Montana-based Blackhawk Holsters gained its reputation in the holster business with its line of tactical military and law enforcement rigs, specializing in Level 2 and 3 retention systems to fit the unique needs of both markets. Thanks to the Serpa and T-Series, Blackhawk established itself as an elite manufacturer of excellent handgun holders that not only protected the gun but also protected the gun wearer, thanks to their unique retention devices.
Since its early days, Blackhawk has branched out into other holster markets, including civilian concealed carry. With the increase in CCW popularity, the company saw an opportunity to expand its footprint with a solid line of IWB and OWB options. One of those is the ARC Inside the Waistband Holster.
The ARC (standing for Appendix Reversible Carry, which will make more sense in a minute) starts with a somewhat unusual shell made from injection-molded polymer rather than typical Kydex or Boltaron. Why is that unusual and not just non-traditional? Kydex and Boltaron tend to be very stiff plastics, rigid enough to hold firmly under an assortment of conditions, even excessive heat like summertime in the South. Both of those malleable yet resilient materials have been used in the holster world (and aviation) for decades with great success. So, for Blackhawk to choose injection molded polymer seemed a bit, shall we say, unconventional.
Before we get into that detail, let’s establish my criteria for what makes a good holster.
- It must cover the trigger and trigger guard completely.
- It must securely hold the gun to it won’t fall out accidentally.
- You must be able to reholster one-handed.
Would this softer material perform and stay open under an IWB belt and pants pressure so the gun can be reholstered without needing the support hand to open the holster? Would it check off that important box? The answer? Yes.
Through a series of draws and reholsters, the ARC stayed wide open, easily allowing my Glock 17 back in without any help from my other hand.
Now let’s take a look at the other two criteria.
Trigger and Trigger Guard Security
Like most other civilian CCW holsters, the ARC is a Level 1 retention with no mechanical devices to defeat in order to extract the gun. Retention is achieved by the shape of the holster, which is molded to the gun—in this case, a Glock 17—the tension from the holster and gun being clamped inside the waistband, and an adjustable retention screw in the traditional location right below the trigger guard bulge. In the case of the ARC, the retention screw is a simple Phillips head that is quickly adjusted with a screwdriver or multitool.
The top of the ARC sits a little lower than most other IWB holsters, and it’s not just because it’s optic-ready, although that contributes to the overall cut and shape. At first, this concerned me. Would it meet my criteria about covering the trigger and trigger guard? It turned out to be just fine; no worries. Once the gun was inside the holster, it passed all my bump tests and brushes up against items that might pose a hazard to an exposed trigger.
Retention and Security
Given the shortness of the ARC at only four inches at its tallest point, considerably less than the typical OWB with a sweat guard, which the ARC is missing, I was more than a little concerned about the gun wanting to flop out at inconvenient times. After all, with a loaded gun inside, the rig becomes top-heavy. Would the gun stay inside through twists, turns, draws, reholsters, and everyday existence?
Not only did it stay safely tucked away, but I found I really had nothing to worry about. The gun locked in and didn’t wiggle at all. No twisting, no sliding, no nothing.
As mentioned above, retention is via a single Phillips head screw right below the trigger guard. Instead of squeezing the polymer shell tighter, as is often the case with more conventional IWB holsters, the ARC features a small cut-out flap that tightens independently from the shell, relieving the shell of the pressure typically associated with retention screws. Nobody at Blackhawk told me this, but I assume this design is to reduce the potential cracking of the holster as a whole, but I could be wrong.
The factory settings were spot on, with no adjustment needed. However, I always like to play with new holsters to see if they perform as advertised, so out came the screwdriver. It didn’t take much to open and shut the retention. I even got it locked down so tight that the gun stuck inside, with no hope of coming out. Obviously, I would never carry it that way, but it’s nice to see how much tension the mechanism can take without failing.
Clips, not Magazines
Holding the holster to the belt is a single plastic clip with curls on both the top and bottom and a single screw for height adjustment. There are only two holes to choose from, but it does offer a modicum of adjustment if you want the ride height up or down. Also, if you wear a taller 1.75-inch belt, the ARC comes with a second clip to accommodate.
Are you a lefty? This is where the “Reversible” part of the ARC acronym comes in. If you want to flip the clip to the other side to accommodate your wrong-handedness, simply unscrew it from one side and move it to the other. All you need is the same screwdriver you used to adjust the retention. Clever, no?
The clip was durable and held really nicely. In fact, it was a bit difficult to take off at the end of the day, but I’d rather struggle to take it off at night than struggle to keep it on all day. My only gripe with the clip is the single screw. I prefer holsters with at least two screws for the simple reason that daily activity can back out a single screw, causing the clip to swivel. Since most clips are the holster’s only way to stay on, a swiveling clip is a risky endeavor. I’d like to see Blackhawk add a second clip just to be safe.
The other big complaint is a lack of a claw. The ARC is designed primarily as an appendix rig, which means you want it to tuck as tightly to the body as possible. A claw brings the grip in just a bit more, reducing the chances of printing. While not everyone likes a claw on their appendix holster, it’s nice to have the option. It’s not included as an accessory when ordering, nor is it sold separately, nor is there a place on the holster to attach one. So, a miss all around in my book, but not a deal killer.
The Blackhawk ARC is a great option if you don’t want to spend a ton of money on a holster. The ARC is a solid value that offers a lot of nice features for not a lot of dough. I’d give it an overall score of B+.