Open Carry – Hiking & Backpacking Holsters
Looking at this picture, I have to ask, when did I get so tubby? Oh boy. I’ve had this holster since January 2016, and the concealed carry holster since October 2016. Before I talk about the holsters, I’ll start by saying that gun forums can often be full of a lot of BS. Often, but not always. One such story I could believe was people talking about getting their pistols snagged on branches when bushwhacking and having a negligent discharge1 — I won’t call this an accidental discharge2. If there is a possibility of this happening, it is prudent to take steps to ensure it doesn’t — I can see how easily the hammer or the entire pistol could get snagged by a branch or some brush and be cocked or pulled out of a holster respectively. If this sounds unlikely, then you’ve probably not bushwhacked through dense undergrowth. That possibility factored into my choice of an open carry holster with positive retention for hiking and backpacking.
This Blackhawk Serpa holster has positive retention, unless the button on the holster is pressed the gun is locked into the holster and it is not coming out, keeping the trigger covered and secure. This effectively stops the brush or anything (or anyone) else grabbing at the gun and pulling it from the holster. That should fool the bears and feral hogs and stop them from stealing it from me (I am joking. I’m not so sure I’d trust the squirrels though).
When I first began wearing this holster I kept the Beretta’s safety off. There is a firing pin block and catching the hammer will just cock it. There is no way for the trigger to be pulled while it is in the holster. I figured keeping the safety off was one less thing to worry about when drawing the gun while wearing a fairly bulky backpack with lots of webbing and straps around. After re-thinking this I now keep the safety on as that’s how I carry the Beretta in my concealed carry holster. This makes the muscle memory almost the same for both holsters. I still have to remember to press the retention release with this holster though!
I’ve read in the reviews that some people do not like the position of the holster retention release, which they consider too close to the trigger. It’s outside the holster above where the trigger is located. I have found that the release lies exactly where my finger should be when I’m holding the gun — straight along the frame above the trigger.
The holster is adjustable to different belt sizes, and there are lots of options to set the angle of the holster, and it holds the gun well. The only problem I’ve found occurs if you try to draw the weapon without pressing the retention release to free it. The button becomes very hard to operate or jams. To unjam it, you have to push the gun back into the holster, which removes the pressure on the release mechanism, and then press the release again and draw the gun.
Would I recommend this holster? Yes, but I’m going to have to try a few more. And I recommend a lot of practice undoing the retention release.
I’ve always wanted to try the Alien Gear ShapeShift system, but they don’t make a holster for the Baretta PX4. However, they do make a holster for my Sig Sauer P938, so I decided to give the system a try. I found I could adapt the ShapeShift Outside the Waistband hip belt holster paddle to work with my backpack hip belt using a similar modification to those I did to my BlackHawk Sherpa retention holster.
All I did to adapt both holster mounts for use on my backpack’s hip belt was add a strong elastic cord to loop around the hip belt as a precaution to prevent the holster from falling off of the belt when I drop my pack, or if my pack gets turned upside down.
the shapeShift system seems to to work well, and I discovered I could adapt the Beretta’s retention holster to take the ShapeShift mounting plate, so I can use the same holster fittings with both the Sig and the Beretta.
I’ve also made a ridge line mount for my hammock using the ShapeShift system, which is a much better way to keep my handgun accessible while I’m sleeping in my hammock.
Why Open Carry?
There is a very simple reason. Convenience. It’s much easier to carry the gun on my hip than it is to carry it zipped up in an inaccessible pocket in my backpack. Where we backpack and hike we rarely encounter other people so I’ll not be frightening non-firearms aware trail users. I don’t open carry on the more popular hiking trails where we’ll encounter families with their children. But then on those trails I’m not carrying a backpack then either.
Why Carry a Handgun?
I’ve talked with someone, who when hiking with his daughters, encountered an aggressive group of trouble-seeking, partying youths at a wilderness trailhead.
Of course, that also leads to the question as to why I carry a handgun at all. The answer to that is simple too. Safety. We hike and backpack where there is no cell phone connectivity and no emergency services. Like a fire extinguisher, you have one (or more – we have three fire extinguishers). You train in how to use them, and that’s fun and instructive. And you hope you never, ever, have to put that training to use in a real-life situation. However, I’ve talked with someone, who when hiking with his daughters, encountered an aggressive group of trouble-seeking, partying youths at a wilderness trailhead. The situation very quickly de-escalated when the youths realized he was armed and not an easy target. He and his daughters were then able to exit the situation and trailhead in safety. This, I should add was at a trailhead we’ve used many times.
Then there was the Ranger we met who (very unusually for a National Forest Ranger) was dressed in black, wearing a knife vest and carrying a baton, taser, and sidearm. While trying to not alarm us, he told us that this was because the locals frequenting the campground we were staying at had a history of getting into quite serious trouble. That was reassuring!
Finally, anyone who’s been laying in a tent when a pack of coyotes, yips and yowls their way past – despite the fact coyotes are not known for attacking people – will quickly decide it might be prudent to arm themselves. Well, that’s what happened to me in 2011 backpacking on the Berryman trail.
So, I carry firearms as a deterrent to two-legged aggressors at home and on the trail, and a gun makes an awful lot of noise which I hope will scare off any four-legged aggressors we might encounter. We have not had to deal with either, and that’s the way I plan to keep it. But, just in case …
Concealed Carry Holster – In The Waistband
I have to say that this inexpensive in the waistband holster is very comfortable, and conceals well. It did take a few days to break it in; that is time for the leather to mold to my body and how I wear it. I prefer the lowest setting for the holster, that is with the gun low to my belt, so I had to adjust it. three different heights are provided. The only problem I’ve had was a squeaking sound caused by the metal clips rubbing on the leather. I cured this by fixing a small fabric pad to the backs of the clips. I used the looped part of a piece of Velcro sticky tape.
Another thing to note is that you can wear your shirt tucked in with this holster; though doing so makes accessing the weapon more difficult. To do this you have to work your shirt down between the clip and the holster. The only other downside I’ve found is that when you do this the holster’s belt clips are visible unless you only clip the holster onto your pants’ waistband behind your belt. This, however, is not as secure as clipping the holster onto your belt.
The Beretta doesn’t ‘print‘ when I’m wearing it with my shirt un-tucked, even when I’m wearing shorts and a tee-shirt. It’s harder to stop it printing when you tuck your shirt in. I don’t see this as a problem with the holster, just an issue trying to conceal carry with one’s shirt tucked in. Overall Ginger doesn’t tend to notice if I’m wearing it or not. And people won’t know it is there unless they brush against it. And people do not normally get that close.
The retention of this holster is good too, the gun stays nice and secure even when I’m running. (Notice the subtle suggestion that I actually run from time-to-time?)
And yes, the weapon in these pictures is loaded, and there is a round in the chamber. However, the safety is on, and as mentioned above, the Beretta has a long and heavy first round trigger pull. It is safe.
I changed my pack again, got rid of some unnecessary gear, and no longer use the Ribz front pack. By switching from the holster’s belt attachment to the paddle attachment I found I could fit this holster comfortably and very securely to the backpack’s hip belt. The paddle is held on the hip belt by a strong elasticated strap and a couple of notches in the paddle to secure it in place. You can shake it and pull it, hang it upside down, the holster is not coming off of the hip belt accidentally.
As my latest backpack’s hip belt is basically black the holster and gun blend in. I doubt nine out of ten people I meet on the trail notice I’m wearing it. I can remove the holster from the hip belt, which lets me use it with the paddle tucked into my pants when I’m pottering around camp and not wearing the pack.
On one recent trip to the Wilderness, I encountered over 30 people — so much for it being a ‘wilderness’ — and while open carrying didn’t bring any comments, I did get some stares. Well, maybe it was my hiking kilt or choice of footwear that got the stares.
A while back I bought a Ribz chest-pack to carry essentials that I used to keep stowed away in my backpack. This lets me get at often used items without having to remove my pack. The pockets are big enough to hold the Beretta and everything I need quick access to. So when I’m wearing the Ribz pack I carry concealed. Even with the Ribz pack, I keep the Beretta in the retention holster, but with the holster’s belt loop bracket removed.
Copyright © 2017 Gary Allman, all rights reserved.
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1. Negligent Discharge. When a gun is unintentionally fired due to the negligence (intentional or otherwise) of the person in possession of the firearm.
2. Accidental Discharge. When a firearm unintentionally fires due to a failure of the firearm or ammunition.