the SERPA, it’s the user’s lack of training” commenters, they are almost without exception SERPA owners. They claim it is ok because they have not yet shot themselves. Kind of reminds me of people who keep rattle snakes as pets. They haven’t been bitten yet either.

So, a word to the cautious. Take the time to do thorough research before depending on any holster system that actively locks your gun in the holster. 

That did it. The end. The holster is going back with a note to the retailer about how hazardous this holster is. 

Hopefully, I will be using and testing a few other modern, technically innovative holsters and holster systems. Technology is good, when it works. Reviews are good when they are thorough, based on real-world experience and conducted over a suitable period. The honeymoon seldom lasts. It’s the long haul that counts.

Be safe.