Wednesday, June 4, 2014

I'm Gonna Get What's Comin' To Me: A Raven Concealment Systems Phantom Holster

Since Illinois' CCL law (it's a "Concealed Carry License" here) passed, and especially after I applied and began waiting for my license, I've been checking out holsters and trying to figure out what I need and what I want (not always the same thing.) I suspect I'm like a lot of newbs in that I'd like to do this without generating the "Box o' Holsters" that all the wily CCW veterans talk about. Unfortunately, the longer I try, the more I think the process of choosing a set of holsters that cover the range of needs of one person, different from other people, who will try to carry a pistol every day, cannot help but require trial and error (that's the "Guess and Check" strategy for all you math teachers out there. Holla.)

I've had my IL CCL in hand since March, and in those two months I've already made some changes. More on that in some other posts; this post belongs to the future! Also the present.

Today, I'm wearing my present solution, a Blade-Tech Phantom IWB. This is the injection-molded mass-market offering that PDB raved about; he considers it "better than" the more expensive holsters he's tried. I don't have the breadth of experience to make that claim, but it's certainly a lot of value for a little money. It's cheap--Fobus/SERPA cheap--and I suspect others may be more comfortable. But it's a solid, safe holster with firm, positive retention and a surprisingly strong mouth that stays open despite my preference for a very tight belt. Its rubber pull-the-dot snap loops grip the belt and hold it securely and consistently, but they make it much easier to put on and take off again, which may be a bigger deal to me than it is to you. I've been semi-forced to use the B-T Phantom with only one snap loop, which has actually worked better and allowed a more concealable cant; I might make that its own post, given the enormous length this has already reached, but suffice it to say that I'm pretty happy with the B-T Phantom overall. But that's where the Box 'O Holsters gets you, isn't it? When you're pretty happy with the holster you have, but you just know you can do better? I agree with PDB on the value the B-T Phantom delivers for the money, but I do think there's probably a better (albeit more costly) balance of cost and performance out there.

The next thing coming my way is another Phantom, but this one will be coming from Raven Concealment Systems.

 I hear almost all good things about RCS, and I want to experiment with OWB carry a bit this summer. I thought I would want a tuckable solution for summer, but in practice, what I've begun to do is to wear short-sleeved, untucked shirts over thin undershirts as the weather has gotten hot. It's not the sloppy fat-kid look that I remember from 100 pounds ago; I just needed smaller shirts. Specifically, while I have worn shirts as large as XXXXL and still own a few XXXL shirts, I'm wearing an XL over a Glock 17 right now. The thing is . . . if you're going to wear a reasonably loose, untucked shirt all summer over jeans, slacks and shorts with 1.5" belt loops, why not go all out on comfort and keep your holster outside your waistband most days? I like that the RCS Phantom appears to keep the grip tucked in close, which the B-T Phantom doesn't seem to do well, and I like the promise of modularity in the mounting systems--it can be adapted to IWB if I change my mind, including tuckable options, and there's also more than one OWB mounting option, although I've started by selecting "standard OWB loops." If the promise pays off, I may have a single holster that works well for most of my daily carry needs, but also makes training and gun school classes simpler.
There are two big questions to be answered about OWB concealed carry in general and the RCS Phantom in particular, in my mind:
  1. How much difference is it going to make to have the bottom of the holster hang down near the bottom of the shirt? Am I going to find that I keep raising the hem of my shirt and exposing this holster, so it becomes relegated to jacket/coat/open carry duty? With the B-T Phantom and other IWB holsters, as long as the shirt doesn't come up above my belt, no part of a holster or gun is visible.
  2. With no cant and a Glock 17 that can't be trusted ('cause you should never trust a big butt and a smile) to be all that discreet, can the RCS Phantom tuck the butt in close enough to avoid looking like I'm trying to show off, under a thin cotton blend button-down shirt?
I dunno, but I'm looking forward to trying out my new holster.

*It's kind of a long story, but I'm a school teacher by trade. Schools in Illinois cannot bar CCL holders from storing their firearms in their vehicles on school grounds--they have "safe harbor" as long as they don't carry the firearms outside their vehicles, with the exception of unloaded carry to lock a firearm in a trunk. However, I can be fired for bringing a firearm onto the campus without regard for whether it's legal for me to do so, so I choose to disarm down the street and have a couple of pleasant walks per day. I do not choose to draw a loaded gun, unload it, walk it around to the trunk, and then get it out when I'm done, sit in a car and load the gun, and holster it, because that seems like a recipe for an AD in public to me.


Anonymous said...

A trainer told me it's not the size of the gun that matter in CCW, it's the holster. He had a Glock that was invisible under his shirt.

Try a hybrid holster, kidex around 3/4 of the gun and a leather shield between you and it. 2 belt clips .

Crossbreed, Alien Gear, whatever. It pulls the gun's butt in against your side and feels fine. No printing, no problem.

Take it from a guy with a drawer full of holsters.

Don said...

I have a Crossbreed SuperTuck hybrid for my XD .45, and I was generally happy with that. I keep hearing about Alien Gear and N8^2 (Nate Squared) as options, too. But the Crossbreed will go as part of the package when I sell the XD.

I think the Crossbreed worked as well as people say for its intended purpose, allowing me to conceal a full-size service pistol under a large polo shirt last summer. The XD is roughly between the G19 and the G17 in size. But it wasn't quite right for me, for a couple of reasons:

1. It doesn't really tuck the butt in as aggressively as I'd hoped. That may have been more about how and where I wore it; it was the first holster I spent any extended time with. Still, not quite what I hoped it would be, for my purposes.

2. I used it in an MAG20 range class, and I was able to run it, but I realized early on that it wasn't ideal. I think a less-fat person would have had better luck with it, but for me, the leather had a tendency to get pushed out far enough that re-holstering was a challenge. One of the big things I took away from that class is that re-holstering is extremely important. In a real-life shooting incident, I'd like to be able to re-holster before the cops arrive, if the threat is gone, so as not to be holding a gun. Now, if the holster or my shaking hands make that impossible, I'm prepared to put the gun down or even just drop it and step on it, again if the threat is ended. But in training, that's not much of an option, and a holster that allows smooth, safe re-holstering makes training more enjoyable.

For me, it's the old judo stories about Kano bubbling up to the top again. If technique A is somehow thought to be better than technique B in a "real fight," but it can't be trained effectively (or won't, for whatever reason) but I can practice technique B in training every day, then technique B is superior.

I haven't written about it, but this weekend, the IWB soft loop clips for my new Raven Phantom arrived. I wore it under a tucked shirt for the first time last night, and I think it's going to become a favorite. It's going to be nice to tuck in my shirts again! This means wearing kydex IWB without the leather backer plate, but that seems like it works pretty well. Of course, I usually wear an undershirt these days.

If I try another hybrid, it'll probably be Alien Gear. They seem like they're doing well at customer service right now.

Tam said...

FWIW: I have my Phantoms set up for IWB carry w/snap loops.

pdb said...

To be absolutely clear, I said that the Blade-Tech Phantom was better than any *leather* holster I've tried.

I've had a few custom kydex holsters that were overall better than the Phantom, but I keep the Phantoms available.

Mark Andrew Edwards said...

Good luck filling the box. God knows, I have enough. I end up using my Don Hume OWB for most of my carry needs. Maybe I'll just skip the hunt and peck for my next gun and just get another one.

NotClauswitz said...

I have two Galco outside-holsters but they're more outer-wear than concealment, and two IWB Comp-Tac Minotaurs - now im's shoppin' for a shoulder-rig to wear on the bike! :-)

Don said...

PDB, are you talking about the Phantom, or the Phantom? :D

The tuckable IWB loops make the RCS Phantom so much better that I ordered the same loops for the mag pouch yesterday.

I may eventually order another holster body to go on the OWB loops. What I'd really find interesting would be a paddle mount that took advantage of the wide body/recessed mounting on the RCS Phantom to make a nice, tight, close-to-the-body paddle holster. Most likely that already exists, or there's some reason it can't work.

lee n. field said...

"box 'o holsters". Yup, also traveling that path.

I got an Aliengear IWB with an XD subcompact I picked up. Works. You need to figure out exactly where it should sit, on you personal circumference. I expect I'll bet getting another, for a different piece.

Galco Triton, a cheaper (but not quite Fobus level cheap) molded plastic IWB, works surprisingly well for my one snubby.

Oh, yeah. It's true what they say. No one notices.

Unknown said...

For IWB try the lo rider by or Same design. Sits very low. Great access to the full grip conceals a Glock 23 easily.