Blackhawk Holsters


by Matthew Wellington

Photography by Matthew Wellington

January 21st, 2007

Updated March 11th, 2007




Naval SEa Air and Land commandos have a legendary reputation for aggressive action in pursuit of their stated goal or mission.  Tenacity and single-mindedness are their stock in trade.  If we keep this in mind, it should come as no surprise that one of the most successful tactical gear brands should be headed by a member of this legendary fraternity.

Mike Noell, President and CEO of BLACKHAWK Products Group, served several years with Naval Special Warfare in North Africa and the Middle East.  Company literature attributes the genesis of the Blackhawk brand concept with a failed backpack which dropped from Mike’s shoulders and landed in the middle of a minefield.  He vowed then to create products worthy of a soldier’s trust and the company was born in 1993.  Since 2003, Blackhawk has gone on a voracious acquisition spree, in the process morphing into the Blackhawk Products Group.  This umbrella organization now encompasses lines of product as diverse as backpacks, boots, clothes, flashlights, gloves, hydration packs, knives, SWAT entry tools, and - the point of this article – holsters.

Within Blackhawk Products Group, holsters fall under the Close Quarters Combat© brand name.  They produce several lines of holsters; this article will deal with the traditional leather line and a line of thermoplastic holsters featuring their patented SERPA© Active Retention system.

In the leather line, I chose a traditional favorite called the Compact Askins, ordering it for my Beretta 92FS.  Being of reduced stature (Napoleon could have looked down on me), I felt I had given Blackhawk a daunting challenge, namely to hide the big Italian on my minimal frame.  The holster arrived in short order and proved equal to the challenge.  Unlike other Avenger-style holsters I have handled, the CQC© model has a slight muzzle-rear cant.  Coupled with the trailing belt slot, the cant serves to place the butt against the good old latissimus dorsi.  The appropriate cover garment will have no trouble hiding the weapon unless the wearer chooses to engage in spontaneous toe touches.  The quality of the holster is readily apparent upon first review.  Made in the Tuscany region of Italy, the product has a smooth, even finish with quality hand-stitching, doubled in the areas necessary to promote longevity and strength.  A sewn-in sight track flared slightly at the bottom prevents the Beretta’s shark-fin front sight from hanging during the draw.  A hex-head tension screw allows the wearer to fine tune the retention provided by its gun-specific boning.

The second holster I tried represents the sharp tip of the Blackhawk spear.  For my GLOCK 17, I chose the CQC© Carbon-Fiber model with Blackhawk’s patented Serpa retention system.  It represents the first design of which I am aware that disengages via the index finger.  The release button is positioned so that the finger falls onto the frame, not the trigger, as the gun is withdrawn from the holster.  The draw stroke is streamlined, allowing a full firing grip while the gun is still locked in the holster.  A simple press inward of the lock releases the gun as the grip is established.  While maintaining pressure on the lock, the shooter simply pulls upward on the frontstrap of the weapon.  The index finger “wipes” upward until the gun is clear at which point it falls into the ready position on the frame.  A very few draws ingrains the stroke in the mind.  Unlike a traditional thumb-break, the release of the retention device does not mandate a repositioning of the thumb to maintain full control of the weapon during the draw.  From a retention standpoint, the holster does not immediately announce its release mechanism to the average gun-grabbing felon and must be studied closely to be defeated.  From a right-handed adversary’s standpoint, the holster is impossible to release from a face-to-face grab.

The holster features the light weight of most polymer designs and comes with two mounting platforms, a traditional set of belt loops and a paddle.  A trio of screws attaches either platform to the basic holster and can be positioned so as to allow the holster to be worn muzzle forward, muzzle to the rear, neutral cant, or crossdraw.  A pair of belt slot adjustment tabs allows for the use of several size belts and the ability to adjust the ride height of the holster.  The polymer design seems thinner than most while maintaining enough rigidity for good support.  The novel retention release allows the design to be loose enough to eliminate any drag during the draw.  Only two minor points keep me from gushing unprofessionally.  With a butt heavy design like my GLOCK 17, the butt tends to bounce a bit under vigorous movement.   And the grip of the paddle on the belt seems a bit tenuous.  I would like to see Blackhawk take another look at the flanges on the holster and paddle and perhaps give them a more aggressive profile, allow them to bite a bit harder.  No other paddle I own releases for removal as easily as this design, and several times I have thought the paddle was firmly seated only to draw it out with the gun.  As I continued to use the holster, I learned to manipulate the flanges to grip the belt so it happens rarely now, but it is a point that could stand improvement.

Unlike many companies, Blackhawk refuses to cast aside the traditional designs, yet they are unafraid to innovate, to revolutionize.  I get the feeling, shooters in 2050 will be looking back at the designs Blackhawk produces today as the new classics.

Matthew Wellington


Read more about Matt on the "About Us" page.


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Click pictures for a larger version.


Blackhawk caters to fans of the old and the new with their lines of holsters.



The Compact Askins features fine boning, tension adjustment, and a reinforcing band to assist reholstering.



The trailing slot tucks the butt in to minimize printing and double-stitching increases durability.



The latch must be pressed to release and held as the gun is withdrawn upward.



Here is the latch in the locked position…..



...and an interior view showing the tab which protrudes into the forward portion of the trigger guard.



The novel retention method allows a loose enough fit for easy withdrawal and the front is cut low.  The draw is very quick and relatively effortless.



The retaining screws may be removed to replace the belt slot with a supplied paddle or to adjust the cant to neutral, FBI, or crossdraw.  The tabs present in the slots can also be used to cant the rig and to position the holster higher or lower on the belt.