View Full Version : Secondary handguns for the tactical operator

December 18, 1998, 09:50 PM
Hopefully this topic falls within the scope of this forum. The carry of a secondary handgun for a patrol officer or entry team operator is undoubtedly a good idea. However, this second weapon brings with it problems of accessibility, hindrance of mobility, weapon retention, and possibly concealment.

The ankle rig is a common secondary weapon carry system for concealment, but poses problems when running. The ankle rig also doesn't work well with tactical boots. A smaller pistol in a thin holster mounted to the elastic straps of concealable body armor is comfortable as well, and poses fewer problems in mobility and accessibility than the ankle rig.

On a load bearing/ballistic vest, cross draw holsters are available. I question this as a valid positioning of the secondary weapon, as transitioning from the long gun will place the handgun underneath the long gun. Hopefully one will be reaching for the primary hip holstered weapon, but it still leaves two other weapons clanking together. Worse, the cross draw rig presents the weapon to a subject in the event of close contact. Velcro/snap mounted holster pads are available for modular vests, anyone have experience with how well these stay on the vest during a scuffle? Placing one on the strong side would be preferable for retention and accessibility in conjunction with a long gun.

What are some other solutions to this carry dilemma? Oh, and YES, I have been thinking about this topic an awful lot lately.

December 19, 1998, 12:16 AM
A secondary weapon (specifically handgun)is critical. In terms of carry, I have worked with operators who prefer cross-draw holsters attached to modular vests. The most common and most secure is leg holsters, specifically dropped and securely attached to thigh. I guess it would be user preference and what you train with; however, there are several disadvantages to cross draw. The most problems I have seen are noise. Depending on the size vest and position of the holster you can also run into interference when transitioning. The other major issue is holster retention systems. I have yet to see a cross draw holster specifically attached to a modular vest with a retention system.

I did alot of research on the issue and test and evaluated several different holsters for secondary weapons in tactical operations.

The parameters for selection where:

- Securely attached to thigh.

- Dropped holster with double retention. In addition to the thumb break the holster had to have an internal retention device so that when you reholstered you didn't necessarily have to snap the thumb break.

- Minimal straps and no metal pieces (noise discipline)

- Soft construction...little to no kydex

In view of other holsters ie. shoulder rigs, hip holsters, etc. they dont offer the rapid deployment needed and tend to get in the way, especially if you are wearing a high level tactical vest.

In the end we ended up having them custom made.

Hope this helps. Dave

Rob Pincus
December 19, 1998, 12:32 AM

I thought by your post you meant a Third weapon for a tactical operator? A second handgun in addition to the strong side hip/thigh duty weapon. Is that the case?

If so, I think it is more than the average operator is going to want to deal with. Not saying that is might not be a good idea, simply that in the real world, many of today's SRT members are regular patrol officers who are additionally tasked with responding to tactical calls. This is the case with our county SRT and many larger ones, including Nashville Metro's SWAT team.
These guys have a lot of gear that they normally carry already adn are not likely to carry a "readily accessible" third weapon. The ones that I know of who choose to carry a third are either carrying NAAs on their vest or on a chain around their necks or small Beretta's in ankle rigs.

*** Based on some off board Email, let me make it clear that I am not saying that No county officers or Metro officers are carrying thrid weapons.. just that they are not exclusively tactical officers, they also serve in a standard patrol capacity. Individual officers may on both teams could certainly be carrying a third weapon that is accessible and "duty" sized, I am just not aware of it***

I think the cross draw vest carry is more of a liability than an asset, especially for a third weapon, but even for a primary sidearm.

I concur with srt6 that the thigh carry is the best option for a tactical team sidearm, but still keeping it out of the way of your tac-vest and belt gear, not to mention the operation of your long-gun.


[This message has been edited by Rob (edited 12-19-98).]

December 19, 1998, 07:09 AM
My uniformed duty experience with carry systems for a secondary: pants pocket (front or rear, loose or inside a wallet holster); jacket pocket (interior or exterior, loose or inside a wallet holster); shoulder rig under jacket or under shirt; under shirt attached to straps of body armor (and some of my fellow officers, including women, prefer a custom sewn holster to the front of the vest cover for faster access); ankle rig while wearing 'jump' style boots (I once worked with a partner who wore a commercially available boot with a holster). I also considered for a short time a concealment method on the duty belt, also a favored carry by my peers.

Our regs for uniformed carry of a auxilliary weapon are rather strict, the qual course is demanding from the standpoint of security, concealability and access from varied positions of disadvantage, and though the presentation times required in the course are somewhat liberal the level required for qualification is not (reduced size target and hit zone, higher percentage of CM hits). In the qual course we found the most secure carry to be: under shirt attached to vest; the fastest: attached to front of vest and ankle rigs.

My personal favorite for 15+ years: ankle rig. Compromises in that period: one of the three attachment mechanisms becoming undone, though the rig remained in place it was not as secure as it could have been; one occasion vaulting a fence where the weapon was separated from the holster and I had to recover it (heard it, saw it, got it).

For a second handgun in tactical operations, I first started 22+ years ago with a vertical shoulder rig; went to the master hand access cross draw, chest style military holster; went to strong side carry of both pistols (belt height and dropped combined, which many of our tactical operators still prefer); returned to the chest style; and now have a holster chest mounted for off hand (our term for 'weak hand') cross draw access.

The reason for this is that the sole use for this holster is for my primary pistol should I need to go hands free or transition to my secondary. The transition technique I use captures the primary in my off hand while my master hand goes to the secondary placed in a dropped strong side thigh rig (Safariland 6004). The custom positioning of the cross draw chest holster permits me to holster with the off hand without interfering with the mount of a shoulder weapon.

Operationally, we'd have two handguns with us only if the handgun was to be the operator's primary weapon. In a situation where the operator were employing a shoulder weapon, they'd likely take just one handgun though I've seen members carry two. In training most will always have both handguns in addition to their shoulder weapons, usually as a matter of training time expedience.

Other methods in use by members of my unit: shoulder rigs, strong hand chest mount cross draws, strong hand cross draw belt level (but drawn with the off hand), and off hand belt level (a holster on each hip). I have yet to see a shooter in my unit try a off hand cross draw belt level; then again it boils down to balancing security and accessibility in the operational environment, and what works for the individual operator.

Thanks for staying, if you have, with another of my long winded posts, this time highlighted by the many (..)s.

Miratio, Incursio, et Sestinato...

[This message has been edited by SKN (edited 12-19-98).]

December 19, 1998, 09:15 PM
Consider the thigh holster on the strong side carrying a Glock pistol (17 or 22). On the other leg, beside the extra pistol or SMG mag/distraction device/what have you, a small custom built pouch with a Glock (26 or 27). Pouch passes for "some sort" of accessory carrier, is unobstrusive and saves space on the vest.

December 20, 1998, 04:58 PM
You are indeed correct that I am seeking carry modes for a second handgun as a third weapon. It's quite SOP down here in FL and with other groups that I run across. I see it as being of primary significance to someone using a handgun as a primary. A breacher could conceivably be carrying a breaching shotgun, then transitioning to a handgun. This would make the secondary handgun a good idea here too, b/c the handgun is basically the primary entry weapon.

I've been using the Safariland 3004 tac holster for quite a while now, and am slowly getting around to getting a 6004. An interesting new development on the 6004 is the enlarged leg shroud with modular pouches. With a drill and some ingenuity, one could conceivably attach just about anything to one's leg harness. You're right in that just about every vest mounted holster seems to be a total afterthought as far as its design.

Thanks to all for the input, it was helpful for me to get more feedback from other likeminded individuals. It seems that I haven't really overlooked any carry modes for the secondary handgun. It would also seem that the market for a quality vest mounted holster is pretty wide open at this point.

December 21, 1998, 05:13 PM
S&W has come out with a boot designed to accept an ankle holster. I have not had the chance to T&E, but it might provide a more secure carry than usual ankle carry.

December 23, 1998, 07:13 PM
A PPK loaded with Magsafes under the shirt over the vest in a "Superman" carry... worked very well for me.

But an Operator is probably wearing the Cover Six by Safariland or another Ninja Turtle uniform... so the Superman carry would not work. The 3rd weapon will need to be fast to draw as all weapons for this MIB.
Ankle holster is out in my opinion.
I would think maybe a cross draw carried under the web belt... PPK would fit there snuggly. Or mayby an SOB rig? Ankle is only last ditch for me.

Kenetic Defense Institute
[email protected]

December 23, 1998, 08:59 PM
being new to this forum I wonder, do you guys watch LOTS of action movies? Do you clank when you walk? As a civi what I've seen on the tube is massive overkill on a regular basis. I can see where a LONE street officer especially out where help is a 1/2 hour away would like lots of advantages.
But in cities with a team don't you just need better makeup for the news camera?

ps: I've know a number of people in different
enforcement jobs/agencies and I'm NOT anti law, some people just take themselves way to

[This message has been edited by dundee (edited 12-23-98).]

Rob Pincus
December 23, 1998, 10:43 PM
I might respectfully say that, you know not of what you speak, Dundee. and, your post has nothing to do with the topic of this thread.
Meanwhile.. let's not turn this into a flame-fest....
We have a unique mix of experience and inexperience, professional and non-professional LEO and Non-LEO here... let's not start harrassing each other (at least not in public... the private Email icons work real well for that)

Besides, well all know its the reloaders that take themselves too seriously.... ;)


December 24, 1998, 01:59 PM
Hey Dundee: I do like action movies, a favorite of mine was "Major Dundee" with Charlton Heston and Richard Harris; despite my best efforts at sound discipline, tac gear I've worn has gotten rattly on occasion but my uniform duty secondary has always been silent; and yes I do take my life seriously and that's because saving lives, my own especially, is serious business. Like many, referred to by Rob, on this forum: been there, done that, have the wound scars as mementos.

My apologies for participating with off topic commentary.

Miratio, Incursio et Sestinato.

[This message has been edited by SKN (edited 12-24-98).]