Better And Better

If you don't draw yours, I won't draw mine.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Clamshell holsters.

Among the stupider inventions that I've seen for toting a handgun around is the clamshell holster. When I mentioned that Season 3 of Adam-12 presented "the silliest floppy pivot holsters you've ever seen," I wasn't slamming articulated drop holsters as a whole-- just the ones these guys (and presumably all of LAPD, given the fervent attention to detail that Jack Webb put into his procedurals) had to carry. When you have to carry a full-sized revolver openly in uniform, a pivot is a mighty handy way to carry it in a drop holster format, so that it's fast to draw, but still easy to sit down with. None too concealable, but in uniform, that's not a concern.
Having never used such a contraption personally, I can say by looking at them that the problems with these clam shell holsters appear to be rife.

First and foremost, they pretty much demanded two hands or a lot more attention than should be necessary to re-holster. Friends, I'll tell you right now that being able to reholster one-handed and without unnecessarily-divided attention is one of the most important practical gun-related skills of police work. Smoothly securing your sidearm and efficiently bringing both hands to bear on the person whom you'd previously felt needed a gun pointed at is a skill that can keep a touchy transition from Going Badly Quickly.

Secondly, they flop so much that they seem to require two hands to open on occasion, and indeed that happens here, as demonstrated by Officer Reed*:




Officer Malloy, on the right, seems capable of drawing his revolver one-handed.
Note, too, that the spring-loaded clamshells spring open on hinges in the back. If the latch comes undone, the holster drops your gun on the ground. In most holsters, if the retention strap breaks, you can still carry your gun in it. These guys would have to put their gun in their pockets. Note how the holster, when the gun is drawn, is twice as big, and flops on one's hip like a stringer of fish.
Now, it's true that the holster protected the revolver from the elements, and covered the trigger guard. But... Elements? It was El Lay! They have the most consistently decent weather in the country!
Dumb. Somewhere, about the time I was born, a brass hat with LAPD made a goofball decision when those were ordered. I wonder how long they lasted?
__________________________________
*9:00 minutes in.

Labels: , , ,

27 Comments:

At Wednesday, March 04, 2009 8:53:00 AM, Blogger Tam said...

Urban lore says that Angeleno juvies would take delight in popping some poor Five-Oh's holster open and scurrying off as his heater clattered on the pavement.

Sort of a wrong-side-of-the-tracks version of "Kick The Can".


(WV: "essens". I almost looked for Rob Pincus...)

 
At Wednesday, March 04, 2009 6:03:00 PM, Anonymous Rob Pincus said...

Seriously.... I am in Europe this week and bit off the grid.. but: Was I supposed to get that reference?

Either way, I obviously need an explanation.....

-RJP

 
At Wednesday, March 04, 2009 6:04:00 PM, Anonymous Rob Pincus said...

Seriously.... I am in Europe this week and bit off the grid.. but: Was I supposed to get that reference?

Either way, I obviously need an explanation.....

-RJP

 
At Monday, March 09, 2009 1:21:00 AM, Blogger KD5NRH said...

Clearly, you've never looked at LA from the air on a clear day; that brown dome of pollution over the city almost has to be corrosive.

Oh, and Rob; posting is a slowfire activity, it's bad manners to double-tap. :)

 
At Saturday, March 21, 2009 11:23:00 PM, Blogger KD5NRH said...

Is it just me, or is it virtually impossible to reholster in those things one-handed? Seems like a potentially really bad idea for people who might not be able to spare that other hand for the process.

OTOH, they did have a couple of neat tricks for dealing with the low capacity; making effective hits, and stopping when the target went down. Maybe the Diallo shooters should have to watch the series.

 
At Monday, August 10, 2009 9:00:00 PM, Blogger WHEELGUNTOMMY said...

LIKE YOU SAID, YOU HAVE NEVER USED THIS HOLSTER BEFORE. I HAVE, AS A PATROL DEPUTY WITH THE L.A. COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPT. I HAVE. THIS HOLSTER IS VERY COMFORTABLE, AND SAFE. ON ONE SHOULD EVER BE ABLE TO GET TO YOUR GUN ! I NOW CARRY A BERETTA 92F. WITH A SWIVEL HOLSTER. A WORD OF ADVISE IF YOU HAVE NEVER USED THIS HOLSTER PLEASE DO NOT COMENT ON IT.

 
At Wednesday, August 12, 2009 11:09:00 AM, Blogger Matt G said...

Well, please explain to the class, WHEELGUNTOMMY, how you managed to reholster one-handed. Maybe I'm missing something here?

I've never carried my duty pistol around in speed-draw thigh rig, either, but I can certainly explain why not, and I'd be right.

 
At Thursday, August 13, 2009 4:59:00 PM, Blogger WHEELGUNTOMMY said...

I NEVER SAID THAT I RE-HOLSTERED MY REVOLVER ONE HANDED ! READ MY COMMENT. A HOLSTER SHOULD BE COMFORTABLE TO THE PERSON WEARING IT, AND ALSO WITHIN DEPARTMENTAL GUIDELINES. THE REASON I LIKED THIS HOLSTER IS BECAUSE WHEN IN THE SEATED POSITION IN MY PATROL CAR I CAN MOVE MY GUN ONTO MY THIGH, THIS IS WHY I PREFER
THIS HOLSTER TO A HIGH OR MID RAISE HOLSTER.

 
At Thursday, August 13, 2009 7:01:00 PM, Blogger Matt G said...

Thanks for writing back, WheelGunTommy.

I read your comment, and assumed that I was missing something, in that you felt that I shouldn't comment on a holster that I'd never worn. I thought perhaps there was a trick that you could share, with how an officer is supposed to re-holster one-handed.

See, long before and after the advent of clamshell holsters, drop swivel holsters have been around to provide for comfort while sitting. The Clamshell is by no means unique in that aspect. What it IS unique (or nearly so) in, however, is its ability to turn a one-handed weapon deployment into a two-handed proposition. From what I gather from your comments, I am correct that I would have to stop and use my off-hand to assist me in re-holstering my pistol, EVERY TIME I drew it.

I've been carrying a pistol around, openly and concealed, for about half my life. (This by no means makes me an expert; it simply is stated to show that I've thought a little about this issue, and have a measure of experience with it.) I've used a fair number of high-rides, mid-rides, and drop holsters. With all of my duty holsters, I could reholster without looking down at my holster, and without using two hands.

I certainly, while on duty, comply with my agency's policies and procedures; I always have. But that doesn't mean that all P&Pr are handed down from on high; they're developed by humans, and sometimes, humans make mistakes.

 
At Thursday, August 13, 2009 7:14:00 PM, Blogger WHEELGUNTOMMY said...

O.K. MATT I GUESS I DID NOT UNDERSTAND YOUR QUESTION, THANKS FOR RESPONDING BACK TO ME. WHILE I TO AM NO EXPERT EITHER WE SHOULD USE WHAT IS GOOD FOR US, WHILE MY DEPARTMENT DOES HAVE SEVERAL MODELS OF WEAPONS AND HOLSTERS WE CAN USE I PERFER THIS HOLSTER. LIKE YOURSELF I HAVE USED MANY DIFFERENT HOLSTERS. IF I COULD I WOULD, HANDS DOWN GO BACK TO MY 6" COLT PYTHON, HOWEVER AS YOU KNOW TIMES HAVE CHANGED. AGAIN THANKS FOR RESPONDING BACK. GOOD LUCK WITH YOUR CAREER AND BE SAFE.

 
At Tuesday, September 01, 2009 6:31:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wore a clamshell for a couple years back in the late 80's and believe it or not, you can re-holster it one handed, and without even looking, once you get the hang of it.

Actually I think that in those Adam-12 photos, Reed is closing his holster (where he's using two hands), not opening it. If he hadn't practiced closing it one-handed, he would use two hands. You don't need two hands to open it, at all.

I, too, liked having them because you could have it across your thigh ready to go, while in the car.

 
At Tuesday, September 01, 2009 8:14:00 AM, Blogger Matt G said...

Nope-- Reed's opening it. I know, because I made the screen shot from the Hulu video, myself. (Go watch; they're great, and only 24 minutes long each.)

The thing is, access to your gun while seated is a great feature of all swivel holsters, not just clamshell holsters. And I'll tell you that I can reholster VERY fast with my high-ride, mid-ride, or drop holsters, and CAN reholster one-handed with my swivel holster (I've only got one) without too much difficulty. I haven't the foggiest how you'd do it with your clamshell, and would be interested in a demonstration or at least a description.

 
At Friday, October 02, 2009 6:44:00 PM, Blogger TOTWTYTR said...

I was bored and decided to Google "clamshell holster" and one of the links brought me back here.

At some of the other links, I found forum posts that indicated that LAPD was a late adopter of the clamshell holster. They were first invented about 1935, and were used by other departments before LA adopted them.

And yes, posts indicated all of the problems that you and the commenters mentioned. I also seem to remember reading that if the spring broke, they required a hack saw to open.

Still, they seemed to be popular for some reason.

 
At Friday, July 30, 2010 8:12:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A year late, but im here none-the-less.

First of all, I'd love to be able to afford to buy an authentic clamshell on eBay. Pull out 2 or 3 Franklins if you can find one.

Secondly, EVERYONE I know in the world of Po-lice instruction and tactics laugh at idea of the now ancient clamshell.

As an A-12 aficionado, I never remember Reed holding his holster to open it. Since the holster is opened by pushing the button near the trigger, holding the front of the holster would only keep it closed. Post the episode from hulu so we can all see for ourselves to be sure though.

Lastly, you're right about its "anti tactical" use for police work. I've heard stories over stories about how bad it was. About motor officers bouncing down the Santa Monica freeway only to arrive at the station to find the clamshell had popped open about 8 miles back. Still, that's not as bad as it NOT opening when you're ducking rounds coming at you. . .

Level three holsters are the best all around and for officers who ride alone. In the City of Lost Angels we ride with a blue buddy which makes the night go faster and reduces the need for a retention happy holster (cause if you try to get my gun - You're gonna end up with busy end of my partners).

As a swivel holster owner, wearer, and advocate, I say practice gun retention as well as drawing.

Kevin

 
At Friday, July 30, 2010 5:50:00 PM, Blogger Matt G said...

Great post, Kevin!

I linked to it! I did! The episode was Mary Hong Loves Tommy Chen, which is on Hulu, season 4, if I recall. I even hotlinked it in the original post. (Right click from the comments to see it, else you'll be watching it through a small window.) Go to about 9:00 minutes in.

I did the screen captures myself, so I'm certain about what was happening. They both enter a house that's being burgled, and I gather that Reed is perhaps trying to quiet his floppy holster as he opens it, with the burglar rummaging in the next room.

 
At Wednesday, March 16, 2011 10:00:00 AM, Anonymous NCDiver said...

There have been several posts concerning re-holstering a clamshell with one hand. Actually it is a fairly easy and I have done so numerous times both on the range and the street.

I carried the holster for a K frame smith a couple of years before swithching to the Bianhi Judge when it came out and we also changed weapons.

I still have the clamshell and just dug it out and gave it a try and the technique still works fine.

When re-holstering you hold the weapon by the grips normally, and place the weapon against the outside (open) part of the clamshell. You place your trigger finger on the outside of the open shell and bring the gun and the shell together until it snaps in.

A number of AD's occurred with LAPD/CHP because officers used the two-hand method and kept their finger inside the trigger housing while snapping it closed with the opposite hand. I wore it in foot pursuits, climbing fences, etc and never had a problem with it. I hope that info helps.

 
At Wednesday, March 16, 2011 4:14:00 PM, Blogger Matt G said...

Thanks for the comment, NCDiver.

I'm glad to know that there technically was a way to reholster one-handed. I still don't like how the holster flopped and articulated on two axises while they ran, and I don't like that it took some thinking to do. I like a holster that allows a quick, mindless shove into it. In my experience in fights and drawing down on human beings, the adrenaline goes up, and a lot of fine motor control goes out the window. I've seen the time when I couldn't write my name at the bottom of a charging document immediately after a near fight, the adrenaline was coursing so badly. That's not "shakiest gun in the West" fear-- that's good old-fashioned fight-or-flight adrenaline kicking in so that ever muscle in the body is literally itching and jumping to do something. (

(A friend of mine talks of a deer that he shot that had so much adrenaline in the meat that it was flexing and twitching when he was butchering the meat an hour later.)

 
At Tuesday, April 05, 2011 5:59:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

u guys r getting into this question way to far...i carried the holster and it was a great 1.. u could re holster with one hand... u placed the gun in position in the holster then held in in place with ur thumb and with the 4 remaining fingers closed the clamshell over the gun...u needed to carry the holster to know it...it was very safe and quick.....the dept deemed it no longer authorized because officers would have an accidental discharges and blamed it on the holster to avoid blame... so the dept said ok the holster caused the discharge dont use the holster

 
At Wednesday, April 06, 2011 4:58:00 PM, Blogger Matt G said...

The clamshell worked great. Except, Anonymous, when it didn't. What then?

My holsters will hold my gun without moving parts.

My holsters do not have hinges in the backstrap, and don't have springs, or latches, simply to keep the gun on my person. Sure, I may have a snap or moving hood over the top of the pistol, but if that breaks, I can still carry my gun.

I submit that the clamshell was not designed by anyone who ever had to draw a gun on someone and then quickly put hands on that person, without backup.

 
At Sunday, September 04, 2011 9:34:00 AM, Blogger hutch said...

I watched the link and can explain what your are seeing. When the clamshell is opened it makes a slight "popping sound" due to the spring tension. In order to avoid that you could take your off hand and control the shell as it opened.

Clamshells were great holsters as long as you understood the inherent risks. I always carry a back up gun so I was less concerned about it just falling out. If you inspected the back side of the swivel where the stud and retaining clip (or just the mushroom head of the stud depending on the manufacturer and age of your holster), held the swivel on, you could eliminate most of the issues with the holster.

One handed rehosltering was possible using the technique described by the other posters. You "hung" the gun's triggerguard on the plastic trigger block and then held the gun in position with your trigger finger on the side of the frame or cylinder. The you took your other four fingers and pulled the shell back into a closed position.

In later years, Safety Speed modified the holster so it only opened 1/2 way (90 degrees)instead of all the way back at 180 degrees. This was done to make the one handed reholstering easier.

Of course by todays standards the holster is a relic. But you have to remember where we were when these came out.

 
At Tuesday, December 06, 2011 10:50:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I reviewed the episode you took the stills from.

If you watch carefully, Ried uses his hand to slow the opening of the holster,preventing the sound of it opening from giving their presense away.

As goofy as alot folks think this show was, the assigned LAPD technical advisors and Jack Webb himself demanded that real life situation be duplicated during the filming.

It was the most accurate police series of it's time.

 
At Tuesday, December 06, 2011 5:14:00 PM, Blogger Matt G said...

That could be possible, Anonymous. That speaks to another problem, then: noise of flopping-open holsters.

 
At Tuesday, November 26, 2013 4:34:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Things were a lot different in the 1980s. Watching reed and Malloy empty there fired cases into their hand before a tactical reload instead of the ground. I used a clamshell for 3 years when San Antonio Texas carried 41 mags for duty guns. I never had issues with the holster other than it was uncomfortable for me and I prefer a bianchi 5bhl holster which is a high rise. We can argue the pros and cons of every holster ever made from now till hell freezes over and not change anything. Everyone has their own likes and dislikes.

 
At Friday, January 17, 2014 1:35:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow,is this a thread that just keeps on going or what? I used a Stanroy back in the 60's in Utah and just watched the Adam-12 episode mentioned,both officers open their clamshells quietly,Reed by using both hands,but Malloy uses the one hand method,it's easier to do than to explain,I would bet that a real L.A.P.D. officer showed him how because he nailed it.Take care guys.

 
At Friday, February 14, 2014 1:12:00 AM, Anonymous gentlemansgt said...

One thing that has not been mentioned here surprisingly is the speed of this holster in comparison to anything before it or since. I have carried one for over 25 years, the last 10 being my Sig P-220 in one specially made by Safety Speed in the late 80's right before they went out of business. I promise you I can draw and fire from the interview position with this holster faster than anybody on here from any stock duty rig today. The reason being the second you grip your weapon, you are almost already in shooting position as the holster pops open. It is not uncommon for times of 1/4 second from whistle to 2 rounds center mass with this holster. And yes, one handed re-holstering is easily done, with practice. It's worth the trade. Not everything new is better.

 
At Sunday, December 07, 2014 11:49:00 AM, Blogger Terry Nixon said...

As an old retired cop, who has worn almost every other type of holster in the almost 30 years, I'd love to buy one of these to add to my leather collection.

I loved swivels but they were not very secure from someone taking the gun from you. But they didn't jab you and twist your hip when sitting in a car like the Border Patrol style holsters did. I still make a few holsters every year and would love to have one of these to put in my collection.

 
At Saturday, December 13, 2014 9:02:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This discussion keeps going because the clamshell holster is a classic, and the classiest method of carrying a handgun ever devised.

I got one on a swap not long ago, and it almost makes me wish I still carried a wheelgun. I'm actually thinking of developing one for the 10mm Auto that I now carry. It would have to be high-ride, and only open enough to free the pistol for drawing.

Tam: Urban legend is wrong. I've never known any cop who would let anyone get that close, and I don't know any kid stupid enough to risk the cop's reflexes.

I never had any trouble manipulating clamshells one-handed. They are not loud when they open, but they do make about as much sound as a normal footstep, so if you're walking quietly, you slow down the outer shell when you open it.

The best thing about the clamshell is that you simply have to take hold of the pistol, and the holster is instantly out of the way. Unlike the Erector-set systems now in vogue with the gamesmen to carry their rooney guns, the clamshell is a real holster, which not only secures the pistol but protects it from damage.

Guess I'll either have to sell the one I just got, or buy another wheelgun . . !

 

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

Add to Technorati Favorites
.