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I first saw the MasterFire holster at SHOT Show in January of 2017. My initial reaction was that the innovation was pretty cool. The holster retention is based off their H-series weapon lights, so any gun could be used with the holster as long as the light could be attached to the pistol. Because of that, most pistol optics should work with the holster as well as suppressors too.
For general fun and carrying of unique pistols or hunting, the holster seemed like a good option to have. As a law enforcement officer, my initial concern however was use of the holster as a duty rig where the ability to retain the pistol from a gun grab is required.
Fast forward to September 2017, I was able to attend the SureFire Shoothouse Bonanza at the Alliance Police Training Facility. All of the students were issued a light and holster for use during the course. The course included a bit of live fire for familiarity with the draw stroke and then multiple reps through a shoothouse with both carbine and pistol. I forced transitions a few times in the house and because the MasterFire holster was on my belt, I did numerous draws and re-holsters of my pistol. I found that the combination of the holster and the weapon light it attached to worked as designed.
After leaving that event, I was able to keep the MasterFire for continued testing and use. I soon discovered that the SureFire holster was compatible with Safariland’s Quick Locking System (QLS), which is the attachment system that I normally use for mounting gear to my belt. I mounted the holster to a QLS so I could quickly switch holsters out on my duty belt. Being able to quickly switch out from my duty holster and the MasterFire allowed me to continue to work the SureFire holster its retention system with greater frequency.
MasterFire is designed to allow you the option of activating the weapon light or light/laser combination upon drawing your pistol. The holster does the work for you, which is pretty slick for anyone that does work with his or her support hand full. A couple of those categories in Law Enforcement are K9 handlers and ballistic shield dudes. I have not been a K9 handler in my 25-year career, but I have carried a ballistic shield and continue to teach their use today. I immediately began thinking about the benefits for a shield guy. More on that in a bit.
The automatic light feature can be pre-set to on, or off, for the draw. This allows the user to select the mode in case you don’t want the light to come on. This can be changed on the fly while the gun is in the holster. If you select the off mode, the light can still be activated normally like any other Surefire pistol light.
There are two retention levels for the holster, the first automatically engages when you holster the gun and light. This is where it freaks me out a bit, because the retention is a beveled pin that is spring loaded. The thumb release disengages the pin from the weapon light allowing the light to come out. I was curious if it would retain the gun sufficiently if it were struck abruptly on the base of the magazine. I intentionally crashed a blue gun into walls and doorframes using the same C-step type motion for arm bars and other take downs. The gun stayed in place with no issues and some of those smacks were very good. Normal bangs and scrapes in the shoot house and other training did not affect it.
There is also a secondary security system that engages by rotating a lever on the side of the holster. That lever engages a squared off pin into the other side of the weapon light’s body. That pin is also squared off and appears to sink deeper into the light than the automatic, beveled pin on the other side. You push down on the lever to engage it and pull up to disengage it. The lever is flush with the holster and fairly small. With the gun in the holster, I can barely reach it with my middle finger to disengage it. If I have to disengage it, my grip cannot be established properly until I have done so.
The thumb release comes with different sized paddles that snap into place so the user can customize its size. It works in the same fashion as most other thumb releases.
With both primary and secondary retention devices engaged, I could do pullups with it holding onto the handle of a blue gun. I was also able to do pullups with just the primary engaged, these were not aggressive pulls with kipping, I simply added weight until my full 195 pounds were suspended & then pulled.
I enlisted one of my teammates for a gun grab test; he is 6-foot-4 and weighs 230 pounds. I allowed him to get a full two-handed grip on the butt of the gun and attempt to rip the gun away with one pull using all of his power. With both the primary and secondary retention engaged, he could not get the gun out. With just the primary engaged, he pulled it free but he said it took all of his effort. Obviously I would be doing everything in my power to prevent this in a real situation. There was slight damage to the aluminum on the light body as it was deformed by the beveled pin giving way. The light and holster still functioned as normal afterwards, but I would say an agency should inspect the holster and light after a gun grab to determine if replacement was necessary.
One of the concerns for shield guys is activating lights while carrying a shield, and depending on the holster type, turning them back off one handed so you aren’t broadcasting light at your feet during reloads or malfunction clearances. The beauty of the MasterFire is that it does that for you. This is especially beneficial if the shield guy is carrying two pistols, as he should, for left and right hand corners on slow clears, and the potential for one gun breaking or complex malfunctions. Shield guys should be set up with two pistols for the same contingencies and for their specialty. Usually the strong hand side is pretty well taken cared of when I get new shield guys. Initial training and ongoing proficiency training helps clean up the support side work. To that end, I believe the MasterFire holster can and will decrease training time for new shield guys. This is especially true for their support side gun.
I used the holster to teach a shield course and also trained with it extensively to test this theory. I would not engage the secondary retention system at this time on SWAT jobs. The first reason is that it is problematic to disengage it, but the second reason is that I am never alone on SWAT jobs. So if I did get into a gun grab situation, my mates would help defend my pistol as well my person with their own weapons. Last is that the automatic retention with the primary system and its ease of re-holstering, allows a shield guy to quickly retain the pistol and use the 23 pound impact weapon he’s carrying without having to hold on to a pistol in a physical confrontation.
Is the holster ready for patrol duty by a lone police officer? My answer is not at this time, but if Surefire could figure out how to make the MasterFire’s secondary retention more ergonomic and easier to release with a normal draw stroke, I think so. Certainly, trainers who want the light to come on fast and early, can see how the innovation makes sense for street cops who don’t get nearly the training time they should. For the hunter who wants to carry a suppressed pistol or the guy that wants to carry multiple pistols in the same holster, it is good to go. Overall I was pleased with the design of SureFire’s MasterFire and would not hesitate to use it when running a shield on SWAT jobs.
About the Author
Bill Blowers has been a full time police officer for over 25 years. During that time he has served as a patrol officer, street crimes unit, training officer and patrol sergeant. He is currently the supervisor of the training unit and has been a SWAT team member since 1995. He is a team leader on a large regional SWAT team in Washington State. In addition, he has been providing training on weapon and tactics since 2006 as the owner of Tap-Rack Tactical, LLC.