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Recall issued for unsafe gun holster popular with police

October 22, 2019

Potentially harmful Blackhawk T-Series L2C gun holster being recalled.—U.S. Product Safety Commission

Blackhawk T-Series L2C gun holsters, which are marketed to law enforcement agencies, can accidentally disengage the safety switch on a handgun.

All of the approximately 3,100 T-Series L2C holsters reportedly in use are the subject of a recall issued Tuesday (October 22) by the United States Product Safety Commision and Blackhawk, the holster’s maker.

The U.S. Product Safety Commission’s online recall notice states the hazard bluntly:

“The holster design can change the position of the safety switch on the firearm without the user knowing it. When this occurs, if the trigger is pulled the gun could fire unexpectedly, posing an injury hazard to the user and bystander.”

The Commission’s online recall notice states that “consumers should immediately stop using the recalled holsters and contact Blackhawk for a full refund”. A toll free number for the company is listed.

Blackhawk’s own, somewhat scrambled online notice of the recall attempts to absolve its L2C holster by shifting blame onto the handgun the holster is made to fit: a Sig Sauer model (misspelled by Blackhawk as “Sig Saucer”):

“Out of an abundance of caution for our customers safety, we are voluntarily recalling the L2C for use with Sig P320/P250 M17/M18 (SKU 410761BKR) and marked with the code 2101213A. There is nothing per se wrong with the holster, but rather Sig Saucer [sic] made available to consumers its military versions of the P320/250 under the military model numbers M17 and M18. An internal review of the referenced holster with the military firearm (M17/M18) showed that the holster may interfere with the mechanical fire safety switch of the M17/M18. We value our customers safety and are committed to full transparency, which is the reason we elected to voluntarily report this to the CPSC and recall the product.”

It’s bad enough that any holster should “interfere with the mechanical fire safety switch” of the gun it is meant to safely contain. However, this isn’t just any holster.

The T-Series L2C holster is designed for police officer, as well as soldiers.

Not exactly the gun safety anyone was hoping for

 

The T-Series L2C was designed by a former U.S. Navy SEAL to enable police officers and warfighters to wield their firearms with both maximum offensive effect and personal safety.

In fact, personal safety is supposed to be the great innovation of the T-series, which is a type of so-called “retention holster” (a.k.a. “duty holster”).

The “L2” in the holster series name indicates that it incorporates a Level 2 retention mechanism—in this case, a thumb-activated release—to deter theft of the holstered handgun.

The lowest level of retention is 1; meaning that nothing stands in the way of someone pulling the gun out of the holster except for friction. Level 2 means there is one active mechanical element holding the gun in the holster.

The highest level of 3 means there are two active mechanical elements, such as a thumb release and a flap secured over the hand grip of the holstered gun.

It is ironic that a holster so engineered to protect you from being harmed with your own gun contains a design flaw that can disengage the safety catch and make it all too easy to accidentally shoot yourself.

Ironic, yes. But not perhaps, so unexpected.

A good idea backfires—again

It is well known that 15 years ago, the direct precursor of the T-series L2C: the Blackhawk SERPA retention holster seemed to be such a superior innovation, safety and performance-wise, that was in almost ubiquitous use among U.S. combat soldiers and law enforcement agencies.

By 2012, however, SERPA holsters were undeniably linked to a growing pattern of accidental misfires and mechanical failures involving grit that made un-holstering a handgun impossible. That year the U.S. Federal Law Enforcement Training Centre (FLETC) prohibited the use of Blackhawk SERPA holsters by its instructors and students.

FLETC’s announcement indicated that other U.S. government agencies had discontinued use of SERPA holsters, including the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, (OSI) and the National Forest Service.

A final, very public blow to the SERPA holster’s remaining credibility came in 2017, when the 9,000-strong Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) banned its use, citing potential to “increase the likelihood of a negligent discharge.”

In April 2019 Blackhawk introduced the T-series holster—intended to be the lessons-learned, improvements-made, successor to the discredited SERPA holster.

For one thing, while the trigger finger was required to disengage the SERPA’s retention feature, the T-series gave the job to the otherwise unoccupied thumb of the hand reaching for the holster’s gun.

The other new-and-improved thing about the T-series, apparently, is that its deadly flaw became obvious within six months, where the SERPA’s dangerous tendencies did not become manifestly obvious for a decade, or more.

Not so much a Canadian problem, like gun violence in general

Blackhawk’s T-series holsters are reviewed, featured and promoted on countless websites catering to potential law enforcement customers. However, there is no way of knowing how many North American police forces are using the dangerously flawed holsters.

But, as difficult is it is to gauge how widespread law enforcement agency use of T-Series L2C holster is, it seems safe to say that the majority of any use will be in the United States.

So far, not a single Canadian police force can be found that lists use of the T-series.

According to one 2017 report, the few law enforcement agencies in Canada that tried the Blackhawk SERPA holster had, by 2017, mostly gone back to duty holsters produced by a U.S. company called the Safariland Group, which many sources describe as the overwhelming choice of Canadian police forces for a long time.

The Vancouver Police Department (VPD) confirmed Wednesday that it does not use the Blackhawk holsters. As a spokesperson explained, without getting into brand specifics:

“The Vancouver Police officers have used Level 3 retention holsters in patrol for decades and there are other holsters option for plain clothes officers.”

A good offense is made by a strong defence (contractor)

Something which probably explains its long popularity with Canadian police is the fact that the Safariland Group used to be a wholly-owned subsidiary of the British defence contractor BAE Systems.

Blackhawk, the maker of the T-Series L2C holster, also has a link to a U.S. defence contractor through its current owner: Vista Outdoor (which may ring a bell for some readers).

In 2014, Allient Tech Systems (ATK), an aerospace and defence contractor, spun off its subsidiary sporting ammunition and outdoor equipment businesses as Vista Outdoor. ATK then merged its remaining operations with Orbital Sciences Corporation, to become a new aerospace company, originally called Orbital ATK but since renamed Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems.

Vista Outdoor has since gone on to become an owner of at least 39 consumer brands—all focused on outdoor activities, from cycling accessories and barbecues to binoculars and bullets (ammunition reportedly accounts for about half of Vista’s total revenue).

Plus it makes gun holsters and—until three months ago—it also made the guns that went into the holsters.

But finally, in July 2019, after more than a year of trying, Vista managed to sell off its two gun companies: Savage Arms and Stevens Firearms, for about US$170 million.

Despite the fact that they were profitable in and of themselves, Vista was driven to divest itself of firearms because they were driving large retailers away from buying the rest of its wares.

How Vista shot itself in the bottom line by sticking to its guns

On February 14, 2018, 17 people were shot dead and another 17 were seriously injured during the Parkland School mass shooting in Florida—the most lethal school shooting to that date.

The resulting public rage lashed out at any consumer companies in the United States that sold firearms principally, or as a sideline, including Vista Outdoor.

Consumers were made aware that all manner of popular products they purchased for the enjoyment of themselves and their kids, such as bicycle gear, barbeques, activewear, golf clubs and telescopes, were sold by a company that also profited from the sale of the kinds of guns and ammunition that had lately been used to kill so many children.

Unlike many other large consumer-facing companies, such as Walmart,, that made immediate concessions to the public mood, in regards to limiting the sale of guns and ammunition, Vista did and said nothing. The company’s silence enraged consumers all the more.

On March 1, 2018, bowing to public pressure, the Vancouver-based retail cooperative MEC announced that it would stop buying all Vista Outdoor brands for its 22 outdoor recreation stores across Canada. The next day, REI, a similar cooperative chain based south of the border in Washington State, followed suit.

Two months later, in May 2019, Vista announced that it would get out of the firearms business.

But, while Vista Outdoor has kept its promise to get rid of its guns, it has not quite rid itself of its gun-related problems—as the Tuesday’s recall shows.

But that’s what it gets for stubbornly keeping the businesses that make the bullets, as well as the holsters, for the guns! Click the image to enlarge it.

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