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Safety Issue-Prohibiting Use of Blackhawk SERPA Holsters

Discussion in 'Carry Issues' started by Sheepdog689, May 16, 2012.

  1. Sheepdog689

    Sheepdog689 NRA Life Member

    Oct 24, 2010
    I don't know how to post the PDF version that I got, but here's the text from US Forest Service.

    File Code: 5300

    Date: May 3, 2012

    Route To: 5380

    Subject: Safety Issue-Prohibiting Use of Blackhawk SERPA Holsters

    To: Law Enforcement and Investigations Leadership Team

    Several law enforcement agencies, including FLETC, have experienced incidents where students and field agents/officers using Blackhawk SERPA holsters have had accidental discharges resulting in personal injury and or property damage.

    FLETC recently issued a notice to all Partner Organizations, advising of two recent incidents where students with Blackhawk SERPA holsters have had accidental discharges resulting in personal injury. On April 17, 2012, FLETC held a meeting with Partner Organizations and advised that holsters with an auto locking/finger release, such as the Blackhawk SERPA holster will immediately be banned from use in the training environment. FLETC had recently banned all instructors from using the SERPA Blackhawk holster while on FLETC firearms ranges and while working with students and was expanded to any use of these holsters on the firearms ranges at FLETC. However, DHS OGC is now reviewing the ban and FLETC is awaiting the OGC opinion before making their final determination.

    The SERPA Active Retention design consists of a plastic L shaped component which functions as the release button (from the outside of the holster) and as the lock (which engages inside the trigger guard when the weapon is holstered).

    While Blackhawk may have intended for the end-user to apply inboard pressure with the pad of the index finger, under stress and given time constraints, users tend to push the button with the tip of their finger disengaging the retention device with direct inward pressure of the finger-tip. When the finger-tip pushes in on the release button and the user initiates the upward motion of the draw removing the weapon from the holster, the finger-tip tends to stay engaged in the same position used to disengage the retention device and can enter the trigger guard, making contact with the trigger, causing an unintentional discharge.

    The Blackhawk SERPA release button can result in an unintended continuation of the movement of the trigger finger toward the trigger due to the “push button” motion required to complete the weapon draw. This unintended movement of the trigger finger has been observed during training with students and field agents when placed in some form of elevated stress situations.

    In addition, there have been several reports from law enforcement and the military of debris (such as a pin head size pebble) getting lodged behind the release button inside the holster, making the withdrawal of the weapon from the holster impossible. Exterior examination of the holster is unable to detect whether debris has entered the internal working mechanism of the retention device within the holster. Thus, realization by the user that the holster has become inoperable due to debris will only be realized when the user unsuccessfully tries to draw the firearm from the holster and is denied access to the weapon.

    The Air Force, Office of Special Investigations, (OSI), had incidents where debris has made the holster inoperable, thus making the withdrawal of the weapon impossible. Air Force OSI has banned the use of the Blackhawk holster. Also there are other federal agencies that have discontinued the use of these holsters.

    The National Academy does not issue these types of holsters to our new hires, however, it is my understanding that several officers and agents in the field have purchased these types of holsters. The National Academy also does not currently issue the SERPA Taser holster to new hires. We issued the holster for a short time and discovered when there was significant stress on the holster, such as the officer engaged in ground fighting, the holster would release retention and the Taser would fall from the holster.

    With the above in mind, due to safety concerns regarding the SERPA Firearm holster and SERPA Taser holster, the use of these types of holsters and any other holsters with the same type of auto locking/finger release is no longer authorized. Please ensure that any of your personnel who utilize these types of holsters discontinue their use until further notice.

    /s/David L. Ferrell


    Director, Law Enforcement and Investigations

    cc: James Alford, Dan Harrell

  2. cowboy1964


    Sep 4, 2009
    Nothing accidental about them. Pure negligence. I almost put this into the same category though as "light triggers". Yeah, you're not supposed to screw up, but people make mistakes under stress.

    I still say it's a lousy design. Your trigger finger is your trigger finger and that's all it should be used for.
    Last edited: May 16, 2012

  3. MadMonkey

    MadMonkey Spershul Furces

    Aug 18, 2010
    In before the Blackhawk lovers... :whistling:

    "Oh, it's a training issue".

    Yes, that can be said. But if you designed a holster that required a lever to be pressed, a button to be pushed, have the gun rocked exactly 4 degrees to the rear then whistle the first 5 notes of Amazing Grace to release the weapon or the whole thing would explode in a fireball, you could still claim that any injury resulting from it is simply from a lack of training and practice.

    Why not use a holster that minimizes the risk? :dunno:

    For the record, I have a Serpa that came with my M&P40. Even though I'm not a fan of them, I still practice with it every now and then (unloaded).

    One day as I was practicing, I drew the weapon while CONCENTRATING on keeping my trigger finger indexed along the slide. As the gun came out of the holster, my trigger finger snapped into the trigger guard and pulled the trigger halfway back before I could recover. I don't know if my draw had been at a slightly different angle, something had made me flinch or what, but if I could do that under zero stress and while concentrating on not letting that happen, then there's no way I'd use it in a real-world situation.

    Just my opinion. Use it if you want, but for Pete's sake please make sure you know exactly what you're doing.
  4. dvrdwn72


    Nov 26, 2010
    300 million years of evolution, people are just getting dumber. No accident about it, its pure negligence.
  5. Drain You

    Drain You NRA member

    Apr 25, 2012
    I saw a Blackhawk on a guy earlier, mentioned I'd heard they were known to cause an issue with the trigger finger, he seemed confident in the product, said it was a new design.

    I don't know enough about them either way, just said ok then after he told me he doesn't carry chambered. Not my cup of tea at all.
  6. glock_collector


    Dec 23, 2011
    If you are not smarter than the plastic in which your firearm resides, please find a busy 6 lane freeway(rush hour..) and play right in the middle. What happened to being a man and admitting that you shot yourself cause you are an idiot? Blame the holster?
  7. RyanNREMTP

    RyanNREMTP Inactive/Banned

    Jun 16, 2007
    Waco, Texas
    That letter keeps appearing every six months it seems.
  8. TSAX


    Jun 5, 2010
  9. DScottHewitt

    DScottHewitt EMT-B

    Jul 4, 2000
    Waynesboro, VA
    Isn't it also possible for a pebble to get behind the release button, and lock your firearm into the holster in such a way that it CANNOT be removed, barring MAJOR disassembly?!?!?
  10. Glenn E. Meyer

    Glenn E. Meyer

    Feb 27, 2000
    Old issue. Although I heard a rumor that IDPA might disallow them. Some 20 clubs have local rules against such. This rumor is worth what you paid for it. I do know two guys who shot themselves with such. Also, I saw a newbie with one, grabbed by an SO as he struggled to free his gun. Frightening. Also, a skilled LEO with a new one having difficulty using it.

    But this is old news.
  11. Rally Vincent

    Rally Vincent Bipolar

    Feb 16, 2003
    The Bar.
    Had a friend of a friend try to skin his Beretta from one once as to show me his carry pistol. He eventually got it out while mumbling " there's a certain way".

    Never paid one a piece of mind since. User error or not. That just didn't appeal to me. Lol.
  12. Bruce M

    Bruce M

    Jan 3, 2010
    S FL
    It just seems whether you think the holster is a/the problem or not that there are better choices.
  13. NDCent

    NDCent Socially Inept

    Mar 19, 2010
    I've heard of several people over the years having an ND by allowing their index finger to accidently come in contact with the firearms trigger. IMO, a better alternative would be to remove/cut off their index finger. :honkie:
    Last edited: May 17, 2012
  14. GLK-23


    May 12, 2012
    I prefer Safariland holsters.

    [ame=""]I shot myself! Original Upload! - YouTube[/ame]
  15. Rev.357


    Jan 14, 2012
    Heath Springs SC
    No matter what holster you use, isn't the problem about people putting their finger in the trigger guard or on the trigger before the gun is clear & on target. This has happened with many different types of holsters.
  16. steveksux

    steveksux Massive Member

    Jul 12, 2007
    I thought of a scenario that can cause AD with the Sherpa.

    Put your finger on the release button correctly. As you draw the pistol, you drift to the rear, the bottom of the muzzle brushes against the holster, rotating the pistol in your hand. Your trigger finger which was once out of the way while pressing inward is now positioned by the trigger because the pistol rotated a little from hitting the holster on the draw.

    The trigger finger doesn't have to drift into the trigger guard. The trigger guard can drift to the trigger finger.

    The difference between the Sherpa and another holster is the Sherpa release already has you pushing your trigger finger in the "right" direction in order to release the pistol, so if the pistol rotates coming out of the holster to put the trigger guard in the "right" location, you have the perfect storm of an AD.

    Last edited: May 17, 2012
  17. MadMonkey

    MadMonkey Spershul Furces

    Aug 18, 2010
    Nope, you'd be an idiot if that happened.

  18. Fastbear


    Dec 21, 2007
    Holsters could be lumped into categories like pick-ups, coffee, and beer. One brand works fine for some and not for others. My duty holster (by choice) is a Blackhawk Serpa. No issues with it because it is used for lots of practice and qualification shooting. The serpa has had draw use with the off hand and other than forcing me to think about what the off hand needs to do for the gun to be drawn their is not an issue with the holster. Also, I use other brands of kydex and leather holsters for off duty carry.
    The issue of finger placement to release the serpa lock and keeping your finger out of the trigger area until the gun must be fired was a learned process taught during DCI classes.
    What works for me may not be comfortable for another. However, no matter what your choice is with a holster you have to take a positive approach to practicing with gun release and firing.
  19. steveksux

    steveksux Massive Member

    Jul 12, 2007
    If you did it slow I'd agree.

    If you're trying to draw as fast as possible, as in training, I'm thinking that's probably the mechanism that's causing these problems. As it is, your drawstroke could likely end up with index finger pressing against the frame as the pistol is drawn.

    The part I add is where you don't draw straight out, but bump the bottom of the muzzle against the back of the holster on the way out (imagine holster has cant, and you draw straight up for instance), and that pressure rotates the pistol so your finger that was against the frame drops into the trigger guard.

    It might work fine in slo motion, but under stress at full speed would be when it occurs. Your attention is diverted somewhat to the acquisition of the target, the reflex delay between the pistol releasing and you releasing the pressure of the index finger on the release set you up to still have some pressure after the pistol clears the holster.

    Requires a couple of missteps to get the full monty, which accounts for the relative rarity of problems in general, and the relative increase of problems compared to other retention holsters.

    The real question I have is this: Is there REALLY anything that indicates this holster has a higher than avg rate of AD/ND? And are you adjusting those stats for the # of holsters in use? If the Sherpa is used by more people, it'll have more ND/AD than other holsters because it is more widely used. Get the ND/AD figures "per capita" so to speak, and show me there's an actual difference between this and other holsters.

    Lots of anecdotal stories out there, but that doesn't constitute proof of an actual issue.

    Remember the Audi's with "unintended accelerations"? Must be a problem with the car, right, they're happening all over the place? Wrong on 2 counts, the media was zeroing in on any Audi 5000's where that happened, making it LOOK like a trend, and 2, some auto mag took one out on the freeway, at 70 mph nailed the gas all the way, then hit the brakes. The car stopped. Just took a little longer to stop under full throttle than when you let off the gas. (Shocking, eh? :supergrin:) So there's nothing left but user error there, people were hitting the gas rather than the brakes. Period. Same thing with the Sherpa. Having said that, maybe the design lends itself to incur more than its share of user error, as maybe the location of the pedals relative to seating position might make the A5000's more prone to miss the brake and land on the gas, maybe the Sherpa design relying on trigger finger to release makes you more prone to drop it in the trigger guard on the way out. Similar MO in both cases.

    I remember a few years ago, some shark grabbed a boy by the arm in FL in shallow water, the dad ran out there and literally fought the shark, wrestling the boy away from him. After that, there was a "rash" of shark attacks in FL in the paper. You'd think there was an epidemic. Not true, the actual number of attacks that year was LESS than normal. The newspapers were just looking for them, printing more of them, because of the extra scrutiny the original story inspired early in the swimming season.

    So I'm always skeptical of "trends" that don't have hard evidence behind them.

    But at the same time, I think what I'm suggesting is a plausible mechanism to lead to an ND, and not sure there's any adjustment of technique that is going to avoid it reliably. So there may be something to the Sherpa legend at this point, IMO, but I'd like some hard stats to verify there's a tendency there before being 100% convinced.

    Last edited: May 19, 2012
  20. NEOH212

    NEOH212 Diesel Girl

    Mar 25, 2008
    North East Ohio
    Dump the Serpa and get a Raven Concealment Phantom.

    You can thank me later. :cool: