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Published Jun 7, 2022 8:03 AM

While the general public may think of Lara Croft cosplays and Hollywood action movies whenever they think of drop-leg holsters, the reality is that drop-leg holsters don’t just look tactical, they serve on the thighs of people in the most dangerous environments in the world today. By dropping the holster down from the gun belt to the thigh, more room is afforded for heavier body armor with side plates and pouches, plus freeing up some real estate on the belt itself for extra utility. Drop-leg holsters are about as overt as you can get, being preferred in high profile situations by everyone from Navy SEALS and British SAS to the FBI Hostage Rescue Team and SWAT teams the world over.

But what makes for a good drop-leg holster? In a market flooded by cheap nylon “universal holsters,” what rises to the top? How are they different from the conventional waist or CCW holsters besides carry position? And which will be crowned overall King of the Holsters and why? Let’s explore those questions in detail once and for all.

Methodology

As a veteran of a Coast Guard MSST Team and a lifelong firearms enthusiast, I’m very familiar with duty holsters. Both in my own unit and operating alongside other agencies — from local police departments to the Secret Service and FBI — Safariland was the gold standard for duty holsters (you might even say it was a safari of Safarilands). I used a Safariland 6005 with SLS for my Sig P229R DAK sidearm across countless deployments, boardings, and security zones, so I’m quite familiar with Safariland’s offerings on the market and know its reputation for dependability is well-earned.

I’ve also used a variety of holster brands over the years and stayed up to date on new developments in the industry. To be among the best drop-leg holsters, a large section of the cheap “universal” nylon holsters were eliminated, as they just don’t protect the firearm and trigger guard enough in the more exposed position of a drop-leg holster. This is not to say I didn’t consider a range of more entry-level options for the folks out there just starting their careers, and I was pleased to see there are good choices in the under-$100 category, too.

I tried to pick holster and platform combos that seemed most representative of what a manufacturer or holster style can offer, factoring as many additional options into the review as possible. To keep things consistent, I used a bog-standard Glock 19 for each holster, and I also stuck to production holsters that are broadly available. From there, I tested each holster for an extended period of time doing various non-firing activities as well as during a long-range day up in the mountains. I also ran retention drills and shooting exercises drawing from different positions, founded upon my military/LE training and experience.

For more information on the Task & Purpose methodology, visit our editorial guidelines to rest assured all featured products were well-tested.

Best Overall

It’s hard to describe what makes the 7005 7TS the best overall drop-leg holster without first explaining what made previous Safariland models so great. Among serious users of duty holsters, Safariland has a legendary reputation for dependability, and the 6005 model I was issued in the USCG stood the test of time with near-daily hard use in a saltwater environment. The excellent SLS and ALS retention systems have each been trusted by law enforcement and military units to keep their firearms secure for decades. Fully adjustable straps mean there’s no guesswork on sizing: If you get a Safariland holster, you know it will fit no matter how you’re shaped.

The 7005 7TS takes that solid reputation as a starting point and builds from there. The 7005 7TS is lighter than its predecessors, increases weather resistance, includes an innovative low-contact pass-through design that keeps debris and moisture off your firearm, and can be quickly swapped to any carry method compatible with the optional QLS system. As part of the 7TS series, there are similar models to choose from that use the ALS retention system, can accept slide-mounted optics, or come in different finishes. The 7005 only represents one of a whole range of holsters that can suit any need. My particular model also accommodates my attached Surefire X300U light, which is an option most of Safariland’s range offers.

The 7TS series also tackles one of the only gripes I had about Safariland’s previous generation of holsters: the suede lining that reduces holster wear and makes for a smoother draw than polymer alone. While comfy, the suede took forever to dry if it got splashed or submerged in saltwater and I suspect that if I’d been issued a firearm with a finish any less durable than a Sig P229R DAK, I’d have seen a lot more rust. The 7TS series instead uses strategically placed standoffs and a muzzle plug to hold the firearm securely while debris and water have ample room to flow through and out the front of the holster. A special nylon blend, dubbed SafariSeven, is advertised as being a completely no-scratch material, and that claim has certainly held up.

My only criticisms of the 7005 7TS are that it has more limited firearm compatibility than the previous generation of Safarilands. Due to the way the firearm is supported at the muzzle, threaded barrels are also a bit tricky compared to other holsters, and Safariland recommends getting a holster for the next size up if you have a threaded barrel (e.g., if you have a Glock 19 with a threaded barrel, get a holster for a Glock 17), but that hardly seems like an ideal solution and won’t work for every firearm either.
In general, the 7005 7TS gets my Best Overall Holster title for its straightforward innovation on a proven design philosophy, great modularity, and light weight without sacrificing durability.

Product Specs
  • Price: $200 to $245
  • Retention: SLS locking hood; similar models available with ALS toggle or both SLS and ALS.
  • Material: DuPont SafariSeven
PROS

Lightweight yet durable

Available with either the excellent SLS or ALS retention systems

Excellent comfort and adjustability

Wide variety of options and easy installation with QLS option

Excellent debris and weather resistance

CONS

Limited firearm compatibility

Issues fitting threaded barrels

QLS system adds bulk, if used

Best Value

I can remember a time when value-priced drop-leg holsters were only found among cheap nylon “universal” models and the Blackhawk SERPA series. Dark were those days, with many a budget-minded operator shooting themselves in the leg from poor retention systems, or discovering scratched finishes and long draw times. In a surprise entry from Israel, the C-series holster from Orpaz comes to save us from that awful age, solidly clinching the coveted Best Value holster championship.

In a sub-$100 package, the C-series offers all the essentials of a tactical drop-leg holster in a solidly built design. Precision molded polymer offers the secure fit and proper protection a drop-leg holster needs, and the Level II retention option is a simple, no-frills thumb lock that releases the firearm without putting your trigger finger dangerously near the trigger. All straps are fully adjustable, meaning no meddling about trying to figure out if you’re a Small, Medium or Large. At this price point, the holster is even interchangeable with numerous other carry options from Orpaz, and the build quality is exceptional.

The C-series isn’t available for every pistol out there and does not have lighted or optics-ready options, but I wouldn’t expect that in the value-priced bracket, and the more expensive T40X model from Orpaz fits that niche. The drop-leg platform itself is also functional, but a bit bare bones compared to pricier options. Attaching the holster to the drop-leg platform is also a pain, having to unthread a large strap and line up some small screws in an awkward position to get the job done. Once attached, the adjustable cant angle of the holster can also be knocked out of position if whacked sufficiently hard enough in the right spot, but not enough to lose control of the firearm.
Overall, it checks all the boxes of a proper drop-leg holster at half the price. For the entry-level professional, the Orpaz C-series has your back.

Product Specs
  • Price: $98 including drop-leg platform
  • Retention: Level I or Level II, thumb lock release
  • Material: Polymer
PROS

Fully polymer construction for maximum protection

Secure buckle and strap types, no creeping

Good modularity with other Orpaz carry methods

Solid performance at a fantastic price

CONS

Pistol compatibility could be better

Tip of the muzzle not fully protected by holster sidewalls

Holster attachment process very inconvenient

Some shifting of draw angle with a bump in the right place

Honorable Mention

For the most discerning operators, G-Code offers a customizability bonanza. I had an extremely hard time picking between Safariland and G-Code for the Best Overall spot, because the XST is just that good. The XST’s durability rivals anything I’ve seen from Safariland, and nothing beats the modularity of G-Code’s RTI hanger system. With the pinch of two locking lugs, G-Code equipment can be quickly, easily, and positively swapped between any RTI plate. The XST’s power-assisted retention canopy also allows for the fastest draw of any active retention holster I’ve tried, nearly indistinguishable from my passive retention draw times after a little practice.

Even with the most expensive options, the XST with DLS drop-leg platform comes out to less than some of the Safariland selections and G-Code offers a better warranty to boot (lifetime versus Safariland’s two years). So what gives? Why did Safariland get the Best Overall title while G-Code gets the more mysterious Honorable Mention? Well, sometimes one’s biggest strength can also be a weakness.

The XST is so modular that it’s hard to just pick up and go. Rather than simply going “I want this holster package,” the G-Code method is more of a build-it-up from scratch approach. Think of custom shop cars versus buying one off a lot. You need a better idea of what your setup will be ahead of time, which is definitely a strong point for more advanced operators who know what they want and what they like, but an entry level police officer or fresh out of training private/lieutenant is going to have a harder time knowing where to start.

Additionally, the super slick power-assisted retention canopy needs a little extra practice to use. While extremely quick, it’s possible to outpace the canopy and draw at the same time you’re depressing the release, thus pinning the canopy up with the slide. Drawing requires a more deliberate push-then-pull motion, which can be extremely quick with practice, but there is that narrower margin for error. Technically, it’s possible to do the same thing with Safariland’s SLS hood, but the manual hood release and more generous tolerances mean you’re less likely to try to push and draw at the same time.

However, all that said, I don’t think I’ve seen a more high performance production holster with a wider array of options. Like a finely tuned Formula One car, the G-Code XST rewards expertise, thus earning itself a very enthusiastic Honorable Mention.

Product Specs
  • Price: $195 total for reviewed configuration
  • Retention: Power-assisted retention canopy
  • Material: Kydex with TacticalFuzz outer laminate
PROS

Modular from the ground up with amazingly easy interchangeability

Fastest draw tested

Combat-ready durability

Flexible drop-leg strap aids mobility

Accommodates suppressor-height sights and threaded barrels

Good firearm compatibility

Lifetime warranty

CONS

Requires a bit more knowledgeable buyer

Reliable usage requires practice

No lighted options (though SOC line from G-CODE covers that need)

Tight construction is good for keeping out debris, but can interfere with aftermarket parts or non-standard models (Ex: HK VP9 fits but VP9 Tactical requires modification)

Best Optics-Ready

Slide-mounted optics are getting more and more popular every year, and for a while, the custom holster market was the only place to get a proper fit with one unless you were really comfortable hacking away at your own gear. Several years down the road, production holster brands are supporting slide-mounted optics more and more with Safariland offering a healthy number of models. Of these, the 6354DO feels the most modern, the most natural, and the most solid example of what an optics-ready holster should be.

The holster offers the solid performance and durability Safariland is known for, adding a very sturdy shroud to protect the optic that’s molded directly into the holster rather than a separate piece like on other models. The ALS retention system is perfect for an optic-enhanced pistol, leaving the backend clear of hoods or straps that could snag on the extra equipment. Even if you’re still stuck in the Iron Age, with no pistol optic, the 6354DO will hold your pistol just as securely. And, the Cordura overwrap not only looks super slick, but it also reduces reflections in the IR band to keep prying eyes looking elsewhere.

My only complaint is that the 6354DO is only offered for Glock pistols at the moment, though Safariland offers similar optics-ready holsters for other firearm models. Given how mature the design of the 6354DO is, the future looks bright for optics-ready holsters.

Product Specs
  • Price: $240 to $273
  • Retention: ALS
  • Material: SafariLaminate with Cordura overwrap
PROS

Compatible with most common pistol-mounted optics right out of the box

IR-reducing overwrap

Slimmer optics shroud than other designs for a less bulky holster

ALS system makes for a fast and smooth draw with no snags

CONS

Only available for Glock pistols

Pricey

Best Compatibility

I couldn’t go an entire drop-leg holster review without mentioning the holster I used the most during my military service. Not only is the 6005 still an excellent holster for those who like to stick to the basics, but it also has the best firearm compatibility for a holster in this quality bracket. There are still some models it won’t fit (my fellow CZ SP-01 fans are still out of luck), but the Firearm Select dropdown menu for this model is simply staggering.

The 6005 is the perfect example of what made Safariland famous: dependability, security, and ease of use. While the 7TS line updates these brand fundamentals, the 6005 and its sister models are the Safariland original crew. It comes standard with the excellent SLS retention system or can be found in ALS variants for an even easier draw.

SafariLaminate thermo-molded construction and suede inner lining gives maximum protection to your firearm both inside and out. And with Safariland’s superb fit, you have full adjustability in all directions without ever having to worry about accidental bumps, weird draw angles, or aggressive motions compromising your holster.

Whether you’re in search of a holster for a less common gun or are just a fan of the classics, the 6005 is the foundation upon which Safariland’s name rests.

Product Specs
  • Price: $199 to $245
  • Retention: SLS or ALS in similar variants
  • Material: SafariLaminate with suede liner
PROS

Legendary durability and performance

Compatible with a wide range of firearms

Versatile and functional

CONS

Same MSRP as updated models

Heavier than the 7TS line, though not by much

Suede lining requires a little extra cleaning after heavy sand or saltwater exposure

Now, I know I’ve dunked on nylon holsters throughout this review, but if you are absolutely hands-down, dead-set committed to getting a nylon holster, this is the one. The Omega VI Elite is designed for either Glock or 1911 pistols, avoiding many of the pitfalls the “universal” nylon holsters fall into, meaning it offers great trigger protection, a decent draw, and properly supports the firearm when moving or going hands-on with a suspect. The Omega VI Elite also offers full adjustability with a single-strap design.

However, being a nylon holster, it can still pick up debris and hold it against your gun, potentially leading to nasty scratches. Bare nylon can also cause increased wear on your finish while slowing down your draw from the extra friction. Nylon holsters also have no modularity, meaning what you see is what you get, with no real options to swap to another platform or carry option.

The Omega VI Elite also has a lot of thick hook-and-loop fasteners that increase the rigidity of the straps, meaning more fatigue for your hip joint. And lastly, the retention strap offers decent security, but with just a thumb snap closure, it’s one of the easiest styles to compromise. There’s also no native option to completely remove the extra hook-and-loop or grip straps, meaning if you don’t cut them off yourself, there’s an extra buckle and hook pad that can snag or make noise.

Bottom line is that if you have a particular obsession with nylon holsters (or are part of a department or security company that only offers nylon holsters), then the Omega VI Elite is functional and a solid performer. But considering the Orpaz C-series is right in the same price range while offering full polymer construction, modularity, and a better retention system, if the choice is fully up to you, then I say go for the Orpaz.

Product Specs
  • Price: $90
  • Retention: Rear strap with thumb snap closure; optional hook-and-loop strap and pistol grip buckle
  • Material: Nylon
PROS

Offers decent fit and firearm protection

Fully adjustable single strap design

Functional

CONS

Nylon construction limits potential

Thick hook-and-loop on drop-leg strap limits mobility

Only moderate retention capabilities

Extra retention options far too slow and cannot be removed without permanent cutting

Our verdict on drop-leg holsters

Drop-leg holsters are the go-to choice for high-profile missions where concealability is not a concern. This means dependability and safety are even more important than in other carry methods, as the firearm is more exposed and subject to greater motion, adding an active retention requirement. 

Safariland has been the industry standard with its solid builds and fantastic SLS/ALS retention systems for a long time, earning the trust of security professionals around the world. G-Code has been steadily building a reputation for themselves, however, offering limitless customizability for high-end users. At the entry-level bracket, Orpaz offers the confidence and durability of full polymer construction with many features found at higher price points.

What to consider when buying a drop-leg holster

This review doesn’t cover every single drop-leg holster out there. Safariland alone has a tremendous variety of different models and variants. Add to that the modularity of modern holsters, and things can get confusing for potential buyers very quickly. However, here’s where to start when evaluating drop-leg holsters for yourself.

Safety

Any good holster will always protect the trigger from accidental manipulation. Look for holsters that completely protect the trigger from stray fingers, twigs, fence wires, or anything else that might sneak in. This is also why I don’t recommend nylon holsters, as the more exposed carry position means there’s a lot more potential for a soft holster to be pressed against the trigger or punctured.

Retention

Active retention (also called Level II or above) is a must for a drop-leg holster. Not only is the holster more exposed where grabby hands can try for some unauthorized access, but the thigh position is subject to a lot more motion during walking, running, climbing ladders, jumping fences, etc. The simple act of getting out of a car can see your pistol grip snag on a seat or seat belt. Active retention should be secure enough that it will delay an attacker from drawing your pistol while you deploy retention drills you’ve trained for, but also be easy enough to use that draw times are competitive with passive retention draws while under stress.

Fit

Make sure the firearm is snug and well-supported. It should not rattle in the holster and the drop-leg platform should not flop around or move out of position when you’re in motion. The platform should be easily adjustable to a position on your thigh where you can easily draw your pistol, but low enough that you clear whatever body armor or side pouches you run naturally. Also consider you may have to draw while seated, laying prone, or in other awkward positions.

Durability

When squeezed or flexed with just your hands, the holster should stay secure to the drop-leg platform. Some flexing is alright, but if the holster feels like it’s straining to hold onto the platform, that’s not a good sign. Consider not only your routine motions, but also if you have to go to ground with a suspect or belly crawl across the terrain. The muzzle end of the holster should also be open to allow any debris or moisture to fall out.

Modularity

Many holster brands allow the user to transfer the holster to different carry methods or add to/modify the carry platform. Consider the product’s ecosystem when shopping and how easy it is to change the holster or platform’s setup. It makes a lot more sense to buy one holster that’s a little pricier but can easily transfer between your needs, versus buying two separate holsters. Some attachment systems are even compatible between brands, so a little research goes a long way to saving you money.

Pricing considerations for drop-leg holsters

Budget

The budget bracket (under $100) for drop-leg holsters is awash with cheap “universal” nylon holsters that are really only designed to hold the gun and deployment of the weapon is a secondary consideration. However, there are effective options hidden amongst all the muck. Look for something specifically designed for your gun to ensure the best fit and protection while making sure active retention is included.

Mid-range

Mid-range ($100 to $200) is a little tricky to define for drop-leg holsters since the holster and the platform it attaches to can be offered separately and at different price points. Most modern holsters offer good protection for the firearm and trigger guard, but be sure to keep in mind active retention and a good attachment system to the drop-leg platform. The platform itself should be comfortable, secure, and fully adjustable for ride height and thigh tightness. If the holster-platform attachment system is quickly detachable, better yet,so you can use the same holster in different loadouts.

Premium

The premium price bracket (over $200) includes some of the best names in the business, as well as some mid-grade brands with extra options included (light-bearing holsters, optics-ready holsters, easily swappable attachment systems, etc). These will often include really slick retention systems, specialized coatings and finishes, fantastic modularity and superb durability. Premium drop-leg holsters will not only offer the most secure and comfortable fit, but also the fastest draw times and best interoperability with other tactical gear.

FAQs about drop-leg holsters

Q: What is the purpose of a drop-leg holster?

A: A drop-leg holster shifts the pistol down onto the upper- to mid-thigh so bulky body armor with side plates and/or pouches don’t interfere with drawing your pistol.

 Q: Can you open-carry with a drop-leg holster?

A: Yes, provided you are legally allowed to open-carry, drop-leg holsters are excellent for the task.

 Q: Are drop-leg holsters legal in the USA?

A: Yes, provided you are in a jurisdiction that allows you to open-carry or are a suitable exemption (e.g., police officer, at a range, etc).

 Q: What holsters does the FBI use?

A: Not to be confused with the “FBI cant,” which just refers to a particular holster angle, the FBI mostly uses common law enforcement holsters like Safariland, Bianchi, and Blackhawk brands. The famous Hostage Rescue Team and other tactical components of the FBI generally prefer Safariland holsters.

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