Retention systems in holsters are classified as Levels I, II and III. The terminology itself refers to a specific testing protocol developed by Bill Rogers in the 1970s and adopted by Safariland in the 1980s. With the Safariland retention protocol, the holster must pass a series of successive tests, which among other things, relates to how difficult it would be over a set period of time for an assailant to take an officer’s weapon from their holster. This terminology was adopted by the holster industry yet often, holster levels are based on the number of features that are included in the design.

These more generalized levels are represented by the following characteristics:

  • Level I: A holster that relies solely on friction to keep the weapon in place.
  • Level II: This incorporates a strap or thong over the back of the weapon in addition to friction.
  • Level III: This level incorporates all of the previous traits and adds in the need for the weapon to be twisted or rocked forward in order to be drawn.

There are many companies working in the retention holster industry, but only a few have the name recognition and track records of heavy hitters. Let’s look at some of the best currently available.

SAFARILAND: As the originators of the retention rating system, this company might seem a sentimental choice, but it’s a great deal more than that. The company currently offers Automatic Locking System (ALS) and Self-Locking System (SLS) holsters, which are some of the best designs on the market. (; 800-347-1200)

DESANTIS: One of the newest offerings from this well-respected holster-maker is the Stryker. The holster has received solid reviews from the law enforcement community and solidified DeSantis’ position among the best holster companies. (; 800-424-1236)

BLACKHAWK: The BlackHawk SERPA holster design has been one of the most popular retention holsters ever made. Adopted by law enforcement agencies and military units, it has also found a home in the civilian market. Affordable and easy to find, BlackHawk has found a goldmine with its design. (; 800-379-1732)

Editor’s note: The test protocol established by Rogers and Safariland requires that the holster pass a series of published tests which includes a five-second forceful attempt to take the firearm and or holster and firearm from the wearer. Further levels of security are identified if the holster passes additional outlined tests. See for more information.

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