Race Master Holster

In my 16-some-odd year shooting career, I've had a number of different holsters on my belt. Inevitably, choosing a holster seems to come down to choosing the one who's downsides you most wanted to put up with. I've used Safariland 009 and 012s, the original Limcat, the pinless Ghost, the Guga Ribas, and now the CR Speed holster, and have found all of them lacking in one way or another. Recently, a new holster hit the market that promised to have all the good and none of the bad - the Race Master, made by Double Alpha Academy. I decided to give one a test, and see how it stacks up against the other holsters I've used.

I should note that this is an initial review, based on spending a week with the holster. I will be writing an update after I've spent more time with it and had a chance to see how it performs in several matches and practices.

Right out of the box, the Race Master seems to have several qualities of some of the holsters I mentioned above. It's a "bikini" style holster - a smaller form factor that doesn't include a muzzle platform or cup (similar in form to the Ghost, Limcat, and Guga Ribas). It includes a positive holster lock (something that was overlooked in the Safariland line until very recently, and a feature the CR Speed doesn't actually have), and a tension adjustment knob (a feature lacked by the Ghost and Limcat, and that the CR Speed only implements in a very rudimentary way). It has an adjustment and positioning system that is based on a ball joint (though the range of motion is intentionally limited), and also has adjustments for holster distance from the body, and angle that the holster hangs from the belt hanger. The belt hanger is rather unique and, as it turns out, extremely sturdy and stable on the popular belts available on the market.

Several of the holsters on the market offer the ability to use the same holster with different types of firearms, usually involving the change of some minor parts. However, the existing offerings on the market can only accommodate guns where the trigger guard size is roughly similar to the gun the holster was sized for. What this has generally meant is that, if you wanted to run a Glock or a Sig in a race holster, you needed to buy a separate holster for that firearm platform. The Race Master, on the other hand, uses interchangeable insert blocks to handle each type of firearm. You can buy one holster, and then buy an insert block for each additional firearm type you want to use with. No need to remove one holster from the belt and add another, or own a complete second rig - with modern mag pouches that support multiple magazine types, you can do it all from one setup. Some folks will definitely find this feature useful.

That's a strong list of positive features - in fact, it would appear to be everything one could really want in a race holster… The question, of course, is does the Race Master follow through on that promise? I think it does - here's why...

My first concern is always retention - how well does the holster hold on to the gun during various activities, and what do you have to sacrifice in terms of usability and feel to get adequate retention? This is usually where the compromise comes in with a race holster, that balance between hanging on to the gun, and letting it go when the shooter wants the gun to come out of the holster. This trade off is done in various different ways, and is really the biggest differentiator between all of the holsters. Some do it better than others, but none of them are ideal, with some requiring that you lock the holster in order to do any movement, while others require that you crank down the tension on them prohibitively tight, or that you have to workaround their lack of retention by managing the gun during any movement while the gun is holstered.

The Race Master is slightly confounding to me in terms of retention, in that I can't seem to get it to drop a gun. I've never come across a holster that I couldn't figure out some way to get it to drop a holstered gun. I'm talking about unlocked, using the lightest tension setting available, and with a fully loaded (with dummy rounds) big stick in the gun. I've tried a number of exercises with the holster in that condition - the "old school IPSC" holster retention tests (forward somersault, jump and turn 180 degrees), jump and turn 360 degrees in both directions, short distance sprints… I've even done plyometric box jumps to a 20" tall surface, an activity that should theoretically tickle the holster's method of gun release. No dice. The gun stays put. Bottom line - this holster has the unqualified best retention of any holster I've personally tested throughout my shooting career.

The second concern, for me, comes down to feel - how does the holster's draw feel when it's set up correctly, and configured in the fashion it's actually going to be used in (that is, with tension set appropriately, etc). As a holster's feel is determined by it's design, each of the holsters mentioned above has a different feel to it. Many folks find that they cannot get used to the feel of one type of holster, and feel becomes an important decision point for them. Usually, if a holster retains the gun well when unlocked, the feel can be a little harsh, as you have to pull the gun through the retention mechanism of the holster. Surprisingly, even though the Race Master refuses to give up the gun in all the retention tests I performed, when asked nicely, it let's the gun go almost disconcertingly easily. It feels almost as if the gun is just resting on top of the holster, rather than being retained by the holster's slide lock system. If you're used to a Ghost or Safariland holster, you'll find the Race Master to release the gun with similar ease, but smoother. If, like me, you've been using a CR Speed, you may find that you need to dial in some tension so that you can "feel" the holster when you draw the gun. About 3/4 of a turn seemed to do it for me. This is not a bad thing - more tension on the holster translates to enhanced retention, and having the ability to tune the feel exactly as you like it without having to give up anything on retention is a real bonus with this holster.

Fit, finish, and ultimately longevity enter the picture third. It may not seem like it, at first blush, but those things go hand in hand. By finish, I don't mean "is it pretty" (though the Race Master certainly looks nice). I'm thinking more along the lines of are there any sharp edges, or do I need to do any work to the holster as it comes from the factory so that it won't interfere with my draw. Fit is important, as well, as it determines if there's any wiggle in the parts that might accelerate wear or result in the holster losing adjustment under pressure. I tend to be kind of a gorilla when it comes to locking adjustments down, so for me, my gear needs to handle me torquing down screws and that sort of thing, as well. It's hard to fully evaluate this concern in a week - certainly, I can't tell you anything truthful about how the holster will last over several competition seasons yet, so we won't worry about longevity for the moment.

From the standpoint of fit and finish, though, the holster is very well done. There are no sharp edges that need dressing, and the holster body is compact and stays out of the way during the draw. The holster is also out of the way when going prone. As I mentioned earlier, the belt hanger on this holster is quite interesting. On my CR Speed belts, the hanger fits over the belt like a glove, and when the retainer clips are tightened down, the holster literally does not move on the belt (unlike basically any other holster I've tried, minus the Ghost). Apparently, on Double Alpha Academy's belt, the hanger fits even tighter! This results in no movement of the holster during the draw, which contributes to the fabulous feel of the holster, and also prevents the holster from moving on the belt over time. Now, if we could get these hangers on mag pouches!!! The hanger also allows the outer belt's velcro to make contact with the inner belt. This is the first holster I haven't had to use additional velcro on the inside of the hanger to insure secure mounting to the inner belt. I'm also happy to report that the holster survived gorilla torquing with nary a complaint. I'm confident the adjustments I made will hold themselves in place over time without moving. Time will tell, of course, but this seems like a safe bet.

My only gripe with the holster is a very minor one, and involves the serrations on the bottom of the safety. I understand the design choice, here, of course. The serrations give your finger a way to grip against the lever and move the lever without slipping off of it. They really eat into my finger, though, when taking the lock off during the draw. Given how well the holster retains the gun, this may very well turn out to be a non-issue, just because it won't be necessary to use the safety on the draw 99.9% of the time. However, Saul Kirsch at DAA tells me that they will shortly be offering an optional safety lever that has had the serrations removed, making it smooth and about half as thick. One could also use a dremel tool to accomplish something similar, if desired.

Finally, I consider how easy the holster is to adjust to the right position. If the holster has good fit and finish, this will likely only happen once, when you first purchase the holster. Another difference between each of the holsters is how it's adjusted. Every one of these holsters adjusted differently, but they all offered some means to adjust height, rake (angle of the gun from front to back), and rotation. A couple of them give you ways to adjust the distance of the holster from the body directly, as well. Some of them are easier to adjust than others. Conveniently, the Race Master includes all of these options, and allows you to put the gun in exactly the right spot for your body. This is seriously important, as the holster does not respond well to torquing the gun off angle during the draw (all race holsters exhibit this to one degree or another) - the gun will tend to bind in the holster if you don't set it up correctly. This isn't a new phenomenon to those familiar with race holsters, but it's one that will drive you nuts if the holster can't be put in the correct spot relative to your body. I was able to position the holster exactly where I needed it, and it would seem that there should be enough adjustability to accommodate all potential users of the holster.

I did encounter a minor challenge in adjusting the holster, due to the ball and socket design. I anticipated this issue, based on my experience with the Guga Ribas holster's ball and socket system. The ball and socket design means that the holster can be adjusted in a seemingly infinite number of angles and directions. The problem is, it can be adjusted in all of those angles at the same time. The Race Master uses two largish allen head screws (called horizontal displacement adjustment screws) to secure the ball (the screws will actually bite into the aluminum ball when you torque them down tight). The downside to this is that you can't really use one of the screws as a "drag" adjustment, so that you can keep some tension on the ball while you adjust it. instead, you have to keep one of the supplied allen wrenches handy in your weak hand, and snug up one of the screws while holding the holster in position. In addition, the elevation adjustment screw also contributes somewhat to the tension on the ball, so you have to be careful about changing the position of the ball if you have to change the holster height. All this means that you basically need to be patient and take your time in adjusting the holster. This is not a big deal, just something to note and be prepared for.

Once you get the holster adjusted, you can lock all the screws down tight, and you shouldn't have to touch it again. I mean that, too - once the adjustments are locked down, this holster feels like it's made from a solid piece of billet steel, it's so solid. The design of the hanger and ball and socket on this holster are very simple, and this allows them to be extremely secure without risk of stripping the screws, or having the ball slip in the socket.

So, that's where I'm at with it a week into my evaluation. The Race Master is a solid piece of kit that delivers on it's promises. It's rock solid, it retains the gun extremely well, and has a silky smooth draw feel. I'm going to reserve final judgement until I spend more time with the holster, but for now, the Race Master appears to be the best race holster for USPSA/IPSC competition that I've ever used.