AKJ Concealco SF100 flashlight holster review
Particularly as concerns the HDS EDC flashlight
By Ian Johnston
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I bought the most expensive flashlight I've ever owned (I think even my Surefire was cheaper) a month or so ago, in the form of an HDS EDC Basic 42 XR. I thought about making my own sheath or holster for it, as I had for previous flashlights (notably the Inova X5, which was my previous daily-carry light). However, when I started poking around on CandlePower Forums a bit, it became evident that there were some excellent holster options out there.
I finally focused my attention on the Concealco SF100, which was supposed to fit well, looked good, and was certainly the right price.
The HDS EDC is a 1" diameter light, so the SF100 was theoretically the right thing. There were no specs on how long it was, so there was some question of whether the HDS light would just dissappear all the way in, being so short. Othewise, I was confident it would work.
It took more than a month for my holster to show up, but I did order it during the run-up to Christmas retail-o-rama season, so it's reasonable to assume Concealco was swamped with orders. A phone call to their office was returned the same day. As they say on their contact page, a phone call is more likely than email to elicit a response.
The holster came shipped in a Priority Mail box, inside which was some tissue paper packing material, a hand-written order sheet, and a ziploc style bag which contained the actual holster and a folded instruction sheet.
The instruction sheet includes information on breaking in the holster, as well as how the one-way snap works, and how to adjust the retaining tension. Generally quite clear and to the point. Well done on the documentation.
The holster itself is much as it appears on the website. I wasn't surprised at all, although I was interested to see how the belt loop works, since the Concealco website doesn't show any pictures of that. For $19 plus shipping, this seemed like a fine product.
Since Concealco doesn't list the HDS EDC light specifically, there was naturally a question of whether it would fit well or not. It does, in fact, fit quite well, with one exception: the clip must be removed. With the clip on, the HDS light either doesn't go all the way in, or it goes all the way in and feels like it's never going to come out again. The clip's little dished-in section at the end engages with the rubber button used in the holster's tension system, and really locks it in place. Practically speaking, the combination is unuseable with the clip in place, so if the clip is important to you, look elsewhere for a holster.
Once I took off the clip (which I had been intending to take off for use with the holster anyway), the fit was excellent. The HDS light sits in the holster with about half an inch of bezel showing over the top. The bottom end of the holster is pressed in so that the light can't go all the way through. This pressed in section also very effectively prevents the button from being pressed, so accidental activations of the light should be very rare.
The tension system
One of the benefits of this particular design is that the bottom of the holster can be tightened to whatever tightness you like to retain the flashlight. I was quickly able to adjust it so the light was easy to remove, yet would stay in the holster even if I turned it upside down and shook vigorously. The adjustment is made with a #2 Phillips screwdriver (the most common size of Phillips screwdriver). The adjusting screw is hidden inside the belt loop snap, giving a very tidy appearance.
I feel that this is an excellent feature of the holster, and I'm surprised that Concealco doesn't hype it a little bit more. Maybe I'm not familiar enough with leather holsters and this is totally standard, but certainly on the nylon or plastic/Kydex holsters I've seen, I've never found an adjustable tension system. I like it.
Since I got the holster (yesterday, as it happens), I've had to adjust the tension a bit tighter. I assume I'll need to do this several more times as the leather breaks in a bit. This is not abnormal at all, since the leather is adjusting to the light and my belt, just as leather shoes adjust to your feet.
The belt loop
The belt loop is riveted at the top, with a snap at the bottom. It's long enough to comfortably accomodate a 1.5" wide belt. I doubt you could get a much wider belt in there without problems. Since these holsters are "semi-custom," I bet you could request a longer belt loop when you order your holster, if that's an issue.
The snap actually has an extra piece of metal inside it, which prevents the snap from coming undone when pulled from one side. It's easy to undo from the other side. This feature is aligned such that no matter how hard (within reason, I'm sure) you pull on the holster, your belt won't unsnap it. Unsnapping the holster with your finger, on the other hand, is easy. This is an excellent system, and much easier to work with (as I've found) than the DeSantis cell phone holster I had at one time, which used a sort of double-hooking clip to keep the holster on your belt against pulling forces.
The downside to the one-way snap is that if you don't snap it together correctly, it feels like it's snapped securely, but actually comes loose right away. Snapping it correctly takes a bit of practice, to make sure that extra metal tab gets over the snap body first. I've found that once I did it in front of my face a few times, I could figure it out on my belt. It's certainly also practical to just thread the belt through the loop as if it was permanently closed, so it need not be an issue.
The belt loop design means that the light rides right in the middle of your belt. Grabbing the light is harder than what I'm used to (a nylon holster which holds the bezel about mid-belt, rather than a half-inch above the top of the belt), simply because it's higher. This will vary depending on where you like to keep your light on your belt -- I keep mine just behind the midpoint on my right side, so lifting it up raises my arm in a slightly uncomfortable way.
The holster is a nicely finished black color (in my case; you can order several different colors), which wouldn't look entirely out of place on a suit. It closely resembles a handgun magazine holster, which is what I'm sure it started life as, design-wise. This means it looks a bit "tactical" compared to a low-key nylon fabric holster. It looks to me as though it would be most suitable on a policeman's uniform belt.
Handedness (aka "which model?")
Concealco spends some time on the website explaining the "handedness" of the holsters. They've come up with the convention that if the light would be tilted forward on that side of your body, that's the handedness. So, I ordered a "left-hand" model to wear on my right side, because I wanted it tilted backward instead of forward. It makes sense once you think about it a bit.
The company also makes a model SF100A, which is the exact same thing, but with a flared opening. This model is not the best choice for the HDS EDC series. Choose the plain SF100 for the HDS lights. The A model is really designed for lights with flared bezels, and I believe it wouldn't hold the HDS lights as securely. It would also look a bit strange, flaring to accomodate a feature which isn't there.
Bezel up, or bezel down?
Due to the knurling pattern on the HDS light, having it in the holster bezel-up is a lot easier. The knurling on the HDS is mostly toward the lens, with the back half of the light being pretty smooth. Putting the lens down therefore puts a lot of knurling in contact with the bottom end of the holster. Putting the lens up mostly puts smooth metal or air in contact with the holster. Since the tensioning system works on the bottom end of the holster, that's where it grips the most. I prefer to carry my light bezel-up in any case, so it works for me.
If you want to carry your light bezel-down, it won't be a problem. You'll just have to loosen the tension a bit, and accept that the light will be a bit harder to remove from the holster. At least when new, the holster will only accomodate the light one way or another, so you need to choose your carry style and stick with it -- not a problem for most people.
Do I like this holster? Definitely. I'm dissappointed at how long it took to arrive, but it's not that surprising given when I ordered it. Now that I have it, I'm quite happy.
It seems very well built. The leatherwork is excellent quality, and there was obviously some thought put into the design. For a mere $19, I highly recommend it if the style agrees with you. My ridiculously expensive light (and I got nearly the cheapest model, sigh) is certainly more secure in this holster than clipped to my pocket.
Well done, Concealco. This is a great product at a very reasonable price.
Update, February 2008
Two years later, I wanted to provide an update. I've been wearing this holster and flashlight quite literally every day of those two-plus years, and it's still in great shape. The flashlight (which lives in the holster unless I'm actually using it) shows almost no wear.
The biggest problem I've had so far is that the tensioning screw under the snap likes to very slowly unscrew itself over the course of several months. I don't use the snap, just sliding the holster on and off the belt as necessary. If I used the snap, I might discover the loosening more quickly. Due to the fact that it's under the snap, it's impossible to lose the adjusting screw, and I've never had it come all the way out. Even when completely loose, the light has never shown any inclination to come out of the holster on its own.
The holster has proven to be extremely durable, and I'm very pleased with the purchase. It's a vital piece of everyday gear for me, and I've had no indications it might let me down. Highly recommended.
Created by Ian Johnston. Questions? Please mail me at reaper at obairlann dot net.