In the last article we covered different pistol carry systems. Moving on, let’s talk about the different types of polymer built fast draw systems. When we’re choosing a pistol holster, besides the obvious gun model and quality options, we need to consider the locking system. Safety is always the first priority and no matter if it’s real guns or airsoft guns, gun release/retention will greatly affect speed and efficiency. During the 21st Century War on Terror, polymer built holsters greatly grew in popularity compared to nylon holsters because the solid material allowed speedier access to your gun than traditional nylon holsters, and gun retention was also made easier.


Fast draw holsters’ locking systems can be categorized into: No release/retention, index finger release, middle finger release, and thumb release systems.



    Such holsters are usually made form kydex with no release/retention mechanisms, and rely solely on friction between the gun and the holster to keep the gun in place. This option means ultimate fast draw, plain and simple!

    This picture shows a kydex built no retention drop leg holster. See the two black screws that you can tighten or loosen based on the gun and personal preference. This kind of holsters can be commonly seen on shooting ranges or IDPA matches. For military personnel and law enforcement, the majority would choose ones with locking mechanisms as they require more safety and protection of pistols when in combat and on the move.



    This system releases the pistol by pressing the outward facing release button with your index finger. Retention is automated when the gun is placed into the holster requiring no further action.

    This picture shows a classic index finger release system. From personal experience this is the most ergonomic locking system that requires little training or getting used to, hence the popularity of the Blackhawk CQC series. It must be said though there have be reports of a few incidents of accidental discharge with index finger release systems, causing some concern for safety. This happens because your index finger is also the pistol trigger finger, and for some pistols with relatively loose triggers, when you use your index finger to press the release button the same finger subsequently rests on the trigger that could result in accidental discharge. Of course, this is of no concern for airsofters and I highly recommend index finger release systems for airsoft pistols.



    This system requires you to use your middle finger to press a release button situated inside the holster to draw your gun. Retention is also automated when the gun is placed in the holster.

    This picture shows the middle finger release system. As you’re using your middle finger accidental discharge is less likely to happen because you’re not using your trigger finger, but this system is more strenuous and requires you to keep a firm hold of the grip for a smooth gun draw. Shooters will need a bit of practice to get used to the feel of the middle finger release mechanism. For soldiers in combat when the environment could be stressful, gun draw using this system could be slower and trickier.


    The thumb release system requires using your thumb to press the release button on the inside of the holster for gun draw. Retention is automated when the gun is placed in the holster.

    This picture shows the Safariland ALS Holster System utilizing thumb release for gun draw. This system is also safer with little risk of accidental discharge and the release system is easier to navigate compared with the middle finger release system. The drawback is that the “press and pull” action requires some practice and if the holster is placed in a higher position, it may be more difficult for you to locate the retention button with your thumb.

    No release/retention and index release systems both have higher safety risks as if you’re engaged in a struggle the opponent could easily remove your gun from the holster. Middle finger and thumb release buttons are located within the holster and offer better security.

    Last but not least, there is also a low-risk specific locking system for law enforcement requiring a design that prevents the above described scenarios – removal by opponent and accidental release.

    The holster displayed in this picture shows an additional protective plate that shields and prevents removal by other people. You need to press and push the top strap above the grip with your thumb to release the pistol. The drawback is lower speed of gun draw.


This concludes the 4 most commonly seen locking systems for gun holsters, and the pros and cons of different methods of gun carry. I hope this helps some of you in choosing the right gun holster and where to place it. Personally I prefer the index finger release via waist carry in airsoft, but if on duty I’d go with a thumb release ALS system and keep my holster snug around my waist.


Credit: Goose (Translated by 1TG)

Background & Experience: Ex-member of PLA and China Fire Department, long-time airsoft and outdoor sports enthusiast, military replica/equipment collector.