Written by: Greg Ellifritz
I listened to an excellent podcast yesterday. The episode was from Civilian Carry Radio, discussing an incident where a heroic female security guard stopped an active killer outside of a dance club.
The security guard was an Army veteran and had some military firearms training. She also passed her state armed security guard shooting class. Besides that training, she hadn’t completed any formal firearms training classes. During the time of the shooting, she was carrying her pistol in a Blackhawk Serpa holster.
Noting that the Army issued Serpa holsters during her period of service and not having any other experiences, she simply chose the holster with which she was most familiar. She had no idea about the potential problems inherent in the Serpa design.
There are probably quite a few other people out there who have heard rumors about problems but don’t truly appreciate the severity of the holster’s design flaws. This article is designed to provide an education on the problematic issues with the Blackhawk Serpa.
For those of you unfamiliar with the holster, the Blackhawk Serpa is designed to retain the firearm until a button on the side of the holster is pushed to release it. When drawing, the Serpa carrier has to use his or her index (trigger) finger to push the button in order to release the gun.
There are two primary problems with the design of the holster. The first is that gravel, dirt, or mud can become packed underneath the button thereby preventing the gun from being drawn. Here is an early Shivworks video where Paul Gomez and Craig Douglas evaluate a Serpa holster that has been “jammed” after a hard training scenario on bare ground.
The other problem identified in the Serpa is a tendency for the user to accidentally shoot himself when drawing the weapon under stress. I’ve written about involuntary hand clenches. When the hand clenches after pushing the button to release the gun, the index finger ends up directly on the weapon’s trigger.
Lots of people have shot themselves while wearing a Serpa holsters. Lots of instructors and law enforcement agencies have banned their personnel from using the Serpa. It’s a poor holster choice.
You may have heard rumors about Serpa problems, but I don’t think that anyone has catalogued all of the problems in one place. I will attempt to do that in the this article. Here’s some tangible evidence that you shouldn’t be carrying the Blackhawk Serpa.
Notable Serpa Accidental Shootings
Click the links below to see numerous instances (some caught on video) of people shooting themselves when drawing from Serpa holsters.
Instructors and Agencies that Ban the Serpa
Below is a list of some of the instructors and agencies that ban the Serpa for duty or class use. There are likely to be many more instructors who have banned the holster that are not on this list. My Google skills only go so far.
Expert opinion on the Serpa holster
Still think the Serpa is a good holster? Perhaps some expert opinions from industry thought leaders might influence your selection.
It’s not just the Serpa holster that is dangerous. ANY holster that uses the trigger finger to release the gun is dangerous. These warnings are also applicable for all the Serpa knock off holsters on the market as well.
What do you buy if you are looking for an open carry or concealed holster with some type of active retention? The answer is the Safariland ALS. The ALS is slightly more concealable than the Serpa, it has active retention, and it isn’t as likely to get jammed. The retention is taken off with a motion of the shooting side thumb on the draw. It’s a much better design.
I hope I’ve convinced you that you shouldn’t be using any type of holster that requires an active action from your trigger finger to release the gun. Please get rid of your Serpa. The evidence is abundant. The Serpa is a sub-par and potentially dangerous holster.
Some of the above links (from Amazon.com) are affiliate links. If you purchase these items, I get a small percentage of the sale at no extra cost to you.