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  1. #1
    Swoble Guest

    Default SERPA Issue Compilation

    Had someone call me on my claim on another forum about the SERPA being a gigantic piece of sh_t. I gathered up the following information/quotes/incidents and figured I'd paste them here for anyone having a hard time convincing yourself or someone else.

    This is just a quick compiled list of several threads over on LightFighter. The vast majority of these fellows are current police/.mil guys who do this stuff for a living - not civilian range queens and the like.

    Statements/Observations of SERPA Failures "in field" and "training"

    Compiled by Elbows, May 2012

    Larry Vickers: Serpas banned from training courses

    Gunsite: Serpas not officially banned, but not recommended
    source: Cory Trapp of Gunsite

    ToddG/Pistol Training: Serpas banned as of this year (2012)

    FLETC: Pending verification, Serpas are banned

    Pat Rogers: "serpas suck"

    The Okanogan Co Sheriff's Office in WA State does not allow them for any students attending training at our range UNLESS they are duty holsters for LE or MIL members. As much as I would like to see them all go away, I am not going to keep someone from using their duty gear in a class.


    Banned at our facility.


    Right before I left Afghanistan, the unit on the ground at my base banned the serpa holster from use since the afghan "police" figured out how to get it out of the holster. They replaced it with the Safariland 6004. So at least the word is getting out to the military...


    Not to double post, but as I can't edit my last post, Wilson Tactical Training can also be added to the list of those who have banned SERPA's from their courses.
    I'm only quoting the conclusion for brevity, the entire article is an interesting and informative read.

    As an instructor, a shooter with 30 years of experience, and a person who has twelve years of market testing and evaluation experience, I do not recommend the Blackhawk Serpa Holster to anyone. In my opinion, this holster creates a range safety issue due to having to use force to press a button, which falls in close proximity to the trigger group; and the space between the trigger group and the index point not being sufficient to prevent the shooter from prematurely engaging the trigger. As a result of my experience with the Serpa holster, and this test, the Serpa holster is now banned from my classes. The Serpa holster is becoming such a problem that other training companies are starting to ban the use of it as well.


    Looks like you can add Trident Concepts to that ban list.
    Jeff Gonzales:
    We have decided to ban the use of Serpa style holsters due the higher chance of negligent discharges during the draw stroke. Yet, that didnít stop us from seeing one in class. I didnít have a replacement holster so we had to run with it, but in the future we will be very specific about not allowing them in classes.


    Took an advanced handgun course with Ken Hackathorn a couple of years back. He hadn't banned them at that point but regaled us with the stories of the five different people who had a ND and/or shot themselves in his classes. He effectively made his point. He did suggest that if you were going to use one, put a piece of skate tape over the button to give you a tactile response that you were actually pushing the button. Great class, great instruction. I did not make it to the exalted position of window licker on the short bus. A couple in the class did.


    Add DOE to the list, Energy not Education (DOE bans SERPA from use)


    Just thought I'd add this for completeness, and in no uncertain terms:

    Sunday, February 5, 2012

    No more SERPA holsters in my classes

    Instead of an outright ban, I have a solution. There are many military units that have been issued/chosen/been told they are using this absurdly dangerous holster. For you guys here is what I've got-

    With the holster empty take a long sharp knife, reach down inside the SERPA and cut/saw the plastic piece that rests inside the trigger guard when the weapon is holstered. You may need to use a set of needle nose pliers to help rip that nub off. This will make the push button a non issue and the tension screw can be used for retention.

    Whoever chose this piece of **** to be issued to anyone- you're an inexperienced pistol shooter who has no common sense. Hope you got a decent kickback from Blackhawk.


    Also, for what it is worth, the email I recently got from Grey Group regarding a John McPhee rifle class starts with:"***Absolutely no Blackhawk Serpa Holsters***"
    Since it is exclusively a rifle course, I am thinking that this is a Grey Group policy, and not just John McPhee's standards for this course.


    I have personally had a pistol lock itself into a serpa when dirt and rocks got under the release. I had to take a soldering iron and burn off the release paddle to remove the pistol. On a positive note, that serpa is now a good tension holster, doesn't have any of the safety issues with the intact serpa, and still passes the 600-CSM. I did this to my personal holster, can't really recommend anybody modify a military/department issued holster unless you want to pay for it.


    I won't use serpa's unless required to by policy. I wear a holster daily & have seen the Serpa's lock up in desert or muddy conditions. I had this happen to a troop of mine & we cut his M9 out of the Serpa. For duty use both military & civilian I use & have trusted safariland.


    The last negligent discharge I saw was in a serpa. I would like to ban them from my dept. I worry that using the trigger finger for the release is just asking for FAIL. Safariland als is much better.


    I was at inservice today and personally witnessed a Serpa be torn from its belt shank during weapon retention. Another Serpa (during weapon retention drills again) locked up needing another person to push the lock button while the officer pulled up on the gun (granted it was a red gun) to be removed from the holster after working properly for 2 hours. There was a third Serpa which had a portio of the knob that is on the inside of the button to retain the pistol in the holster snap off.

    None of the roughly 12 Safariland holsters had any problems.


    I just witnessed a "Faithful Serpa Fan" turn from fan to a foe recently. It was a fellow soldier whoes had and carried this same Serpa on deployments and in training since 05/06' timeframe. It broke so bad it took me, him and two screw drivers to break his pistol out of the holster. He ordered two ALS holsters that night on my recommendation. Now I believe 70% or so of the guys I work with now use ALS holsters by Safariland and another couple use 6004s. I personally would have nothing to do with the Serpa after that! The ALS is a great holster especially when used in conjunction with the QLS backing and multiple holsters or mounting options. Great value and I can't recommend them enough!


    While Im not throwing rocks in glass houses, Chris Cerino had a ND with a Serpa which resulted in a round going thru his leg. Nothing against the man but this is why we dont allow holsters that use your trigger finger to release the weapon. It's not a matter of 'if' but 'when' with these holsters. You may not care about taking chances with your life but what about someone else's?


    I had an "incident" when transitioning from my M4 to my 1911 while holstered in the Serpa. Needless to say, I am not a fan and I am no longer using a Serpa on my first line belt.


    I was at a Todd Green training class this weekend watching a fairly accomplished shooter struggling to draw his pistol out of a POS Serpa..."SERPA DEATH" is what I now call these all too common failings of the Serpa, because if it happened when a pistol was needed while on duty, you would be DEAD.


    I have a had a failure with a Serpa in Training. It was enough to convince me not to carry one when my life depended on it.

    Its been a few years but IIRC it was day 2 of a 4 day pistol course when i started noticing that the release mechanism was getting harder to depress...a few drawstrokes later and i went to draw pistol,holster wouldnt release it(1911 on a belt loop mount)i yanked harder and the holster sheared at the screws leaving the belt attachment on the belt and me standing around pointing a useless holster covered weapon at Mr. "I hate Americans".

    This happened prior to me discovering this forum or i would have taken pics.


    I had one come apart at the paddle last summer. It was after a long HOT day on the streets (though this should not matter, I throw it in because of the way the failure played out). End of the day, I walked in the door, went to take it off and I had a holster and gun in my hand. It really came apart so easy, I did not even notice at first. When I really thought about it, very bad feeling in my gut that I might not have noticed. I should have taken pictures but I sent it into BH for after action review. They were looking into IF there might have been a small bad batch. Right at the top edge of the paddle it "peeled" away.

    Fast forward a couple months. With some guys from all across the country working on some DT action down south. 3 serpa failures. 2 on paddles, 1 with the belt look attachments. Looked like the old fobus video that was circulating. One guy wrestled on for a few minutes before he realized he was unarmed.


    Two of my Serpas have broken the little spring that powers the retention tab. Without the Serpa locking mechanism these holsters have zero retention, not even decent friction.

    I have been seeing the paddles break regularly now that some of our detectives have had them a year or two.


    There were two guys in my section running Serpas in Iraq (06-07, in both instances the retention device fell apart.

    If you use these, insure that you regularly clean sand and dust out of the retention device, that sand is the origin of the breakage, and can cause the retention system to lock the pistol into the holster as well.


    Same here AZ. You hear about the paddles breaking off of the CQC versions or the retention button getting jammed up, but the roll pin holding the button in place backing out isn't one I've heard mentioned all that much. It was the most common failure I saw with our issued serpas.


    Weve had the holster jam, due to rock/mud getting behind the release button. And also unintentional releases because of the button being hit, mostly in vehicles. Heard allot of horror stories about these, those are just my experiences.


    My serpa came apart when I was exiting my car on a call. The holster got tangled up in the shoulder belt and when i went to get out fast,the holster was sperated from the paddle body. The plastic of the paddle actually bent over the screws that were holding it in place. I contacted Blackhawk and they sent me a new paddle. I asked them if it was possible to use screws with bigger heads? they claimed I was the first person they had ever heard of with this issue. Serpas are no longer allowed at my agency.


    I've had two BH serpas fail on me, actually.

    Only used them for PD, but still, they failed on me.
    One of them had the button jam up, so gun stuck in there, and I had to use tools to get it out.

    On a different occation, the entire holster unscrewed itself from the paddle, so I stood there with the gun, in holster, in hand.
    Had these been life and death-situations, I'd be dead. Will NOT trust this when I deploy..


    At a recent training we had a series of support hand only manipulations, as if the user had a wounded primary. One officer inserted his G21, revered, into his Serpa in order to load it. When he went to draw the pistol, the slide was caught and would not allow the pistol to be drawn. Removing a screw took pressure off and the pistol was able to be drawn (and screw lost in the grass).


    I was able to duplicate the problem.

    Look inside the empty holster. Along the back wall, there's a plastic bar that starts in front of the trigger guard and ends about halfway to the bottom of the holster. As the gun is inserted, that bar is compressed against the holster body by the dust cover, creating a friction fit. If you insert the gun upside down as described, that lever is compressed first by the front sight, then by the balance of the slide, creating the same friction fit. The trouble starts after the front sight clears the end of that bar. The FS is taller than the slide, and after the end of the bar clears the FS, the bar snaps down onto the slide. When you try to pull the gun back out, the bar catches the FS locking the gun in place.

    You can correct the problem by removing the screw that holds the bar in place, or you can slide a long narrow paddle of some sort in to raise the bar above the FS allowing it to clear.

    Fatal flaw: This cannot be corrected while in the fight. The gun is stuck.

    I could duplicate this holster failure with Glocks 17, 21, and 23 and the appropriate Serpa for each. Unknown how other designs might be impacted.

    If users insist on keeping the Serpa, they must not employ this particular method of refunctioning the gun.

    There are many other, high quality, holster options which have no such problems.

    Photos of G21 duplication follow.


  2. #2
    Swoble Guest

    I had a SERPA in Iraq. It failed to release when I was returning from a mission and was at the clearing barrels.

    It ended up having a small rock stuck in the mechanism. I ditched it and wentwith a backup for the rest of the time.


    I have had two Serpa drop leg holsters, the first I ran for almost a year without a problem. The second one I got I had problems with from day one. The first day I placed my para in it and it would not come out even with two of us pulling on it. Several of my fellow shooters tried somehow, and we got it out. We had to take the lock out. I ran it like that for a few matches, then came W.W.Z. I had to crawl for one stage, the holster got filled with dirt and again the para was stuck fast I resorted to banging on it and was able to break it free. I have since dumped that serpa and now run a Kiss holster no more Serpa for me


    Serpa's are issued to us on the boarding team. Luckily we had 6004's around we could use instead. We had a lot of problems(damn near all of them) with failure to lock/release. Most of us went back to the 6004's.


    Took a Serpa to a training class. It ran fine 95% of the time, but that 5% when it didn't sucked great big hairy rocks clean off the bottom of the ocean. Safariland for a retention holster for me.


    Snapped a lvl III Serpa off the shank doing DT drills. Admittedly, I WAS trying to break it. Managed to **** up the hood before I broke it off. Had to throw the wearer around quite a bit and he was "actively" resisting the take-away attempt. I'm 5'10/220, so not a huge dude.

    If it had been a for real encounter, I'm sure I would have been shanked multiple times before I was able to tear off the holster, or shot with the .32 he usually keeps in his left front pocket.

    I've never torn a Safariland off, although I'm still not a fan of the UBL. I like the old steel shanks best.


    MN agency training in weapon retention had 16 out of 20 Serpa duty rigs break. Described to me as the holster parting from the belt attachment portion. Trying to run down further details.

    And I can't say it enough, don't insert a reversed pistol into a Serpa holster. We practice doing so as part of support hand only manipulation and reloads. With Glock and M&P, invites having your pistol trapped in the holster.


    I was fairly non-commital on the suckage of SERPA's until day two of the Magpul Lvl 2 Carbine class I just finished.

    The class took place in a range consisting of very gritty sand. We were diving into Urban prone on both sides. Now, my Safariland ALS holster got ****ed up, but at a minimum I could get the gun out and solve my problem. It took some effort to get it back in, even with banging it to get some of the sand loose. Never could get the hood completely relocked. The ALS mechanism had some sand between it and the actual holster, which wouldn't allow it to get out of the way enough.

    The guy on the line next to me had a SERPA thigh holster for his Glock 21. He was completely unable to remove the gun from the holster, even after hitting something hard against it to try to clear the release mechanism. In order to get the gun clear, it had to have several bottles of water poured over it and be removed from his belt and inverted.

    Not cool. Obviously you can create conditions where you can make any device fail, hell, they pay some engineers to do just that. But I felt that jumping to urban prone and back up shouldn't mean the complete loss of your secondary. While the Safariland is by no means perfect, it was comparitively much better amd at a minimum allowed me to get my pistol and save my own life.


    Our most recent ND, troop was starting drawstroke with Serpa, finger slipped into trigger well. Sympathetic reflex continued and he fired just as muzzle was clearing holster. Luckily (extremely) the round blew the top 1/2" of his holster up,down through his cargo pocket, blowing it and his extra ammo out through the bottom and impacted 1" from his right toe. Only injury was a small laceration on his thigh from round shrapnel splashing back

    Serpa= Bad

    Even worse, an agency not to be named here just last year switched from the Safariland sls to the Serpa because of budget/marketing.


    A friend and I were at the range yesterday. He has been using a serpa for his glock for a fairly long time. While doing something (we were supposed to be walking out to check targets) he managed to fall or something and get a small rock lodged in the trigger mechanism. We were not able to get the Glock freed from the holster until we got back to his house and fiddled with the thing with all sorts of objects. He's looking at an ALS now.

    Beating a dead horse but Blackhawk sucks... 2 years ago the button got stuck when I was at the range. Last time used.

    Never once had doubts or failure from Safariland drop leg I used for the last year. And that thing was caked in mud on the Reg.


    After being in a class where TWO Serpas were taken out of action by the lovely rocks at Blackwater. I considered that was enough of a clue that they were not a holster that could ever be trusted. Nothing has come along that has changed that opinion.


    (video of incident)


    ND at our range today with a Serpa and a 1911.
    Deputy was drawing, took the safety off as he was drawing and tripped the trigger. He took the holster with to the hospital, but we think he may have put the round through the bottom of the holster, where it entered his thigh and exited near his calf. I'm pretty sure that while trying to disengage the safety, while using the trigger finger to release the gun, caused the ND.
    I was standing about 15 feet away, heard an early round fire, looked around and didn't see anyone "hurting." We have multiple ranges and thought it may have come from the next one over.
    I scored three targets before the guy came over and said, "I think I need to go to the hospital." I thought he was joking about his score, then realised that he wasn't kidding. Thought maybe a heart attack and he says, "I think I just shot myself in the leg."
    Ok, then. Off the range we go. Our office is close and a couple of other cadre started dressing the wound while I called 911.
    For years, I've been harping that the cadre needs better training and GSW specific equipment, besides what I carry on me.
    Unfortunately, it will take an ND and injury to make that happen.


    Was shooting with Jerry Barnhart recently.. another report of an AD into the leg on presentation from a SERPA with M9.


    Soon after, I went to do my annual rifle qual. While in the sitting position, my SERPA leg holster got some small sand/dirt/**** in it, and sure enough... Locked my M9 in. (the MC ranges make you wear your pistol on the rifle range if you dual-qual)

    Immediately I thought of this thread.
    Brain engaged, and a lightbulb went on.
    Went out and bought an ALS.
    Am happy.


    This was just posted on another site:

    (CLIFF'S NOTES: User with XD45 shoots himself in the thigh (like Tex) w/ Serpa holster)

    Last night at a pistol class that I was participating in (by an excellent local trainer), a fellow blew a hole through his right leg with a .45ACP hardball round from his XD. I was on the line with him and didn't witness it, but did notice the commotion and went to investigate.

    The fellow was still standing, didn't realize that he had actually been shot, but there was a little bit of blood. I was preparing to get my first aid kit, thinking that a bit of antibiotic ointment and a band aid was in order (thought he'd caught a bit of jacket material from the backstop or something). Then I heard someone say that he'd shot himself.

    I shone my flashlight on his leg and sure enough, there was a hole mid thigh when he pulled his shorts up. I grabbed an Israeli pressure bandage that I always have in my range bag, ripped it open, and his buddy said, "Give it here."

    I asked him if he knew how to use it, he said that he learned how in the military, and I simply kept my light on the right spot as he very quickly and expertly applied the bandage, then they took off. (A couple of people had to insist that he go, as he wanted to just stay and finish the class!) I only saw the one hole, assumed it was the entrance, and wondered where the bullet ended up. It certainly wasn't obvious.

    As soon as he left, I asked if anyone noticed whether or not it was a Serpa holster, as I hadn't taken the time to look. Indeed it was!

    An hour and a half later, he was back. The trauma center X-rayed his leg, gave him a prescription (he didn't know of what, and he hadn't filled it yet), and said that there wasn't really anything that they needed to do. The hole that I thought was the entrance was actually the exit, and the entry wound was a few inches higher, where one wouldn't notice without removing his shorts.


    This was one tough dude! No pain killer, a hole through his leg from a .45, and he really had no obvious problems whatsoever.

    Even though he'd been through four or five classes with this same holster, and evidently had been on active duty in Iraq and familiar with guns and with the XD that he shot himself with, he got bit by using this Serpa. I basically indicated that he should toss it in the trash.


    I had a Sherpa Level3 for a full year, and had two malfunctions due to debris/detritus.
    I have had Safariland 6365 and 6305 holsters since then, exposed to the same elements and conditions, and have yet to have a malfunction with my ALS. I've actually done a lot more rolling on the ground in training lately, and the ALS has never skipped a beat. I'm sure there could be a malfunction due to foreign detritus, but the propensity for it to happen is probably barely even a fraction of that which the Sherpa has.

    The Sherpa also has other problems relating to design, construction and strength/integrity. Overall, a very flexible holster that is basically junk in my book. When I look back at all of the problems I had with it, I am ashamed that I owned one.


    Just yesterday I finally managed to get this piece of **** banned for all use by officers in my PD. They have until spring qualification at the end of March to get a quality holster. Probably half of our 40 officers currently use a serpa so there are about 20 guys hating me right now. Oh well.


    Several years ago with the first or second batch for SERPA holsters for the Glock 9/40 platform I was given one for evaluation. Day 1, hour 1 I got the gun locked in place by decomposed granite from our range surface stuck in the locking mechanism. I spent about a half hour removing the pistol after dropping the magazine, off loading ammo etc.

    I called the donor of the holster and they offered to let me keep it and I declined. A couple of days later a larger agency came to the range with a stack of Serpa holsters they had just purchased. The free stuff and low price point trick worked.

    Later I tested Serpa holster and light combinations and rejected them as well. I was over ridden by management.


    ...I can do more later if you'd like, but I'm tired of cutting/pasting. The real acknowledgement is the list of highly specialized/respected instructors/schools and agencies banning the use of them. No one makes a perfect holster, but the SERPA line is complete sh_t.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2011
    Nice post. I'll tuck this one away jic anybody hears how great they are from one of the gunstore commandos. I would like to hear what the guy who called you on it had as a reponse.......crickets???
    "The will to survive is not as important as the will to prevail...the answer to criminal aggression is retaliation" Lt. Col. Jeff Cooper

    "When Your Time Comes To Die. Be Not Like Those Whose Hearts Are Filled With Fear Of Death. So When Their Time Comes They Weep And Pray For A Little More Time To Live Their Lives Over Again In A Different Way.

  4. #4
    Swoble Guest
    He namely said it must have all been nothing but user error - that the holster had nothing to do with it. The usual retort.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    I agree the release may clog and lock the gun in place.
    As to the discharges...ANY gun will go bang if you press the trigger I don't care what holster you use.
    That I can't see blaming the holster for.
    I used one and never had a problem with my finger going into the trigger guard, my finger is in the same place on the Safariland ALS I use now.
    Montani Semper Liberi
    "Mountaineers Always Free"

    "Now, let me explain this to you. We are not afraid of you or any of your
    terrorist co-conspirators, Mr. Reid. We are Americans. We have been through
    the fire before."
    Judge William Young, US District Court to the Shoe Bomber

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    South Florida, USA
    I did not learn the hard way thank god, but saw enough of the bad experiences to learn from others mistakes.

    Great research swoble.
    I kneel for no man and pray to only one God; Jesus Christ.

    تدريب لتكون في نهاية المطاف الأمريكي الكافر

    CRG 09/2012, TMCO 11/2012, RGF I 09/2013, ACRG 11/2013

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Fort Worth, TX
    Quote Originally Posted by WVShooter View Post finger is in the same place on the Safariland ALS I use now.
    But on the Safariland that finger is not pushing in while you are simultaneously trying to draw the gun.

    I think the really big issue with the Serpas is how they seem to be pretty easy to break off of the belt. I also recall that one was able to bypass the retention device on a certain Serpa by just yanking on the gun in a certain direction.
    Every citizen should be a soldier. This was the case with the Greeks and Romans, and must be that of every free state.
    - Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    South Georgia
    Man... Kyle was RIPPING into the Serpa!

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Nov 2012
    Glendale, AZ
    I'm not so sure how valid the finger complaint is. I realize that everyone is different but my finger always falls correctly and passively after drawing from the Serpa. I don't keep pressing down after the holster releases. Why should anyone do that? Even so, is that to difficult to practice?

    If a belt is worn and the clips that come with the holster are installed properly it is IMPOSSIBLE to completely dislodge the holster by yanking on the firearm. I have pulled on the firearm as hard as I could and in several directions and was not able to defeat the ALS.

    I can't speak to debris jamming it up since I don't chase after criminals or roll around in the hills of Afghanistan. If that is a problem then I guess the holster is not a good choice for LE types or soldiers. I don't see these issues being a big concern for civilian carry and the ALS is a great feature. If the Safariland is so much better, fine. They are also three times the price.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    It's poor forum etiquette to sign up on a forum just to necropost.
    "May your foes be strong enough to keep you sharp"
    - Mass Effect

    "Well maybe you just need to get a little tougher"
    -Gabe Suarez discussing the AK in the Kalashnikov Rifle Gunfighting DVD

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