PHLster Products Retention Adjustment

“My new holster feels too tight (or too lose)!”
“My Enigma feels too tight (or too lose)!”

“Retention” means how tightly the gun is held in the holster. Some PHLster holsters are available with fixed retention, which means they can’t be adjusted, and others have adjustable retention, which means they can be adjusted by the user.

The Skeleton, Pro, and Summit holsters all have fixed retention. This means the retention cannot be adjusted, and the clamping force with which the gun is held in the holster is set precisely during the manufacturing process. 

On holsters which can fit multiple models of pistol, like the Floodlight2, Floodlight OWB, and City Special, adjustable retention is provided. This means that the clamping force which holds the pistol in the holster can be adjusted and fine tuned by the user. This is accomplished by loosening the retention adjustment screws in fine increments until the desired retention feel is achieved. For the Floodlight2 and Floodlight holsters, you must first adjust the shock cord to the size of the pistol before tightening the retention screws. Follow the instruction video here to adjust your Floodlight or Floodlight2.

An Enigma Express with a Skeleton attached has fixed retention.

An Enigma Express with a City Special attached has adjustable retention.

A Light Bearing Enigma Express with the Floodlight2 attached has adjustable retention

Before evaluating the retention of any holster, it’s important to be sure that your pistol is unloaded and to follow all firearms safety rules. Refer to the user manual for your pistol if necessary.

Next, check a few things.

  • Make sure you have the correct model of gun in your holster. (Yes, really. People get their pistol model wrong all the time!)
  • Make sure you have no accessories or modifications on your gun where they could contact the holster. For example, grip tape on the slide will make your retention too tight.
  • If  you are using the Standard Enigma OS, check a few additional things:
    • If you are using an adjustable retention holster from another manufacturer, make sure you’re using the Fixed Retention Kit. Without this kit, you will not be able to get your holster tight to the Enigma faceplate without affecting your retention.
    • If you’re not sure if your holster has adjustable or fixed retention, read this article.

Retention should always be evaluated with the holster being worn as it would be during normal use. The compression or belt tension applied to the holster will substantially impact the feel of the retention, making the holster feel tighter. A holster which has been adjusted to feel “tight enough” when not being worn will always feel much tighter when belt pressure is applied to it.

This is also why the “shake test,” which includes placing the gun in the holster, turning it upside down, and shaking it until the pistol falls out is not an accurate test or simulation on which to evaluate the holster’s retention. Absent the belt pressure which is present when the holster is worn, the “shake test” does not represent the real retention of the holster. For more information about the “shake test,” check out this video:

A fixed retention holster will commonly feel “too tight” when it’s new for the following reasons:
  1. Lack of belt tension. The pants belt or Enigma system helps hold the holster down when the pistol is being drawn. Too much slack in the belt will allow for too much vertical movement during the draw, making the holster feel much tighter than it normally would. 
  2. Outward draw angle. Drawing the holster at a such an outward angle that the grip tips away from the body (and the muzzle tips inward) not only is unsafe, but it also makes the holster feel much tighter. The outward angle presses the pistol into the molded shapes of the holster shell, causing increased friction and results in the pistol locking up inside the holster. When drawing from an appendix position, you should feel like you’re pulling the pistol up and back towards your armpit. Here’s a video which shows this in detail:
  3. Slow draw speed. Our holsters are designed to retain the pistol during strenuous activity including running, jumping, grappling, and fighting. Drawing the pistol from the holster requires a quick, confident, firm, and deliberate draw-stroke. Combining a slow draw with outward draw angle and a loose belt will result in the holster feeling too tight.
  4. Holster break-in. PHLster test-fits every single holster shell with a real gun as part of the quality control process. However, there are small differences even in pistols of the same make and model. This can depend on the age of the pistol itself and the wear it has already experienced, as well as small variations which can occur during the pistol manufacturing process. Our holster manufacturing process can also have small variations. When these variations intersect, it’s possible for a holster to feel a little bit too tight. Before doing anything else, try inserting and drawing the unloaded pistol anywhere from 10-30 times, since this will help loosen a brand new fixed-retention Kydex holster. 
  5. Aftermarket accessories. Installing extended controls, performing substantial modifications to the pistol frame or trigger guard where it interacts with the holster, or using a pistol slide other than what came installed on the pistol can substantially change the critical fit dimensions of the firearm. Anything done to the pistol which makes components larger, sharper, or rougher in areas where they interact with the holster will cause the holster to feel too tight. 

If your PHLster holster came with adjustable retention, you can find instructions for adjusting it here:

If your PHLster holster came with fixed retention and this troubleshooting guide did not resolve your issue, please contact us here.

Our team will promptly resolve your holster retention issues.

Do you need extra holster length?*

*If you’re carrying a longer-muzzled gun or a revolver, adding extra holster length may not be necessary for you, but for short semiautomatic guns, it’s often helpful.

Guns with short muzzles can be top-heavy and difficult to conceal comfortably. To solve this, some holsters have extra length added to the muzzle end. Like the keel on a boat, the extra muzzle length helps balance the holster, making it more comfortable and easier to conceal. This is especially true if you have a bit of a belly, which tends to push the grip out more and make the muzzle dig in.

Note that while extra muzzle length reduces grip printing, it can increase muzzle printing, which can be a concern with lower carry positions and tight fitting pants such as leggings or yoga pants. 

Learn more about the Keel Principle here.