Sunday, February 27, 2011

Holsters, Mag Pouches and Belt: What's The Big Deal?

Fairly straightforward right? Just walk into any gun shop, check the price and buy a holster and a few mag pouches? Ah, not really.

Because I never considered where, or how, I may progress within the sport, I simply thought functionality. It also irked me that my choices were severely limited, and expensive, and you have no ability to test them out. It was basically Bladetech or Bladetech. Also, having made a rudimentary examination of what was required for Black Badge, I realised I needed more than two mag pouches; more like four (which later ended up being six), but didn't know why. I read online reviews and balanced this against price, and eventually settled on Fobus.

These are Israeli made holsters and mag pouches, and I took my chances. Be careful though; you need to decide whether you want paddle or belt holsters and mag pouches. The former clips over your belt, and seems ever so easy, the latter takes a bit more effort, as you need to thread them onto your belt everytime. So I thought. My mind was swayed after I watched this video regarding paddle equipment, and besides I wanted my equipment to have a stable platform, so I went with belt equipment.

I liaised directly with a guy in Israel and ordered my equipment online. I ordered one holster and two double mag pouches, which cost about $75.00. The belt variety was a little more than the paddle versions.

The equipment arrived and was perfect. Really strong, well made and fitted like a glove. The handgun came with three 10 round magazines, but I needed at least four. You can get OEM magazines from your retailer at about $45 a piece, which I thought was expensive. So I sourced KCI magazines from a Canadian retailer at $20 a piece, if I took 10. So I took 10 and shared them with a friend; and they are 17 round magazines (naturally pinned to 10, but gives you peace of mind anyway).

Off to Black Badge I went.

What I discovered during Black Badge is that the perpetual threading of holsters and mag pouches onto a belt, is for the birds, and obviously the reason why people buy the paddle equipment. But whilst on the course I noticed the seasoned players were using competition belts. These are quite simply, two belts (an inner and an outer), that fasten together with velcro. You thread the inner belt through your trouser loops, and then you simply fasten the outer belt over the top, which already has your equipment on it, and is where it stays. 

But as usual, you can't simply walk into a store and try the stuff out, because there is no store. You hit the internet, check prices and stock availablity, and you make a decision. Prices vary, but I ended up paying around $40.

Another observation I made was mag pouches and magazines; what you needed and how many. The IPSC rules, which I wasn't familiar with, stipulate that the maximum scoring rounds for a course of fire is 32 rounds, but this doesn't mean that you can't shoot more than that. So if you only have four magazines, that means you only have 40 rounds (well 41 if you want to split hairs). What happens if you have a magazine malfunction, or your tactical reloads determine that you need to reload more than four times, or you need more than 40 rounds to score decent hits? So for me it seemed that at least five magazines would make more sense. But based on my equipment choices, five was a problem because I was buying double mag pouches. So I went with six. Can you see how your costs inadvertantly escalate?

Something you need to consider BEFORE Black Badge, is magazine buffer pads. You WILL break your magazine basepads when you do a magazine reload, and allow your magazines to drop onto a concrete floor. Most of us find out the hard way. Again, there aren't simple off-the-shelf options available, and some of the options are not allowed under IPSC rules. I don't know why manufacturers don't make shock-proof magazines. Anyway, the simplest and cheapest option is to buy a strip of felt (the type your wife uses to stick on the underside of chairs and ornaments so as to not scratch the floor), cut the felt into blocks the size of the basepad, and then stick them onto the magazine. These aren't very attractive but they work and will save you money. 

As stressed before, you always need to consider where you want to ultimately end up. My holster and mag pouches are specifically for the Glock 17, and will not accommodate other handguns or magazines. So if I decide to change my handgun, I need to start all over again (at least with regards to holster and mag pouches).

Also, a small tip, if you have metal magazines you may want to consider a magnetic magazine pouch, as your fifth mag pouch. These have a few benefits, and are best demonstrated in the following video. Again, choose wisely; you can either have a standalone pouch, or a magnet that fastens to your existing mag pouches.

In closing, I would say that you would be better off buying a competition belt, a competition holster (quick draw holster) and competition mag pouches right from the outset. I would have, if I had known. The competition holster and mag pouches (which are singles and cost a lot more than the doubles I bought) are pricey, but they are easily adapted to fit different magazines and handguns. The alternative is to simply build a new, cost effective rig when you acquire a new handgun. Competition rigs can be built for a lot less than you think. As with everything else I have mentioned; take your time, do some research and gather your prices and information. I can build a rig with five mag pouches and a holster for around the $240 mark (which is still a lot of money), but this can run as high as $450.

Good luck with your shopping.
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