A competition holster is a competition holster is a competition holster, right?
Well, no. While a 3 gun or uspsa purpose built holster will perform in each other’s realms, there are some differences that can help or hurt your performance. There are 3 main parameters to consider that show how each holster performs differently. Retention, protection, and draw speed.
All holsters need to have good retention. The gun should click into place and stay in place during moderate movement at a minimum. For uspsa, the gun is usually drawn right after the buzzer, or after some relatively short movement. 3 gun holsters on the other hand, are not always drawn immediately, and often stay holstered while you are crawling, sprinting, picking up, shooting and dumping your rifle or pistol. So a bit tighter retention is favorable. Level 2 retention( a thumb break strap or hood typically) has gained favor with 3 gunners, especially if the match requires slung long guns. The sling can catch on the pistol and pull it out of the holster if you are not careful. This does mean draw speed is reduced, which brings us to our next point.
As I mentioned before, uspsa stages usually have the pistol being drawn shortly after the buzzer goes off. They are also typically much shorter stages, so having a low draw time is important for keeping stage times low and hit factors up.
3 gun stages are typically much longer. 30 seconds can be a short 3 gun stage compared to say 4-5 seconds for a short uspsa stage. So while keeping draw times low is still a goal, the fractionally slower draw time of a full coverage or level 2 retention holster is less of an issue than DQ’ing from a dropped gun when shooting a 3gun match.
Uspsa holsters are typically cut much lower and have the front of the holster opened up so that the gun is clearing the holster sooner, meaning faster draw times, or are of the “ghost holster” variety. But that brings us to our last point:
While having more of the gun exposed can help lower draw times, it also exposes more of the gun to the elements. In an stand and shoot type match like uspsa, that’s not too much of an issue.
In 3 gun, where you might be shooting rifle from prone, it can become an issue. Now more dirt, dust, gravel etc can get into the holster and into the gun. This can cause malfunctions in the gun as well as in the holster itself( jammed mud, dirt or gravel can jam the gun up in the holster).
So which is better, a USPSA or 3 gun holster?
It all comes down to your game, and your gun. Like I said earlier, they will work in each other’s games, but you need to consider the pros and cons of each. If you are mostly shooting uspsa or steel challenge, then a level 2 retention hood is not going to be the best option for speed. But it will work. If you are going to mostly run 3 gun matches, then having a “race holster” won’t offer the protection that is favorable for that sport.
A good middle ground is usually a medium coverage ( holster covers above the ejection port) to full coverage ( holster extends up to rear sight). The speed losses in the draw are pretty marginal(fractions of a second) but it gives you the added protection for the more adverse conditions of 3 gun or 2 gun matches.
A good rule of thumb is, the heavier the gun, the higher you want to extend the coverage of the holster. Heavier guns generate more momentum and can jump out of a holster easier on a full sprint. Full coverage helps mitigate that from happening as the gun has much further to travel to fall all the way out in comparison to a low cut race holster.
One last thing to consider is that USPSA has stricter rules on holsters than 3 gun matches typically do. Meaning, the placement of your holster( position on body, as well as drop and offset tolerances) can affect which division you are placed in.
So again, it comes down to your game, and which features are more important to you. If you plan on mostly shooting USPSA or steel challenge, then our Classic Thunder holster with a race cut is your best bet. If you mostly shoot 3 gun then our Thunder 3 gun is a better suit.
But if you are like me, and shoot both types of matches, my recommendation is either the Classic or 3 gun Thunder model with medium coverage and turbo prop retention screw. This allows for the most adjustability of retention and is a solid middle ground on coverage and protection, while still allowing for faster draw speeds.
As always, if you have any questions about your next holster purchase, don’t hesitate to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or text us at 307-257-4520.
See you on the range,