The Blackhawk Epoch duty holster delivers Level 3 firearm retention while accommodating Streamlight TLR-1 and TLR-2 and SureFire X300 and X300 Ultra pistol-mounted lights. It is currently available for full-size Glock and Smith & Wesson M&P 9mm and .40 S&W models.
In addition to its tension screw adjustment, two other forms of retention must be deactivated before the pistol can be removed. An auto-lock release actuates two separate functions by first disengaging the pivot guard and then deactivating the auto lock from the ejection port.
This Blackhawk Epoch holster allows for the firing hand to establish a high, full grip on the handgun while it's still in the holster. This is very important because no additional grip adjustment is needed when drawing, improving first-shot placement and accuracy. This means you keep the same master grip to release the pistol from the holster, present it to the target and fire.
A duty holster like the Blackhawk Epoch lives a tough life, usually getting bumped and abraded several times a day by seat belts, doors, doorframes and pesky office chairs. The pivot guard completely covers the rear sight, so an accident-prone officer will have added protection from rear sight damage.
After pressing the thumb activation, no portion of the Blackhawk Epoch interfered with my Glock during the drawstroke. As an added safety measure, the pivot guard opens by thumb activation and is designed so it will not close accidentally, locking you out of the holster.
Depending on what type of light you are using, it may be necessary to remove the factory-installed light module spacer for proper fit. For the purposes of this evaluation, I attached a Streamlight TLR-2s with an integrated red aiming laser to my department-issued Glock 22 Gen4.
For 14 weeks, I conducted practice draws prior to starting my patrol shift, and after a short learning curve, I was impressed by how easy and smooth my drawstroke became. After a few warm-ups, I was able to attain a five-shot average time of 1.59 seconds with a fastest draw of 1.43. Surprisingly, I drew the same Glock 22 from my department-issued Safariland 6280 duty holster (non-light bearing) with a 1¾-second average five-shot draw time. I believe the Blackhawk Epoch's slightly lower ride height and simple push-button thumb activation afforded me a faster drawstroke.
When drawing and reholstering, you will hear a sssshhheekk sound as the polymer blend of the holster and the steel slide of the pistol contact one another, and then a click when the Blackhawk Epoch auto lock engages. As a police officer, it's good to know when your handgun is securely holstered; however, if your pistol is out during an arrest and you reholster to begin the handcuffing process, the audible noise and click communicate where your handgun is to the bad guy.
A simple solution, when possible, is to wait for a cover officer before cuffing. Liam Yarbourgh, Blackhawk product marketing manager, had this to say about the holster noise: "As far as noise, light-bearing holsters in general create more sound because you have a larger pocket. As part of our continuous improvement efforts, we will continue to look for ways to make all of our products better."
During this evaluation, I noted that if I were to get knocked to the ground and have to draw while lying on my gun side, the thumb-activated pivot guard may not allow the pistol to clear the Blackhawk Epoch. Ultimately, this depends on the angle and amount of weight applied to the holster's pivot guard while on the ground.
The off-hand or support-hand-only draw used when your strong hand is disabled is difficult at best with the Blackhawk Epoch, and depressing the thumb activation while not interfering with the pivot guard is a task. This draw can be achieved, but it will require many repetitions to complete, especially while under stress.
Ultimately, a duty holster needs to do two things well: carry/protect an officer's pistol in various environments and allow the officer to quickly draw and engage a threat if needed. As required with any other piece of gear upon which your life depends, a lot of practice is necessary until your level of confidence and proficiency has been attained.