One of the more enjoyable aspects of writing a column such as this is the great people I get to talk with as well as the new products I get to test. Such was the case recently when I made the acquaintance of Dan Hillsman of Hillsman Holsters. I came across Dan quite by accident via one of my favorite movies, Man On Fire. I had read the book in the early 80s and liked the story, thus had seen it in the theatre when it was released. I watched it again on television recently during which the hosts showed interesting facts about the film at each commercial break. One of these sidebars was on the training Denzel Washington received for his character portrayal and the gentleman who trained him, Don Rosche, a well-known close-quarter combat instructor and former Force Recon Marine. Rosche works with high-speed teams around the world via his company Advanced Weapons Training International, and he is a satisfied customer of Hillsman Holsters, which led me to contact Dan.
Dan has been making holsters for 25 years and has amassed a large clientele that includes intelligence operatives, military personnel, federal agents, law enforcement officers as well as legally armed citizens and IDPA competitors. Dan has also supplied a number of holsters and related gear to Hollywood including the aforementioned Man On Fire.
Having been raised around firearms, Dan has long been interested in offering the best carry gear. Having started out using leather, Dan felt that it placed too much drag on the gun when drawing, so he moved over to composite materials after he became aware of them. Since that time, the leather has been put away and all Hillsman Holsters are now made from acrylic-based composites.
Dan works hard not only to offer the best synthetic holsters and accessories available, he also wants to offer the customer exactly what they want or need. He likes to speak with each customer to get a better idea of just what the customer is looking for, which is getting harder to do in this world of Internet and e-mail. He tries to question the customer in regard to their body style, shape and size, as some holster styles will fit some better than others. Dan says those who have a little more meat on their bones are better off ordering a holster that has a contoured belt loop or paddle for added comfort, while a thinner person may want a flat loop/paddle to pull the gun into the torso for better concealment. Every holster made by Hillsman is designed to meet and exceed the customer’s expectations in concealability, retention, speed of draw and comfort. If the customer is not completely satisfied, the holster can be returned at no charge, unless the customer has damaged the holster beyond its intended use.
All Hillsman products are made from Boltaron 4330 known also as “Concealex,” an acrylic-modified PVC, which exhibits superior durability and ability to retain its shape while being resistant to most chemicals and solvents. In addition, each Hillsman holster and accessory is embossed with a “hair cell” finish, which not only gives the gear an attractive leather-like appearance, but also makes it more scuff-resistant. Furthermore, all metal hardware used in these holsters is plated with Black Chromate, which is very durable and rust-resistant so rust or metal fatigue will never become an issue. As a finishing touch, each Hillsman Holster has a medallion imbedded in its side displaying the Hillsman logo in pewter. A word of caution: Boltaron is a thermo-plastic that is molded by heat, so environments with prolonged high temperature should be avoided.
Hillsman Holsters are available for nearly all popular handguns, but for those who have something rare, Dan does have a Federal Firearms License so he can arrange to build a holster for your individual gun. Contact him via telephone to make these arrangements. I made contact with Dan and asked to test a few pieces of his gear. When I do this, I always ask the manufacturer if they have a piece they are especially proud of or want the readers to be made aware of. Dan told me that he is particularly proud of his belt holster that not only conceals, but will also conceal a gun with a light mounted on it. He told me that he sells a large number of these holsters to federal agents, especially those who work for the DEA and that he has received some great feedback from the street. I arranged to have this holster sent along with one of his single, snap-on magazine pouches.
The best way to test any piece of gear is to simulate the environment where it will be used, so I headed to the range with the holster and magazine pouch to see if it would perform. The holster and pouch that I had received were very attractive and the gun to holster fit was exceptional. The magazine pouch was cut to cover half of the magazine body (a length I happen to like as it permits a proper grip) and had a very unique molded snap-down belt loop on the back. The loop holds on to the belt solidly while being easy to put on and take off. My holster was a paddle style with a contoured paddle that slid easily over the belt and trouser band, and locked in place. A speed cut was formed into the front of the holster to offer greater clearance and draw speed. I was glad to see this, as I had some reservations regarding drawing a pistol with a light from concealment. I never concealed a weapon in this fashion while I was on the job and I was concerned that the SureFire X300 I had on my Glock 19 would not draw clean.
As it turned out, this ended up not being a problem with the gun handling much the same as if I did not have a light on it. I performed a number of drills where the gun was presented to the target without any of the problems I feared would transpire. The magazine pouch gave the magazine up cleanly and without a lot of shifting on the belt.
After my testing, Dan told me something about the holster that I did not realize while I was on the range, “With most any light that slides on the end of the gun, you can store the light inside the holster and when you insert the gun, it will automatically mount the light. I have a lot of federal agent customers, especially DEA, who just store the light inside the holster and when they need it, they shove the gun in and draw it out.” Pretty neat idea!
I have spoken with Dan in depth a few times now and I admit to being a fan. I will likely be ordering a few more of his holsters in the future because when you find a good thing, it is only wise to return to it.
One of the more enjoyable aspects of writing a column such as this is…
by Bob Pilgrim / Apr 22, 2009