RFIDs in Chiappa firearms

A week ago, The Truth About Guns published a translation of an Italian press release from Chiappa describing how their firearms would be incorporating RFID tags.

Yesterday, The Firearm Blog published a press release from MKS Distributing, which apparently imports Chiappa firearms to the United States. This press release was, shall we say, condescending. I was, however, amused by the remark that ridiculed the accuracy of “blogger reporting” – then confirmed what the bloggers had reported.

The Chiappa press release was written by Cinzia Pinzoni. She took time away from her busy schedule to give me a tour of the Chiappa factory in Italy back in March. She’s knowledgeable, professional, courteous, and very kind. Frankly, I couldn’t think of a better public face for a company. As far as the rest of the Chiappa factory folks go, they were all friendly and polite, even as they continued about their tasks.

I don’t know who wrote the MKS press release, but they’re not the same type of person that I encountered in Azzano Mella. This fiasco doesn’t change my opinion on Chiappa (which is good) or desire to eventually pick up some of their products (I’m eyeing that lever pistol), but there are plenty of companies in the firearms business that are run by smart, professional people. It’s important to note that Chiappa and MKS are separate companies – and, hopefully, there will soon be ways to purchase Chiappa firearms that do not involve MKS.

Where Would You Go To Find Guns For Sale?

A place called GunsForSale seems like a good bet… You know, I’m not just saying this because they took me to Europe and bought me lots of gelato – GunsForSale really has good prices on some of the guns they have in stock. I almost picked up a Kahr CW9 a month or so back – cheaper, shipped, than any other place on the web – but they sold out too soon.

But stay away from the CZ 550s in 9.3×62 – I call dibs.

I just wish they carried .300 AAC Blackout. For that matter, I wish someone – ANYONE – had standard velocity 300BLK available. This problem is crimping my style.

Cane & Derby Pardus Kydex Holster Review

Although this review focuses on the Cane & Derby product and is not technically a comparison, I refer to NTAC and Raven Concealment holsters throughout to provide a frame of reference for my opinions.

I’ve been carrying a concealed handgun with various kydex holsters for years.

My first experience with kydex came from the half-leather, half-Kydex “hybrid” holsters, namely, the Comp-Tac MTAC. I still use these occasionally, but only when I have no other choice – I’ve found that all-kydex models are far, far better for concealed carry.

In January of this year, I compared the NTAC and Raven Concealment all-kydex holsters. Shortly thereafter, someone from Cane & Derby saw that article and asked if I would like to review their own all-kydex holster, the Pardus. Since I had just acquired a pistol for which I had no suitable holster – the alloy Browning Hi Power – I decided that their timing couldn’t have been better. Due to issues on both ends, I didn’t receive the holster until late April, but I’ve been carrying the Hi Power with it almost every day since.

Durability

Although three months might seem like a long time, a carry holster could theoretically be used for many years or even decades. I used my first Raven Concealment holster daily for four months before a belt clip broke, and my second Raven holster cracked near the trigger guard area exactly one year after I first received it. As noted in the review linked above, Raven took care of these issues very quickly, but my point is that even after three months, I cannot give any kydex holster a final verdict on durability.

What I can say is that based on my experience with how kydex holsters can break, this Cane & Derby holster seems very well designed. I’ve put it through more abuse in a short period of time than any other all-kydex holster I’ve ever owned, and there’s no sign of damage. I’ve never felt confident enough in any kydex holster to use it for “strenuous outdoor activities” such as hiking, trail running, and so on – until, that is, I started using this Cane & Derby holster. As if to confirm that I had made the right decision, I once (inadvertently) fell right on the holster – the pistol stayed where it was supposed to, and there wasn’t any visible damage. I’m impressed.

As for the belt clips, my problems with other holsters mainly centered on IWB belt clips that broke. For the most part, I’ve been carrying this pistol OWB – I’ll get to that later.

Retention

This alloy-framed Hi Power, made sometime in the ’80s, I believe, wasn’t really designed for concealed carry. It has a lot of sharp edges, especially on the trigger guard. Since this is where the holster is “pinched” to hold the pistol, I was initially concerned that too much kydex material would be shaved away, and the holster would soon lose some of its retention capability, which was initially quite positive. However, if it has degraded, I haven’t noticed. I can still grasp the holster and turn it upside down, and the pistol won’t fall out – even if it’s loaded.

If retention is too positive, though, the holster can interfere with, or at least slow down, a proper draw. The C&D holster does not have this problem. Retention is balanced very well.

Concealability

As I mentioned above, I’ve been primarily using the holster for OWB, or “outside the waistband,” carry. For a number of years, I’ve considered OWB carry to be associated only with open carry, or carrying of a firearm on duty, such as for a police officer or member of the military. I was expecting to swap the standard OWB belt loops for the (included) IWB clips right away, but I decided to try OWB for a little while. I’m glad that I did, because other than a week or so of IWB carry just to see if I encountered any issues, I’ve been very happy with OWB.

Before I continue, a note about belts – in addition to a good holster, a quality belt goes a long way toward properly – and comfortably – concealing a handgun. I use a kydex-reinforced Instructor Belt from Wilderness Products or a leather belt with kydex reinforcement when I don’t feel that wearing the “tactical-looking” Wilderness belt would be appropriate.

With an untucked polo or t-shirt, a good belt, and the C&D holster, the Browning Hi Power is a breeze to conceal (Oh, I wear pants, too). I don’t wear baggy clothes, mind you.

Now, I’m not going to say that carrying OWB is just as good for concealment as carrying IWB, mainly because the bottom of the holster occasionally peeks out from below my shirt. If I had just started carrying, this might make me worry that someone could see that I was carrying. It doesn’t.

The vast majority of people are completely oblivious to this sort of thing, and the tiny majority that aren’t have to be in a position to both see that sliver of kydex and figure out what it is. In other words, nobody knows that I’m carrying. I’ve gone so far as to stand with my back to a crowd, while on a podium, with my arms above my shoulders – no one saw that I was carrying a handgun.

Comfort

If you’re going to strap a two- or three-pound object to your waist every day, you will eventually find yourself in some type of uncomfortable position. Sharp edges, parts that project from the handgun and poke you, or simply weight – no one is immune. When you finally work your way through holsters and belts that just aren’t user-friendly and find something that agrees with you, you’ll be hard-pressed to give it up. That’s where I am with the C&D holster and Wilderness belt. You can pry them from my cold, dead waist.

I left some things up to the designers at C&D when requesting this holster, and I’m glad that I did. They “canted” – angled – the holster so that the pistol sits at a twenty degree angle to my waist. If you’re familiar with holsters, you’ll know that this is a pretty extreme angle – 10 or 15 degrees is more common, if the holster is angled at all. While this might not work for all combinations, it is perfect for the Browning Hi Power. With the holster at 4 o’clock on my waist, my draw is effortless and smooth. I hardly ever feel any uncomfortable pokes or prods, and the alloy frame, in combination with the belt, sometimes leave me with the impression that I’m not carrying at all.

Another thing to note is that the holster has a fairly small “footprint.” This means that there are fewer chances for it to flex and have one end or the other dig into my side – and yet it stays in place perfectly. Pontiac was wrong – wider isn’t better.

Availability/Price

“Into each life review, some rain must fall.” Sorry, Henry, for bastardizing your work.

It would be great if we could order a custom-made holster and have it ship the same day, but unfortunately, that’s not the case.

I ordered my holsters from The Malabar Front/Raven Concealment so long ago that I only had to wait a little over two weeks to receive them. My NTAC holster shipped in right around four weeks. Now, you’d have to wait four or more months to receive a Raven holster, or at least four to six weeks for an NTAC. I can’t exactly say how long it would take Cane & Derby to ship a holster, but I recently canceled an order for two more C&D holsters after about six weeks had passed.

So there really aren’t any quick ways to get a high-quality kydex holster. All of the manufacturers are priced about the same, with minor differences that would have no effect on what manufacturer I chose.

Summary

Maybe I’m impatient, but four (or more) months is a ridiculous amount of time to wait. Columbus discovered the New World in less time. The P-51 Mustang prototype was designed and built in just over three months. Even the ATF works faster than Raven Concealment. I love the quality of my Raven Concealment holster, and the 2009 iteration has proven to be far more durable than the 2008 versions I owned, but I just couldn’t bring myself to order another one at this point in time.

The quickest way to receive a kydex holster seems to remain NTAC, with a four-to-six week wait. Their product isn’t my favorite in terms of design, but it is durable, serviceable, concealable, and readily available.

Where does this leave Cane & Derby? Well, I prefer the design and construction of this holster to the other examples. My only complaint is that it’s a bit difficult to swap between IWB and OWB belt attachments. The wait isn’t as bad as Raven, perhaps not as good as NTAC, but the C&D holster is, in my opinion, better. Which one is right for you? That depends on whether or not the company makes a holster for your application and how long you’re willing to wait. As far as I’m concerned, if Cane & Derby makes the holster I need, I wouldn’t look anywhere else.

Note: I’m aware that it’s been literally years since I received the competing products, and they may have changed/improved in the interim. I’ve tried to avoid direct comparisons or criticisms for this reason. Still, I hold all three holster makers in high regard.