The holster you wear on your hip says as much about you as any part of you your uniform. In 1983 the state of the art holster was a Bianchi breakfront holster with a thumb snap. At least that’s what the academy recommended the recruits purchase. I didn’t much care for the look, so I opted for a Bianchi drop style Border Patrol with a thumb snap. It gave me the cowboy look I liked and allowed me to hang my hat on it when I was in the station standing at the desk.
We still had most of the officers with Border Patrol style leather with a simple security strap that had to be unsnapped before you could grip the gun and pull it up out of the holster. There were many officers who wore cross draw holsters with the butt of the gun, asking to be snatched by a bad guy.
I wore my Border Patrol holster for several years until the reinforced shank broke and it began to flop about. It was at that time I moved to a breakfront holster. Keep in mind all this time I was carrying a revolver since that was our department’s requirement. I overcame my poorly thought out ideas that looks were more important than security.
After a few years on the job, I moved to a much busier district. It was the Wild West. We had jackets printed up with the logo “Fort Forgotten, The West Side is the Best Side.” It was there that my Bianchi Break Front rig earned its keep.
I ended up in a furball with an offender. The two of us were grappling and rolling all around the street and sidewalk. At one point I remember we were kneeling facing each other trading punches. It seemed like forever before the cavalry showed up even though it was probably a short time. I went into the station with the arrest to process the paperwork and stepped into the washroom to wash up. I had blood all over my chin, neck, and front of my shirt. My pants were as muddy as my shoes.
I took off my jacket and hung it up on the hook by the sink. I checked to make sure I still had my star. Next, I took off my duty belt and as I swung it around my gun fell to the ground. It was still in the holster, but the holster had been torn from the duty belt.
The gentleman I had arrested had tried to take my gun as we struggled. While he was not able to get the gun free he was able to tear it most of the way from the belt. If I had still been wearing a border patrol rig I would probably have lost my gun and been shot.
The next morning, I went out and bought a Safariland Level III retention holster. Rather than leather, this was a polymer material covering a rigid thermo-molded plastic lining. With its thumb break, it required you to pop the snap, rock it forward and then pull it up to remove it from the holster. I sprayed down the lining with silicon and spent the evening practicing putting my revolver in and removing it.
With each step-up in security, I’d always worried about the holster slowing down my draw. I was no gunslinger but the last thing you want is to be fumbling with your gun when you should have it drawn. The trick was to develop the muscle memory allowing you to draw without having to think about the process.
Interesting how I no longer cared much about how the holster looked on me. My concern now was keeping it out of the bad guy’s hands and allowing me to easily pull it when I needed to. Fortunately, security and looks both seemed to improve together. The new high-security rigs look pretty good in my mind. The new materials are durable and professional looking. An Officer with a high-security rig and the rest of his duty belt squared away looks sharp. Like the academy instructors always said your uniform should command respect.
The last part of my career I spent mostly in civilian dress I carried a compact gun and a more discreet holster. I still relied on security holsters, especially when my gun might be exposed.
Today with the modern molding techniques and materials there’s no excuse for not wearing a security holster. They are fitted to every model weapon on the market. I remember reading years ago that 50 percent of police officers who are shot are shot with their own or their partner’s weapons. I don’t know if that’s still the case or if it had ever been true, but it made me think and it should make you think too. Keep that weapon secure.
Whether you’re a new recruit or seasoned veteran, take the time with your new holster. Learn how it works and practice drawing and re-holstering your weapon.
My biggest regret is my department never allowed basket weave embossed holsters. Damn, I would have looked great with my border patrol rig in basket weave.
Robert Weisskopf is a retired Chicago police lieutenant. In thirty years, he rose from police officer to sergeant, to lieutenant, serving every role in patrol with 18 months detailed to the Department of Housing and Urban Development leading a team for narcotics enforcement. He became a member of the Lieutenants Union and served as its’ president for six years negotiating two contracts. He also served as vice president of the Illinois Police Benevolent Protective Association. He’s a divorced father with three sons.