The Rise Of The Modern Security Holster
By Massad Ayoob
When I started in law enforcement in 1972, the accepted statistic was one out of every five cops murdered in the line of duty was killed with his own gun, or one snatched from a partner. Over the decades, that has gone down dramatically. Weapon retention training of the kind pioneered by Jim Lindell is responsible for a big piece of that, but so are snatch-resistant holsters. No one has done more in that arena than Bill Rogers and Safariland.
Bill started making holsters as a young FBI agent in the early 1970’s, and that business grew to the point where it became his full-time, lifelong career. His first security holster was the Rogers Boss of 1977, the first non-leather holster embraced by law enforcement. Because the thinking at the time was an officer was most vulnerable to disarms from the rear, it was a breakfront design. Bill soon made a research-based change in his design focus.
Rogers tells Handgunner, “When I really got involved in studying these incidents in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s I found cops were losing guns primarily from the front. When a facing attacker grabs the gun and pulls toward himself, the officer instinctively pivots the holster back, and that doubles the force exerted forward on the gun. If the holster is designed to come out through the front, that’s a problem. By the time I sold my company to Safariland, I was already working on the SSIII (so called because it was a Security System requiring three subtle movements before the draw), which resisted frontal disarms too. Safariland called it the 070.”
The design adapted wonderfully to the autoloaders beginning to sweep police work then, and this holster, still in production today, became the most popular police security holster in history.
Top, Glock with WML in Safariland 6360; below, Ruger in 6280.
In the course of a very long series of “saves,” Rogers learned of one case in Canada and another in California where officers had been disarmed out of 070 holsters. “In each case, I discovered the officer had previously drawn the gun and was trying to holster it rapidly to go hands-on, and had not been able to re-secure the straps when the attack to the gun came. It was from that I developed the ALS and SLS designs I prefer today.” The SLS (Self-Locking System) required only a flip of the officer’s finger to re-lock its rotating hood during emergency holstering, and the ALS (Automatic Locking System) as its name implies, automatically locks the gun in the holster when fully re-inserted.
In just the short time between when he designed the SSIII/070 and when he sold the design to Safariland, Rogers received 30 or more testimonials from lawmen who felt their lives had been saved by his holster. In the three decades since, we’ll never know how many more lives Rogers and Safariland saved with these security scabbards, largely because unsuccessful attempts to disarm and murder police officers are often not even reported.
In the early days, many felt (and some still feel) security holsters might be too slow. Bill proved that wrong by beating police departments’ top shots and instructors to the draw-and-hit with his security holsters. The ability for the average cop to draw and fire in 1.5 seconds is still a design parameter for every holster he builds, along with something the speed rigs can’t deliver: the ability to survive a full-bore assault on the pistol for five seconds before the officer begins active physical retention movements.
Beretta 96G .40 in a state trooper’s issue SSIII-070, the security
holster likely saving more police lives than any other.
Ibecame a believer in the SSIII in the early 1980’s, when Bill — a champion shooter and Bianchi Cup competitor — was circulating a prototype at the Cup. Towering Dick Crawford grabbed the holstered (unloaded) gun in the SSIII, literally lifted me into the air, and swung me around. He still couldn’t get the gun out. Yes, I was impressed.
The small municipal police department I’ve served as a part-time sworn officer since 1990 went to a standard issue .45 auto in 1993, and the holster I selected for issue was the 070/SSIII. In more than a decade, we broke exactly one — cracked at the juncture of holster and shank, and it still never gave up the pistol. A switch to a new .45 in 1995 brought us to the Safariland 6280 with rotating hood (Level II). By 2015 it was time for new pistols, and we issued them with mounted Streamlights in Safariland 6360’s. We’ve been delighted with their performance.
There are reasons why Safariland is by far the most popular choice of duty holster among American police today. The quality and performance are built-in, and the ingenious research-driven designs of Bill Rogers, still Safariland’s consulting designer, simply work.
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