TFB Review: Universal Holster from Phalanx Defense Systems. Who needs a universal holster anyway?

    Many people cringe when they hear the term “universal holster”. I understand why, and frankly, for years I had exactly the same opinion. I thought that the holster is either good or universal, but never both. And turns out I was completely wrong.

    As with most people, my first experience with universal holsters was horrible. In those days (2005), holsters were either made of nylon or leather, and I bought a knock-off of Uncle Mike’s universal nylon holster. At that time I use to make 10 dollars a day, the holster was priced around 7 dollars, so for me, it was a pretty substantial purchase. I was convinced that it was money well spent and it is the first and the last holster I will ever need. Boy, was I wrong.

    Nylon holsters sag, rip and offer little to no retention. To keep a gun in place, you will need to use retention strap and unbutton it every time you draw a weapon. Younger readers probably don’t even know what I am talking about, so here is the picture.

    To my surprise, this exact model of the holster I bought in 2005 is still available on the company's website; https://sso-mil.ru/catalog/kobury/kobura_aps_kp_2g/

    To my surprise, this exact model of the holster I bought in 2005 is still available on the company’s website: https://sso-mil.ru/catalog/kobury/kobura_aps_kp_2g/

    So, my first holster ended up in a trash can, it was time to look for a better option, and now it had to be a universal holster. By that time (2010) I worked as an instructor on the range with a huge selection of handguns and while training different shooters I always tried to use the same weapon they had. In one day you could carry CZ75 SP-01 “Shadow”, SIG P226 X-Five, Glock 34, Russian “Viking”, Makarov and Para-Ordnance P-14.

    I was not the only one in this position and other guys settled on SERPA holster for USP compact, which seemed to fit most handguns we had. I know, I know, SERPA, but that was a different age, I was young and did not know any better. The most questionable feature SERPA has is retention paddle which is unlocked by a trigger finger. Many people say that this feature increases the chances of accidental discharge. We all hated this system and deactivated it, placing a 6 mm BB under the paddle release to keep it “pushed-in” the whole time.

    I ended up buying a cheap coyote tan SERPA which might have been an airsoft knock-off. A reasonable person would ask – why didn’t you just buy Blackhawk holster without the button? Well, they did not look cool, so the dealers in our city did not sell any.

    LAPD assesment of SERPA holster performance

    LAPD assessment of SERPA holster performance

    As time went by, I started working with Law Enforcement units who would provide their own weapons if you’re teaching them. The universal holster was now an even bigger necessity, but I could not find any good options.

    Kydex was becoming more and more popular, but Kydex holsters were custom made to fit only one weapon, so the struggle continued. I came across a universal Kydex holster for just $20 in a small gunshop in Vegas, but looked at it with complete disbelief and passed on the opportunity.  

    Next time I saw a similar holster at a gun show in Miami. It was an OWB compact holster by Phalanx Defense Systems. This time price was $35, and I decided to give it a run for the money. I asked the seller if I can check it out and test how universal it really is and he agreed without hesitation.

    OWB COMPACT HOLSTER by Phalanx Defense Systems, right side

    OWB COMPACT HOLSTER by Phalanx Defense Systems, right side

    OWB COMPACT HOLSTER by Phalanx Defense Systems, left side

    OWB COMPACT HOLSTER by Phalanx Defense Systems left side

    I probably tested around 50 different guns that day, everything I could find at the gun show: Glocks, XDs, M&Ps, Walthers, even 1911 – you name it. The holster obviously could not retain 1911s with single stack magazines, cause they were too thin, but everything else fitted nicely, providing enough retention for a typical concealed carry holster.

    I bought the holster and used it ever since. It fitted every pistol I would come across, even PL-15 Lebedev and “Viking-M”, with oversized Picatinny rail that doesn’t fit into any other holster. The only potential problem I see is if a slide release of a particular handgun protrudes too much to the other side of the pistol (some CZ75 variants), it might obstruct the draw, catching on inside the holster.

    But a bigger and more important question is – why would anyone need a universal holster?

    1) You have a nice collection of pistols and want to stay proficient with it.

    M&P, Glock, H&K - does not matter, they all fit and you still get retention of a normal Kydex holster.

    M&P, Glock, H&K – does not matter, they all fit and you still get retention of a normal Kydex holster.

    Many people have a dedicated “truck handgun”, “bug-out bag handgun”, “zombie apocalypse handgun”, etc. But I believe that you have to train with every handgun you want to carry and use. And to effectively train with a handgun, you need a holster. Many gun owners don’t want to spend additional money on a bunch of holsters, and one universal holster, in this case, seems like a good solution.

    2) You work in the security industry

    In one of the security courses author attended, instructors made a point out of changing handguns every few drills so every student would be proficient with any weapon.

    In one of the security courses author attended, instructors made a point out of changing handguns every few drills do every student would be proficient with any weapon.

    When you work in security internationally, you seldom know what pistol exactly you will get on a contract. I’ve seen everything from Glocks to XDs, from 1911s and Browning HPs, all within one country. Moving from one project to the other you might have to switch from CZ75 to a Walther P99, and buying a new quality holster while you are in-country is often impossible.

    3) You review different handguns and accessories

    Universal holster typically fits new models of pistols just as well as existing ones, in this case, it was PL-15K. 

    Universal holster typically fits new models of pistols just as well as existing ones, in this case, it was PL-15K.

    When you constantly test and review different pistols, buying a holster for every pistol might send you into bankruptcy.

    Having one or two dedicated universal holsters and mag pouches makes way more sense and allows you to really test the handgun’s capabilities in terms of concealed carry and competition.

    4) You are an instructor who works with different units and in different countries

    The author explaining a holster position during vehicle tactics in Finland.

    The author explaining a holster position during vehicle tactics in Finland.

    Unfortunately, it is very hard to travel with firearms to certain countries. When you train shooters internationally, it is often easier to just borrow something after you arrive. In this case you get what you get, beggars can’t be choosers. Having a familiar holster gives you at least some level of comfort. You can also have a few universal holsters to give to your students in case they just bought their first handgun and did not buy a decent holster yet.

    If some of the above points apply to you, maybe it is time to think about a universal holster. Buying one certainly made my life easier.



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    Vladimir Onokoy is a Russian defense industry specialist and firearms instructor. Over the years he worked in 15 different countries as a security contractor, armorer, firearms industry sales representative, product manager, and consultant.

    His articles were published in the Recoil magazine, Small Arms Review, Small Arms Defence Journal, and Silah Report, he also created several video series such as “Gun myths”, “Kalashnikov: around the world”, “Larry Vickers in Russia” and “Kalashnikov: evolution” that are available on YouTube.
    ► Email: machaksilver at gmail dot com.
    ► Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Vladimir-Onokoy-articles-and-videos-about-guns-and-other-unpopular-stuff-107273143980300/
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