Finding a comfortable, reliable holster for daily carry can be a frustrating and costly process. Which position on the body is the best fit for your needs? Should the pistol ride inside or outside the waistband? Is it preferable to work with a thumb release or tension adjustable holster? The only way to know for sure is to purchase a holster and wear it for a few days to find out. Unfortunately, just one quality holster can cost between $50 to $90. However, much like undergarments and swimwear, holsters usually can't be returned if they prove to be uncomfortable or a poor fit for the concealed-carry practitioner’s needs.
Alien Gear Holsters recently introduced the unique ShapeShift modular holster system Starter Kit. Like previous Alien Gear holster models, the ShapeShift incorporates interchangeable polymer “shells” that allow a particular holster to support different pistol models. But the ShapeShift takes this modularity a step further by allowing a shell to be converted into different types of holsters. The new Starter Kit is advertised as providing four different holsters for the price of two but in actuality, the components in the kit provide customers with five holster configurations plus a mounting system.
The ShapeShift system revolves around a new two-piece polymer shell that has two primary functions. The outer shell can be separated from the inner shell and mounted to a flexible synthetic backing to form an In-The-Waistband (IWB) holster.
Sliding the two halves together forms a complete Outside-The-Waistband (OWB) holster with the inner shell featuring a toothed extension compatible with the quick-release plates provided in the kit. As of this writing, shells are available for a variety of Glock, Ruger LC9, Smith & Wesson Shield, Springfield XD Mod.2 and Taurus Millenium G2 models in left- and right-hand configurations. The kit provided for this evaluation included a shell for the Ruger LC9s Pro.
At first glance, the system may seem complicated because of all the small parts involved but it proved to be easy to use. Converting the shell from one holster configuration to another requires just a few minutes at most thanks to the clear instructions provided in the user manual and quick start guide.
Most of the polymer components simply snap together and are secured in place using Twist Lock knobs. Those few components secured by metallic screws can all be adjusted or removed using a single Allen key (hex wrench) shipped in the kit.
The shell arrives with a factory installed adjustable tension unit (left) to keep the pistol firmly secured in the holster until drawn. It can be loosened or tightened using one of the Twist Lock knobs as a wrench. This tension unit can be traded out for a provided thumb release lever (right) if preferred. The thumb release is compatible with all of the holster configurations.
Here is a closer look at each of the possible holster configurations shipped with this kit.
The version 4.0 IWB holster is the next evolution of the Cloak Tuck series. The multi-layer flexible backing incorporates a durable thermo elastomer surface directly behind the holster, a patent-protected steel core for extra support and a soft, breathable layer sweat-wicking CoolVent neoprene that rests against the body. The result is a holster backing that's comfortable to wear right out of the box. The shell mount features two adjustment screws allowing the holster's cant to be adjusted forward or back.
Previous Alien Gear IWB holsters required screws and rubber gaskets to mount the belt clips to the flexible backing. The ShapeShift IWB is fitted with clips that can be adjusted without the need for tools. They just twist in and out of the three polymer backed height-adjustment holes. Sets of C-, J- and O-Type belt clips are sold separately for this holster.
Appendix carry continues to gain in popularity thanks to the quick pistol access it provides along with a natural draw stroke, at least for those who are doing sit-ups on a regular basis. The Appendix Carry IWB configuration uses a trimmed down version of the 4.0 IWB holster's layered backing with the same screws for cant adjustment. A single belt clip rests directly in front of the shell. Although this configuration is called the Appendix model, it can comfortably ride at a variety of positions along the belt line including strong side hip, behind the hip and cross-draw locations.
For carry outside the waistband, the soft Appendix Carry backing can be outfitted with a set of sturdy belt loops to form a low-profile OWB holster that fits belts up to 2.25" wide. This configuration holds the pistol high up on the belt and flush against the side. The soft backing provides an effective cushion between the pistol and the soft tissue above the hip.
The remaining holster configurations employ both halves of the shell in conjunction with a quick-release support plate. The cog-like extension of the inner shell locks into the support plate and allows for 360 degree rotation. The kit arrives with two plates, both of which are drilled at all four corners. The hardware provided allows the plates to be mounted to a compact paddle for use as a paddle holster, a soft rubber belt slide (ridged polymer belt slide available), to the interior of an automobile, the underside of a counter top or to a wall.
This is one of the most flexible configurations in the kit because the shell can be released from the belt mount and immediately snapped back into the automotive or wall mount without having to remove the pistol from the shell. When configured as a paddle or belt slide holster, the shell stands out away from the belt line about 0.70". This provides plenty of room to form a secure shooting grip before drawing the pistol, but it does require a cover garment such as a suit jacket or winter coat to conceal.
For first-time gun owners, or those who are dissatisfied with their current holster, the new American-made Alien Gear ShapeShift holstering system offers a carry solution that is greater than the sum of its parts. The Starter Kit provides an impressive set of options for an exceptionally fair price. All five holsters proved to be easy to configure, provided reliable pistol retention and were comfortable for all-day wear.
Purchasing additional shells allows customers to convert the holsters in the kit to fit different pistol models or to keep more of the holsters completely assembled and ready to use for the same pistol. The company plans to provide more carry options in the future including shoulder, ankle and tactical thigh rigs. Individual ShapeShift holsters and components will also be available.
The ShapeShift Starter Kit ships with the same 30-Day Test Drive and Forever Warranty as other Alien Gear products making it one of the the most low-risk options on the market. If you wear the holsters for a month and decide you don't want them, the company will buy the kit back from you with no questions asked. If any part of the set breaks for any reason, it will be repaired or replaced free of charge.
Manufacturer: Alien Gear Holsters
Model: ShapeShift Starter Kit
One Model-Specific Modular Pistol Shell
Version 4.0 In-The-Waistband Holster (IWB) With Adjustable Belt Clips, Neoprene Backed
Appendix Carry In-The-Waistband Holster (AIWB), Neoprene Backed
Outside-The-Waistband Belt Slide (OWB), Neoprene Backed
Paddle Holster, Quick Release/Rotating Hard Shell
Ridged Polymer or Soft Rubber Comfort Belt Slide Holster, Quick Release/Rotating Hard Shell
Holster Mount, Wall or Automotive
Additional Pistol Shells: $33.88
C-, J- and O-Type Belt Clip Sets for IWB Holster: $7.88 per pair