I met my contact in the parking lot between Applebees and McDonalds in the middle of Little Mogadishu. I pulled up next to his vehicle and he handed me the package through the open driver’s side windows.
The first thing I noticed about the object was that it was soft and a little squishy. But it had hard bits in it as well…not unlike a freshly-killed cottontail rabbit. It was a Ziplock-style black plastic bag with silver and black lettering that said ALIEN GEAR HOLSTER. I knew what I was getting into and I almost couldn't wait to get it home to tear it apart.
I really had every intention of doing this right. You know: sit down on the couch with the coffee table in front of me, or perhaps sit at my desk, and just carefully open the package, thoughtfully inventory the contents and read the manual before doing anything else.
That was not to be.
I was running late for a meeting, but really wanted to get some wear time in with the holster, so I snatched the bag, yanked it open and dumped the contents on the kitchen counter between bites on my PB&J sandwich. I vaguely remember seeing some things in black and some kind of ugly sort of neon green-colored plastic that looked liked holster parts, as well as an invoice, some folded cardboard instruction card and an invitation card to join the NRA. I quickly brushed all of that aside in order I grab what I was really interested in: the flippin’ holster.
Not one to rush to RTFM anyway, I undid my belt, partially dropped trou’, picked the holster up, and saddled up.
Having already owned and very much liked a DeSantis Gunhide Intruder IWB holster for my 1911, I didn’t sense that I was going to have any trouble figuring out how to use the Alien Gear (AG) version…and…I didn’t.
The belt hooks seemed a little softer and more flexible than the DeSantis units and were a bit easier to work in under my wide DeSantis leather gun belt. I did notice that the hooks tended to rotate a bit easier on their fasteners as well (tensioning screws not real tight and I just left them as they were), but that wasn’t a problem so far in getting them in the right spot to engage my leather.
I snugged the belt up to its very last notch (I’d lost a lot of weight in the previous 8 months…long story) and the AG holster combined with my fat XD .45 Compact felt just as good as my 1911 in the DeSantis rig. That is also to say it felt waaaay better than the XD in my typical IWB carry rig: a second-hand Bladetech Kydex IWB holster.
The Bladetech is pretty minimalist in material, and does not spread the imprint of a double stack autoloader like the XD out very well. Mine doesn’t cover all the way to muzzle either, and frequently the end of the slide and frame pinch or feel just plain uncomfortable when sitting for a time, particularly on a harder chair. Having the belt cinched up tight to keep the pants from sliding down, will often lead to lower back discomfort after about 6 hours of wear.
I wore the AG holster with that fat XD snugged up tight in excess of 10 hours today with no real discomfort at all. I should say at this point that I very much prefer having an undershirt of some sort tucked into my pants when carrying, so that neither the holster nor gun can come into contact with bare skin.
The backing that goes up against your body on this, the Cloak Tuck 2.0, is neoprene – similar to the stuff they make wetsuits or cold weather gear for surf boarding out of. Its very soft and conforms to your hip and buttocks region (carrying strong side- 3:30-4:30) and also lets the gun nestle into the soft material somewhat. That’s both a good thing and somewhat of a bad thing, in my opinion.
Good, because the gun just seems to have less bulkiness with sharp edges jabbing into me that way, and less printing on the waist band side of things. You don’t end up with the gap on either the top or bottom of the gun where the pants are forced away from one’s waist.
Bad, because, when I did a couple of test draws and re-holstering drills, I observed that all of the aforementioned squishiness did slow down holstering… considerably, at first.
With a tight belt, the mouth of the holster got pinched shut a little bit due to the softness of the backing material, and it took a much more deliberate action to work the muzzle of the gun into the opening without using the dangerous method of pointing the muzzle at ones’ own hip to pry it into the mouth of the holster.
When I holster my XD into the Bladetech, I always make sure that I remove the web of my hand from the grip safety and use my thumb on the back of the slide to assist in shoving the gun into the holster—I do this mostly to avoid having the unpleasant surprise that has befallen a number of Glock owners when some article of clothing (maybe a drawstring) happened to snag that ‘safe’ trigger during holstering. And yes, I know that XDs are graced with Springfield Armory’s version of this marvelous innovation as well, and I hold it in just as high esteem.
My first couple of attempts at holstering into the AG, I found that due to the snugness of fit and the partially-collapsed holster mouth, I had to be very careful to insert the gun nearly perfectly straight into the holster, else the slide would drag and try to come out of battery. It actually didn’t come out of battery, as the XD slide will only partially move without the grip safety depressed. Owners of other brand firearms - your mileage may vary. I wouldn’t say this is necessarily a deal breaker; it’s just that holstering in my short experience with the AG is going to be a somewhat more deliberate and time consuming act than with other IWB holsters I own.
Day Two: I wore the AG holster all day again with no discomfort. I took out the instructions and actually read them, and therein I found out about their 30 days no questions, no hard feelings guarantee. Very cool. I don’t think you’ll have to go 30 days to decide if this holster is for you or not, though. Another neat thing that they do is give you unlimited holster shell trades for life. That is, if you ever change guns, AG will provide a free holster shell while you still own the rig or until Alien Gear goes Tango Uniform, I guess. They also tout a Free Forever warranty, which is neat (but not uncommon in my experience with quality manufacturers in the firearms peripherals industry) and they will repair or replace free, anything that breaks.
Looking over the accessories AG provided, I see that they included a Spare Parts Pack in that ugly sort of neon green color with extra spacers and Allen screws of 3 different lengths (and an itty bitty wrench to fit them) so you may adjust the holding tension and fit of your holster shell to your particular gun.
In the bag there are also two extra sets of belt fasteners clips and a set of loops with snaps for different belts and preferences, and they all appear to allow the wear of the holster with a shirt or blouse tucked in over top of it. What was not included (claims by their video to the contrary) are the steel belt clips. I don’t think you’ll miss them much. I sure didn’t…I always thought they were a pain anytime anything from gun holsters to cell phone holsters had them installed.
The instructions card has ample directions on the wear and adjustment of the rig, but AG also went to the trouble of providing a link to their website that has videos. For the tech kids who like QR codes, there’s even one of those too.
I looked over the website and it appears they put a lot of work and thought into it. Even if you do nothing else, go to the videos page where they get into methods of carrying concealed. These tips apply not just with their holsters, but could to anybody’s. You might learn a thing or two.
It is worth mentioning at this point, that in my experience with IWB holsters, I have found that there’s a fine line between the holster tension being adjusted high enough to hold the firearm snug in the holster before its inserted IWB, and it being way-too-tight to draw the firearm without doing rotator cuff damage once your gun belt is tight enough to keep your pants from drooping. You may have to experiment with your gun/holster/belt/ pants combination.
(Snug is up to interpretation. Snug enough so the holster doesn’t fall off the gun when you’re gripping the firearm, but the holster is unsupported by belt or pants, or snug enough so you could hold the holster upside down and the firearm doesn’t fall out?)
Day Three: I decided not to wear it at all, since I noticed as it sat on my dresser this morning that the Alien Gear logo was wearing off already. Not that I’m a big fan of all things alien and other-worldly anyway, but the plan was to give this holster away at the 2015 Buckeye Bash.
I decided to try my minimalist BladeTech IWB on instead, which I figured would be a rather noticeable change after wearing the AG for two days straight. Ooh man, was it ever! This Bladetech, though, easy as it is to put on - with the exception of snapping the straps over my gun belt, take off AND re-holster the firearm smoothly and quickly - isn’t very comfortable compared to the AG. They say carrying a firearm shouldn’t be comfortable, it should be comforting, but I really wouldn’t mind a little more of the former. The Bladetech is just THERE, and I sure notice the front of the slide pinching me when I sit down sometimes. I didn’t have that happen ever with the AG.
Okay, so what do I think of the AG holster? I’ll tell ya - the more I wear it the more I like it. It’s super comfortable, and although I don’t think it holsters as easily as my other IWB holsters. I still give it a 9 out of 10 but I’d probably give it a 9.5 out of 10 if it could holster as quickly and smoothly as my Bladetech. The ugly green alien stuff kicks it out of the 10 spot…sorry.
There was only one little workmanship issue I had with the AG holster: one of the unused nuts that are pressed into the backing of the holster for a different belt clip attachment point seems to be improperly seated and sticks up just a bit. No big deal, though, I never felt it.
And one last thing: on the Alien Gear website, there’s a video done in talk show discussion-style where they point out the merits of Boltaron vs Kydex. Boltaron is what the AG is made from; Kydex is what all the others are usually made from. One of things about Boltaron besides strength and longevity is the easy cleanup aspect of the surface texture. Even peanut butter comes off with ease.
Scott Seibert is a Buckeye Firearms Association MinuteMan.