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Featured Article:  05-2007




The Blackhawk Serpa…A ‘How To’ Guide

By:  Paul Gomez



Following the widespread distribution of my ‘Damning Review’ from November 2005, I have had multiple conversations with Blackhawk and the holsters have undergone several design improvements. The instructions that accompany the Serpa duty holsters are much clearer than those that came with the earlier units. If the end-users actually read them, and pay attention, they will go a long way toward minimizing the risks.


In July 2006, I was tasked with training a group that was issuing the Smith & Wesson M&P pistol and utilizing the newly released Blackhawk Serpa Duty Holster. Given my previous writings concerning the Serpa design, this was an ironic turn of events, to say the least. What follows is a photographic sequence illustrating the method of operation that I have come to advocate for the Serpa holster. As an aside, I am often accused of fixating on meaningless details. Some of you may find this to be one of those instances. So be it. My concern, in my initial writings concerning the Serpa, and in this piece, is to provide legitimate information to the community. The Serpa design is not going away and I encourage anyone who is not aware of the design to familiarize yourself with it. If you are currently utilizing a Serpa holster, please try this method of operation and let me know what you think. If you know of anyone using a Serpa, pass this along to them. The more feedback, the better.


The ‘drawstroke’ or ‘presentation’ of the handgun, as I teach it, is a four count process wherein ‘1’ denotes establishing a full firing grip on the holstered pistol, ‘2’ is both a high pectoral/retention position and the beginning of the horizontal line of presentation, ‘3’ is the point at which the weapon enters the peripheral vision, under the dominate eye, and ‘4’ is appropriate extension or compression.




When dealing with retention or security holsters, count ‘1’ is further broken down into a three step process[Index/Clear/Release] to ensure that all locking devices have been dealt with and the gun will be able to smoothly move to count ‘2’.  I borrowed the I/C/R concept from the Rogers School and modified it to fit the unique attributes of the Serpa Duty Holster.


In this first picture, the raised shelf is highlighted by the green line. This shelf is the physical reference point for the trigger finger. The red arrow points to the portion of the Serpa Lock Paddle that needs to be depressed to release the pistol from the holster.




Through the use of index points, which are established before the full firing grip, the shooter should be able to gain a consistent, robust interface with the gun and holster. This is key to a smooth draw. The firing hand thumb is kept flagged, this will position the thumb to release the Pivot Guard on the Level III Serpa and ties directly into my normal drawstroke, where the thumb position maximizes physical contact with the torso. The index finger lies flat along the shelf and the tips of the other three fingers make contact with the front strap of the pistol. This is ‘Index’.




To ‘Clear’ the locking devices, the trigger finger is rolled from the raised shelf onto the flat Serpa Lock Paddle. The motion is similar to rolling a fingerprint and the pad of the finger should end up flat and depressing the Serpa Lock Paddle. The fingertips contacting the front strap slide around the butt of the gun, ending in a full firing grip.



Having ‘cleared the locking device’, it is imperative that we verify that we have done so. ‘Release’, traditionally, meant to ‘release’ any secondary retention feature on a duty holster and to break the friction between the gun and the holster body. For our purposes, ‘release’ means to lift up slightly on the holstered gun to ensure that the Serpa Lock has completely disengaged prior to attempting to withdraw the gun fully and continue with our drawstroke. If resistance is felt on the gun, reseat it in the holster and re-index. My concern here is that if one fails to affect a proper release from the holster, the tendency will be to mash the button with the tip of the finger and jerk upwards on the pistol. That is not good.




Having confirmed ‘Release’, the weapon is drawn up the torso and presented to threat as previously described. In the pictures accompanying this text, I am using the Level II CQC Serpa holster designed for concealed carry. The same sequence works with both the Level II & III Tactical [dropleg] Serpa and with the Level II & III Duty Serpa holsters. The flagged thumb, mentioned earlier, contacts the Pivot Guard release on the Level III holsters.


Paul Gomez