As a former SWAT officer, I am very familiar with the Blackhawk line of tactical gear and apparel. Simply put, Blackhawk makes some of the best gear on the planet, and it is constantly upgrading its line with new products, innovations, and variations. One such variation is the Matte Finish Serpa CQC Concealment holster.
By Scott W. Wagner
I have been using Serpa holsters since at least 2006. Back then, I had put together a training consortium and created the “727 Counter Terror Training Unit.” Our consortium used live aircraft, busses, and trains to provide select law enforcement and military personnel with hands on training designed to teach them how to recover these modes of transportations from a terrorist takeover. In order to conduct the training, we needed to select the right gear based on a number of criteria and likely circumstances we might face.
Blackhawk provided us with a quantity of critical tactical equipment for the program. One of the standout pieces of gear was the Serpa duty holster. I was an instant convert. I quickly adopted and mounted a Serpa holster in a chest-carry position on my armor. I still use the Serpa duty line, and carry my Beretta M9A1 in a Level III retention holster while working patrol in the Village of Baltimore, Ohio.
One of the features that make the Serpa holster system unique is its excellent Auto Lock retention system with index finger release. The locking mechanism secures the trigger guard, and the injection molded nylon scabbard is formed to the shape of the gun it is designed for. The use of the finger locking release does away with the need for a thumb release mechanism and keeps the holster more compact than thumb break designs.
Another advantage of the Serpa system is the increased safety of the draw. In order to release a handgun from the Serpa, the user must depress the lock paddle with their index finger and keep it depressed as the draw continues. Releasing the lock too soon during the draw will cause it to re-latch.
As the handgun clears the latch, the trigger finger is automatically positioned along the gun’s frame above the trigger guard—instead of in it—when the draw is completed. An additional feature of the Serpa holster is that the gun can be re-holstered and secured simply by inserting the weapon in the holster. There are no levers or straps to move or secure.
The Serpa quickly became popular among uniformed patrol officers. Soon, the design was adapted for police and civilians who carry concealed handguns to provide them with a holster option that is extremely reliable, durable, and comfortable. The current Serpa CQC lineup covers approximately 40 different handguns. What makes it different from the original duty Serpa is the cut away in the front of the holster—what Blackhawk calls its “Speed Cut” design to facilitate a more rapid draw.
Complete protection of the handgun is not needed to the same level for handguns being carried concealed under clothing as opposed to handguns carried openly in law enforcement situations where they are subjected to constant banging and scraping. However, civilians considering open carry would be well advised to consider the Serpa as well.
The Serpa’s design derives its versatility, in part due to the way the holster’s scabbard attaches to the mounting platform via three screws on the back. This allows it to be attached to a number of different Blackhawk carry platforms. The Serpa CQC Concealment holster comes with both the Belt Loop and Paddle Platform—the Serpa Sportster only comes with a paddle.
The paddle carry method was originally designed for police detectives in the 1970s who wanted to easily take their guns off while working at their desks and put them on quickly when going back to the street. The early paddle holsters were leather, with the reinforced leather paddle finished rough side out to cause some friction adherence with clothing. The early paddles did go on and off easily—a little too easily in fact. The entire rig could easily be jerked free from the detective’s body by a perpetrator in a fight.
Blackhawk’s nylon paddle is curved to fit the hip. Two hooks are included in the package that can be added to the paddle to provide additional retention—which they do well. The only problem is that while the paddle rig goes on easily, getting it off is more difficult, especially when wearing tactical pants. I generally have to undo my pants and belt to remove it, which is why I prefer the belt platform. Note: the Serpa CQC will also attach to Blackhawk’s Shoulder, S.T.R.I.K.E., Quick Disconnect, and Tactical Holster Platforms. It doesn’t get more versatile than that.
I ordered my test CQC for my Smith and Wesson Model 642 five-shot .38 Special off-duty gun. I had recently added an updated set of Crimson Trace Green Lasergrips to it that replaced the old-style CTC “Boot” style Lasergrips. The new, larger Lasergrips no longer allowed my 642 to fit in the leather concealment belt holster I had previous carried it in.
With its open top design, my 642 fit the CQC holster easily, holding it securely in place. Drawing, the 642 was even smoother due to the Speed Cut, and my trigger finger was positioned on the frame during the draw. The new Matte Finish blended nicely with the matte finish portions of the Lasergrips.
The Serpa CQC carries my 642 comfortably under a Blackhawk Concealment shirt without causing undue printing. The added retention means ensures my 642 stays put during a physical confrontation where the use of a firearm is not justified. The belt platform is also curved to fit the hip. While I am not an advocate of open carry, I feel that if you are going to carry a handgun that way, the additional security afforded by the Serpa’s Auto Lock release design is critical for your safety in the event a gun grab is attempted, or you end up in a ground struggle.
Do you open or conceal carry? Have you tried the Serpa for personal or on duty use? Share your experiences and opinions of BLACKHAWK!’s products in the comment section.
Scott Wagner is a 36 year law enforcement veteran and criminal justice professor. He has worked full-time as a State Liquor Investigator, undercover narcotics investigator, and uniformed patrolman. As a reserve officer, he was worked SWAT assignments as an assistant team leader, sniper, and entry team member. He is currently a reserve sergeant at Village of Baltimore, Ohio Police Department. He is a Contributing Writer for the U.S. Concealed Carry Association. He has written three books for Gun Digest Publications—Own the Night, The Tactical Shotgun, and Survival Weapons.