Saturday, September 25, 2010
MILSIG T8/TPX MOLLE Drop-Leg Holster Set Review
Recently, we here at Grey Ops were able to get our hands on some more MILSIG swag for evaluation and review. In this post, we'll be reviewing the T8/TPX MOLLE Tactical Holster Set, part of the MILSIG Solid Gear line.
Now, this may seem like another of Mike's infamous "overkill" reviews, but my philosophy is that the higher up the price scale something is in its category, the more in-depth a review on it should be. With more money at stake, a buyer should have as much information as they can on the product before buying it. And with this set being a "flagship" product in its class, with a flagship price to match, this review will be quite extensive.
The base of this holster setup consists of a drop-leg panel, commonly known as a "thigh rig".
For those new to tactical gear, a thigh rig is a platform that allows you to wear equipment on your thigh, freeing up space on your belt and vest. Typically a thigh rig will have an "anchor", which is a strap that connects vertically to your vest or belt, and 1 or 2 horizontal straps that connect around your upper leg, to prevent the equipment from flopping around as you walk or run.
The drop-leg panel features 3 rows of PALS webbing, which allows you to attach MOLLE gear to it. In the case of this package, MILSIG has included a MOLLE-compatible holster for the T8/8.1 or TPX paintball pistols.
Being a MOLLE item, the holster can also be mounted on the front of a MOLLE vest, if you prefer that setup.
At this time, MILSIG only produces the holster for right-handed individuals, as 90% of the population is right-handed. I have no information at this time on whether they'll be producing a leftie version.
The third and final item in this set is a mag pouch that holds a single T8/8.1 magazine, or 2 of the smaller TPX pistol magazines. This is a single-mag version of the MILSIG Double T8/TPX Magazine Pouch I reviewed recently here on Grey Ops.
The pouch is a freebie in every sense of the word, because the cost of the drop-leg panel and holster, if bought individually, adds up to the cost of the set. The free pouch that comes with the set (a $24.95 CDN value) is a nice touch.
This set (and of course its individual parts) is available in black, ranger green, or MultiCam. This review will feature the MultiCam version.
A closer look
Like most MSG items, the mag pouch comes packaged in a black nylon mesh bag. This lets the item breathe, and prevents moisture and mould buildup while it's in storage at the warehouse or in a shipping container.
Between the width of the drop-leg panel and the length of the thigh strap, the holster will fit thighs up to 73cm in diameter.
This is a welcome change from some generic Airsoft drop-legs, which don't usually account for the larger thighs of those who eat too much and/or do a lot of squats. A lot of bigger guys tend to gravitate towards the Milsim side of Paintball (because let's face it, Speedball really isn't suited for guys over 200lbs), and the longer thigh strap on the MILSIG drop-leg seems to take this into account. Excellent!
In addition to this 73cm length, the strap features another couple of centimetres of extra fabric, setup with a strong elastic to allow for flex. This feature allows a bit of "give" in the strap, so that when you take a knee, flex your thighs in a crouch, or land from a jump, the buckle won't pop open and you won't pop some stitching.
Speaking of popping open, the Fastex buckle on the front of the thigh features a thick nylon/elastic cover protecting it. This helps prevent the holster from accidentally coming undone when going prone or crawling on your belly.
Note that the bonus single T8/TPX mag pouch comes mounted on some PALS/MOLLE webbing sewn onto the front of the holster. At the rear of the holster, there are 2 columns of PALS webbing to mount additional MOLLE mag pouches, flashlight holders, etc.
If you know MultiCam, and the colours of the mag pouch and PALS webbing in those close-ups seem a little off to you, that's because they are (slightly). Although MILSIG states they use genuine Crye Precision MultiCam in their MSG product line, the Cordura fabric used in this holster set is identical to that used in their MOLLE Hydration Vest, which they've admitted is not genuine MultiCam. The price of the "MultiCam" holster set is also the same as the price for the black or Ranger Green sets, which is also a dead giveaway, as genuine MultiCam articles tend to sell at a higher price than their plain-coloured counterparts. That being said, it's a very close match, and probably not detectable to the naked eye unless you're very close to it. Besides, who cares?
The top of the drop-leg features two thin anchoring points for attachment to a conventional belt, MOLLE belt, or to the bottom of a MOLLE vest. This is much better than the one thick anchor seen on a lot of Airsoft drop-legs, which make them only suitable for attaching to a conventional belt. The anchors on the MILSIG drop-leg are velcro-backed, preventing them from sliding around, and are further secured with snap closures.
Another nice touch on the holster is the inclusion of 3 pockets on the side for spare CO2 powerlets. These elastic pockets hold them snugly, and shelter them from getting gummed up by paintball hits. And when you need one, pulling on one of the ribbons lifts the powerlet to the surface so you can snatch it quickly, avoiding the need to "fish it out".
Having covered some of the basic features of this product, let's take a look at its performance!
Prior to this, I have to admit my only experience with cloth holsters for paintball pistols has been with 2 Airsoft knockoffs of the ol' reliable Tornado modular holster (which works reasonably well with a T8). However, I have extensive experience with a Safariland Raptor holster at my day job, and understand the principles of holster requirements and design very well. I undertook some testing of the MILSIG holster with these principles in mind.
An important factor in holster function is its ability to retain the pistol. In the case of police officers and money transport agents, this means its ability to keep the pistol secure and in place, and protect against someone trying to disarm them. And while paintball players really don't have to worry about a gun grab, the first requirement is still very important. Of what use is a holster to a pistol player, if the marker slips out when you run, jump, or dive?
On the MILSIG holster, there are 2 "levels" of retention to insure the pistol stays in place. The first is the tightness of the holster itself, and how snugly it holds the marker. With the thumb break open, this "grip" is sufficient to keep the pistol in the holster, even while upside-down and lightly shaken:
The second level of retention on the MILSIG holster is the aforementioned strap with a thumb break.
An additional strap can be used to cover the strap with the thumb break for extra protection, although I wouldn't consider this a third level of retention, as much as I would an extension of the second one.
While we're on the subject of retention, I want to demonstrate how the horizontal elastic on the included magazine pouch also does a good job of retaining the magazine with the flap open:
As you could literally stand on your head and not have the mag slip out, it's safe to say that you could game with the flap open, competition-style.
Ease of draw
While retention is important in holster design, retention has to be balanced with a relatively simple and rapid draw process. In most cases if you're going for your secondary weapon/pistol, it's because your main marker has run out of air or paintballs (or jammed), and you're in a bad spot. In this situation, you need to get the pistol out of the holster quickly for it to do you any good.
After practicing 50 draws with it, in this holster's case I can say that the draw is as smooth as butter. The thumb break pops open easily with a flick of the right thumb, allowing for a quick draw of the pistol. However, it still holds together well enough to help keep the pistol in place during rough movement. I found that using the additional top strap (that covers the thumb break strap) increased my draw time considerably. It was a little awkward to have to reach between the drop-leg panel and the holster and pinch the end of the strap, then pull it away from my body to open the Velcro, then bring my hand back towards my body to grip the pistol grip. Maybe with a lot of repetitions/practice I could get this motion to feel natural when drawing and reduce the time it takes, but it was awkward even after 50 draws. Under stress and/or while wearing gloves, it would be easy to really screw it up!
In my opinion though, the thumb break holds together well enough that the top strap is fairly unnecessary, and if you feel the same way there's Velcro on the outside of the holster that allows you to play with the strap folded back and out of the way.
Placing the pistol back into the holster was an easy task every time. The gun slides back into the holster directly, with no snags (with one exception I'll get into later). The thumb break is easy to re-attach one-handed.
Comfort is another consideration in holster design, as you don't want a part of the holster or the pistol digging into your hip or thigh. In the case of the MILSIG holster, wearing standard BDU-type pants I didn't feel any pressure points or discomfort. The back side of the drop-leg panel is made from a soft rubber-like material, and the strap that goes around the thigh is nice and wide, so it doesn't dig in. No complaints here on the comfort!
With the holster setup mated to an OPS battle belt, and a MILSIG MSG Dual T8 Magazine Pouch, I put the product through some basic stress testing.
Obviously someone who invests the money in a T8 as a sidearm (then further invests in an expensive holster) is pretty serious about the game, and they're likely to play hard and put their equipment through a serious beating.
As I don't have access to a paintball field until next week (and I'm not running around in public in the woods near my home wearing a big black pistol on my hip), I had to simulate some rough woodsball play by running an improvised circuit in my basement. With the holster adjusted to my size and preferences (with only the thumb break engaged, NOT the second strap), I did the following in rapid sequence:
-20 full Jumping Jacks, to see if the holster would flap around
-10 Vertical Jumps, landing to full squat each time, to see if I could get the thigh strap to pop open
-Running forwards and backwards 10 metres, checking stability
-Dropping to the ground and adopting the prone position quickly, getting up quickly, 5 times
-Kneeling quickly, then getting up quickly (5 times on each knee)
(Yes, I looked ridiculous doing all of this, but it was all in the name of research!)
The results? The MILSIG drop-leg holster set performed extremely well, and barely moved out of place during this abuse. I attribute this to the rubber-like backing on the back of the drop-leg panel, which seems to keep it from taking a trip around your thigh. The holster was relatively stable during the jumping movements, and didn't flap around that much. The pistol stayed in place, and the thumb break didn't open. This product puts the SOLID in MILSIG Solid Gear!
Chinks in the Armour
Obviously no product is perfect, and here's where I delve into what needs improvement on this holster. It's a short list, and some of the items on it are out of MILSIG's control, due to flaws with cloth holsters in general. I'll start with the minor stuff.
As you can see in the photo below, the holster's quite bulky when fully loaded, with the extra mag and CO2 powerlets installed:
Of course most of this bulk is due to the enormous size of the Tiberius "Hand Cannon", but the mag on the front of the holster doesn't help. During testing I found a mag pouch placed there to be extremely awkward anyway. Because the pistol is in your right hand when you go to reload, it's best to keep your pistol mags on the left side of your body. Having to reach over with your left hand to your right thigh to grab a mag doesn't feel natural, and trying to grab it with your left hand while in the prone position? Fuggedaboutit!!! Of course the free mag pouch included with the holster package is very much appreciated, but I'll be keeping it on the left side of my belt or vest instead.
Keep in mind that like any new thigh rig or thigh holster, this setup will take some getting used to. It may feel awkward running with it at first. Also, the rubber backing on the side of the drop-leg panel that touches your thigh doesn't breathe, so your thigh may get hot and start to sweat while wearing this.
The tight fit of the holster means there's no room for underbarrel flashlights or lasers. This won't go over well for the guys who have the "SOCOM" setup on their T8's, but you can't win 'em all!
As I mentioned before, the replica MultiCam used to make the holster may upset some "purists". But the difference is barely noticeable, and the holster works just fine despite being slightly off from the official pattern. So if someone starts talking down to you at a field for using replica MultiCam, and complains that your pattern on your holster doesn't exactly match your genuine BDUs or whatever, tell Queer Eye for the Milsim Guy to @$#* right off!
On the minor side, there's just one more issue I have to mention. A cloth holster is basically a stiff sock to hold your pistol. Even if you try to design around it, just like a sock it'll squeeze in places you don't want it to. Case in point: During my 50 draws, on one occasion I re-holstered the pistol, and the magazine-release button was squeezed/pressed in the holster by accident. The (pressurized) magazine ejected from the pistol grip with a loud gasp, and fell to the floor! This only happened once so I assume it's pretty rare, but be aware that it can happen. I would imagine pushing the pistol slightly away from the body when re-holstering would keep pressure off the button, and avoid this happening.
So with those minor issues mentioned and out of the way, here are two safety-related faults I have to point out.
First, occasionally upon re-holstering, I'd come across an issue where the inner strap of the thumb break gets caught in the trigger guard:
Although this was rare (twice during 50 repetitions), it's obviously a safety issue. Make sure the safety switch on your marker is engaged before re-holstering, to avoid having a negligent/accidental discharge. As another remedy, you could train yourself to curl your thumb outward as you re-holster, using it to sweep the strap out of the way as you push the pistol down.
The second safety issue is the fact that the bottom of the holster is open. This is good in one sense, because it means you can add suppressors, longer barrels, and other accessories to your pistol while still having it fit the holster. On the down side, if you sit down on a bench in the dead box, the open muzzle of the marker could be pointed at some other player's exposed eyes/face.
If you have the safety switch engaged on your T8, the chances of the marker spontaneously going off are extremely slim. But as a safety workaround, always stay standing in the deadbox between rounds to avoid this being an issue. And during longer lunch breaks where you may be sitting down often, consider getting a barrel plug like this one to keep things safe:
In the months since I've discovered them, I've been consistently impressed with the quality and design of MILSIG-branded soft goods products - and this holster is no exception. Despite some minor issues, MILSIG definitely have a winner with this product! They've brought to market a feature-rich drop-leg holster that's comfortable, stays in place, fits players of all sizes, and holds a paintball pistol securely under rough conditions, all while allowing for a fast draw and easy re-holstering. Any T8 or TPX owner looking for a practical carrying solution for their pistol should take a serious look at this product.