Safariland ALS: solid value retention holster

Safariland ALS 6378
Safariland ALS 6378

My buddy Josh recently mentioned that he and Deede are using retention holsters during 3-gun matches. Naturally the comparison was made to my beloved Serpa CQC. As a result I felt compelled to try the holster in question (Safariland ALS 6378) for myself. With all the furor over the Serpa lock I wanted to see if the ALS presented a good alternative. It is noteworthy that I have never had a problem with the Serpa and still use it frequently for both concealed carry and IDPA competition. 

I purchased the holster from Amazon which said it was specific to the M&P9c. But when I received the holster the package listed the holster as ” M&P 9, 40 and compact”. This was disappointing. The full-size M&P9 sticks out the bottom about 3/8″ and the compact is the same distance short of the bottom of the holster. Annoying but not the end of the world.

Serpa-ALS-01Compared to my Serpa CQC this is a big holster, easily twice the weight and much thicker. After initial test fitting I noticed that my M&P9c required tremendous force to engage the lock. A full-size M&P9 fit tightly, even with the tension screw completely loose, but didn’t require the additional force to engage the lock like the compact. Upon closer inspection I realized the problem was with the compact model’s right safety lever (none of my full-size models have thumb safeties). 10 minutes with the dremel and the holster now has a small .2″ x .6″ relief cut on the outside of the top edge, allowing the safety to remain untouched in any position when holstered. Still, like the full-size, the gun is a snug fit.

ALS vs. SerpaDisengaging the thumb lever requires 3-4x the force of the Serpa lever and in so doing the safety is swept off during the draw. Given that this is a striker gun it’s not a rule issue but I would prefer that the safety was disengaged at my discretion rather than automatically during the draw. I suspect this was a purposeful design element.

DG_6378_black_zoom_interiorThe narrow dimension of the lever combined with the high level of force it requires have conspired to give me quite the contusion on my thumb after about 100 draws. I understand the need for a narrow lever given that it sits between the gun and my belt. Nevertheless it’s a negative on the design from my perspective. Also, I think this could be a significant problem with additional layers of clothing, i.e., any sort of loose shirt would tend to block the lever.

The paddle is odd. The front section has a sharp bend in it that tends to make the holster migrate forward toward my hip bone prominence. With IDPA’s rules about the armpit/centerline this is not ideal and seems to require a lot of adjustment backward as I move around. Perhaps over time the paddle will lose this bend. It is a relatively soft plastic. One other criticism of the paddle: it is not adjustable. I prefer a 90-degree orientation (no cant) but the paddle is permanently canted at about 110 degrees. The belt attachment allows for cant adjustment but I’ve always preferred paddles for use with carry/duty belts.

Overall the holster is well made and stays attached to me nearly as well as the Serpa CQC. The gun fit is tight but perhaps the suede inside will soften up over time. The thumb lever spring seems much too strong for what it needs to do but perhaps it too softens with time/use. All in all, I think this is a good retention holster for the money but honestly not nearly as well suited for my concealed carry/IDPA needs as the Serpa CQC. The CQC is much lighter, it is smaller and easier to conceal, it requires far less force to disengage the lock, and the draw and reholster are much smoother. To be clear, I have the CQC for every gun I carry except “pocket” guns and have seven years of muscle memory with this platform, but even so I believe my observations above are objective and fair. The ALS is a fine holster but it isn’t a great holster. The Serpa CQC is. 

8/11/15 Follow-up

Having carried with this holster on and off for the last 2 months I would like to share some additional thoughts. The holster has indeed “softened up” considerably. The suede inside the holster has become much less resistant to draw/holster actions. Additionally the thumb lever has also become easier to engage, greatly reducing the time/effort of the draw. I’ve noticed a lot of LEOs I’ve talked with this summer are using this holster (many with the added cowl retention device) and they have no complaints. While still larger and heavier than the Serpa CQC I find those elements really aren’t an issue while carrying. The angle is still not to my liking but not so much I would hesitate to recommend the holster for duty/carry. And it is very durable. Bottom line: it’s a fine holster that offers a good retention system for those interested in an OWB solution.

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