5.11 ThumbDrive: 5.11’s ThumbDrive was designed to be the quickest and safest Level II holster. A proprietary single-thumb retention and release system secures a duty-sized handgun for a quick, natural, and safe release with a cut for optically sighted handguns. A removable Chop-Block switch guard provides added weapon retention and the holster is adjustable for a variety of placement and draw angles. Optional drop/offset and thigh rig kits allow additional customization. ThumbDrives are available for Glock, SIG, Smith & Wesson, and Beretta handguns.
5.11 IWB: 5.11 Internal Waist Band (IWB) concealed-carry holsters are suitable for a variety of handguns, including those sighted with optics. Built in partnership with Blade-Tech and Viking Tactics, the 5.11 IWB is an appendix-carry holster designed to ensure high-speed access and a secure fit that won’t ride up during extended periods of concealment. This holster, crafted from heat and oil resistant high-impact polymer, can be worn front or back and offers an integrated light clip for secure storage of a tactical light.
Armordillo Concealment X-FER V2: The X-FER V2 holster accepts suppressed or long-barreled pistols with optics or suppressor-height irons equipped with a SureFire X300U-A or X300 WeaponLights. The holster rides inside or outside the waistband, or on drop leg mounts. The X-FER is light specific, not handgun specific, meaning it locks onto the attached weapon light (X300U-A or X300) instead of the firearm. This design is very modular; any handgun with a light will work. The holster includes an IWB loop. However, the multiple mounting holes allow attachment to most platforms and a range of adjustment for cant and ride height. It accommodates extra weight from optics or suppressors. Also, the unit is completely ambidextrous.
Blackhawk A.R.C. IWB: The Appendix Reversible Carry (A.R.C.) IWB holster for concealed carry has a generous opening for rear-mounted red dots. The holster body is constructed of a soft injection-molded polymer material and is fully reversible for ambidextrous use. The cant and ride height can be adjusted, and the included belt clips work with 1.5- and 1.75-inch belts. A passive retention detent with adjustment screw allows users to vary the amount of friction for a quick draw with good security.
Custom Action Sports: The Dara Custom Action Sports Holster is a quick outside-the-waistband holster for optics. As the name implies, this is intended for competition shooting with two options for ejection port cutouts. Cut “A” features the top and side of the ejection port cut away while Cut “B” has only the top part of the ejection port removed. These options accommodate different rulebook requirements of different groups like USPSA and the IDPA. Both versions have a thick, 0.093-of-an-inch Boltaron/Kydex body fastened with Melonite-coated stainless steel hardware.
Custom RMR Cut OWB: The Custom RMR Cut OWB Holster accommodates any firearm with a red-dot sight mounted to the top of the slide. This holster fits outside the waistband with a minimalist design. Only the top of the holster is cut away enough to clear the optic and suppressor-height iron sights. The RMR Cut OWB also uses a thick, 0.093-of-an-inch Boltaron/Kydex body fastened with Melonite-coated stainless steel hardware.
RMR Cut RAM Mounted Holster: This holster installs inside a vehicle, under a desk, cabinet, nightstand, or anywhere suitable for quick access to an off-body handgun. Dara uses rugged RAM Mounts featuring a diamond plate that attaches the holster to a 1-inch poly-coated ball. The RAM Flat Surface Mount attaches with Philips head screws. The holster can then be pivoted in any direction and then locked down. RAM Mounted Holsters completely cover the trigger guard and magazine release, giving secured, easy access.
C-1 RMR: NSR Tactical’s C-1 RMR is a fold-over holster for appendix carry with an optic-equipped handgun. These hand-built Kydex holsters are ambidextrous. While the optic cut is for the dimension of Trijicon’s RMR, these will fit a variety of optics. The holster includes an IWB soft loop and one tuckable strut. Current models are for all sizes of Glock handguns.
CTH: The Contour To Hip (CTH) holster is intended for full-sized Glocks with optics. It comes standard with loops for 1.5-inch belt loops, but belts of different sizes are also available. There is no mechanical retention device as the holster uses a very “crisp” fit, keeping a full-sized handgun with optic securely in place.
Archangel V3: Gabe Suarez was among the first instructors to recommend red dots on handguns for defensive shooting. The original Archangel began around 2009 as an improvement on existing appendix-carry, inside-the-waistband holsters suitable for optics. A pistol with a shorter barrel, a high-capacity magazine in a polymer frame, and an optical sight, needs more support for the heavy parts. Shooters also noticed that extra length in the holster body precluded the pistol spilling out of the belt. Integral hooks in other models broke off during more dynamic training. Those hooks may have been ideal for tucking in the shirt when sitting at a desk or giving a speech while standing, but the Kydex did not bear up to repeated heavy combat work or training. This third version of the design is sleeker and easier to carry with a muzzle/dust cover area. A hood protects the optic and keeps it from digging into skin.
Suarez NPE: The Suarez NPE holster is intended for the “Non-Permissive Environment” application—that is, places sufficiently dangerous to require a covert handgun, but with maximum concealment. The NPE is a minimalist holster that completely covers the trigger and guard and helps keep the pistol in place while tucked in the waistband. Upon drawing, the holster remains on the weapon until the nylon 550 cord attached to the belt or waistband yanks it free. To reholster, the NPE is first secured over the trigger guard with the cord looped or tied to the belt or waistband, then tucked into place.
Safariland 6354DO ALS Optic Tactical: The 6354DO features Safariland’s Automatic Locking System (ALS) for handguns with red-dot optics. Wrapped in the company’s SafariLaminate thermal-molded material, the holster body protects the handgun and sights while reducing infrared signature. It’s available in several U.S. military issue colors and camouflage. It also features a double leg strap shroud with mounting holes for optional accessories. The 6354DO has the Safariland three-hole pattern, so it’s mountable via the company’s Quick Locking System (QLS). And it is available for most service handguns using red-dot optics with or without light attachments.
Uncle Mike’s Competition Reflex: Uncle Mike’s Competition Reflex Holster mimics the company’s older injection-molded holster designs. The I.R.T. (Integrated Retention Technology) is used in duty Reflex holsters as well, while the Competition model is more suited for competitive practical shooting, especially 3 Gun and the like. The I.R.T provides positive retention, even when moving and shooting fast with a long gun and fully loaded, optically sighted holstered handgun. It also allows a fast draw. The Competition Reflex is removable for customizing equipment for each stage or event and can be safely stored and reattached to the same belt position.
Handguns mounted with red dot sights are popular options for defensive shooting. Some serious instructors and schools have been catering training towards, and sometimes selling, equipment for optically sighted pistols for duty and concealed carry. It’s an interesting example of technology expanding from experimental to practical.
Optical sights on handguns appeared in the 1960s when competitive shooters embraced the “Bullseye” pistol scope by Burris. Gil Hebard, the Bullseye pistol match legend, championed the scope, which came in 1X or 1.7X. About a decade later, the Swedish company Aimpoint offered its first electronic sight, followed by several similar models from Japan. Bullseye competitors quickly adopted these, and Bianchi Cup (NRA Action Pistol) shooters were next. Initially thought to aid in precision handgun shooting, but too slow for speed shooting, Jerry Barnhart proved this wrong by using an optic to win the United States Practical Shooting Association Nationals in 1990.
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Optically sighted “race guns” at first were temperamental, requiring competitors to have two of them so one could be down for repairs. Detractors labeled them “Rooney guns” as being removed from the spirit and intent of practical shooting. Experiments and hard use by competitors led to improvements that made red-dot optics more reliable. This increased durability and battery life made them suitable for military and law enforcement long guns, but the sights were still too big for daily duty and concealed carry on handguns.
This bulky issue also led practical shooting organizations to begin alternate equipment divisions to recognize and encourage more practical handguns. In addition to modification limits for Limited or Standard handguns, groups like the International Practical Shooting Confederation (IPSC) also created size requirements and the need to fit standardized dimensions. In 1992, IPSC also allowed a unique hybrid option called “Modified” that was anything goes like “Open.” However, the handgun had to fit the 225 x 150 x 45 mm internal dimensions required of more practical “Standard” handguns. At about the same time, makers of red dot sights introduced their first “miniaturized” products. Just as with the full-sized sights, these first micro red dot sights had some reliability issues that rigorous shooting quickly revealed, leading to more robust offerings. While IPSC officially retired its Modified Division in 2011, the red dots became better and more common. These small but sturdy handgun optics caught the attentions of defensive shooters and trainers. A concept popularized in competitive shooting now had “real world” appeal.
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Of course, the means to carry such equipment is another challenge. It’s possible that adding an optic to a handgun won’t require a holster specifically designed for such dimensions, but some models simply won’t fit. To answer this, here some holsters made for duty and concealed carry of handguns with red dot sights.
For more information about the holsters for handguns with red dot sights featured in the gallery above, please visit the following sites.
Armordillo Concealment X-FER V2
Blackhawk A.R.C. IWB
Custom Action Sports
Custom RMR Cut OWB
RMR Cut RAM Mounted Holster
Safariland 6354DO ALS Optic Tactical
Uncle Mike’s Competition Reflex
This article was originally published in “Survivor’s Edge” Summer 2017. To order a copy, visit outdoorgroupstore.com.
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