So I decided to go hiking again for the first time in many years. After a little experimentation, I determined that there was no practically workable method of wearing a belt holster in conjunction with a back pack. Everything got in the way of everything else. "Not to worry," says I, "I'll just go to one of my favorite supplier's websites and order a thigh holster." Nice idea, but like almost everything, there are always a few surprises to deal with.
I opted for the Tornado Tactical Leg Holster from Condor, shown below. At $30 plus shipping, this was somewhat more expensive than other models available but looked like it was fairly rugged and the best selling point was the fact that it was billed as universally adjustable, including a thumb break, non-slip backing, and a spare magazine pouch. I selected basic black (since camo patterns, khaki, or olive drab have never been colors I've been keen on.)
In a few days, I finaly received my purchase and eagerly began undoing all the straps to figure out how to adjust everything. In order to make sure it was all correct, I brought out the pistol I normally carry with me and which I had opted to carry on my upcoming trip, my Sig P229R, .40 S&W. Adjustment of the cuff allowing for different heights of various choices of arms (with or without rail mounted accessories) was easy enough. There is also a strap inside to limit how far in the muzzle will rest. Again, easy enough.
The holster fits pretty snuggly, other than the expected problem of the weight of the gun and the shape of my leg making it want to slide down all the time. Fortunately, it also supports a belt loop with an adjustable drop to keep it from going too far. This problem, for me, is not an overly concerning one as I've had to deal with it on ankle holsters as well so am well aware of what things can be done to limit this and still be comfortable. It's just a matter of getting the straps in exactly the right position and something you have to get used to if you opt to use one of these holsters. Learning to adjust it properly is key to getting a good, comfortable, reliable fit. Of course, while the leg straps are adjustable to support some pretty big legs, I actually happen to have some pretty big legs—being a guy who has begun conforming to the more common body profiles in America these days—and found myself working near the outside limits of what these could be adjusted to. For me to have had an easier time with the adjustment and to be satisfied that the fit will still be possible in a few years, I think I would have liked to have seen another 3-4 inches of overall length in the upper strap. That would give plenty of room to spare for me.
As I proceeded to make other adjustments, I discovered a few items which just made me scratch my head and wonder what the designers were thinking. It became obvious fairly quickly that the thumb break needed to be moved. Unfortunately, this was no easy task. Although the thumb break is secured in a velcroed loop, that loop cannot be opened, it's stitched solidly onto the holster. This makes it darned near impossible to release the break in order to make the adjustment. I looked online to see what others had done and found one person who had simply cut this loop off and let it rest between other bits of velcro on the holster. Okay, this was not an option I was willing to go for so I went down my own road... dinner knives and pliers. I was able to get the flat of the knives on either side of the strap to release the hold of the velcro more or less, at least enough to allow me to rock it back and forth and get it to move. But I didn't need to move the break a mere quarter inch, no, I needed to move it a good long way since my idea of a correctly formed holster completely encloses the trigger and trigger guard. This is espeically appropriate to my pistols since all my semi-autos have no lever safety, they're merely DAO or simply have a decocker, such as the 229 here. Ultimately, I had to put the knives in from the other side and pull on the end of the strap with a pair of pliers. It took a long time but I finaly got it. Why they couldn't have simply made that loop openable or at least made the sides out of a stretchable material so what I did would have been much easier, I'll never know. In my oppinion, thats the single key negative of this holster since to adjust for a different pistol (say you decided to carry the Glock on one trip and the Smith & Wesson the next) you will almost certainly find that that break is not quite in the right position. If it's going to be that difficult to move, the holster may be universal in design but is not practical as a universal holster.
I also think the fastener is not in the right place on the non-adjustable portion of this break, meaning that the snap rests on the hammer of my pistol instead of next to it along my thigh, as it should. There is also a little velcro strap to reinforce the thumb break when you're simply carrying your pistol but don't need access to it quickly. This can be folded over and velcroed to the main body of the holster when not in use. However, the velcro tab on the strap and the mating tab on the break don't line up properly so it is of little effect. In fact, I'd be happy to do without the snap and thumb break entirely and just have a velcro strap positioned to come down just below the slide, at the top of the grip that fastened to the outside of the main flap. For me, I view this as a holster that I'll wear when nothing else is appropriate or when I'm out in the boonies moving around a lot and am mainly interested in having my gun with me rather and not tucked away in a bag somewhere rather than fast-draw accessible. Such a mechanism meets that criteria and if properly designed, only adds a scant fraction of a second to a draw. (Remember that the technique for drawing from a leg holster is somewhat different than drawing from your waist anyway.)
There is one more thing I found really odd. The leg straps are apparently designed to be completely removed, if desired, so that you could wear this as a simply belt holster. Problem... the leg straps aren't any easier to move than the thumb break was and the buckles will not make it easy to get them off.
The one feature of this holster that I really liked was that the belt loop has it's own clasp. So if you decide to take the holster off for a few minutes, you don't have to undo your belt in order to remove it. I find this to be an excellent feature since once you get where you're going, you may not want to tote your gun around much or you may want to go back to a normal belt holster.
Overall, while I'm sure that this holster is one of the better ones on the market, especially after looking at some of the various reviews others have done, I'm not completely satisfied. It works well, holds my pistol quite securely, and I do like it but the negative items above are a real downer for overall flexibility. I think I rate this product at three and a half out of five points. Excellent overall design but with some pretty surprising oversights. Unfortunately, I'm not sure I'm likely to find anything out there thats any better at this stage.