I just took delivery of a brand new Glock 17 Gen 4. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a holster to fit. Not being a patient lad, I dropped into our local “cop shop” to see what was hanging on the wall. Weaving my way by the bargain table, a holster caught my eye.
The 5.11 Thumb Drive holster was in a slick zippered bag. This was a real nice touch. It was labeled as a right hand G34/35 holster. I knew the G17 was just a tad shorter than the G34 but otherwise the same. Still, the zippered bag allowed me to remove the holster, fondle it and check the fit without mangling the package. Go 5.11!
My first impressions were that the material is much thicker than that of the ever-popular Blackhawk Serpa. The 5.11 Thumb Drive is a retention holster. To draw the handgun you must press a button that falls naturally under the thumb as you close your firing hand around the grip. Guarding the button is what 5.11 calls the “Chop Block”. The intent is to protect the release button from a forward gun grab. This is very similar to the shroud on Safariland holsters.
As soon as I got home, I installed the included paddle attachment. I verified my new Glock was clear and then proceeded to burn up the better part of an hour practicing my draw. My work holster is a Safariland 6360. The draw with the Thumb Drive is very similar. It did not take any retraining to feel comfortable with the new holster.
The Thumb Drive released smoothly and quickly. The only time I fouled the draw was when I attempted to pull the handgun before pressing down on the release button. This would seem to be an intentional feature. If someone were attempting to rip your handgun out of the holster, it would prevent the lock from being released until the force ceased. In practice when drawing the handgun from the Thumb Drive holster, the shooter needs to take a firm grip with a little downward pressure while pressing the release button. The draw out of the holster is then lightning fast.
Re-holstering is fast and simple. Just place the handgun back into the Thumb Drive and press down until you hear a “click”. Although not necessary, I always recommend tugging on the handgun to make sure it is secured. I much prefer these type of holsters over the old “thumb-break” holsters. There is nothing to fumble with should you find yourself in a situation where you need to re
-holster and go “hands-on”.
While the 5.11 Thumb Drive is available for a number of different handgun models, there is no option for weapon mounted lights.
The 5.11 Thumb Drive is very well constructed holster. However it is definitely not intended as a concealment holster. It stands off of the belt quite a bit and would print badly under anything other than a heavy jacket. It appears to stand off about 1/4-1/2″ more than a comparable Blackhawk Serpa.
After working with the holster for some time, I can say that I prefer it over the Serpa. The thumb-release is much more intuitive for me and it keeps my trigger finger reserved for pulling the trigger. If you are used to a Safariland SLS or ALS holster, this will feel very similar in use.
Overall the 5.11 is a great option for range use or work where open carry is applicable. We did not test it in any ground fighting scenarios so I hesitate to give it my approval for uniformed duty use, but the holster appears robust enough when used with the belt loop attachment. At a retail price of around $60, I consider this a strong performer.