Gear, Parts and Accessories

Review: Blackhawk SERPA CQC Concealment Holster

Blackhawk CQC Concealment holster with Smith and Wesson Model 642 revolver

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.

Blackhawk CQC Concealment holster with Smith and Wesson Model 642 revolver

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.

Blackhawk Serpa CQC holster
The current Serpa CQC lineup covers approximately 40 different handguns.

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.

Blackhawk! 1730 shirt
The BLACKHAWK! 1730 Shirt is a solid blend of comfort and concealment. The breakaway snap placket allows for quick access to a holstered weapon. It is built with poplin fabric which is coated with Teflon Shield+ capable of repelling oil, water and stains. This fabric, blended with spandex that enables the shirt to move and stretch as needed, making it an excellent choice for concealed carry.

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.

The Serpa CQC is available from Cheaper Than Dirt! with prices ranging from $30 to $42 depending on the gun model and holster finish.

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.

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (16)

  1. I’m a big fan of Serpa holsters, as a 20 yr Correctional Officer in California requall time is critical with the proper equipment. I am looking for a Serpa right hand lvl 2 for my Taurus model 85 LE POLYMER PROTECTOR 5 shot 2 1/2 . Thanks, Be Safe out there. Adam12

  2. Have been carrying concealed for the past five years. Started out with an IWB leather holster for my MP40 Shield. Always liked the Serpa style holster and finally Blackhawk came out with it. Had never used this type before. Got it, did some training courses with it and I absolutely love it. It is my main carry method. Will still use an IWB holster on occasion but miss the Serpa holster the whole time. Recommend it all the time to people that ask what I use and even let them try it at the range. When I get a full size MP 40 will definitely be getting a Serpa holster for it!

  3. Since I am retired and have been long before the Kydex holsters came into being, I have never tried them. I carry concealed in a shoulder holster made by Strong Holsters of Gloucestor(sp?), MA. They, currently, make holsters for name brand companies. Theirs was called a Second Chance holster, but it was different from the Second Chance holster currently available because it was an inverted vertical, (45 degrees), holster. With my Model 19 S & W .357 with a 6 inch barrel, the end of the barrel is just above my armpit and not noticable while wearing a light nylon jacket. I believe that its draw is the fastest possible. I also have one that fits my 5 inch high cap RIA .45. Of course they are gun specific as they are molded to the weapon. It’s too bad that they don’t sell to the public.

    1. @ DonP.

      Kydex is a Brand Name for a “IPK Acrylic-Poly Vinyl Chloride Plastic”. Which Most Holster Companies use including Blackhawk. Texture of Holster Varies from Manufacturer to Manufacturer in the Heating, Molding (Aluminum Molds) Dying and Curing Process…

    2. @Secundius

      My bad, I thought you might care about accuracy, but apparently you are speaking in generalities. If you are the type of person who refers to any copying machine as a ‘XEROX’, no matter who the machine is made by, or if you say you ‘google’ something, even if you use Yahoo or Bing, that’s fine. Go ahead and use Kydex as a generic term. There are others who do that too… But if you want to use a generic term for synthetic polymers, which is what we are talking about, there’s a word most of the world has been using for a number of years. It’s that one word Mr. McGuire said to Ben Braddock in ‘The Graduate’. That word is “Plastics”.

      As for your statement: “…Kydex is a Brand Name for a “IPK Acrylic-Poly Vinyl Chloride Plastic”.”, you are incorrect. Kydex is a line of thermoplastic acrylic-polyvinyl chloride materials manufactured by Sekisui SPI. Kydex sheet was originally produced in 1965 by Rohm and Haas. IPK Acrylic-polyvinyl chloride (IPK, IPK Acrylic PVC, IPK Thermoformable Sheet, IPK Kydex) is a line of thermoplastic acrylic-polyvinyl chloride composite material. IPK Acrylic-polyvinyl chloride was developed by Interstate Plastics in 2012 and is sold under the registered trademark IPK. IPK has a chemical structure… similar (I’ll let you google that word using whatever search program you wish)… to Kydex with an Acrylic-polyvinyl chloride substrate and white cap for screen printing onto the material.

      As far as how this all relates to Serpa holsters, the pamphlet that comes with a Serpa holster states as follows:
      “All models are molded from a durable, resilient blend of proprietary impact-modified nylon for low maintenance and high performnce in all environments.”
      If you can show that thermoplastic acrylic-polyvinyl chloride is the same as nylon, then I could agree with you… let me know when you find it.

    3. @ DonP.

      I’m a “Wheelchair Driver” and Generally Prefer to Wear My Holster on the Hip (Right Cross Draw to Left Hip). And Plastic/Polymer Holsters tend to Pinch and/or Dig Into the Flesh over long periods of time. As Far a Serpa from Blackhawk, Have You Ever VISITED the Manufacturing Facilities Outside Bozeman, Montana. It’s Actually Interesting to Watch How They Make Them…

    4. You might consider finding someone who could make a piece to screw the Serpa holster onto, instead of the paddle or belt attachment, that would be more ergonomically shaped for your needs.

    5. @ DonP.

      Already have one? Called Scot Works, LLC. out of Wilderville, OR. That Specializes in Wheelchair Rigs and uses Blackhawk Serpa Products ONLY…

  4. As I have commented before, I have been carrying concealed handguns for more that fifty years. For much of that time, I depended on leather pancake style holsters to provide the best concealment. That said, though, I have embraced Kydex as a carry option, because it doesn’t collapse when the gun is drawn, always remaining open for reholstering. There are a number of really good Kydex options available, and I am particuarly drawn to Blade Tech and Point Blank Tactical holsters, but I do also often find myself carrying in BLACKHAWK! Serpa holsters. I like their simple retention system, but I also find that they do not ride as close in to my waistline as do the Blade Tech and Point Blank representatives. I am, however, able to overcome this slight shortcoming by wearing my holsters underneath my shirttails, which are always outside my pants.

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