Saturday, March 19, 2011

In Defense of SERPA

I'm going to just come right out and say it... BLACKHAWK! has the dumbest name in the gun marketing universe. Yes, worse than "Judge" and "Hi Point." It breaks all normal conventions of polite conversation by forcing us to scream its name instead of speaking it in a reasonable tone.

warning, I'm going to use a little foul language here... but it's cool, because we're all OPERATORS! right?

To those of us who don't play in sandboxes, kick down doors, or have a little SWAT pin above our nameplates, the logo screams I'M TACTICOOL!, I'M AN INTERNET TRAINED DOUCHE! - even when the equipment works as advertised and holds up to the worst daily punishment any of us are likely to dish out. That being said, I know countless LE folks and training professionals who swear by the brand, if for one item alone - the SERPA retention holster. Thank God their logo isn't splashed across the equipment.

So... why all this rampaging hate against their effective, simple, and intuitive locking mechanism? Well, if you have ever read a gun blog, you'll have invariably run across the "expert" who hates SERPAs because you have to risk jamming your finger into the trigger just to get the gun out of the holster. To which, I decry in my most Penn and Teller voice...

(see what I did there?)

The SERPA holster is designed to provide automatic release with pressure from a properly-indexed trigger finger. Just about every instructor on planet earth will teach you to index your trigger finger along the side of the holster in exactly the same position it would ride the side of the frame if you were pressed out. HOLY CRAP! (I did it again!) That just happens to be exactly where they place the "button" which disengages the internal locking bits and releases the handgun.

Now... I understand why people are upset, but it has nothing to do with the hardware on the belt and everything to do with the squishware between the ears. We see a button and we want to stab it. Push it. Head straight for it with reckless abandon and keep on driving forward until we've killed it, ran it onto a stick, and held it over a fire until golden brown an delicious. This, friends, is not the SERPA way. It's meant to be intuitive and work with "muscle memory" (which has nothing to do with muscles) in conjunction with proper training.

A HA! That's the crux - Proper Training. If you've learned to draw a gun from a holster on YouTube and somehow fail to grasp the value in dry-fire practice, the SERPA is not for you. In fact, REAL GUNS aren't for you. I'm sorry... yes, it's a right, it's a freedom, but until you get over the fact that you don't know everything about guns and there is a right and a wrong way to handle them you should either seek professional training from a qualified instructor (shameful plug for ME!) or find a less dangerous hobby, like skydiving without a parachute.

I think back to one student who kept complaining about her SERPA and how she kept going into the trigger with it. No amount of "just index your trigger finger, don't think about "pushing" anything" would help. The problem was the gear... had to be the gear. Couldn't have possibly been the shooter. Nope. I advised her to buy a different holster and, sadly, there appear to be thousands of Internet Gun Experts out there who feel exactly the same way.

While conversing with another industry pro with decades of experience, we got onto the subject of SERPAs and how a couple big schools have run into that perfect storm of untrainable new shooter spending big bucks for the high-speed guys to teach them how to become gun ninja and the SERPA holster leading to a perforated student. Again... the cause is NOT the holster but the operator (small "o").

We preach gross motor skills (it's a slide "stop," not a slide "release, damnit!) in training, and the SERPA is designed with that in mind. If you train to index your trigger finger to the frame, you will almost always get a solid release and speedy presentation from a SERPA. Fail to apply pressure against the frame (and, by extension, the holster), and the gun simply won't come out.

Punch it straight in - a fine motor skill and a stupid extra step you don't need - and you will almost certainly aim your booger hook directly at the bang switch on your draw. However, I have to say it again - that's not a problem with the HARDWARE! It's a result of poor training and, as any of us who've taught or carried (or both) guns for a living have experienced, lack of training, poor training, or shitty information (worst of all) will eventually get you hurt.

So... to recap... there's nothing wrong with the SERPA system if it's used properly. If you insist on using it in a manner completely opposite from how it's designed, you put yourself in very serious risk and would likely be best served by a lifestyle fraught with the perils of TV dinners and Jeopardy re-runs. I'm sorry to come off harsh, but the same mindset that finds SERPA holsters inherently dangerous is the same mindset that insists Glocks have no safety, paddle holsters are the shit, and carrying a 1911 with one in the pipe will get you killed.

I LOVE! Glocks and wouldn't hesitate to carry another, I DESPISE! the combination of paddle holster + active retention device in any form, and am patiently SAVING! pennies for my next 1911, which will almost surely live in Condition 1 when it goes on my belt. But that's just ME!

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