Imagine you are at the movies with your family. The movie finishes and it’s time to head home. It's past dinner time so it is dark when you get out to the parking lot. You are all walking to your car talking about the movie you just watched and suddenly someone walks up to you. They begin to hassle you for your wallet. You try to get them to leave but they grab you and become violent.
You try to reach for your gun but can’t get to it. You and this person are fighting in the parking lot. Eventually, they take off and your family retreats safely to your car. Thankfully, your gun did not come out of the holster during your fight. That is because of holster retention.
Holster retention is what keeps your gun from flying out or being taken out of your holster. If you are new to purchasing a holster there are a few terms you might hear as you are shopping around. In the holster world, companies use different levels to describe retention and sometimes they may be labeled as active or passive retention. All of this can get confusing so we are going to talk about it all to help you understand the basics of holster retention.
Active vs Passive Retention
There are two types of retention: active and passive. In order to better understand retention when it comes to holsters, you should understand the difference between these two types. So, let’s talk about them.
Passive retention is when the inherent design or shape of the holster keeps the gun from just falling out. This is sometimes done with the help of friction, but this type of retention does not require you to do anything to release the gun beyond drawing it. Typically this is the type of retention concealed carry holsters will use.
Active retention is when there is a device built into the holster that must be released before you can draw the gun. This could be in the form of a thumb break or a trigger guard lock. These are pretty simple devices that can be quick to release for a smooth draw. Typically these types of holsters will be used by law enforcement since they open carry and have a bigger risk of their gun coming out of the holster.
Can a holster have both active and passive retention? Absolutely, oftentimes holsters that have active retention devices will also have passive retention due to the design of the holster. Now that we’ve covered active and passive retention let’s move on to the various retention levels.
What are the different levels of retention?
This is where talking about retention can get tricky. Oftentimes companies have different definitions of each retention level and sometimes unique tests to see if a holster meets that retention level. We’ve come up with some simple definitions of each level to help give you some guidelines about what type of holster you might need.
Level one retention is going to be the natural shape of the holster around the gun holding it in place to a degree. In some holsters, this is adjustable to your preference. This level of holster is a great option for concealed carry or open carrying at your home, on your property, hunting, or at the range if they allow it.
After level one companies may have 2 or more additional levels to indicate the degree of retention for their holsters. Sometimes, these levels will correspond with the number of retention devices set in place. Other times they will have a more complicated process for deciding what level retention a holster is. Higher retention holsters can absolutely be used for concealed carry but are more commonly used for law enforcement or in open carry states.
What retention level you choose to carry is based on your needs and what you find fits your lifestyle. That could be a simple level one retention holster for concealed carry or a high retention holster with multiple retention devices.
Why is retention important?
We’ve kind of touched on this throughout the article, but now we are going to talk about it more in depth. Why is retention in a holster important? Well, you probably purchase a holster for a few main reasons but one of those is helping keep your gun securely on your person. Without decent retention it is more than likely not going to stay on you.
Think back to our movie theater example at the beginning of the article. If you had gotten into a fight and your holster didn’t have good retention you probably would have lost your gun in the process. While it’s not extremely likely that you’ll get into a fight in the movie theater parking lot, you don’t want to take a chance on your gun coming out of the holster at any point.
Another reason retention is important is so that your gun can’t be taken from you as easily. This is especially important if you open carry. You don’t want anyone to be able to just reach over and grab your gun. The same situation goes for law enforcement, they don’t want anyone to be able to take their gun.
So, there are a few reasons retention is important. Most importantly, you want to be able to keep your gun on you at all times and not worry about anyone taking it or it just falling out of the holster.
How do you know if you have the right retention?
The objective of holster retention is to keep your gun on your person. So if your gun is extremely loose inside the holster and could easily fall out you probably don’t have the right retention. Some holsters have adjustable retention, which is typically done by adjusting the retention screw. Ultimately how loose or tight you want your retention is up to you but it shouldn’t be extremely difficult to draw and it also shouldn’t be super easy.
You may be wondering, what level of retention do I need? Again, it’s up to you and what meets your needs. If you are only using your holster for concealed carry, you may not need anything more than a level one retention holster. Whereas if you are wanting a holster to use while you are on duty you will need a higher level retention, which typically your agency will determine what you need.
So, there is no right or wrong level of retention for the common everyday carrier. Most importantly your holster should keep your gun securely on your body throughout the day.
Retention on Vedder Holsters
All of our holsters use passive retention and are custom made to fit your gun model. Many of our holsters include adjustable retention so whether you prefer your retention tight, loose, or somewhere in between you can feel comfortable and confident with your holster every time you use it. We’ve listed a few of them below that you might want to check out if you are looking for a quality concealed carry holster.
Our most popular IWB holster the Vedder LightTuck™ is lightweight and easy to conceal. Beyond adjustable retention, it also features adjustable ride height and cant. It is made of our durable Kydex and is available in over 75 different color options.
The Vedder LightDraw™ is one of our lightweight OWB holsters it uses a fully reinforced shell perfect for one hand reholstering. It features adjustable retention in addition to the option for a 10° cant. You have a choice between two clip styles and over 75 different color options.
And last but certainly not least our Vedder ProDraw™ Paddle Holster. Its paddle style clip is what makes this holster popular. And of course, it features adjustable retention in addition to 15° of adjustable forward and reverse cant. It is also made of our durable Kydex and is available in over 75 different color options.
If you are looking for a comfortable holster with quality retention all of these holsters are great options in addition to our line of hybrid holsters. You can check out all of our holsters here.
How do you adjust the retention on a Vedder Holster?
If you have one of our holsters or are looking at purchasing one you may be wondering how do you adjust the retention? It’s quite simple to do all you need is a Phillips Head Screwdriver and your holster of choice from our website.
Simply use the screwdriver to tighten or loosen the retention screw (pictured right) to your retention level of choice and you are good to go.
If you don’t want the screws to loosen with prolonged use we suggest applying a threadlocker like the one listed here to help keep everything just the way you like it. This specific threadlocker, Turbo-Fuse™ Blue, is a medium strength and is removable if you decide to adjust your holster more later.
Understanding the ins and outs of holster retention is an important part of making sure you select the correct holster for your lifestyle and needs. Let’s review everything. Passive retention is achieved through the design of the holster and is great for concealed carry. An active retention holster has a device that must be released in order to draw your gun. Typically these are used for law enforcement.
There are various levels of retention and each company will have a different definition of each level. Level one is typically going to be a passive retention holster and the higher the level the more things you will have to do to release the gun before drawing. Having a good retention holster is important in keeping your gun securely on your person throughout the day.
If you are looking for belts or holsters we recommend visiting our Vedder Holsters website for all of our belt and holster options and for more information to help you choose the carry system that works best for you. Like everything we sell, our gun belts are covered by a Lifetime Warranty and 30-day money-back guarantee.
Looking for items beyond holsters and belts? Check out our Resources Page for popular product links like lights, laser, first aid, maintenance, and more.