|Home - Volume 3 (2008) - Issue 2 (Spring '08) - Tucker Gunleather Silent Thunder Holster Review|
Tucker Gunleather's, "Silent Thunder"
By Don DeBusk
I first heard of the Tucker Gunleather Silent Thunder while reading a thread in the Holster section of M1911.org. A member was asking whether a "quiet, kydex" holster would be of any interest to the membership. The answers were mixed and I soon realized that this seemed mostly due to the fact that this is a completely new idea. Well, sort of. For years, companies like Safariland have lined kydex endoskeletons in suede. While this certainly accomplished the quiet part, suede has a tendency to wick oils from the gun and trap grit, having a long term sandpaper effect on the gun's finish. This brings us to the second purpose of the Silent Thunder; forestalling finish wear.
As we all know, high quality, smooth leather is the best surface available to mitigate finish wear. Many specifically request smooth leather lining when ordering a premium, custom holster.
A distinct advantage, primarily for Military and LE, but also for civilians in nastier climes, is that smooth leather offers a lot of cleaning and treatment options. For the former, their guns are hardly carried in ideal conditions. Rolling around in the dirt, hopping in and out of oceans and rivers can be disastrous for leather holsters and especially suede. Smooth leather is much more easily cleaned and also lends itself to treatment to prevent water and salt damage.
Kydex. It has become a part of the general handgun lexicon, with dozens of manufacturers producing holsters for everything from military and law enforcement, to the weekend plinker, who just wants a gun-bucket on the cheap. Sales of kydex holsters long ago outpaced the sale of premium leather holsters and show no signs of slowing down.
However, the word, kydex is rather like the word aluminum. There are tiers of quality, manufacturing methods and compositions, which determine cost, durability, thickness, fit and overall performance. The Silent Thunder uses the very best kydex available. It's as thin as it can be, yet still affords the zenith of protection, shape retention and concealability.
Enter William T. Tucker and Ron Garrett
W.T. Tucker, "Tucker", as he prefers to be called, is no stranger to top quality leather and holster making. His work is coveted by many consumers and envied by many a maker. Tucker's craftsmanship and singular focus on quality have seen wait times for his work triple in the last two years. Yet, customers don't seem to mind and his list of return business gets longer everyday.
Tucker's initial foray into the kydex world came from the challenge of finding an IWB solution, which would cover all necessary bases. This culminated in the now wildly popular "Answer" IWB, a half-kydex, half -premium cowhide hybrid. The result is a tremendously comfortable, fast-drawing holster, which does not compromise the slim cross-section of the venerable 1911.
Being a fanatic about quality, Tucker needed a source for kydex products, which would meet his exacting standards. This is where Ron Garrett comes in.
A relatively unknown company, at least to the civilian world, Garrett Industries, is the exclusive supplier and shaper of Tucker's kydex products. Garrett is well known among both the kydex world and also for their innovative products for Military, Law Enforcement and private sector protection entities. Garrett uses the finest, most consistent kydex in the world. All holsters and accessories are laser cut to insure the finest finished product available.
It's tough. It's rigid. It's F-A-S-T, FAST! Its rigidity and tensile strength are many, many times that of leather, so it's ability to protect a handgun is far superior to its leather counterpart. Because of its strength, it can be molded in much thinner cross-sections than leather and afford far greater rigidity. The lower friction coefficient of kydex allows for much faster draws than leather. Its ability to be molded to any shape allows for very intricate detail, which provides retention rivaling the best, boned leather.
The Dark Side
Kydex is infamous for two things. Many a pistolier has been horror-struck upon inspecting the finish on his prized blaster, after only a week, or two in and out of kydex. The other is that kydex goes "click, click" when drawing and reholstering. In a military, or law enforcement entry setting, this could be fatal. Even in a home defense setting, the noise is more than enough to "tell" the operators position.
An Unlikely Wedding
Bringing these two materials together; great kydex and premium quality leather, has confounded and bewildered holster makers for years. Not so long ago it was proclaimed throughout the industry that it simply could not be done. Uh-oh, you just told two stubborn Texans they couldn't do something.
Certainly there are many types of glue and other bonding agents that will attach the two. Just try getting them to stay together. Garrett and Tucker put their heads together and came up with a completely new and unique (not to mention, top secret) way to permanently bind the two. I was sent a test swatch of lined kydex to abuse. I tried peeling it off; forget it. Your fingernail is more likely to come off. Take a pair of pliers and try it? Ok. The leather split and left half on the kydex and half in the breeze. Soak it? Ok. Nothing; stuck forever. I tried rolling the edges with my thumb, over and over, to see if I could get even a slight edge delamination. All I got was a sore thumb. I gave up.
Ok, we've covered the basics. How do these things perform?
"Tucker's primary focus is practical concealed carry." The shell of the Silent Thunder is based upon what is perhaps Tucker's most svelte, deep concealment solution, the "Cover Up." The form follows every detail and nuance of your gun, with absolutely no excess material anywhere. Even the sweat shield, a Tucker standard in all his designs, utilizes the absolute minimum of material, while still insuring optimum comfort. Users of the new Silent Thunder IWB, as well as, the Cover Up, will tell you that they are the absolute quickest and easiest, off-and-on IWB holsters they've used. The design also accommodates oversized magazine releases on 1911s.
The Silent Thunder IWB is basically a kydex clone of the Cover Up. Consistent with that design, there is one, very stout, kydex belt clip, which both holds the gun and holster securely to the belt, but also affords a very stealthy look, which disappears over a black gun belt. The same, "tuck-ability," is afforded the Silent Thunder IWB, by virtue of the clip and the large leather washer between clip and holster. The combination never pinches the shirt and makes for a very fast and smooth sweep of your cover garment; an absolute must for deep concealment in, jacket-off, dress shirt, or golf/t-shirt dress. Because of the tight and true molding to the gun's shape, "printing," below the belt line is kept to the absolute minimum, yet the entire muzzle is covered; your skin, protected.
My Brother the OWB
Now, we come to some real innovation and ingenuity. The Silent Thunder belt holster touts real, new engineering. At first glance, you simply see two, pretty standard-looking belt loops. However, when you flip the holster over and look at the affixment, you see something really new.
The holster shell, attaches to a revolutionary, 150 degrees cantable, belt attachment. It is held and positioned with two, high quality, stainless steel screws and a proprietary kydex double washer system. This configuration allows the wearer to, "dial-in" the perfect amount of cant, for whatever the circumstances demand. If you're an IDPA shooter, looking for the fastest draw, set the cant to vertical. If you're an IPSC shooter, turn it back, muzzle-forward, to where ever you like. For concealed carry, set it to the perfect, 4 o'clock, FBI cant, and go.
Cantable kydex holsters are nothing new. But, what really is new about the Tucker design, is that it is so, incredibly, low profile. When looking, cross-section, there is no daylight, whatsoever, between the wearer and the gun. It lies nearly as close to the body as the best leather loop holster. For training venues, like IDPA, this is a must.
Do I Look Fat in This
The concern over the lining of kydex increasing over-all thickness of the holster is legitimate. One of the reasons we so love the 1911 is that it is incredibly thin and therefore lends itself to tremendous concealability. Kydex is great, since it can be molded so thin and marry well with this advantage in the 1911. So, is lining it defeating this purpose? Not at all. The lining is only 3/32" thick. In addition to the leather being thin, the Silent Thunder holsters are internally boned.
This flattens the leather even more and so overall thickness is only 1/8" greater than an unlined holster. I experience no perceptible difference in the ability to conceal either the OWB, or IWB Silent Thunder.
Please Don't Paddle Me
Getting tired of the words, "new" and, "innovation," yet? Too bad. If you read the review of the Tucker Easy Reach, you will have noticed that I had some serious concerns about the paddle accessory. All you have to do is say the word, "paddle," to a pistol packer and eyebrows shoot up. Paddles are notorious for two things. Namely, they can be horribly uncomfortable and they are prone to letting loose from the wearer at the most inopportune time. Still, they have traditionally been popular for those needing to put on and take off their guns multiple times a day.
After telling Tucker about my dislike for the paddle, I was told they were, "going back to the drawing board." They must have one heck of a drawing board, because what I received isn't a paddle at all, yet accomplishes everything a paddle does.
The "Quick Mount," is just that. It's very quick and easy, off and on, but unlike a paddle, it is mounted to the wearer. The Quick Mount incorporates two, specially modified clips as found on other Tucker holsters, which attach to the belt in an opposite manner than usual. This method actually uses the pressure exerted on the clip between the belt and body to make it absolutely fool proof in terms of retention. No more pointing your holster at your target. The two clips are attached to a new plate design, which incorporates the 150 degrees cant-ability of the belt loop attachment. The forward aspect of the plate is also specially molded to press the butt of the gun into the body for maximum concealability. This innovation could relegate paddles to the Smithsonian.
Ooh-La-La The Leather
If you have any experience with Tucker Gunleather, you know that he uses only the world's finest Hermann Oak leather. The lining of the Silent Thunder is no exception. Pressing your prized pistol inside the Silent Thunder is as smooth as silk. Drawing it is the same, in reverse: Consistent, predictable and enjoyable. I was rather concerned that the addition of a leather lining might slow the presentation, versus a kydex holster. My splits revealed only minimal hesitation, about .07 seconds. However, I found that my first shot was better placed, as a result, I believe, of taking a firmer firing grip on the pistol and smoother draw from the holster.
Using a strain gage, I noted about .6lbs more strain than plain kydex and substantially less than when drawing from boned leather holsters (about 20 lbs., avg.). Even compared to the most detailed boned holster, retention was not sacrificed. The Silent Thunder has a firm grip on your gun. Turning a fully-loaded, full-sized 1911 upside down and shaking it, could not dislodge the weapon. Another advantage is found in the dual tension screws, which allow for extremely personalized tension adjustment.
The drawstroke with the Silent Thunder holsters simply must be felt, to be believed. I have tried many holster configurations, but I have to say that the Silent Thunder offers the smoothest presentation I have ever experienced. There are no drag-spots, or hesitations whatsoever. Rather, there is incredibly consistent pull, start to finish. Everyone I invited to try the Silent Thunder commented on this phenomenon.
A Day at the Races
Every sports car, ski, bicycle, motorcycle, has a supped-up racing version. Why not a holster? The Silent Thunder Champion was a concerted effort between Tucker and an outside consultant to create the ultimate holster for use in practical, defensive pistol competition.
The holster rules governing IDPA are very strict and specific. The Champion meets each and every one, down to the last detail. The leather has been specially treated for speed and is extremely fast and smooth. The throat has been cut just below the ejection port of a 1911, in order to afford faster clearance of the holster and aid in quick reholstering. The trigger is completely covered, as required by the rules.
With either the Quick Mount, or the belt loop attachment, there is no illegal off-set and the holster is designed to be used with the "Hi-Low" belt attachment, which places the breech face at precisely the center of the wearer's belt. IDPA rules state that,
"A. Must be designed for concealed carry and suitable for all day continuous wear."
"D. Holsters designed and/or marketed as "competition models,"may not be used."
Hence, as the Silent Thunder Champion meets all IDPA criteria, it also works as a concealed carry holster and will not be marketed as a "competition model". The use of dual tension adjustment screws, allow the user to create the precise amount of retention desired, whether for competition, or everyday carry. As on all Tucker holsters, the sweat shield is optional. On holsters where it's a necessity, such as the IWB, it is standard. On the Champion, not so. There's no charge either way.
It's a brilliant and well considered design, which affords the competitor every possible advantage, without fear of scrutiny. Indeed, the Champion is the best IDPA holster I've used.
Certainly, the Silent Thunder line fills an empty niche in current holster design. They have serious, practical attributes, for both the professional operator, as well as the daily CCW crowd. They afford advantages, heretofore unrealized, in terms of concealability, rapid deployment and weapon protection.
Much needs to be said of the spirit of innovation in this new Tucker/Garrett Industries partnership. Nothing is set in stone with these two. They are constantly looking for ways to improve every aspect of the new kydex line of products. Inside of a week, I was sent several newly designed accessories and each time, serious thought and engineering were evidenced.
I would like to thank Rob Longenecker of Tucker Gunleather and Ron Garrett of GI, for their generosity of time and willingness to listen to criticism during the writing of this review.
I would also like to thank the very experienced shooters and competitors, which I enlisted during testing, for their willingness to provide additional commentary and insight to the function and design of the Silent Thunder.
You may discuss this review in this thread in our Forums Site: http://forum.m1911.org/showthread.php?t=50297
Web site: http://www.TuckerGunleather.com
Web site: http://www.gimagclip.com
|Home - Volume 3 (2008) - Issue 2 (Spring '08) - Tucker Gunleather Silent Thunder Holster Review|