One gun, one holster…
By Dennis Adler
From a purely technical evaluation of each gun and holster combination, there’s one clear choice, but it comes from weighing the specific advantages and disadvantages of each. The first consideration, since this is not a law enforcement or military open carry evaluation, is ease of concealment with a duty-sized handgun. All four CO2 models accurately duplicate the size and approximate weight of their centerfire counterparts, so for training purposes they all work and work well with the holsters shown.
Can you see me now?
Concealing a Government-sized 1911, Beretta 92A1, Sig Sauer P226, or an S&W M&P40 is very holster specific. We will start with the Galco paddle holster for the Sig. While easy to put it on, paddle holsters have a safety clip mounted on the inside of the paddle that falls below the belt line on the inside of the wearer’s trousers. This is intended to secure it below the belt line and prevent the holster from being pulled off when drawing the gun. The overall advantage of the paddle holster then, lies in the ease with which it can be moved around the waist to reposition the gun (something you cannot do with a belt holster), rather than how easily it can be removed. (On TV shows I would wager that the clip has been taken off to allow actors to more easily remove the holster).
In the real world of concealed carry, the paddle holster is the most versatile but also one of the least concealable because it does not keep the gun as close to the body as a belt rig. The Sig P226 X-Five, on the other hand, is one of the best handling pistols in either the CO2 or centerfire worlds of firearms. While not shown, I also tried the Sig in a Galco belt rig and it becomes easier to conceal. Drawing effort is the same.
Everyone who carries a 1911 swears by them. I have carried them and while I have no doubts about my capabilities I have never been a big fan of a cocked and locked 1911 on my hip. I honestly feel the same way about a Glock with a chambered round and only the blade trigger safety. I am a big fan of loaded, hammer down, safety engaged DA/SA pistols or DA/SA striker fired pistols with a decocker. That’s my personal preference. The Swiss Arms 1911 TRS is a consummate understudy of a 1911 rail gun and it pairs perfectly with the Galco Fletch thumb break safety belt holster. The narrow design of a 1911 and a holster that curves like the Galco, makes the 1911 easier to conceal than one might think. The snap is easy to release on the draw and the Swiss Arms clears leather quickly, but the gun is a little harder to re-holster and you have to re-snap the safety strap. However, if you are a 1911 person it is hard to make a better argument for this being the ideal gun and holster combination; the Swiss Arms TRS is about the very best 1911 CO2 model available for overall features and authentic handling.
Next is the smaller but harder to conceal M&P40 paired with the Safariland injection molded Level 1 tactical holster. The hard injection molded shell of the holster and the depth of the belt mount push the entire gun further from the body thus making it harder to cover. While not an ideal concealed carry rig (although the M&P40 is), the Safariland is the overall fastest to draw from and to re-holster of the four gun and holster combinations. It is also the only one that makes noise performing either function. Hard plastic is not soft, supple and nearly silent leather, making the Safariland not as ideal for concealed carry. Again not pictured, I tried the M&P40 in a Galco Combat Master belt rig very similar in design to the model for the Beretta, and the gun suddenly becomes as easy to conceal as the others. So, the M&P40 and Safariland combo, as a tactical pair, are probably unbeatable, for concealed carry they are a mismatch.
This brings me to the largest player on the field the Beretta 92A1. The Umarex CO2 model is a 1:1 pistol (not counting the selective fire switch) to its 9mm counterpart. The centerfire Beretta, like the Sig and M&P40, is a double stack magazine design and has wider grips than the 1911. The Beretta is otherwise fairly equivalent in size to the Sig and 1911. As for easy of carry in the Galco Combat Master belt holster it remains as close to the body and as easy to conceal as the Sig or 1911. It also clears leather quickly and is easy to re-holster. As open top holster and semi-auto combinations go, the Beretta is a smooth operator.
And the best combo is…
For ease of draw, re-holstering and concealment, the best holster choice is the Galco Combat Master and the gun that offers the most authentic handling for a full-sized duty pistol is the Beretta 92A1. This is, of course, my personal choice as I prefer the overall operating features of the Beretta (and the Sig) compared to the S&W M&P40 and Swiss Arms 1911.
As a final note, if I had paired the Sig Sauer with the Combat Master belt holster instead of the Beretta, it could have gone either way. But overall, those of you who picked the Umarex Beretta 92A1 and the Galco belt rig were right on the mark for this one out of four possible combinations for my favorite gun and holster combo!