USMC Adopts the controversial Blackhawk SERPA Holster

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The USMC will be replacing their nylon pistol holsters for Blackhawk’s polymer SERPA Level 2 Tactical Holster. The holster is controversial because if not careful, a shooter can hook their finger in the trigger when drawing it and discharge the gun into their leg.

Blackhawk Level 2 Tactical SERPA Holster

Marine Corps Times reports

In an emailed response to Marine Corps Times’ questions, officials at MARCORSYSCOM said the holster was put through rigorous safety tests in July by Marines assigned to Quantico’s Weapons Training Battalion. After giving the holster to Marines of varied pistol-shooting abilities, from expert to novice, Weapons Training Battalion concluded the SERPA holster is safe for issue, according to MARCORSYSCOM.

“We did not see a trigger-hooking problem,” officials said. “We found the SERPA design allowed natural positioning of the trigger finger during the draw so that it was straight and off the trigger when drawn. … Weapons Training Battalion, our premier weapons trainers, oversaw the evaluation of the holsters and no safety concerns were identified by the users or the observers of the evaluation.”

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Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


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  • dpaqu

    Forget poorly trained people shooting themselves, ever get a pebble jammed in your SERPA holster from crawling on the ground? It can tie up your gun real good. It’s a fine holster for entry teams or range use but I’m not convinced it’s a good idea for people who like to get dirty.

  • Sid

    My entire platoon used the Serpa holster for an entire rotation. Not one issue. No negligent discharges. No lock-ups. Nothing.

    The only reason a gun will fire is that the trigger is pulled. Blaming the holster is bullshit on stilts.

  • Brice

    That should say. Morons that can’t think through their actions have been caught on tape…

  • Steve Beat

    I’m not a shooter myself, so I hope you don’t mind me asking – but are you saying that ‘hooking’ the finger over the trigger is an involuntary action? (Due to some sort of physical characteristic?)

    - I am perhaps being very simplistic but shouldn’t the action of placing the finger on the trigger during a draw be something which good training and responsible practise sort out? (I’m just asking, not stating that it is so – how would I know after all.)

    After all – at all other times most firearms users know not to place thier finger on the trigger unless they intend to do so.

  • semtex41

    In Tex’s case…. he Grebnerized himself with a 511 Thumbdrive, as he states in the video.

    The serpa sucks because sand can lock the gun in solid. I was trying to find a good video to show this, but it looks like the youtube user removed it. This one made me laugh though: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZOCFL8hVuw4

  • Anthony

    I think what makes these more controversial is how easily they fail when exposed to dirt, sand, and even snow.

  • ParatrooperJJ

    Good luck with that…

  • 18D

    IMO the SERPA is a terrible choice for military operations. It has been well known in the industry for a long time that this holster is dangerous and possibly deadly. There has been instances where guns have needed to be cut out of the holster because the SERPA lock was completely seized up! This decision just goes to show you that our Marines are not keeping up with the industry nor getting the training they need.

  • Josh B

    I have used a serpa cqc holster for more than 4 years now and through all of the countless draws I have never once hooked my finger in the trigger while drawing my M&P, I find that it is probably one of the most well engineered and safest holster you can buy.

  • MarkM

    The video shows someone firing a gun while still pointing down at their leg.
    Why were they practicing a live fire scenario at literal contact distance? Disarms and combative hand skills are the professionally recommended solution.

    Why was the gun OFF SAFE before pointing UP at the target? Improper timing and sequence are come to mind. No matter what, the shooters finger was on a live trigger before the weapon was safely up and pointing at the target.

    Who will actually use a pistol as a PRIMARY combat weapon in the Marines? A few senior officers. Marines, like soldiers, are issued rifles in the box. Even Army MP’s in the field train with an M16 as a primary weapon. Pistols are for street patrol in a green zone.

    The complaint lacks perspective of actual operational reality. The incident is rarely encountered. Quick draw shooting ranks pretty low in the big picture, and it’s way too late be suddenly aware someone is within knife sticking range to pull a gun.

    I’d be more worried about debris under the release – but it’s a major indicator it’s the wrong type gear for that job. And most combat Marines won’t be using it that way.

  • Steve Smith

    the guy who shot himself is using a different style holster, it was a thumb drive holster, this one uses the trigger finger to release the gun from the holster. The two shouldn’t even be mentioned in the same sentence as they are totally different.

  • Steve

    On the other hand, the number of AD/ND’s and leg injuries for USMC officers will increase severely and their surgeons and medics will get some extra trauma practice.

    These guys bviously haven’t testsed SERPA under stress conditions with live rounds.

    Biggest issue with SERPA is that the lock requires fine motor movement to unlock and not pull the trigger. FIne motor movements are gone under heavy stress conditions.

    USMC will regret this decision and number of Marines will suffer for it :( Hope they don’t lose their lives!

  • http://bishasia.blogspot.com/ PapaBill888

    I don’t think that the USMC will have the same problem as shown in the video for a couple of reasons. First, they won’t be switching back and forth between pistols and holsters with entirely different mechanics on the same day or even on a daily basis. Second, the standard sidearm of the USMC is currently the Beretta M9 with Force Recon carrying the M-45 MEUSOC. Having carried the SERPA holsters on duty for some years with three different SIGs and now (in retirement) a Kimber, I’ve found it to be an excellent active retention holster that ensured that my weapon was immediately secured from a snatch upon holstering while making it immediately available when I needed it. The position of the release is a perfectly natural way to ensure that the finger is aligned straight down the frame as the draw is made. The key is not putting your finger on the trigger until you’ve cleared your draw and acquired your target…but that’s something that is true with all holsters. The problem in the video is a mental mistake and the holster is not responsible. When he tried to draw and failed to properly release the retention he should have stopped, thought about his error, re-engaged his safety and started all over again at a slower pace. A mental mistake but mental mistakes have been made over the last hundred years or so regardless of the holster being used so to label the SERPA as being part of the problem is just not an honest evaluation. It could have been ANY holster and the mistake of putting the finger on the trigger before clearing the body would have been the same. The SERPA is as safe a holster as any other and, considering the active retention it offers, possibly safer than many in an active environment.

  • Skeptic

    The trigger finger migrating into the triggerguard during the draw is a concern, but can be mitigated by training. The real problem is that sand and pebbles can, and probably will under combat conditions, work under the latch and completely lock the mechanism preventing the gun from being drawn. Here is an example:

    http://link.brightcove.com/services/player/bcpid53246191001?bckey=AQ~~,AAAACnIIBGk~,NZYO3xUDM_E0TWMBUpCe8YivKyjrCCqn&bctid=1155868233001

    That is a problem that cannot be cured by training.

  • Junkball

    Or never get the pistol out when the locking mechanism gets jammed by debris

  • Lance

    While they say it’ll replace the M-12 I doubt many will goto Blackhawk holster right away many may prefer to stay with the M-12 with snap top to it. The fact dirt can jam the release button makes me hesitate about the holster alot.

  • Lance

    Fact too is that they need two buys for that kind of holster one for M-9 one for M-9A1 pistols since the Blackhawk holster is model specific.

  • Thomas

    I have never been overly concerned about the so called “trigger hooking” problem with SERPAs. I do have a concern with debris becoming lodged behind the release button and making it nearly impossible to free the weapon.

  • http://www.youtube.com/80spodcastchannel nature223

    Tex Grebner shot himself, because of bad gun handling, NOT the holster.
    MARINES are taught TO NOT PUT THEIR FINGERS INSIDE THE GUARD, BEFORE ENGAGING TARGET.. ever.
    Also, he’s a tactical goofball of the highest regard, doing all sorts of other stupid “tricks” like flipping a LOADED Winchester 30-30 in John Wayne/True Grit style, all while saying “dont do this, I’m a professional”
    coincidentally.. he ISNT, and now he has the scars to prove it.
    I think the SERPA will serve the USMC just fine, and is a huge improvement over the previous UM-84 floppy flapper, as a dedicated weapon holder.

  • Dennis Coleman

    I agree with the Marine Corps. I’ve never had a problem drawing my weapon from my SERPA thigh rig. The design is intuitive, and is meant to keep your finger off the trigger as the gun is being drawn. A person would have to be misusing the product in a pretty serious way to actually shoot themselves.

  • Raoul O’Shaughnessy

    I’ll bet that in the space of two to three years this holster will quietly disappear and be replaced by a different one. No explanation will be given. In a related note, VA disability pensions for leg wounds will have inexplicably risen.

  • Dan

    Overall I think this is a pretty bad decision, but those sure aren’t unique in military procurement. Proper training and range time can prevent NDs, but plenty of Marines in support positions (the same ones who carry sidearms instead of rifles) won’t get much training time. There’s a reason M9′s account for such a small percentage of the DoD’s weapons but a disproportionately large percent of ND’s. More significant is the dirt and debris lockup issue. I saw it happen on deployment- thankfully not in combat- and it is a real problem.

    Ultimately I doubt this will cost lives though. Marines will assess the gear and if it’s bad, they’ll do what soldiers and Marines do: go buy their own. It reminds me of when the Army started buying up 3-point slings a few years ago. Troops tried them, realized they were junk, and just stopped using them.

  • armed_partisan

    The club I shoot IDPA at has BANNED Serpas, unless you disassemble the button thing. The other club I shoot at is considering doing it. The only other holsters they’ve banned are the ones that aren’t allowed for IDPA and the soft, IWB Uncle Mikes types that don’t hold the gun securely.

    Personally, I hate Serpas, and don’t see any benefit to a button that holds the gun in. I’ve done a fair bit of running, jumping, climbing, and crawling with a plain old leather belt scabbard and my gun never fell out, or even threatened to.

  • 18D

    1) Why is everyone sighting Tex Grebner as an example of an ND? Stop! That situation has nothing to do with the SERPA! He was using a completely different holster. His ND was a result of not training properly beforehand.

    2) People that haven’t used the SERPA under dynamic body alarm response or in the combat conditions overseas need to stop sighting your experience! Carrying concealed, going to the range, and LEO patrol use are not the conditions of concern here! The SERPA has problems in combat not in the civilian world. Come on people!

  • Sean Ingram

    Yeah and even if there is some kind of design flaw for a contract that big the company will probably be very accommodating to get it corrected; plus the rest of the services will probably soon follow if it works for the Marines.

  • Joseph

    That Tex fella didn’t blame the holster; he blamed himself. He mentioned that specifically, and he was right in doing so.

    I know myself and friends have used the holster and I would have a hard time seeing it fail in anyway unless one is entirely negligent. Heck my one friend wears it around his young siblings who initially thought it was a toy because his parents don’t keep any weapons. (Neurotic dad had family or friend in his youth that died from a negligent discharge)

  • Rey S

    To Steve (no last name) and 18D, you guys don’t know what you are talking about. Go back to the mall and practice your ninja skills. My self and others have used the Serpa way before you knew about them. We trained in stressed desert and wooded environments not to mention overseas. Maybe it’s because Marines are trained to higher standards, but never once did anyone ND do to a holster. The Serpa works and works good regardless of mother natures “obstacles”. Before the Serpa, we were using Safarilands which had a tougher time dealing with sand and dirt. Before that we were using Eagle Industry holsters that worked, but reholstering the eagle and safariland is no where as good as the Serpa design. Marines have been using the Serpa since the design was available to us. The further testing at Quantico was done to validate the Serpa’s performance on paper. The Serpas obviously aren’t for everyone. But they are perfect for the USMC that trains a lot with their gear. It is unfortunate for the dumb asses that shot themselves. In the future, I hope they get proper training.

  • Tom Reyes

    They lock up if you roll in gravel. Mine did that during a Tactical Pistol Class. We had to disassemble the mechanism. I have since given the broken holster to a kid who plays airsoft and he modified the plastic into a simple friction fit holster.

    I now use either a Mitch Rosen leather OWB or a G-Code Drop Leg Holster.

  • subase

    Who cares? Marine grunts don’t carry pistols, and if they did, it wouldn’t be a heavy ass M9. It’s just for the very few required to carry one. (MP’s and such)

  • DaveR

    We can debate proper training all day. However, if the holster has the potential to lock up when gravel gets in the release mechanism, then that settles everything.

  • James

    As a Marine Corps Officer and currently deployed. I think the SERPA holster is amazing. I’ve been using it since I got issued my M9. I bought it with my own money and most other officers are either wearing this holster already or what I think is the Spec-Ops holster. Its the best investment for my pistol that I’ve made.

  • pb
  • M.G. Halvorsen

    It all comes down to three factors: Training, Training, and Training. There are very few dangerously unsafe weapons…but dangerous unsafe people? Hmmmm…..

  • Lance

    The M-9 is just fine for its caliber the main advantage would be letting HP ammo be used in combat in 9mm caliber.

  • W

    I disagree with the Serpa holster being standardized by any military branch. With law enforcement maintaining a strong reluctance to allow officers to use Serpas, that should be taken into consideration by the US military (but it obviously isn’t).

    I would rather use a Safariland holster anyday.

    • jpcmt

      I’ve used the serpas for several years thinking they were the bees knees. Then I stumbled upon the $40 Safariland suede lined ones with the thumb lock and will never do serpa again. The Safariland is quiet, no holster wear like my serpas had, better lock and more instinctive and secure feeling than the serpa, and there’s no movement..no wiggling, nothing like the serpas have.

  • AFSarge

    I’ve used a SERPA holster since they first came out years ago. I had the OD green drop leg one for my M9 and wore it through blizzards, deployments to Panama in 2005 for the Summit of the America’s and range time in the dirt, sand, and mud. It never failed me.

    I now carry a CQB version for off-duty CCW and a SERPA duty holster, both for my Glock 22. I have responded to car fires, grass fires, crawled through wrecks, dealt with wet, freeezing, sleet, and snow, and again, never had a failure.

    Recently I just purchased another SERPA duty holster, Level III for my Colt 1911 Rail Gun with Xiphos light. I LOVE this holster. I am an NRA firearms instructor, SWAT member, and retired mil guy.

    Never once has my finger dropped down into the trigger, ever. One’s finger goes automatically into the universal cover mode. Who hooks their booger hook into the bang switch?

  • SemperGumby

    I was deployed with the 5th Marines in 2006 and spent 7 months in the Fallujah area (Saqlawiyah, ECP 5, FOB Black, Baharia). The Marine Corps was issuing these holsters to our officers and NCOs back then, 5 years ago. Not sure why this is just being posted now but I’ve never heard of any issue with the holster system, during deployment or any other time. I use the Serpa as an off duty carry holster now that I’m in law enforcement. Never had an issue with my trigger finger seeing how I spent my entire military and LEO career keeping my finger OUT of the trigger guard. I think it’s a great holster that, like any mechanical device, has the potential to break. Retention is incredibly important to insure that your sidearm stays holstered through any and all physical activity AND attempts to disarm. The Serpa provides that with an easy and fast draw.

  • subase

    I think they sacrificed speed of drawing and reliability of draw under dirty conditions for weapon retention. So preventing the gun from being snatched, was their number one priority. Due to this I can only assume it was chosen for MP’s primarily.

  • Andrew (European Correspondent)

    Hey SemperGumby,

    Who were you with specifically? I was on RCT 5 PSD in 2006.

    As an aside, we all had M9s, mostly in Serpas. No issues.

  • http://www.modernselfprotection.com Ben Branam

    Marine Corps got bought off again. Few people can use a SERPA holster with success. No one kit fits everyone. This holster is a dumb idea to issue to the masses.

  • Carl

    I am in Law Enforcement and have carried both the M&P and a 1911 in the level three serpa and the plain clothes serpa. In 25 years of carrying firearms this is hands down the best holster I have ever deployed. I believe the trigger on the finger issue came from a self important gun writer/trainer who apparently did not get kick backs from the makers of this holster or given a free one on demand so the urban legand began. There are as many shot in the leg stories with every other holster out there. It is not the holsters fault, it is the idiot violating the universal safety rule, don’t put your finger on the trigger. With the Serpa you would have to physically move your finger to get it onto the trigger when drawing your firearm, this holster draw does not place the finger into the trigger well.

  • Tom

    I have two serpa holsters, one tactical rig and one concealable OWB. Both my holsters see a majority of their use for airsoft, which is how I practice most of the gunfighting techniques I know. I’ve heard folks condemning the Serpa, but I’ve not seen any issue with accidental discharge. That’s really the only complaint I’ve heard, anyone with knowledge of other complaint I’d love to know.

  • spydie

    I have 3 of these Serpa holsters. One thing I see very few people comment on is the fact that they really scratch up the finish on your guns. I carried a Judge on duty and it was the polished alloy frame and stainless cylinder. Fortunately I could polish out the scratches, but it scratched it up real bad (yes, I practiced drawing a lot with it to get used to the trigger release button). My 1911 has a bead-blasted topstap and there’s not much you can do to restore it except send it off to get it re-bead-blasted. My Taurus 85 is stainless and the scratches can be polished. After seeing the damage it does to the finish, I’d never buy one for a blued gun. Anyone else seeing this? I think it’s the worst possible thing you can do to your gun if you care for your weapons and don’t want to just “beat them up.”