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Understanding Level III Holsters with Rich Graham and Safariland

May 22, 2024
Chris Cerino

Recently, I had the chance to train with Safariland® and former Navy SEAL Rich Graham in the deep woods of Florida at Rich’s Full Spectrum Warrior facility. The training showcased the simplicity, functionality, and durability of Safariland’s® Level III ALS/SLS holsters (Automatic Locking System/Self Locking Strap).

Safariland® offers holsters in standalone ALS or SLS models. The ALS is considered Level I, while the SLS is Level II. Friction between the gun and the holster does not count as a level of security.

Why Choose a Level III Holster?

What is a Level III holster, and do they slow down your reaction time? For those in law enforcement or involved in tactical shooting sports like outlaw 3-gun, understanding this can be crucial.

In my 30 years of law enforcement experience, including patrol, tactical operations, and training, Safariland® holsters have been my go-to. However, the combination of a hood strap and a locking lever defining Level III retention was initially unclear to me.

Level III security is not just about perceived security or a single locking mechanism; it’s about the number of motions required to release the pistol from the holster. The ALS/SLS

Level III holster has a hood and a release button, requiring three distinct actions to draw the pistol:

  1. Push the hood down to unlock it.
  2. Drive the hood forward once it’s free.
  3. Pull the release button rearward with your strong thumb, unlocking the pistol.

These three actions equate to Level III security. Is it awkward or slow? Not necessarily. There’s a learning curve, like with any new gear. With proper training, these motions can become seamless, making the draw as smooth as from a friction-style holster.

Practical Application and Training

Though I no longer use a full Level III duty holster, I’ve always felt secure with it on duty. I still use a Safariland® ALS holster in 3-gun competitions. Understanding and teaching the proper use of these holsters is crucial, as they frequently appear in training classes.

Safariland® is known for its top-notch duty gear for law enforcement and versatile competition gear. There's a learning curve and some assembly required, but once set, it’s always ready for action.

Chris Cerino

Chris Cerino is a 28-year law enforcement veteran with experience as a SWAT member, federal agent, and trainer. He trains internationally, competes regularly, and works in the firearms industry in various roles. Chris recently became the Producer of Training Content at Gun Talk Media, where his responsibilities continue to grow while he maintains Double C Farms.

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