One of my other jobs requires me to carry a secondary firearm, and I have historically worn it in an ankle holster. I have had an ankle holster for somewhere just shy of a thousand years that I have carried everything from a Kel-Tec PF9 to an XDS to my current BUG, a S&W M&P Shield. When I got the notice for the Alien Gear ShapeShift Ankle Holster, in my inbox, I was definitely intrigued. Alien Gear was kind enough to send me out a review holster which I have been wearing on duty since February.
Per Alien Gear’s website, the holster is designed for people that “sit for long periods every day, or would prefer to keep their waistline free” and:
- Has a special streamlined design that enhances concealability and allows you to carry with full-size guns.
- Is made up of two pieces that work together to provide support and prevent slipping or moving.
- Uses unique and durable materials are immediately ready to use—no break-in time
The entire system is actually several components. First, you have the shell that is molded for your particular gun (in my case I got the one for the S&W M&P Shield).
The shell attaches to a “thermo elastomer” plate that has a spine jutting from the bottom. The plate is connected to the “upper wrap” which is ultimately what secures the gun in place around your lower leg.
The plate and holster can be adjusted in six different positions so you can tweak the ride height (to adjust for different footwear or comfort).
The final component is the “lower wrap” which is a piece of neoprene that basically hooks around the heel of your foot and has a retention strap that wraps around your ankle. This is the first piece you are supposed to put on.
Together this upper and lower wrap are designed to work together to keep the holster from sliding around your leg or down from your preferred carry height.
The wraps themselves are made of a trademarked neoprene called CoolVent, and the hook and loop used to secure the wraps are low profile.
When I first got the Alien Gear ShapeShift Ankle Holster, the first thing I did was to ignore the instructions and try to figure it out. It was fairly intuitive, but a couple of tweaks would have made things easier (which I didn’t figure out until, you got it, I read the instructions).
The relevant pieces of my uniform are Vertx Phantom LT Pants, 5.11 A.T.A.C. 6” Side Zip Boots, and Darn Tough Wool Socks. The height of the boots and the thickness of the socks are very important for how your holster will ultimately ride.
I first checked the fit of the gun to the holster and it was very secure, satisfyingly clicking in place. A gentle shake test confirmed that it definitely had enough base tension to hold the firearm. The holster has the ability to adjust the tension, but it was already set exactly where I would have put it.
I pulled on my sock and put on the lower wrap. It is important to note that you order the holster for a “side”. It was not very clear to me what that meant in relation to the holster, but I assumed it was the side of the leg it would be on (opposed to which leg). I was happy to confirm that this was the case. In most of the literature and videos I had seen about the holster, it always showed placement on the outside of the leg. I wear my BUG on the inside of my opposite leg. I find that is more comfortable, bangs into less stuff, and allows me to access with either hand—it is a “back up gun” after all. The upper wrap of the holster and the lower wrap are definitely designed to work on one side only, as the spine on the upper needs to seat in the pocket on the lower. Anyway, I seated my heel in the cutout and secured the wrap with the hook and loop strap.
I then mounted the upper by feeding the spine into the designated pocket, and wrapping the neoprene strap around my ankle and further around the shell holding the gun in place. I found it was much easier to already have the gun seated in the holster rather than put the holster on and try to secure the gun.
I walked around the house a bit, got on the treadmill and walked and jogged a few laps (yes, still in my socks), and even did a few special secret ninja kicks in front of the mirror. Aside from the disdainful looks my dog gave me during my Karate Kid rendition, there were no negatives. The holster held the gun very well. Then I went to put my boot on.
Did I mention my boots were six inches? Yeah, the holster was waaaaaaaay too low. So, off came the holster, and out came the gun. Fortunately, the holster was super easy to adjust. You twist the little locking nut and slide the holster off, placing it where you want it to ride. For me, that was in the highest position. Then you simply re-secure with the locking nut.
I reattached the holster to my lower leg (since it was now a bit higher) and went to put my boot on. I’ll say that I had a hell of a time getting the lower wrap to not bunch up. I have side zip boots so I can get my fingers down in there to help, but with a snug heel box in the boot, it was a challenge. The thickness of the socks didn’t help. I finally got it in place.
I went on my shift, and quite honestly forgot I was wearing it. Normally I would end up readjusting my holster as it would slide around my leg a bit. The Alien Gear ShapeShift Ankle Holster did a stellar job of remaining in place due to that spine. I’ve never really been concerned about the holster sliding down since my boot forms a nice shelf, but not having to shift it back to the inside of my leg was nice.
Aside from practice drawing, and some range time, I never had to deploy from the holster, which I count as an overall success. I will say that I stopped wearing the lower wrap after about the fourth shift. It was just too much of a pain to get it seated correctly in my boot. I did try it with a thin sock which worked much better. I also tried it in a low cut shoe and it worked great there. But for my primary use case, it was personally a no go. However, I found that the spine alone, down in the boot, kept it from rotating around my ankle, and it did not introduce any discomfort. I believe you will need the lower wrap for regular shoes, but no so much for boots.
Overall I truly love the Alien Gear ShapeShift Ankle Holster as an ankle carry platform. My biggest complaint is the same that a few other people have had–the “lower wrap”. I just never could get it to stay in place when sliding into my boots. As I eventually figured out, I really didn’t need it. Everything else about the holster is great; positive retention through running, rolling on the ground, and climbing over things. I would even bet that I could do a backflip and retain it while busting moves on the dance floor (if I could actually do a backflip or bust a move).
It was comfortable for ten to twelve-hour shifts, even without the lower wrap, and I generally forgot I was wearing it. Like with every piece of gear you use to carry and secure a firearm, you need to spend some time getting comfortable with it and setting it up correctly.
I did not try any of the other platforms (which is one of the advantages of the ShapeShift, but I am very intrigued by the Backpack variant and may have to give that a try at some point.
At the time of writing, you can buy one for just over $60 and you can find more information at http://aliengearholsters.com/ankle-holster.html