Safariland Duty Holsters Tutorial

Safariland Duty Holsters Tutorial

Tutorial Safariland Duty Holsters 

When it comes to LEO duty holsters, Safariland is considered the gold standard. In the free world, they pretty much own the duty gear industry. Their current duty holsters are a product of many years of development from some of the brightest minds. When most people look at the product coding's, they don't make a lot of sense. It is a language of its own, developed as new units and mechanisms came into the marketplace. It is pretty common for mistakes to happen when ordering a Safariland holster. If one number is off, you'll get the wrong holster. I speak "Safariland" fairly well and thought I would do an article to help the end-user understand some of the terms and products.

We'll start with the current generations of duty holsters. The 6000 series are built by thermoforming. They are made utilizing a Kydex type material called Safarilaminate, which is a proprietary thermoplastic alloy, it is formed to the exact weapon fit.  This material is much more durable than what you will find in other Kydex style holsters. The 6000 series models are built by hand on a specialized forming tool. They are slow to make, and if the process isn't completed correctly, a misfit might occur. But, the end-product is excellent, and it is most likely the holster you will see on any given LEOs hip.


The newest holster line is the 7000 series, commonly called 7TS. It is mold injected from an advanced polymer blend. Don't let the plastic look throw you off, it's tough. It's not as temperature-sensitive as other products. In extreme cases, a 6000 series can warp. Like if you left it on the dash of your patrol car in bright sunlight over an extended period of time. The 7000 series is much faster to assemble and does not require the same level of expertise in production. You get a more consistent product standard from one model to another.


Both holsters share the same retention devices; the primary difference is the external build and materials. There are other duty holsters, but the 6 thousand and 7 thousand series comprise 99% of what you will see out there today. You can tell which model you are looking at by the first number on the model series. A 6390 is a six thousand series; likewise, a 7390 is a seven thousand series. We'll explain how the first four digits tell you what the base model of the holster is.

Bill Rogers invented the holster retention system you see today. He took a leave from the FBI and set about solving the weapon retention issues the agency was experiencing in the field. Currently, Safariland has three primary levels of retention built into their duty holsters. There are more, but they are not common. A level is determined by the number of steps required to draw the gun from the holster. A level 1 retention requires you to perform one act to release the weapon so it may be drawn to full presentation. A level 2 requires two steps to release, and a level 3 requires three following the same principles. Drawing the gun itself is not a step. Other manufactures claim so, but that is not part of the Safariland retention system. A friction fit is considered one step by other holster makers. There is no real federal guideline for what comprises retention. But, most agencies accept Safariland' s interpretation as the industry standard. If a holster comes out from another company and a department wants it bad enough, they may recognize that company's interpretation. Often the departments set their own standards regarding retention requirements.

Safariland rigorously tests their holsters with mechanical drives, as well as actual hands-on strength retention under duress. Each unit must pass a series of pull, twist, and pull/twist loads over 200lbs. This high level of quality is why they are considered the market standard. All holsters pass this testing before being placed into the market.  This is part of why it takes longer to get new fits and products released since each product must pass this rigorous testing.

Now for a bit more detail on what these retentions mean.



In Safariland terms, a level I duty holster is a model 6390 or a 7390. It is an ALS (Automatic locking system) only holster. (The '390' is the most critical part) The ALS is often called a thumb release or lever. It sits to the inside of the body of the holster against the shooter. You must press the button back to release the pistol from a positive lock. The ALS is a mechanism that locks into the ejection port. By pressing the lever, it is lifted upward and unlocks the gun. With practice, it is an almost instantaneous action and shouldn't reduce draw times. This is the most popular for military and even competitive shooters, as it firmly locks the gun into place, keeping it from dislodging during running or moving through obstacles.



The Level II in Safariland terms is a 6280 or a 7280. It is an SLS only holster or Self-Locking System. (The '280 is the most critical part.) The gun is held into place by friction fit and/or tension wedge. (On the 6000 series, there is a tension screw on the inseam of the holster clamshell where tension can be adjusted. On the 7000 series, it can be slightly manipulated by the screws along the inseam of the holster body. As well as on the tension wedge for non-light bearing holsters.) The SLS strap has a ridge (A small flat purchase surface) along the inside area next to the shooter. The ridge or button must be pushed down and then forward to flip the SLS strap out of the way, thus allowing the gun to be drawn.

This motion does slow the draw in comparison with the ALS only version. How much depends on the level of practice the shooter attains. With good, practiced shooters around .2 to .3 seconds slower. If the friction fit is not adequate, the gun may move around in the holster slightly during daily use.   But the gun is still held into place by the strap that goes across the top of the weapon from the outside of the holster to the inside.

There is a second way to achieve a level II holster, adding an ALS guard to a 6390 or a 7390. An ALS guard is a button/cover that sits over the ALS lever. It has two positions. Back, covering the ALS and forward, out of the way. It locks into either position and must be manually moved. It's an excellent compromise because it allows the weapon to be positively locked into place by the ALS while creating a level II retention holster without the use of a strap. It more commonly used in reverse. Meaning the officer moves around with it in the forward (off) position most of the time. Then puts it into the "on" position when he/she feels more retention is desired. For example, when patrolling through a close confined crowd.

It is still designated as a 6390/7390 but has an AG added to the end of the model number. Example 7390-2832-411-AG. Be sure your department will accept it, before going this route. The written requirement may say Level II, but when your new holster arrives, they may say. "We really meant an SLS strap was the requirement."



For a Level three holster in Safariland terms, that is a model 6360 or a 7360. (The 360 being the critical part) This holster will have both the ALS lock and the SLS strap. The release sequence works in this series.  First, push down, then flip forward on the SLS strap, then come back with the thumb release and hit the ALS button to release the gun, which is held under positive tension by the ALS lever. When you put them all together, equates to three steps, thus Level III.


This retention level is the most common model for patrol and general duty use. It's about the same draw time as an SLS level II, with the advantage of positive tension with the ALS. If the strap is pushed forward, it can be left in that position. Effectively creating a Level I holster. This technique is often used by LEOs that feel a high threat. It also gives an officer a way to say, "I mean business," without having to draw the gun. (An aggressive step between.)


There is another way to create a level III. That is to use a 6280/7280 in conjunction with an SLS Sentry Guard. That's a device that works for the SLS strap, similar to the way an ALS guard works for an ALS lever. It is not as common but does exist as another option.


 So, we've covered retention levels and how they are achieved along with their coding. There is one other factor in choosing a duty holster, and that is the ride height. Duty holsters are designed to be used with UBLs (Universal Belt Loops). The mounting screw holes are low on the holster body. (Typically known as the duty mount pattern see picture to the right.)

As opposed to the concealed pattern, where the mounting screws are in a much higher position on the holster body. (About 2 inches different, see picture to the left.) This is because the concealed mount area is used for attaching the SLS strap assembly or the ALS Hood Guard.

Duty holsters come in High-ride, Mid-ride, and Low-ride. A rough way to describe it is the High-ride places the butt if the pistol sits on top of the beltline. In Mid-ride, pistol grip will sit even with the beltline.  And the Low-ride puts the gun butt just below the beltline. (It varies slightly with each person.)


The UBLs come in 2" width belt slots and 2.25" width belt slots, fitting most thicker duty belts. The 2.25" is the common and 2" is denoted with a -2 at the end of the model number. Example: 7390-2832-411-2

The last number at the end of the model number indicates ride height. A "0" is a Mid-ride (the most common by far). A "2" is a High-ride, and the "5" is low ride.

Examples: 7390-2832-411 is a Level I, ALS, Mid-ride 7000 series mold injected duty holster.

 Likewise, a 6285-2832-411 is a Level II, SLS, Low-ride 6000 series thermoform duty holster.

Leaving a 7362-2832-411 as a level III ALS/SLS 7000 series mold injected duty holster.

 We'll cover the rest of the model numbers in my next article. If you have questions or corrections, please let us know, and we'll address it. It is our goal to provide you with the best information possible. If you would like to add articles, maybe about competing brands of duty gear, we would be pleased to publish it with your name and links.


  • Andrew Z

    Awesome post! It’s amazing that Safariland doesn’t just build a holster finder tool with drop-down menus like every other holster maker. I kind of resent them and try to avoid buying from them because of that. I guess when you’ve got a specific market cornered you don’t have to try too hard

  • Brian D

    I really appreciate your thoroughness. Both parts are very informative. This info should be on their website. If I may add the fact that the 6000 series has the felt liner, whereas the 7000 series lacks the felt liner. The felt material may swell if water gets into the holster and may cause draw issues. Just food 4 thought.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published