175 – PHLster: Creating an Enigma

This week, Daniel speaks with Jon and Sarah Hauptman, founders of the PHLster Holster line. You’ll learn a lot – including more than you’ll expect about the unexpected Enigma holster.

Kydex holsters might not be a dime a dozen in this industry, but they’re certainly ubiquitous — and widely varying in quality. Unlike many traditional holster companies (of all sizes), PHLster does far more than “heat and bend”. They continue to produce genuinely innovative products by hyper-focusing on real-world application, ergonomics, and anatomical conformity in their designs. They made a splash in the gun world with the best, “closest-to-universal” holster we’ve seen yet (the Floodlight) and more recently an even bigger splash with the appropriately named Enigma concealment system.

Jon and Sarah tell the story of how PHLster was founded, what led to their unique designs, some obstacles they faced, what they believe the concealed carry holster industry has been missing, and what the future holds for them.

If you’re in search of new conceal carry options, take a listen and you might find PHLster has something for you.

Host: Daniel Shaw

Guests: Jon and Sarah Hauptman

Introduction/Timeline: Eric Huh

03:06 PHLster’s Origins

Jon and Sarah recall PHLster’s humble beginnings from a “Do It Yourself” holster channel to a world-class holster company. Having a background as an auto mechanic and art student, Jon dove into the holster making world with very few technical resources available.

04:15 After getting into firearm ownership and ordering a holster with a very lengthy lead time, Jon challenged himself to create his own holster and to find out if he could do better.

05:26 Jon’s efforts were noticed and he began receiving emails from gun owners looking for custom holsters. Having found that his newfound passion was not only more profitable but also more fulfilling, he took the risk and committed fully to holster making.

“It wasn’t long after that, that I realized I had made more money answering my email than I was gonna make wrenching on cars…”

07:14 Growing Pains: Understanding Division of Labor and Business Efficiency

Jon describes the obstacles faced in accommodating demand and the growth of PHLster. Like being “stuck on a treadmill”, Jon found himself glued to purely holster making to meet the demand of his customers instead of spending time to create new designs.

07:55 Jon recognized the lack of efficiency in his operations of trying to micro-manage all aspects. He instead decided to relegate other tasks to those most proficient at them and shifted his efforts on the creative design side. As an artist and mechanic, this is where he shines the most.

09:51 PHLster’s Floodlight holster caught his eye due to their products being able to meet these demands. While universal holsters are certainly not new, Floodlight, in his experience has been the only product to execute the concept effectively.

PHLster Floodlight universal holster
The PHLster Floodlight, a universal holster that accepts virtually any duty grade pistol by attaching to either a Streamlight TLR-1 or a Surefire X-300.

10:28 Daniel details his personal experiences with conceal carrying a weapon, weapon-mounted lights, and the unique requirements for his line of profession.

He explains the importance of having both a weapon light and a separate handheld light. The Floodlight holster works by using either a Streamlight TLR-1 or a Surefire X-300 weapon light as the anchor point for the gun, allowing the user to have a near-universal option for a gun with a light as well as freeing up space to use a separate light.

12:02 What sets PHLster apart from other kydex holster manufacturers?

Jon explains that PHLster goes after truly cutting edge designs that solve immediate problems in the industry. For instance, the ARC Enhanced Weapon Mounted Light Switches offers the end-user several different extended switches to actuate their weapon lights and can accommodate different hand sizes.

PHLster ARC Enhanced WML Switch
The ARC Enhanced WML Switch, adds an extension to either your TLR-1 or X-300 weapon light.

13:43 PHLster also offers the Pro Series appendix carry holsters, which is among their most popular line of products. This holster provides comfort and concealability to the user due to its form factor and molded-in wedges.

PHLster Pro Series minimalist holster appendix carry
The Pro Series offers a minimalist and incredibly comfortable appendix carrying option.

15:08 The wedge shape for their holsters allows for fewer fatigue points on the user as well as being ambidextrous. All holsters by PHLster including the Pro Series are ambidextrous to both cut down on cost from having to produce both right and left-handed holsters and to accommodate all users.

16:05 Emphasis on ergonomics over the idea of “comfort”.

Jon and Sarah found that by focusing on superior ergonomics of a holster design, this naturally lends itself to comfort for the user. Most manufacturers today have a misconception of what constitutes “comfort”, especially in the women’s concealed carry industry. Companies often will create holsters with sharp points and simply throw a soft pad on it which does little to alleviate pressure points.

It is far more effective to build the holster from the ground up around the anatomy of the user so that pressure points can be avoided altogether.

17:44 Conceal carry is overwhelmingly about trial and error.

Jon describes the conceal carry world as something people have to learn on their own and not something with an exact science. Daniel adds it is very much typical for the average to conceal carrier to have a collection of old kydex holsters in their pursuit to find the “right” one. As Jon says, “People ‘luck’ into what works for them.”

18:56 Concealment vs. just carrying.

Sarah expands further by stating that even today, the vast majority of online resources are dedicated to firearm usage, but very little on pure concealment principles. PHLster is looking to change that going forward into 2021 by providing training videos and educational tools.

20:21 Counterintuitive ideas in conceal carrying

Jon explains the misconception that a smaller gun is automatically more comfortable than a larger gun in all aspects.

Smaller guns with a shorter barrel tend to be heavier at the base, causing them to tip out during carrying. The Pro Series adds more smooth, contoured surface area for smaller guns that make contact with the body to add concealability and prevent tipping. The “hot spot” or high-pressure point zones are mitigated as a result.

21:47 Sarah circles back to the idea of shape conformity and ergonomics over soft fixes after the fact, saying, “It’s a root cause solving of this problem rather than a Band-Aid on top.”

Once again, most companies will attempt to add comfort by employing hybrid designs such as padding behind a holster. This may be a fix for temporary comfort but it sacrifices the concealment benefits.

22:09 Holsters that adapt to you.

Jon elaborates on the design principles of PHLster, in which they prioritize holsters that can be modified to adapt to the end-user.

The main Pro Series holster shell includes an array of mounting points that allows for any standard clip (soft clips, tuckable clips, etc.) or belt loop system and concealment wing. These same principles apply to the Floodlight holster, which indexes the gun to the weapon-mounted light and allows for virtually any standard duty grade pistol to fit with micro adjustments.

“We try to make gear that’s a little more of a sandbox than a sand castle”

Sarah Hauptman and Jon Hauptman discussing their “sandbox” and opened ended design philosophy in their holsters.

24:31 Introducing the PHLster Enigma.

Daniel discusses how his everyday carry needs have trended towards more minimalist setups and that this has necessitated the need for a minimalist gun-carrying solution. The new PHLster Enigma fulfills this need by being the described “belly band that doesn’t suck.”

PHLster Enigma concealment chassis system
Jon and Sarah giving an overview of their innovative, first of its kind concealment chassis system, the Enigma.

26:34 PHLster Enigma Launch Trailer

The PHLster Enigma is neither a belt, a holster, or a belly band at a technical level.

It is the world’s first “concealment chassis”, a system with straps that can be paired with other IWB holster designs or the PHLster Pro Series that can be conformed to an individual’s body regardless of {or lack of} clothing. The holster plate can be adjusted for grip rotation, tilt, and counter-rotation.

The Enigma concealment chassis system.
The PHLster Enigma is a truly unique option in the conceal carry space. Offering the retention of a belt with the flexibility of a belly band and the safety of a kydex holster all in one.

This takes PHLster’s “sandbox” design principle for conceal carry to the next level without sacrificing safety, comfort, accessibility, or rigidity.

30:24 The origins of the Enigma design

Jon first gained the inspiration for the Enigma from a fellow holster making friend, Jules, who designed a conceal carry holster with a belt rig set up used in the Shivworks ECQC classes and meant to be worn inside tight-fitting clothing such as sweats or yoga pants. Jon collaborates with Jules to further improve upon this design and bring it to the mass market.

After spending over a year in R&D building off this design, Sarah happens to take a few materials from another item and essentially builds the final components needed to make the Enigma viable.

34:54 How does the Enigma work?

As touched upon before, the overall design of the Enigma needed to be concealable, accessible, and durable enough to survive actual combative scenarios such as doing Jujitsu. This is done by how the holster plate is constructed. It allows different sides of the plate to be adjusted independently, preventing the gun from tipping, sagging, or printing underneath clothing.

PHLster Enigma concealed carry, mens clothing
The Enigma is more than just a PHLster holster. It’s an entire concealment chassis system that can be worn in virtually any clothing attire. Whether it be work slacks, jeans, shorts, or…
PHLster Enigma concealed carry women's apparel
…even yoga pants and sweats.

36:31 Rethinking the conceal carry.

Jon discusses that for years the conceal carry conversation has centered on the quality of a belt. He believes while a high-quality belt can certainly help with conceal carrying, this notion has limited the scope of superior options. A standard belt can only operate tension on the holster in one direction, essentially squishing the gun to the body.

37:08 Going back to the design of the Enigma’s faceplate, the shape is curved in such a way where it changes the center of gravity for the gun. Pressure can be applied towards the top of the gun for greater concealability without discomfort.

38:43 The Enigma uses a high strength magnetic buckle that has a quick-release feature. It is further complemented by a belt system and a leg leash that keeps the entire chassis down when drawing.

40:18 With all of the Enigma’s components working in conjunction with one another, one could conceivably carry more concealed wearing track pants with the Enigma than someone carrying with just an IWB holster on the belt with a pair of jeans.

41:44 Jon further adds that a beltline is not necessarily the best area for comfort or concealment. The Enigma allows for the user to wear the holster in an area above the waistline, further facilitating different concealment options in various clothing types.

42:31 Traditional belt carry offers limited clothing options.

Sarah explains that as a woman who conceal carries, the traditional belt holster carry method severely restricts the clothing options for women to only pants with belt loops. Daniel adds that in other instances, this may force off the body carry such as concealing a gun in a bag or purse.

43:38 Body Movement with the Enigma

Jon and Sarah play a customer submitted video of herself doing full-on parkour and acrobatics while conceal carrying with the Engima [Video is visible in the full-length interview].

45:55 Innovation in the gun industry

Daniel reflects upon the sad trend of very little innovation throughout the gun industry. Much of this can be attributed to complacency in the past years and over-emphasis on marketing over R&D. However, PHLster’s Enigma stands out as genuinely pushing the gun industry forward by executing innovative and practical ideas.

47:31 Meeting the customer demands for the Engima

Demand for the Engima has been at an all-time high and PHLster has had to make operation enhancements to accommodate demand. Initially, the Enigma was created outside of the current manufacturing infrastructure that was already in place for the other holsters. The industry as a whole can be unpredictable and one must be cognizant of customer behavior, customer purchasing power, inventory paralysis, and gaining material supplies.

49:00 The Future of PHLster

PHLster is now producing 3-4 years’ worth of Enigmas in the next 60 days. The waitlist for the Enigma has come to a point where they have had to deny people’s money until they are sure that demand can be met. PHLster is working alongside Axl Advanced, with an entire facility dedicated to only manufacturing Engimas.

50:30 New Enigma holster models

Jon reveals future Enigma models that will accommodate the Floodlight holster and other light bearing holsters. Additionally, a smaller, simplified version of the Enigma with a preinstalled faceplate has been planned.

51:44 PHLster Community

PHLster’s customers have an active user group on Facebook known as the PHLster Concealment Workshop. Users post their own unique Enigma and other PHLster designed holster setups and exchange information on the best methods to carry. Beyond offering great support for new customers, this community provides vital feedback to Jon and Sarah as they continue to work on future designs and improve upon their products.

54:25 PHLster contact and additional information

For more information about PHLster Holsters, visit phlsterholsters.com

Join their community at facebook.com/groups/139735863409843

Article/Show notes by Eric Huh

Banner image credit: Terry – ninexnineteen.

Gunmag Training's Chief Instructor Daniel Shaw is a retired US Marine Infantry Unit Leader with multiple combat tours and instructor titles.  Since retirement from the Marine Corps, Daniel teaches Armed Citizens and Law Enforcement Officers weapons, tactics and use of force. Daniel takes his life of training and combat experience and develops as well as presents curriculum to help Law Enforcement, US Military and Responsible Armed Citizens prepare for a deadly force encounter.  When he isn't directing marketing for Gunmag Warehouse, Daniel travels the US teaching and training under Gunmag Training, and discusses all things hoplological and self-defense related on The MagLife Podcast.

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