Favorite airgun and holster combos Part 2

Favorite airgun and holster combos Part 2 Part 1 Part 3

One gun, one holster…

By Dennis Adler

Deciding on a modern gun and holster combination is actually quite a bit more difficult than a vintage, or pre-WWII gun and holster. There, the choice for a number two could easily have fallen to one of the early-style CO2 1911 models and a World War Supply Tanker shoulder holster; an excellent combination. My choice would have been my custom weathered Gletcher Tokarev TT-33 and the World War Supply Tokarev holster. Choosing a modern day blowback action CO2 model presents a far more varied field, which also makes the point that there are a lot of modern pistols available as CO2 models. Getting the right gun and holster combination can be equally difficult. Back in the pre-WWII era most semi-auto handguns had unique contours and dedicated holsters like those for the Luger P.08 and Walther P.38, or PPK, Russian handguns also had distinctive shapes so again holsters were limited to specific guns and there were few choices. Today, there are more holster makers than gun manufacturers and choices abound for every conceivable handgun and means of carry.

This would have been too easy, picking another vintage gun and holster combination, so my custom weathered Gletcher Tokarev TT-33 and aged Word War Supply holster have to fall into the also ran category as we explore more modern gun and holster combinations.

What is a good second choice? 

This is going to be a multiple choice, and all of you are going to help make the final decision because, well, there are just too many good guns and holsters out there. A few, however, stand out and when you look to find the best blowback action CO2 models odds are they are going to be brand name makers and any list of top guns is going to have an S&W M&P40, Beretta 92A1, Sig Sauer P226 and a modern 1911 Rail Gun. Sound familiar? Umarex, Sig Sauer and Swiss Arms, three of the current top brands when it comes to offering high-performance, quality-built, blowback action CO2 models. Modern guns also have modern holsters and for this group the choices are actually almost as specific in design as some of those pre-WWII CO2 models, because they all have 1913 Picatinny rails, and that makes holsters for standard non-rail models unsuitable.

Contour leather and injection modeled thermoplastic holsters offer superior pistol retention and there are a number of different designs and features for all types. Shown are four different holster types with four of the most authentic to their centerfire counterpart CO2 pistols on the market, the Sig Sauer P226 X-Five (top left) in a Galco paddle holster, the Umarex Beretta 92A1 (top right) in a Galco belt holster, the Swiss Arms 1911 TRS (bottom left) in a Galco Fletch thumb break belt holster, and the Umarex S&W M&P40 in a Safariland injection molded Level 1 tactical holster.

For my second choice and your final opinion on which is the most desirable, the choices are the Umarex Beretta 92A1 in a Galco belt holster, the Swiss Arms 1911 TRS in a Galco Fletch thumb break belt holster, The Sig Sauer P226 X-Five in a Galco paddle holster, and the Umarex S&W M&P40 in a Safariland injection molded Level 1 law enforcement tactical belt holster. All four guns are duty-size pistols and with holsters, are not deep concealment designs but suitable for some concealed carry uses. Paramount among all four is the holster’s contour fit for solid gun retention, cant on the Galco belt rigs, ease of adjustment on the Galco paddle holster, and the higher level of security for the M&P40 with the Safariland tactical holster. All four are made for the actual centerfire weapons and the exact fit of the CO2 models demonstrates how accurate they are to their cartridge-firing counterparts for training exercises.

The Sig Sauer licensed P226 X-Five is one of the most completely accurate CO2 blowback action pistol designs in both external and internal design with an actual short-recoil, locked-breech operating system powered by the CO2. Like all rail equipped guns the Sig requires a holster designed for the gun’s specific contours.

This also applies to the Umarex Beretta 92A1 a version of the centerfire Beretta model and, like the Sig, uses an actual locked-breech, recoil operated system. The Beretta model ranks as one of the best overall CO2 pistols currently manufactured and has the added advantage (as a CO2 model) of a select fire switch to go from semi-auto to full auto or burst fire. With the exception of the selector switch, the CO2 model is a 100 percent accurate copy of the 9mm pistol. Again, being a rail gun, it requires a specific holster to accommodate the deeper frame contours.

Arguably the most authentic of all CO2 pistols, the Umarex S&W licensed M&P40 is the number one CO2 training gun on the market for law enforcement (using M&P pistols). The Umarex version fits all M&P40 (and M&P9) holsters and works ideally with the Safariland injection molded Level 1 retention tactical holster.

The one drawback to all 1911 rail guns is that they do not fit 1911 holsters, and thus dedicated rail gun rigs must be used like this Galco Fletch, which has a rail channel in the contoured design. This is another approach to Level 1 retention with a thumb break safety strap that closes on a cocked and locked 1911. This is one of the best and most secure ways to carry a 1911 in a handcrafted leather holster.

Will that be leather or plastic?  

For many there is only one answer, leather. Nothing feels or smells like a leather holster and for the vast majority of carry situations a leather holster is perfect. But here again I will defer to the legendary John Bianchi, who developed one of the very first non-leather holsters ever manufactured under contract to the U.S. military. As Bianchi explains it, “[Back] in 1981, during the early trials to determine a replacement for the 1911A1, a separate fact finding team had been established within the Department of Defense to look into new holster designs and one day the phone rang and it was the Department of Defense. ‘We read your book Bluesteel & Gunleather [Bianchi’s first book] and we are convinced that you are the final authority on holster design.’ The caller asked if they could send a team of acquisition people out to Bianchi International to visit and get some ideas on how to design a new military holster. When the DoD team arrived they discussed the content of my book and then they dropped the big question, ‘What should the new holster consist of?’ I told them it needs to appeal to Army, Air Force, Marines, Navy, and Coast Guard, so that means it needs to be environmentally balanced, suitable for extreme cold, extreme heat, humidity, dust, salt water, everything. We talked about the holster needing to protect the gun against environmental factors, as well as abrasion, rolling on it, and falling on it. It also had to be chemically and biologically adaptive and water proof. Troops in the field can’t have a wet holster, so that ruled out leather.”

In addition to being a legendary holster maker, John Bianchi is also a retired U.S. Army Major General. This is his battle dress camouflage jacket with the UM-84 General Officer’s version of the holster and belt in black leather, and General Officer’s special Beretta Compact (4.25 in. barrel) Model 92F. The holster is still manufactured after more than 30 years and sold by Safariland.

Over 30 months of research and development Bianchi came up with an ambidextrous mounting system (he is left handed) for a new military holster (designated UM84 and M12 for the military) constructed from DuPont Hytrel, a thermoplastic elastomer resin that can be molded into different shapes and has both flexibility and strength, is resistant to extreme temperature, chemicals, and of course, waterproof. The exterior of the holster was comprised of a ballistic weave equally resistant to the same extremes as the core. In the early 1980s the Beretta 92F military holster was an industry first. Today, injection molded thermoplastic and Kydex holsters are used globally for military and police, though many still can’t resist the allure of leather, (even the Bianchi UM84 was made in leather for issue to General Officers!) TheUM84 is still manufactured today to fit a variety of pistols.

Two other holster designs that have made concealed carry more effective. The paddle holster (right with the P226 X-Five) makes it easier to put the holster on and take it off without removing a trouser gunbelt. A paddle also makes it simple to quickly reposition the holster by sliding it back for better concealment or forward for a quicker draw. The paddle is also cant adjustable so the angle can be changed to user preferences. The Safariland injection molded Level 1 holster for the M&P40 uses an internal triggerguard lock to secure the gun. It cannot be drawn without the release switch on inside left of the holster (just to the left of the slide in this view) being depressed by the thumb before the gun is removed. The belt mount shown is also interchangeable with paddle and other tactical holster mounts. This is the basic Level 1 holster for law enforcement and combined with the Umarex S&W M&P40 one of the very best training combinations possible.

Modern injection molded holsters, like the Safariland pictured with the M&P40 air pistol, also allow the use of retention devices, so choosing between leather and plastic (to use plastic in the broadest sense) ultimately comes down to the holster’s intended use. Leather still wins the popularity (and beauty) contest but injection molded holsters are tougher and more desirable for hard duty use whether in the military, private sector or law enforcement.

The wrap up

Of the four CO2 models pictured and their companion holsters, each falls into my second choice for favorite airgun and holster combination. I would like everyone reading this to weigh in with a comment, pick one of the four, and help determine what the best modern CO2 pistol and holster combination is. We’ll reveal the results of your votes vs. my choice next week!

19 thoughts on “Favorite airgun and holster combos Part 2

  1. Choosing between these CO2 pistols and holsters is a difficult choice. I have all four of these CO2 pistols, but not one of the four holsters. These four CO2 pistols are my favorites among blowback replicas of modern semi-auto pistols. Because I don’t own any firearm gun, I don’t have a routine training regime with any pistol and holster. All of that makes it hard for me to make a choice for this blog. Anytime in the last few years when I have thought about possibly buying my first semi-auto pistol my thoughts have gravitated toward the Beretta so I am going to give my vote to the Beretta 92A1.

    There was an occasion or two over the years when I went online searching for custom holsters. I found many good examples of holsters for these four pistols as long as there was nothing attached to the pistol rails.

    What I did not find was a good selection of holsters to accommodate these pistols with a laser or laser / light combination mounted on the pistol rail. After all, what’s the point of having a rail gun if there is nothing attached to the rail? There seems to be a variety of holsters that could easily accommodate these pistols with mounted micro lasers even if the pistol does not fit ideally in the holster. The problem seems to be finding holsters that can accommodate larger laser / light combinations like the Walther Night Force. A discussion of larger holsters to accommodate these pistols with these larger rail accessories might be a good addition to this blog series.


    • You need to look for holsters that are built for rail guns with laser light options. The general term for these is a Halo holster. Galco makes an excellent one that is offered to fit a variety of different guns with mounted accessory lights. As for one to handle the PPK/S CO2 model with laser, that’s going to be tough. Kind of in the 007 category…


  2. If I may go back to the discussion of WWII era pistols, I’d like to say that I recently got the World War Supply holsters for the Parabellum P.08, Walther P38, and Walther PPK. I also got the Chisholm’s Trail black leather holster for the Mauser C96 / M712. They are all very good, sturdy, well constructed holsters. Although the PPK holster will not accommodate the PPK with the attached laser, the P38 holster can be used instead as the PPK with laser fits in it very well. World War Supply holsters are also available at Amazon.com. I’ve attached a picture of the PPK with laser in the World War Supply P38 holster.


  3. I have found the military reproduction holsters excellent for airgun understudy use. Pictured is a Pacific Canvas P08 Holster that works equally well with an Umarex P08 and a 22lrStoeger Luger. The Bianchi canvas military holster works well with my Colt Series 70 1911 45acp andUmarex Combat Vet1911. It also works with the Beretta 92, Walther P38 And S&W 39 Series. One of my favorite holsters for airgun understudy use is the available but long out of production Roy Baker Pancake Holster. Forgiving in fit , The one pictured is for a 2.5 Colt Python, but fits the 2.5 inch Dan Wesson perfectly. It makes for a very good practice setup . Nestled in this one for comparison is a nickel Colt LawmanMark3 357 with 2 1/4 inch barrel .




  4. The UM84 in synthetic non officers or the officers would get the nod . It is the closest to the one I have , actually I have two of them . They are easily reversed to rt hand left / hand use, fitsmy Remington 1911 which is identical to the Swiss rail 1911, aswell as the Colt CombatVet and Commander. The aftermarket 1911 pouches are available, as well as shotgun shell pouches that can double as c02 , lube and bb, pellet carrier pouches


  5. I thought the Bianchi deserved honorable mention , but if I had to pick from the group of four , it would be the Beretta 92 in theGalco rig. Except for 1911 carry , I prefer the open top holster sans thumb snap. For years I have used DeSantis number 2 speed scabbard for several revolvers and semiautos. It is very similar to the Galco the Beretta is sitting in . Flat , concealable and fast. You may do better but not easily


    • All good choices. The DeSantis No. 2 is based on the original 1960’s Bianchi Speed Scabbard design. I have one that is older and still works great with Government-sized 1911s, even CO2 models (without rails).


  6. Paddle are very popular , on tv where the stereotype cop takes it off and drops it in their desk or clips it on , never taking any spare magazines. I gave a couple , just usually to clip on and walk the dog. Never found they conceal as well as a belt pancake holster, and the plastic or injection molded ones don’t release the firearm as quickly as leather, and they are noisy. Just my humble opinion


    • Paddles take up a little more cover space but they are easier to move around. I agree that injection molded holsters are noisy, you kind of telegraph by sound when drawing from most of them. Leather is quiet. As for speed of release, I have been able to pull guns from Level 1 molded rigs pretty fast, not quietly, but quickly. The more levels of retention, the slower the draw, that’s a fact.


  7. I guess rail pistols , like polymer , striker fired pistols are the new normal. Me, I am set in my ways and don’t have much use for them . Nice to know a stock1911 will fit pretty much any holster . Nobody will ever convince me that it is smart to have a light sitting un your face as a homing beacon for incoming fire . At night I use a flashlight in my off hand around 18 inches from my head turned in to light up my sighs from behind and shine light on the target. Works for me, but to each his own


    • The prevailing theory as I see it is to falcilitate a two-handed hold and that is why the rail guns were developed. Not everyone’s cup of tea. Not everyone uses them. But a rail is handy if you need it. Nice to see the airgun manufacturers keeping pace.



  8. Looking at those pistol-holster combos, could see a couple of more airgun replicas. One would be a blowback Colt Defender, and for 380 fans the new S&W EZ 380 , basically a scaled down shield with grip safety and lighter recoil spring for EZ racking of the slide. With Gletcher apparently doa , would not hold out hope for anymore replicas from them



    • Good choice, it is the fastest to draw from and re-holster, as well as the most secure pistol retention but the holster and block belt mount push the entire rig and gun further out from the body, great for tactical wear but not as well suited for concealed carry use, as the photos with the sweatshirt for cover illustrate in Part 3.


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