What Is a Retention Holster


Most newbie gun owners may have never heard of a retention holster before, while law enforcement and military officers use it in their duty. It is a weapon-carrying system that guarantees different levels of handgun security, allowing you to retain possession of your firearm when somebody else has an eye for it. So, what is a retention holster?

Table of Contents

What is a Retention Holster?

All holsters can retain or securing the handgun they carry. However, most holsters can do so only up to a certain level. In general, holsters provide a secure fit to a pistol, preventing it from falling off. Gun experts call this type of retention passive because the user does not need additional mechanisms or systems to secure the gun.

Unfortunately, passive retention does not secure your firearm when another person tries to grab it and take it away from you. It is easy to lose one’s firearm in a grab-and-snatch situation, not knowing where your gun will end up next.

That is why you need a holster with an active retention system. Weapons specialists call these retention holsters because they do a better job securing your firearm in its holster.

As such, a retention holster is any weapon-carrying system with mechanisms or qualities that prevent a person other than the gun owner from accessing the firearm. It can also inhibit the accidental dislodging of the pistol from the holster when in a physically demanding situation.

The retention holster features a lock that secures the handgun. The user must first deactivate this locking mechanism before he can draw his firearm.

Some holsters come with more than one locking mechanism. The more security features the holster has, the better it is in retaining your handgun.


The main advantage of a retention holster is weapon security. It makes it difficult for criminals to take the gun from you because only you know how to disengage the holster’s locking mechanism.

The implications are immense. You get to prevent another person from using your handgun against you or other persons. It also stops someone from using the weapon in other criminal activities, including robbery, burglary, and intimidation.


A retention holster’s strength can also be its Achilles heel. To the untrained gun owner, disengaging a few holster locking mechanisms can prolong the drawing of the weapon. Extending the time to pull out one’s handgun from the holster can have serious consequences.

Types of Retention Holsters 

Retention holsters come in different levels, according to the number of safety mechanisms the user needs to disengage before he can draw his weapon. The more locking systems a retention holster has, the longer it takes for the user to draw his firearm. The good news is that it will be almost impossible for anyone to take the gun away from the owner without any action from the user.

  • Level I – Moderate Retention

The retention holster relies only on the friction its inside surface has against the handgun. In a way, you can call this passive retention. Ideally, the user should retain possession of his firearm within five seconds after a grab-and-snatch attempt.

  • Level II – Good Retention

Retention holsters in this category have an active retention system that works with the holster’s inherent frictional ability. The mechanism can be a back strap, a thumb or finger-operated lever, or a hood.

  • Level III – Enhanced Retention

A Level III holster adds another active retention system to a Level II holster. An excellent example of this is a push button-activated hood shroud.

  • Level IV – Optimal Retention

These holsters have at least three safety mechanisms. Only trained professionals should carry such a holster.

How to Care & Maintenance

Caring for a retention holster is like the maintenance of other holster types. Leather holsters require frequent cleaning of dust, dirt, and other surface contaminants. Keeping it dry without using artificial heat sources such as blow dryers can help retain the leather’s integrity.

The occasional application of a leather conditioner can help strengthen the holster while keeping it clean. If it becomes soiled, you must wash your holster immediately and allow it to dry completely. Use glycerin soap and warm water to clean your leather retention holster. It would also help to spray silicone to protect the leather.

If your retention holster features thermoplastic materials like Kydex, cleaning is more straightforward.


A retention holster is a handgun-carrying accessory that features at least one gun-retention system. It secures the weapon in the holster, preventing people other than the owner from taking the firearm from its holster.

Rate this post

Like this article?

Share on facebook
Share on Facebook
Share on twitter
Share on Twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on Linkdin
Share on pinterest
Share on Pinterest

Leave a comment

Subscribe To Know First

Get notified about new articles