Gear Review: Summer Test of Zulu Bravo Kydex J-frame (A)IWB Holster

My friend Matt at Zulu Bravo Kydex was working up some revisions to his J-Frame kydex holster and was kind enough to send one to me. I was looking for something to house my Hot-Rod J-Frame while I did my thing this summer. This holster proved to be truly excellent for this role.

Link to Buy Zulu Bravo Kydex J-Frame (A)IWB holster

ZBK J-Frame Holster. Discreet Carry Concepts belt clip. Note: bump near trigger guard to help tuck butt into body

Perceived Need for This Holster

So, we all can agree that a J-Frame is about as concealable as a capable handgun can get. You can pocket carry, ankle carry, fanny pack carry, shoulder holster carry, thunderwear carry, Clip-Draw carry, and you can (A)IWB and OWB carry. They are versatile and people tend to reach for them in the hotter months for convenience and comfort (whether they admit it or not).

My Hot-Rod J (The 640) is a bit heavier than some other offerings and I wanted a holster that I could clip and go on my summer duties. A lot of which involve running around with a 6 year old and occasionally wrestling with him. A protected trigger is important for me.

I’m in gym shorts and gi pants more than I’m in pants with belt loops. As a result, I prefer spring steel clips for my carry guns, which I find to be sufficient to keep the holster in the pants when I draw and stays put during gun grapples (which I perceive as the benchmark for retention).

This was my general need. Zulu Bravo Kydex delivers.

CNC forming makes for accurate and repeatable retention. No adjustment is necessary. Velcro foam pad and extended length allows to grip to tuck the perfect amount.

What A Holster Must Do

  • Cover and protect the trigger guard
  • Cleanly release the gun when drawn
  • Stay Open to allow one handed holstering
  • Retain the gun during anticipated physical activity
  • Allow a full firing grip while gun is seated
  • Be stable on pants to allow repeatable indexing of draw

This holster meets all these criteria easily.

Accurate molding negates need for retention adjustment. It’s ideal for my needs.

Details That Make This Holster Excellent

  • Spring Steel Clip (like the excellent DCC clips) for easy on/off.
  • Structure to tuck butt into the torso to aid in concealment.
  • Bright color to allow visual check that no foreign material is in the throat of holster. You’ll never convince me that a no-look holster is the ideal technique for a regular person.
  • Ability to accept a muzzle pad to aid comfort, increase safety of holstering via angle, and drive the top of the gun into the body for concealment. Also note the muzzle portion of the holster is longer than most J-Frame barrels. This aids concealment and prevents ‘flop over’ the belt.
Bright interior looks attractive and allows user to visually confirm there isn’t foreign material in the throat of the holster.

Again, the fine details and careful craftsmanship make this worth every penny. Having the right gear means you’re more likely to carry your gun, and more able to readily access it under stress.

Recommended.

Buy Yours Here.

AAR: Pepper Spray for Non-Cops, Instructor Cert. by Agile Training

I recently attended a new offering from Chuck Haggard of Agile Training and Consulting. It’s his new 1 Day OC (pepper spray) instructor course for non-LEOs. I have been carrying pepper spray daily for about 6 years now, and wanted to be credentialed to pass on what I’ve learned. I jumped at the chance and don’t regret my decision to attend.

Safety

A note on force on force safety. The owners of The Complete Combatant, the hosts of the class, have a very robust and meticulous safety protocol to assure no live weapons make it onto the training area. It includes a group chat, and a group disarming, followed by securing live unloaded weapons in a box to be stored in another location, and a final pat down from the instructors and your neighbors in line. It’s these overlapping safety features that help keep force on force training safe. There’s a reason the book Training At The Speed of Life exists. There’s a lot of training accidents, and we have to be diligent about securing our training area.

History Lessons

Chuck is a career lawman and has unique experiences with testing and real-world use of less lethal technologies. As a result, and for context, the class opens with less lethal options, and an overview of less lethal chemicals that have been used over the years. Chuck’s reasoning for favoring OC over all the other available options is well reasoned and convincing. He frames the course in a civilian context, and his conclusions based of the civilian ‘mission’ make a lot of sense, and OC is very effective at the tasks it’s needed for.

He does an overview of the chemicals involved, the immediate effects of OC on the body, the lasting effects, the solvents used to carry the OC, as well as the propellant gases that companies can use.

Eyejab In A Can

The unregulated nature of the OC business requires that we know what to look for in a product before we trust it. The only quantitative measure we can currently trust is the MCC (Major Capsenoid Content) of the spray. If this isn’t listed, then you can’t trust it to be sufficiently hot. There’s even some companies that seem to overestimate their product. Chuck recommends anywhere from 0.7-2.0% MCC. Bear spray is 2.0%MCC and regulated by the EPA, while ‘human grade’ is not under such scrutiny. Apparently there’s lots of weak sauce formulas. So go off of the MCC and brand when possible.

This portion of the lecture was very valuable for me. Chuck gives an overview of spray patterns (Spray, Fog, Cone, Gel/Foam) and the best uses for each style of spray. We talked about best care practices for assuring the can worked when you need it, and how to not accidentally contaminate your car on a hot summer day. Shot distance capability, target zones, time to take effect, as well as the shortcomings of each.

He ends the lecture segment with decontamination protocols, which mostly amount to washing the face with baby shampoo under cool water in a well ventilated area and just waiting for the suck to end.

Force on Force Exercises

I’m at the point where I believe any quality training program should include some manner of force on force. Chuck didn’t disappoint me and the latter half of the day was exercises that built in complexity and layered the use of OC into the existing Shivworks MUC/PUC (Managing Unknown Contacts) style pre-assault strategy.

Chuck using the author to illustrate the ‘Default Cover’ arm position

While the time was compressed, I feel the students were able to grasp the basic idea of MUC with movement, vebalization, and a high/compressed ‘fence’ hand posture to preserve and make space and time. Failing that, the default cover position was taught. If you’re not familiar, this is a non-diagnostic defensive posture constructed of a lowered center of gravity in base, and a helmet formed around your head with your arms. This allows you to weather an unexpected attack without needing the attributes of a fighter to stay upright and conscious.

Photo Cred: TCC

After the students had reps, the OC was plugged in. We were able to try various inert training units of various sizes and spray patterns. We also were taught ‘failure drills’ where the OC didn’t take effect and we had to transition to a secondary force option. We also got some ideas on using a flashlight and OC in conjunction. Overall it was a great amount of force on force for such a compressed time frame.

I think this is a great class and I’m looking forward to doing some coaching on the use of OC at my home MMA gym here in Lawrenceville, GA. I recommend training with Chuck whenever you can.

Additional Info and Recommended Products

Hot-Rod J-Frame Part 2: Springs, Grips, and Pocket Autos

If you haven’t, go back to read part 1 here. We go over the purpose and methodology of this little experiment.

Data Collection and Shooting? Sign me up.

I’ve had a pair of range trips and was able to shoot the standards and change a set of parts in both the S&W 640-3 and the Ruger LCR. I also brought out my Ruger LCP to add another data point.

A note about the testing. I slightly altered the 5-yard roundup’s scoring. I only used the ‘-5 points for each shot over time’ since the time element is critical but I omitted the ‘-10 points for shots off of the 10″ circle’ portion of scoring. Mostly because I wanted some resolution in the scoring and a shot off the 8.5×11″ printer paper was counted as a zero anyway. I felt this was a good compromise given what I’m trying to get out of the testing.

640-3 APEX Duty/Carry Springs

Apex Spring/Firing Pin kit

As soon as I installed the spring kit and dry-fired, I knew it would improve my scores. I was right, but I was surprised at how much. You can see the chart below. When recording my times, I recorded a string-by-string score and split times on each string. I wanted maximum resolution on what was going on. The big takeaway is that the APEX spring kit improved my scores by an Average of approximately 22%. This is across all categories of pure accuracy, pure speed, and a careful blend of the two. This is a substantial improvement. It’s one that I feel is worth it the expense.

LCR ERGO grip

The Ergo grip is available for both the LCR and J-Frame. It looks bizarre, and frankly feels quite bizarre. It is meant to fill the hand and change the grip angle to be more like a Glock. It’s also worth noting that there is no obvious index point when trying to draw the revolver with these on. The bumps of the grip blend seamlessly into the bump of the trigger guard, which causes confusion for your hand as you go to make your grip. Luckily, the numbers make the decision easy for me. Across the battery of tests, the ERGO grip made me 10% worse.

Anyone want to try a set of ERGO grips, I know a guy who has an extra set…?

Baseline Data for Ruger LCP .380

The last thing I had time for was running the testing with a Ruger LCP. I wanted some pocket gun data to see how much I’m handicapping myself by carrying a j-frame. It turns out, I’m not. You can see in the data that some things went better with the LCP, and others went worse. My split times and one-handed work really tanked my scores. I also had some trigger freeze issues when trying to run it as fast as possible. This is useful testing as one more data point. I plan to run several other small pistols, and maybe a duty sized gun just for the data.

The Complete Data as of 4/24/19

An Experiment Worth Doing

After seeing these results, I am encouraged that this might be a relatively worthwhile experiment to continue. I have various sights and grips (stocks) lined up to try as well. Though I’ll be honest, I’m not looking forward to removing the APEX kit. I might just call the APEX spring equipped gun the new baseline and work the upgrades from there.

Thanks for following along!

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