by R.K. Campbell
When someone tells you they like a holster, then you should ask them if they like the draw as well. They may be perplexed, but this is a fair question.
We need not refer to the Professional or the DOJ as a strong side holster as they obviously are, but the crossdraw, why, there it is in your face. It is a cross draw. You may strap the holster on and be quite happy with the way it feels and how it balances Old Loudmouth. But if you are not confident with the actual draw, meaning the deployment of the handgun, you are hapless. The crossdraw holster is demanding of time but once the advantages of the type are understood, it is a holster that is appreciated. The trick is understanding the crossdraw. For my part, that is a long story.
I admit much of my early fascination with this type of carry was predicated upon the media and photographs of a certain Southern sheriff of some fame carrying his handgun crossdraw style. The first holster I hand-crafted was a crossdraw. It was nothing to brag about but I enjoyed it. Then came my first uniform and formal training. Wearing a Smith & Wesson Model 28 to my first revolver classand it was all revolvers in those daysI was warned that no uniformed officer was allowed to carry a crossdraw holster.
(At that time, Boise, ID, and a few other agencies issued the crossdraw but I was the low man on the totem pole and not ready for an argument my first day on the range.) The disadvantages of the crossdraw were pointed out forcibly.
1. The crossdraw holster draw is across the target, not through the target. In other words, if you draw from a strong side holster you will be drawing into the target, and if you fire too soon you may hit the target in the lower body. Fire too late and you may hit him in the neckwith the crossdraw you are sweeping across a fairly narrow stretch of the body with more possibility of a miss.
2. The crossdraw requires unnecessary movement in reaching across the body, requiring the hand to stop on the handgun, and after the draw is made, the hand must stop the sweep across the threat. This is in comparison to the quick elbow to the rear and scooping the handgun from the holster draw of the strong-side type.
3. The crossdraw draw presents the handgun in a manner that allows the gun to be grasped by a gun grabber practically as easily as by the wearer himself.
All of these criticisms were taken to heart and it was many years before I questioned their validity. They were correct as far as they went, but predicated upon facing a stationary target that we were squared to. This was not a very realistic scenario.
Time passed, and I was carrying a .45 auto while in a position as patrol lieutenant and able to carry pretty much anything I wished. But I never seriously considered a crossdraw holster until a friend showed me his. He had taken it from a gang leader, and it was among the first Gordon Davis holsters I had seen.
The Liberty is quite a holster, well made and ideally suited for all around use. The man who had owned the holster used it to carry his .45 auto while riding a Harley. The ability to draw the handgun while seated was important to this man, as was comfort when riding. I eventually owned several of these holsters and came to a better understanding of the crossdraw. I began to address some of the criticisms of the crossdraw holster and realized these criticisms were at best situational.
I still believe the strong side holster is the best choice for duty use and open carry, but for personal defense and concealed carry the crossdraw has many advantages. The first of these is accessibility when seated. Sure, the strong side holster offers a good smooth draw all things being equal, but it depends upon where your hands are when the ball goes up. If you are seated in a vehicle or in an office, you can sit with your hands practically on the gun butt. A strong side holster will bury the butt in the back of a seat.
The crossdraw offers many of the advantages of a shoulder holster but is far more comfortable and offers a better draw in most cases. As for the problem in drawing across a target, it all depends upon where that draw is headed and what direction the threat originates from. If the threat originates from your weak side, you simply stand your ground and draw with the hand sweeping down and drawing the gun.
You can snap into a Weaver stance quickly. You may even turn your body toward a threat you are squared to, enhancing the draw speed and accuracy. Remember, draw speed is not what we are striving for. An accurate first shot hit in the shortest time frame possible is the real goal. If the threat happens to be right on top of you as you are in mid draw, you may be in a very good retention position. The handgun can be kept against the body and the strong side leg to the rear, bracing the body. Otherwise, you can complete the draw and you are in effect drawing into the target. Try it. This technique works!
As for the unnecessary movement argument, this is true again if you are squared to a target on the range. But we all know life isnt a static range. The crossdraw isnt as fast as the strong side draw in this scenariono surprises there, but in the above mentioned scenario it is at least equal to the strong side holster. If you are seated or in a vehicle and have to rise to dig for the strong side holster, you may understand the advantages of the crossdraw.
A not inconsiderable advantage of the crossdraw is that the weak hand can draw the pistol easily if need be. When going on high risk raids, I often carried my second handgun in a crossdraw. There is really no other choice. Sometimes, the gun in the crossdraw was my primary 1911 with another pistol carried strong side. When working in plainclothes at an agency that issued the SIG P 226, I managed to have a STAR PD .45 approved for backup. The little gun rode crossdraw. It spoke in my favor twice, and as I remember there was nothing lacking in draw speed. Again, it is all situational.
The retention problem is more difficult to address. I have consulted a number of men whom I respect on this one, and came away with several viewpoints. The crossdraw holster does seem to present the gun in a way that would make it easier for the gun snatcher to acquire the handgun quickly. Yet, this overlooks the fact that many successful gun grabs take place after the gun is drawn. With so many officers killed with their own gun, this is a valid concern (See Hindsight, GW Dec. 10, 2004).
Again, the crossdraw is at its best as a concealed carry rig. But those who practice the martial arts often prefer the crossdraw for retention. How is that? Simple! When combating a forward or rearward originating gun grab, we clamp the strong hand on the gun when wearing a standard holster. There are several techniques, but most involve stabilizing the handgun with our strong hand and using the weak hand to strike a blow. I am always alert to a rearward originating attack. Whether the work of a coward or a smart operator, they are difficult to defend against.
With the crossdraw, we can drop the weak side arm and cover the gun, holding it against our body, while delivering a blow with the strong side arm. Sounds like it might workI practice the technique of stabilizing the handgun and drawing a knife with the other hand and striking a blow that moves the threat right now!
If the attack originates from the rear, and he has his arm around your neck, you had better be fast in executing this drill. If the threat does not realize you are wearing a crossdraw, he is in trouble if he tries this one! The crossdraw and the strong side holster are simply different in retention, but we must remember that the crossdraw is primarily a concealed carry rig or one for special assignments. The strong side holster remains the best choice for general use, but I have detected another advantage of the crossdraw. As most of us realize, the draw conflicts with movement. We need to move quickly to cover and then draw if possible. Drawing on the move presents a conflict that slows both the draw and movement. It seems the crossdraw conflicts less than the strong side in movement.
The crossdraw must be pretty popular, because at least three makers have introduced new designs in the past few years. Two of these are large companies supplying thousands of holsters to agencies across the world, and they do not tool up lightly. Another is a custom maker who has considerable labor invested in each design and its development. All report the crossdraw is a strong seller.
The first holster we will cover is the Huntington Wedge offered by Haugen Handgun Leather. I have enjoyed good results with a number of Jerry Evans holsters. They are simply first class. The Huntington Wedge uses that trick of the accomplished holster designeran understanding of geometry. A poor strong side holster is bad enough, but a poorly designed crossdraw is useless. The Wedge is a well designed holster executed by a true craftsman. The trick is a leather wedge in the design that offsets the holster correctly for a rapid presentation while allowing the butt to hug the torso. This is a practical holster for real world applications. When moving, sitting in a theater or at the dinner table, it works well. There is no telltale bang of gun butt on chair we all find so annoying. Mine is coupled with a well made belt that holds the Wedge secure. That Huntington guy really knew what he was doing, building upon proven precepts and producing a fresh design that works. If you fancy top flight leather that comes with the mark of a master craftsman, this is a top choice. The wait is reasonable and the product flawless.
I especially appreciate the pop snaps on the Haugen belt. The crossdraw is the not the easiest holster to position, and the new belt design allows the belt to be removed with a minimum of effort. Simply pop the snaps and remove the buckle and you may slide the holder and belt combination off from the weak side. Holstering up again is quite simple. This is a thoughtful addition that is a great aid in day-to-day comfort.
The DeSantis Sky Cop (Model 068) is molded from high quality saddle leather. DeSantis has a certain look and, dare I say it, even a pleasant aroma. Tanned leather is very pleasant in appearance and has that certain smell that tells us we have purchased quality. Properly worn just forward of the hip but not pushing the abdomen, the Sky Cop offers good concealment and comfort. I may be mistaken, but I was certain the holster was first called the Sky Marshal, but Sky Cop is okay with us now. We all know who should use it.
DeSantis supplied the US Postal Service inspector contract as well as the FBI HRT holster, and they know what they are about. This holster features the standard DeSantis ingredient, style. The angle is just right for a rapid draw, and the holster features a solid welt that aids in reholstering. Boning is tight around the trigger guard and slide, offering good retention.
Don Hume designers approached a considerable dilemma and succeeded in producing a first class crossdraw, the Partner. Many officers had asked for a modern crossdraw specifically designed to fit the Glock, Ruger, SIG and other handguns. There are subtleties in the design of each that make a holster originally created for the slab side 1911 less than effective with each. The Partner simply had to work with real world handguns carried by working cops. Another hurdle was that many agencies specify the thumb break holster both on duty and off. There is no choice, the design must be a thumbreak. Designing a viable, secure, but fast thumbreak holster in the crossdraw slant was a daunting proposition. In the end, the Partner was designed, proofed and offered to the public as well as police agencies. It has been widely accepted with just cause. This is a good holster, offering quality and value in an off the shelf holster.
As you can see, the crossdraw, despite a dearth of popularity and an abundance of criticism, seems to be catching on in the best places. Still, the crossdraw isnt for everyone. A quick survey of my associates shows less than 10% carrying the crossdraw on even an occasional basis. We should each deploy gear that suits our individual needs, and, its an even bet, the crossdraw will answer your needsat least on occasion. Beyond that, we have available the finest crossdraw holsters ever put together, and that is justification enough to consider this holster type.
Some say the first crossdraws came about when Mexican-loop holsters were turned to the wrong side to avoid interfering with the cowboys three-part roping motion. There is possibly some truth in this. But we dont wear simple floppy Mexican-loop holsters any longer. You cannot simply wear a strong side holster on the wrong side.
The FBI tilt and other subtle angles would be impossible if the holster were moved to the wrong side. Practically any concealment holster offers some type of tilt or rake. An exception to the rule is the original Gordon Davis Liberty. This holster features practically a neutral draw angle. As such it is useful for most of us whether carried as a strong side holster or as a crossdraw. It is most useful as a crossdraw, but the neutral draw angle is especially well suited for tall individuals if the holster is worn strong side. Shorter shooters will need a more pronounced strong side angle but will find the holster works well in the crossdraw position. The Block ST 17 is very similar. If you need a crossdraw, use a real crossdraw!