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Thread: Discuss: What is the Optimum “Draw Weight” of a Gun+Holster?

  1. #1
    Wag more, Bark less RJ's Avatar
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    Jan 2014
    Venice Florida

    Discuss: What is the Optimum “Draw Weight” of a Gun+Holster?


    In the last 18 months, I’ve bought and sold a number of carry guns, seeking the optimal solution. In so doing, I’ve also had to purchase myriad holsters. Each time the new holster arrives, I spend a good bit of time “tuning” the retention screws, which govern “draw weight”, so that the holster has “just” the right amount of tension, for the new gun, to suit my preference for force I need to apply prior to the draw release.

    I have never sat down and thought, could this force be measured?

    This thread is to discuss the “Draw Weight” of a gun and holster, to determine if there is an optimum. The “draw weight”, or DW, is defined as the force, measured in decimal pounds, that must be exerted on a gun within a holster in order to “start” movement in the draw. Can one can measure DW? If so, what is the optimum value, for a kydex holster for CCW?


    For purposes of this thread, I will focus on Kydex holsters which provide retention at the trigger guard area. I don’t have any expertise and am not capable of commenting on duty or LEO retention, nor am I well versed in competition, being a very lowly D class shooter in Production in USPSA. So for this discussion I’d like to focus on civilian concealed carry.


    I devised a simple method of measuring an approximation of DW, as follows.


    - Trigger Pull Gauge (Wheeler “Trigger Pull Scale” in my case)
    - 12” of 550 Paracord


    First I verified the gun was empty and locked the slide back. I then threaded the paracord through the grip, up and over the rear sight aperture. I then tied a Bowline knot to keep the paracord secure, and another Bowline to form a loop for the Trigger Pull Gauge hook.

    This is pictured below.

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    (If you don’t recall how to tie a Bowline from Scouts, shame on you. A simple overhand knot will do.)

    To perform a measurement, I zeroed the Pull Gauge, then slowly stretched the cord until the gun “just” released from the Kydex. The value of the trigger pull gauge then gave me an approximation of the DW that would need to be applied to the gun to release the retention and start the draw.

    As an example, I ran five measurements on my Glock 48, holstered in a JM Custom Kydex IWB 3, which is my normal EDC (in other words, this holster was already set as my EDC). My results were:

    RJ’s EDC:

    Gun: Glock 48
    Holster: JM CK IWB 3
    Avg DW: 5.0 lb.


    Do you think this is a valid approach to measure holster/gun retention DW? If you do, what do you think of the value of the retention I got for my EDC? If you don’t, how do you approach setting retention on your kydex / EDC holsters, consistently? Do you think, specifically in my case, 5.0 lbs is too much, or too little, retention?

    I would be very interested if anyone can repeat this with their EDC and holster combination. Please follow all gun safety rules if doing so.

    Post back your findings, if you wish:

    Avg DW:
    Character is doing the right thing when nobody's looking. There are too many people who think that the only thing that's right is to get by, and the only thing that's wrong is to get caught.
    — J. C. Watts

  2. #2
    Moderator BehindBlueI's's Avatar
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    Mar 2015
    I think you're overthinking this. By a lot.

    Our criteria for an approved off duty holster at work is pretty simple. Turn it upside down, give a couple of gentle shakes. If it stays, it's good to go.
    Important rule change regarding political discussion here:

    Quote Originally Posted by UNM1136 View Post
    Maybe with talented students I would lube up with baby oil and then go at it.

  3. #3
    King of Craft Clusterfrack's Avatar
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    Jun 2013
    Redneck wonderland
    I’d recommend doing some light grappling with a Bluegun in your holsters. Have someone try to take your gun, and explore how holster tension affects your ability to maintain retention. I’m guessing you’ll find it doesn’t help much, and various retention techniques will be most of the equation.
    "BJJ is sort of like nonconsensual yoga"
    "You don’t really graduate from certain problems or certain things… like you always have to work on trigger control and pulling the trigger straight. " --Ben Stoeger 1/24/2018

  4. #4
    Ideal Draw weight formula: D=.5W*(A/G)
    D= draw weight (in oz)
    W= weight of gun (in oz)
    A= # of angels that can dance on a single 1mm pinhead
    G= grip strength (in lbs, can be estimated through captains of crush grippers 1RM)

    Surprised this isn't common knowledge amongst serious shooters, pretty obvious really.

  5. #5
    Marginally Relevant NH Shooter's Avatar
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    Sep 2014
    New Hampshire, U.S.A.
    This is what happens when you retire*.

    *I plan on dying at my desk in my little middle-management cubicle. Someone will have to drag my body out to the dumpster.

  6. #6
    Simple two part test.

    1) fly in moderate or greater turbulence for more than ten minutes, and if your handgun pops out, you need more tension.

    2) if you draw and either end up with the holster AND handgun or your underwear gives you a wedgie, you need less tension.
    Likes pretty much everything in every caliber.

  7. #7
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    Aug 2016
    I don't think your test is valid since it relies on having the slide locked open. Depending on the holster, there may be less friction (and therefore a lowered draw weight) between the slide and the holster body when the slide is locked open.

    That said, I agree that this is overkill. The "turn it upside down and shake" test seems sufficient to me.

  8. #8
    Hillbilly Elitist Malamute's Avatar
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    Oct 2013
    Northern Rockies
    Quote Originally Posted by BehindBlueI's View Post
    I think you're overthinking this. By a lot.

    Our criteria for an approved off duty holster at work is pretty simple. Turn it upside down, give a couple of gentle shakes. If it stays, it's good to go.

    ^^^ This.

    I read of this idea in an antique gun book when leather holsters ruled. Even with a retaining strap I liked mine to hold the gun with it unsnapped.
    Pro Biscuit

  9. #9
    Site Supporter
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    Aug 2011
    TEXAS !

    If the shake test is not enough retention for what you are doing you likely need sone form of active retention such as thumb breaks, ALS etc.

  10. #10
    For friction retention, I'd do the empty gun, holstered normally with the slide forward. Give it 3 vigorous shakes while inverted (the holster, not you) mentioned earlier. If you want to get hitech wrap a chord around the grip and pull. If you can feel the holstered gun tugging up away from the belt clearly enough that you'd notice it if it were snagged in a seatbelt and it doesnt come out when inverted and shaken, you're probably good to go.
    -All views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect those of the author's employer-

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