That Holster's Unsafe! Or is it?

A substance named graphene is alleged to be the strongest known material on Earth. This man-made material is made up of carbon atoms arranged in a specific manner to give it the properties it possesses. Through a process using solvents, graphene sheets can be molded into specific forms. Unless your holster is made of graphene, don’t be telling me how perfect and indestructible it is. Do tell me why you think your holster is the best one for you, but don’t tell me it’s the end of the line for quality holsters. One person’s preference might not be another’s. And indeed, don’t tell me a holster type was 100% to blame for a negligent discharge.

A little over a decade ago, some pictures started circulating on the web showing a worn leather holster with the material collapsing into the trigger guard of the firearm it housed. A very detailed account was written of a negligent discharge that occurred to the wearer of said holster. The article, SAFETY WARNING! Worn Leather Holsters Can Cause Accidental Discharges!I think it has some underpinnings noted, which are essential. It seems that crucial details often get ignored/overlooked when someone is just making a meme or grabbing a screenshot of the photos of the holster in question, then distributing them.

Two incredibly fallible elements are in play, leading to unintended consequences when it comes to holster safety and use. While these two actors in the equation are independent of one another, one takes supreme responsibility for the other.

The first fallible player in this dynamic is the holster itself. This isn’t a treatise being thrown out to tell you, the reader, what type of holster you need to buy. This is an exercise in evaluating options and equipment. Generally speaking, holsters will be made out of leather (including suede), kydex, nylon, plastic, or hybrid combinations of more than one material.

No matter the material of any holster one selects, quality construction and material are what will count. Things like the proper fit of the firearm, comfort, security, etc., all need to be considered when selecting a holster. For me, a holster 100% needs to cover the entire trigger and trigger guard on any given firearm. I also prefer to have the muzzle end of the barrel shrouded by a holster, but it’s not a requirement depending on the application.

Part of a holster’s quality will include whether it will collapse on itself. If the material is flexible, like leather, we need to pay attention to how sturdy the opening of the holster is and where the holster surrounds the trigger/trigger guard. A firearm that’s securely inside a leather holster without any interference from the material is what we should be looking for to carry our firearm securely. If the holster collapses after the draw, that might just be a function or feature of any given holster, and it’s up to the user to say if that’s acceptable. Holstering and reholstering is the most likely time a firearm will be fired negligently. Once secured, we’re not supposed to be fidgeting with our holstered handguns. They should be in place and stay put.

The second fallible player in this equation is the individual. As firearm owners, it’s up to us to properly select our equipment. It’s up to us to inspect our equipment. And it’s up to us to pay attention to our equipment when in use, which includes knowing when to decommission it.

In basic firearm safety classes, we teach that safeties (like our holsters) are manufactured; therefore, they can and will fail. We subscribe to the ideology that we, the gun owner/user, are to serve as the master safety on any given firearm. This ideology further extends to every aspect of carrying, whether concealed, open, in the field, in the bush, or when/wherever.

The situation mentioned earlier, which was brought to light by the anonymous individual, is vital to pay attention to. I urge everyone reading this to read that person’s account in full over at Imminent Threat Solutions. Key takeaways that the memes won’t capture are worth citing here:

I can’t say I didn’t know the crease had been formed in the holster. I trained myself to be sure that when holstering, make sure the gun was entirely in the holster, with the trigger protected. On this day, did I forget to do that when I holstered up? Did the leather finally get so soft that a combination of body movements and interference by the cushy leather seat move the Glock enough to create a situation where the holster engaged the trigger?

I don’t think we’ll ever know for sure, but I’ll humbly admit the former as the likely culprit. However, if it was the latter, then those of you who use this type of holster need to be aware of its limitations and the possibility of experiencing what I did.”

When it comes to finding the root cause in this particular situation, we don’t have to look much further than the statement, “I can’t say I didn’t know the crease had been formed in the holster.” Knowing that said defect was present in the holster and subsequently admitting that there was a special ritual involving having to train to check the firearm was wholly holstered because it is where the problem was. This is not to talk down to the anonymous individual about what happened to them. They, by sharing their story, did do a service to everyone. The individual gave us a very teachable moment. Mr. or Miss Anonymous, if you’re reading this, thanks for sharing your story, and feel free to reach out to me. I’d love to talk to you about doing a follow-up.

Why did the gun go off? The short answer would be that the trigger traveled rearward enough to make the gunfire. What caused that travel and what potential acrobats were or were not performed is unknown. But what we do know is that the holster should have been retired long before it was in the condition that we see it in the article.

So what is it? The holster? The individual? Neither? Or both?

Even the highest quality leather, nylon, kydex, or hybrid holsters will wear and have eventual defects. We’re not using graphene to make our holsters, are we? Are leather holsters perhaps more prone to premature wear and or defect? That sure could be the case. But in any and every event, it’s on us, the user, to know the condition of our equipment.

This is not a love letter to leather holsters. Nor is this seeking to admonish kydex or hybrid holsters. If you like leather holsters and they work for you, that’s great. If you swear by kydex, awesome. If you think the line of holsters offered by JM4 Tactical might be your jam, then get you one or a few. If you believe JM4 makes gimmicky garbage, that’s okay too. The head to this pimple involves thinking through your own needs and being open to all the available resources. A lot of trial-and-error leads to those drawers or bins of holsters we may have that we tried out, which is just part of the process.

Regardless of the avenue, you decide to take, retire any equipment that’s no longer fit for duty.

Given all that, the next time you run into some meme referencing this incident or someone uses the photo as an example of why we shouldn’t use leather holsters at all, direct them to this article. A lot of thinking should have occurred before the incident happened, and the Monday morning quarterbacking on it shouldn’t be directed towards the ball but rather the coach.

Stay safe out there, and think before you do!

John Petrolino is a US Merchant Marine Officer, writer, author of“Decoding Firearms: An Easy to Read Guide on General Gun Safety & Use,” and USCCA certified instructor, NRA certified pistol, rifle, and shotgun instructor living under and working to change New Jersey’s draconian and unconstitutional gun laws. You can find him on the web atwww.thepenpatriot.com on Twitter at@johnpetrolino, on Facebook athttps://www.facebook.com/thepenpatriot/, and on Instagram @jpetrolinoiii.