Level of retention on holsters in Power Point

So on the USCCA CCHDF slides on the Gear chapter and I noticed a slide in particular about the retention levels of holsters. The slide itself claimed that the tention level retention was considered “Level Zero” and any holster with some sort of method such as a holster shroud or retention button was considered “Level One”. Yet many holster companies still use the retention tightening holsters as “Level One” and the holsters with a shroud or button is “Level Two.”

I don’t want to give my students the wrong information so my question is, which one should I say; the one in the USCCA power point or the one based off the market language?

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I thought the shroud was level 3.

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I was under the impression that every safety feature that isn’t manual retention counts as a level after Level One so a Level Three holster I believe should have two safety features besides manual retention.


If you are running USCCA courses, you should probably stay with USSCA retention numbering…
However I will be surprised as a student hearing about “Level Zero” retention…
Zero means nothing, so holster with “Level zero” shouldn’t have any retention at all… meaning the gun will fall out of the holster once you turn it upside down - and that is no-go holster at all.

This is the most common levels explanation that I’ve been using for my classes:

Level 1 - one method of retaining firearm in the holster → tension, friction (usually setup with screws) no locking devices or 1 locking device, but there is no tension or friction

Level 2 - two methods of retaining firearm in the holster → 1 x friction + 1 x locking or 2 x locking without friction

Level 3 - three methods of retaining firearm in the holster → usually 2 x locking + 1 x friction


I was under that impression with your explanation of Retention levels. But I agree that I should use the definition as described in the USCCA power point.

It still baffles me though.


I would call USCCA about this.
I’m Firearm Instructor myself and would never provide false information to my Students.
USCCA “Level Zero” doesn’t sound good to me… but it might be some explanation that makes it clear.


My opinion: Many holster companies want to advertise a higher level because higher sounds better

There is no set, ‘legal definition’, etc, on what constitutes a level of retention. Sources vary. But, my opinion, the correct definition is that mere friction or tension is level 0. When the topic is defending a gun grab, that’s level 0

Maybe a better term would be active retention. Features that must be actively defeated/manipulated in order to draw.

It’s kind of like when people say “S&W M&P has no safeties” [okay, they usually say Glock, but it’s many others] because it’s without a manual thumb safety

So maybe we should say “active retention”, to clearly communicate what we are talking about. Mere friction is level 0 in terms of active retention devices


I would give both definitions and explain that it is baffling.


More you read about this, more you should be toward this:
there is no safe “Level 0 retention” holster on the market.
Remember - we must always talk about safe holster, not just pocket that can be hung on the belt.

Holster companies may name this as they want, but we must keep this in the level that is understandable to everyone.

Passive and active retention just differ the way how they work.

Passive uses the shape of the holster, its tension and friction.
Active uses built in device that has to be released in order to draw the firearm.

So even the holster uses passive retention only - it is Level 1
Whenever you add another method, you rise the Level.

Perhaps there is another, new way to count retention’s levels and USCCA uses this… so if this is the case I really would like to known the explanation.


It’s not just a ‘USCCA’ thing BTW

“Using the Safariland standard, many holsters don’t even make the cut for Level 1 retention. Any open-top rig relying on friction alone simply won’t rate. Neither would a rig that used a weak thumb strap. Yet, I’ve seen a company advertise just such a rig as offering Level 2 security based on the marketing that friction and the strap counted as two separate retention devices.”


Looks like different standards set by different groups for different reasons Some of the reasons being typical misleading marketing.

While it is good to have friction retention to keep a firearm from falling out of the holster, I wouldn’t count that as any kind of security against someone grabbing the handgun. Though I could see counting that as a level of “retention” since it does at least keep the handgun from getting away on its own.

So I agree it would be best to give both definitions and explain to students that different manufactures may be using different definitions so you shouldn’t go just by whatever Level they state and instead should look at the actual retention features in place and decide if they meet your needs.


Security against grabbing the firearm by another person starts with Level 1 - locking mechanism.

Passive Level 1 was made for concealed carriers who needed fast draw without thinking about pressing buttons.

Safari land is a specific here, but still, even the holster has no friction it gets at least one locking mechanism which makes it Level 1 holster.

As I mentioned before, we shouldn’t even discuss holsters that have no retention at all. Nylon bag attached to the belt is not a holster, it’s just a bag where people carry their pistols…


What I’m thinking right now is that perhaps Level 1 retention is considered when holster makes “a click”? It is still a friction or tension but put on the specific part of the firearm (mostly trigger guard).
That may differ from standard friction from old type leather holsters without “click” feature.

In such cases Level 0 would be a good point…

It’s time to make this a standard to avoid confusion.


I’d say that is a passive retention. If all you have to do is grab the gun and pull for it to release, it’s not much of a “level” IMO (and per shared article above). It’s just…the gun doesn’t fall out all by itself is all that is. I guess that’s…something…but to me that just means that it’s a “holster”…if the gun falls out on its own because there isnt’ even friction or a trigger guard dimple…it’s not even really a holster but just a cave you set the gun in


Without standardization this will be another discussion what’s most important Christmas or Easter…



I am late to the game, but it seems the confusion began with concealed carry vs. open carry, wherein for concealed carry, a holster that retained the handgun via friction is considered level one, but that is not valid for OC. Here is the purported beginning concept for retention levels:

The holster retention system was devised in the 1970s by Bill Rogers, a former FBI agent and police instructor who started his own holster company, making them specifically for law enforcement use. Each “level” corresponds to a rough amount of retention. Under Rogers’ scheme, a holster had to undergo a test where someone had to try and get the gun out of the holster as if they were trying to grab it away from the officer.

However, the “rating” system is also used to quantify the number of retention devices. Here’s how it works:

  • Level One retention holster: a Level One holster has only passive retention; the friction and “hold” of the holster is all that keeps the pistol in it. Most concealed carry holsters are level one holsters. For true Level One retention, the gun should not be able to be pulled free unless drawn correctly, ensuring secure carry but easy access for the carrier/operator.
  • Level Two retention holster: a Level Two holster has an active retention device in addition to the passive retention of the holster itself, making for two sources of retention. Commonly, a thumb break, hammer loop or trigger guard lock is the device in question. These are very popular for open carry or law enforcement.
  • Level Three retention holster: a Level Three holster has an additional retention device installed. A common design is thumb break or loop in addition to a trigger guard lock. These are also common for law enforcement, and a number of departments nationwide mandate that uniform officers have to carry in a Level Three retention holster.
  • Level Four retention holster: a Level Four holster has three retention devices in addition to passive retention for a total of four retention mechanisms. These are much rarer than Level III holsters and are essentially the ultimate in holster retention. No gun will come out of a Level 4 holster except if the wearer means it. Or if someone got out a blowtorch…

Here is another version:

The Original Tests
Rogers’ test was very simple in its original form. A person would don his holstered firearm (using a suitable belt) and ensure all the security devices were properly engaged (snaps closed, straps in position, etc.). An “attacker” would then grab the firearm by the grip while attempting to remove it from the holster by shaking, pulling, and twisting the firearm (as in a gun grab attempt) for a period of five seconds.

The attacker would not try to disengage the security devices (i.e., unsnap a snap), but would try to remove the gun from the holster by pulling it straight up, to the rear, to the front, and away from the body. If the weapon successfully remained in the holster and the holster stayed attached to the wearer, then it was deemed a Level I holster.

If a holster passed this test, then a second test was warranted. This time, the wearer would take the first action required to disengage the primary security device on the holster as part of a normal draw, then leave the holster in that condition for five seconds. For example, if a traditional thumb break-style holster was going to be tested, the wearer would take the first step of unsnapping the thumb break and leave it unsnapped for the test. If the gun stayed in place after five seconds of tugging, then it was deemed a Level II holster. If it came out, the holster remained at Level I.

If a holster required further steps to disable the remaining security devices and complete a normal draw, it would be subjected to yet another five-second attack after the next action in the draw sequence was taken. At the time the test protocol was created, Rogers’ SS3 — later sold by Safariland as the Model 070 SSIII — was the only holster in production that could pass this level of testing.

With this holster, a thumb break (first action) and trigger guard snap (second action) were both released prior to the five-second attack, but the holster’s molded ejection port detent retained the gun in the holster, so it was therefore designated as Level III — the only one of its type for quite some time.

As technology, materials, and designs improved, the Rogers/Safariland system for rating holster retention evolved. Some criteria changed, and additional test requirements were added, (which had to be passed before a holster could even be rated as Level I) but the basic model of identifying how many five-second, Level I-style attacks could be resisted remained unchanged.

By the mid-2000s, Safariland had even introduced the first Level IV and V-designated holsters, indicating they were capable of resisting four or five Level I-style attacks (respectively) as their security devices were disabled step-by-step, in sequence.