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Retention & Function: Safariland Holster Technology

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There is no substitute for experience in the defense industry. Companies who specialize in their craft, spend years on R&D, and receive vast amounts of end-user input. These companies are not afraid to push the boundaries of innovation. Then, there are brands who think execution on the same level of proficiency is done overnight. It can be seen in a wide variety of categories such as eyewear, helmets, optics, and in relation to this article, holsters.

Safariland excels in the manufacture of personal protection equipment (PPE), such as helmets, load carriage, and hearing protection, although I consider their authenticity driven home through holster design.  Innovations in materials, and function, set Safariland apart. Critical for those in uniform, Safariland tests to a variety of holster retention levels.

In 1975, Safariland adopted a security rating system for holsters from the Rogers Holster Company with the intent of expansion and applying new technology. This rating system, which has evolved since then, was meant to standardize the safety aspect of holsters in response to multiple law enforcement officers being disarmed and killed with their own weapon. Three levels of retention were established, and although the testing methods itself have not changed, the materials and innovations have advanced. Long-dated are the socket and stud snaps, and are now replaced with more modern and secure innovations.

“When it comes to building these duty holsters,” says James Dawson, category director for Safariland, “really, we want to focus on three things: materials, details, and innovation.” Among some of these designs is the Self-Locking System (SLS), the Automatic Locking System (ALS), and SafariSeven.

The Self-Locking System (SLS)

Forty years ago, the common retention method for a gun in its holster was a socket with stud snap. The retention keeps the gun in place, but it's very easy for an assailant to pop the snap and take control of the gun. The Safariland Self-Locking System (SLS) provides some simple, easy-to-use safety measures. There are two motions to bring the gun into action. First, you hold the gun down, applying pressure on two springs in the unlocked position. Second, you then push the hood down into the unlocked position. If you just rotate the hood, the holster will still be secure. While it may seem like a multi-step process, it’s seamless with some practice and an important feature if on-duty.

The Safariland Self-Locking System (SLS)

The Automatic Locking System (ALS®)

Building upon the foundations of the SLS®, the Automatic Locking System (ALS®) offers a more aggressive and mechanical gun retention. When you holster a sidearm you expect it to stay seated and in place. For those professionals whose duty requires extensive movement, such as military, law enforcement, or even competition, the ALS® system is a great innovation. The defining feature of the technology is the automatic lock that offers Level I or III Retention™. The gun slides effortlessly into the holster with no resistance, and when seated locks into place. Spring-loaded, the lock is a small piece that fits into the cut-out in the slide. Once locked, the gun has very little movement in the holster.

The Safariland Automatic Locking System (ALS)

The weapon is very secure even when moving, climbing, or running. If you pull on the gun the lock catches and it can’t be drawn. For those on duty, it’s virtually impossible for an assailant to draw the weapon. The lock, and its release mechanism are only accessible to the one wearing the holster. In one flawless motion, you can access the holster lock conveniently located where the thumb hits the holster in your natural draw. Apply slight forward pressure on the simple lever, and the lock is moved free of the slide and the gun can be drawn.


Many of Safariland holsters, to include all their 7TS injection-molded holsters, are constructed of SafariSeven™ material. SafariSeven™ is a proprietary DuPont™ nylon blend that is non-abrasive, helping protect the finish on your firearm. The matte finish of SafariSeven™ also has a minimal reflection. Any scuffs or marks to the holster can be easily wiped away. SafariSeven is composed of entirely DuPont™ custom blend nylon with no filler, offering substantial environmental protection. The material can withstand high heat up to 300 degrees Fahrenheit, and -50 degrees Fahrenheit. No alteration to shape was experienced during the temperature extremes.

The material can also be submerged in water with no change to function or shape. In fact, very little of the holster touches the gun at all. “We do this for a reason,” says Dawson. “If it was to get wet, any sort of water or fluid is going to come out of the front of the holster, it's not going to sit there on the sides of the gun or in the holster, or possibly swell up any sort of interior material.”

It’s hard to find a better material or design for a holster, whether you are in the military, law enforcement, or even shooting for recreation. The rigid process and testing, user input, and constant commitment to innovation help Safariland stand apart.

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