BlackHawk CQC / Serpa decision
A little background: ‘Serpa’ refers to a locking device invented by Michael Serpa. BlackHawk installs his latch on their CQC line of injection molded holsters making them Blackhawk CQC Serpa holsters.
The latch, just a tab located on one end of a spring-loaded lever, automatically snaps into the trigger guard of the pistol as it’s seated into the holster. To draw the pistol, the operator should use the PAD of his STRAIGHT trigger finger to press in on the lever, overcoming the spring so the gun can be lifted. The lever must be held in against spring tension until the trigger guard bow clears the latch.
As a safety feature, the lever is roughly where the finger should be indexed and not over the trigger guard opening. Safe practice requires that you keep the finger straight while pressing the lever. Use the pad of the first joint and not the tip.
This is critical.
Keeping the finger aligned with the register position (indexed) and straight are both easy to do on the square range when you’re under no duress. However, add the pressure of time (as in lack of) or the inevitable something gone wrong and it can be a different story.
The first time I saw a Serpa I thought to myself, ‘This is an accident waiting to happen’.
Then, in early 2007, we had a near miss negligent discharge (ND) during a Basic Defensive Handgun class. The student’s pistol discharged into the Serpa holster during a presentation. The bullet struck the ground behind him, almost hitting one of the instructors in the foot.
It was a miserably cold and wet day and everyone was wearing extra cold weather clothing and rain gear. When the student attempted to draw his pistol during a drill, it got caught in some bunched up clothing and refused to lift clear the holster. The student thought the gun was still being retained by the Serpa latch and stabbed harder against the latch with the bent tip of his trigger finger. This was done automatically and without thought. But, the gun was clear the latch and the trigger guard was exposed above the lip of the holster. The trigger finger went into the trigger guard and discharged the pistol.
Our solution at the time was to rely on more training in keeping the finger straight and using only the pad of the flat first joint.
Apparently the list of Serpa related ND’s continues to grow.
FrontSight in Nevada has banned Serpas after a series of ND’s:
Several IDPA chapters are banning them:
Here’s a thoughtful and thorough review:
Todd Green has banned them:
I haven’t confirmed via their websites, but in the links above I read that Larry Vickers, Gabe Suarez and now James Yeager of Tactical Response, one who has no problem pushing the safety envelope, have all banned them.
I’ve heard enough.
Try an experiment: Lay your trigger finger on a flat surface and press in with the pad of the first joint using only moderate pressure. Now, press in as hard as you can. When I try it, the first joint of the finger automatically bends so that I’m now using the tip to press in. I think this is instinctive. It’s hard to train out instinctive.
On a calm day, on a square range, when everything is working as it should, moderate pressure against the Serpa latch will release the pistol from the holster. But, one dark and stormy night when you’ve got to get that gun out of the holster or die, I bet you’re going to press that button in as hard as you possibly can with the tip of your trigger finger. And, apparently, odds are pretty good you’re going to shoot yourself.
Not a good way to start a fight.
If you’ve got to have another level of retention, seriously consider Safariland’s ALS system.
Last word: If you ditch your Serpa, you’ve still got a training scar to contend with. Get another type holster and start working now to retrain that trigger finger.