If Edgar Allan Poe wore a holster, this would be it!
There’s no such thing as the “best holster,” despite what many people say. There is a best holster for you, carrying a particular pistol, with your particular body type, wearing a particular type of clothing, in a certain type of environment. Beyond those circumstances, all bets are off, and each individual has to figure out what works for them in a given set of circumstances. Change the circumstances and you’ll probably need to change the holster.
I started shooting in 2009 and training with an organization called Tacfire in Santa Paula, California. For my initial training, I started out with a Bladetech Kydex Pro Series holster and a Glock 17 (9mm). This was a good combination of gear to start with and learn the basics. Having no previous exposure to semi-automatic pistols, it took me awhile to get beyond the initial adjustment to holstering a loaded weapon at my side. I went through several models of Glock pistols before settling on the Glock 26 as my preferred pistol, and then came the search for a holster.
Based upon what I had read, I initially tried a leather and Kydex in-the-waistband holster and found it just wasn’t for me. Despite sizing my pants correctly, I just did not find this method of carry comfortable under most circumstances.
After talking to several folks I next tried a very high quality outside-the-waistband leather holster. It was beautifully made and the most comfortable holster I have ever worn. When I wore the pistol with the holster, I did not notice it on my body at all. Unfortunately, it had two major drawbacks. First, whenever I walked anywhere, the leather squeaked and it was loud enough to be noticeable. Maybe I could have lived with that, but the more serious issue I found was that with the forward cant of the holster, I could not get a reliable draw unless I bent forward at the waist at a precise angle. If my bend was insufficient, I might as well have had a retention strap on the holster because the pistol would not move.
I really like the beauty of leather holsters, but thought perhaps I needed to reconsider Kydex, so I began to a quest for yet another holster (does this story sound familiar?). After reading numerous reviews, I decided to try a Raven Concealment Phantom holster. At the time I ordered the holster, they had a very long lead production schedule and I had to wait four months to receive my order. Now, they have most items on a quick ship schedule, so this problem no longer exists.
From the start, I was very impressed with Raven Concealment’s customer service. At every step, I knew where my order was in their system. They were also very responsive to any questions and any changes I wanted to make in my order. They did impose a small fee for a change, but it was not unreasonable.
Your Holster, Your Way
One of the nice things about ordering a holster from Raven Concealment is that you can have your holster delivered in a variety of configurations. For the Phantom, which is a pancake holster, the holster can be ordered in right or left hand, black or coyote, in belt sizes up to 2 inches, in straight drop or 10-15 degree cant, with a full body shield or a short one.
You can wear the holster either inside or outside the waistband, and there are a variety of mounting accessories. While the standard holster comes with OWB loops, you can also order pancake wings or soft loop wings. If you want to wear it inside the waistband, your mounting options include soft loops, tuckable soft loops, tuckable J hooks, tuckable C hooks, and offset wings which can be used with any of their tuckable options.
Raven Concealment also makes the Phantom in a model that is compatible with weapons mounted lights. This model will accommodate lights by Surefire, Streamlight, and others.
Carrying the Phantom
I live in a climate where the weather is mild much of the time, and I am a casual kind of guy. Since I work as a consultant in a recreational industry, most of the time I don’t have the need to get dressed up. My usual mode of dress for most of the year is an untucked Hawaiian shirt and lightweight pants, which pretty much blends in where I live. Concealing outside the waistband is not much of an issue most of the time.
I ordered my Phantom with the standard OWB belt loops, but also ordered the pancake wings and soft loop wings so I would have options. I figured that with some clothing I might want to change the configuration. I also knew that having the OWB soft loops would make it very convenient to remove the holster rather than threading the holster through a belt.
When I received my holster, I have to admit I was not impressed with its appearance, compared to the leather holster I had previously used. To put it bluntly, I think Kydex holsters are pretty much butt ugly. To me, they look like something out of a Terminator movie. However, I also appreciate that form follows function, and in that regards the Raven gets an A+.
Looking at the holster initially, it would appear that there is way more Kydex than is needed to cover the weapon, but that extra material gives the holster incredible stability against your body. The holster sucks tight up against my waist and presents a minimal external profile. The holster appears to be made from one piece of Kydex that has been cut, folded, and sealed. Screws, “T” fasteners, and o-rings secure whatever mounting fasteners you select to the holster.
I tried all of the different mounting options, and for me, the optimal arrangement appears to be the standard OWB loops. With my body shape and size (5’9” and 165 pounds) the holster is held the tightest with these loops. To be fair, I have not worn the other loops for any significant length of time, so it’s possible I could discover these may or may not work as well or better.
The holster has excellent retention and holds my Glock very securely, yet it is easy to draw the weapon quickly. Of course, like any Kydex holster, it’s not a silent draw, unless you draw your weapon very slowly. With Kydex, there is no “break-in” period like you might have with a leather holster. It’s ready to go, out of the box.
The holster rides high on my hip and I’ve found that the best position for me is 3:30-4:00. The bottom edge of the holster is usually about 4-5 inches above the bottom hem of a Hawaiian shirt or a 5.11 Tactical concealment shirt.
The holster is a very fast draw. Mine has a 15-degree forward cant and for me this works quite well. It’s also very easy for me to reholster without looking.
At Tacfire, we regularly practice using our weak hand only for all weapon manipulation. This drill is designed to simulate working with a wounded limb. The drill includes drawing from the holster, reloading, tap/rack drills, firing, and reholstering. I am right handed and with the holster at the 3:30-4:00 it’s a bit harder to draw and reholster from the Phantom than it was with my Bladetech, but it can be done.
When it comes to comfort, I would give the holster a 9 on a scale of 1-10. While it’s not “wear it and forget it” like the leather holster I used, I can wear this holster 12 hours a day with no discomfort. When I walk, I don’t notice it being there, but when I sit at my desk or drive a car, I know I have it on. There is just a slight pressure on my side that is noticeable while seated. I’ve worn this holster during hot weather, while hiking with a backpack, during 8 hour drives in the car, and while at parties with large crowds of people. I’ve had zero issues with concealment or problems with “printing.”
Obviously, if you do sweat, you won’t discolor the Kydex, which is pretty much indestructible. To be on the safe side, you will want to replace the o-rings that help secure the fasteners to the holster once a year, a job which should not take you more than 10 minutes at the outside. Due to the fact they’re made from rubber, o-rings do rot out, so replacement is required. This job can be done with a couple of ordinary screwdrivers. Raven Concealment offers several different kits with spare fasteners and o-rings.
Is the Phantom the only carry method I use? No, in different situations I use other options. Is the Phantom the best holster for every person? Of course not. Is it the best method I’ve found for me for outside the waistband carry? Absolutely. Quote the Raven, “Forever more!”
Raven Concealment makes several other holsters and a variety of accessories, including magazine carriers, light carriers, knife sheaths, and other items. You can order your holster direct on their website. Quick ship items ship in 45 days or less, while custom items ship in 16-18 weeks. Accessories ship in 7-14 days.
2012 Raven Concealment Phantom Modular Holster – $74.99 – at RavenConcealment.com