Flexibility is one of the main concepts that Blackhawk wants to get across when shooters are looking at the new A.R.C. holster. From the soft yet durable polymer to the variety of configurations a single holster can be arranged in, the Blackhawk A.R.C. is a very flexible rig at several different levels.
Introduced at the 2015 NRA Annual Meetings & Exhibits, the Blackhawk A.R.C. (Appendix Reversible Carry) holster has quickly become a very good seller for any gun shop that can get its hands on them. I was fortunate enough to get a pair of them for review.
Before you lay down your hard-earned dollars, you should read my review.
Overview of the A.R.C.
The A.R.C. is an inside-the-waistband holster that is specifically designed for appendix carry (roughly the 1 o’clock position.) Blackhawk offers a number of leather and synthetic concealment holsters, but I believe this is the first one that is specifically designed for AIWB carry.
The ARC holsters are made of an injection molded polymer that is softer and more flexible than what I am used to. Granted, injection molded plastics tend to be less rigid than other materials like Kydex. However, the ARC holster seems to take limberness a step farther.
While polymers can be extremely durable, they are rarely as comfortable as a quality leather holster. That’s one of the reasons so many hybrid leather/polymer carry holsters have hit the market. They offer a softer leather against the body, while a rigid plastic shell holds the gun. With the A.R.C., I almost think that Blackhawk was going for a polymer that is as comfortable as leather.
Holsters are available in a color Blackhawk calls Urban Gray. It is possible other colors may be available in the future depending on customer demand. However, Blackhawk has not made any announcements on additional colors.
The body of the holster is cut so that the rig will properly hold a gun outfitted with a red dot such as the Trijicon RMR. Additionally, the sight channel is oversized to accept nearly any height iron sights.
A tension screw can be used to adjust the amount of friction retention.
Flexibility of the holster does not just refer to the polymer material. Rather, it also describes how the gun can be adapted to fit your preferred methods of carry.
As they arrive, the holsters consist of the body and two belt clips. The clips are designed for differing belt widths: one is a 1.5″ while the other is a 1.75″ wide clip. Clips are quickly swapped using a single Phillips head screw.
Ride height is adjustable for one of two positions depending on which screw hole on the clip is used. Additionally, the cant can be adjusted by loosening and rotating the belt clip.
The belt clip can be attached to either side of the holster, making it perfectly ambidextrous. So, from one holster, a shooter can set the rig up for:
- right- or left-handed carry,
- for cross draw or standard,
- 1.5″ or 1.75″ belts,
- red dot optics,
- high- or low-ride, and
- any of a number of different cants.
You might be interested in this holster already, but there are two more points that are worth mentioning: where it is made and the price.
Unlike some polymer holsters made by large companies, the A.R.C. rigs are made in the USA. Employing US citizens, Blackhawk still keeps the suggested retail price to an extremely reasonable $22.45.
Currently, the company is making the AIWB holsters for the following pistols:
An inexpensive, made in the US holster with nearly unlimited adaptability sounds great, but does it perform?
Blackhawk was good enough to provide two A.R.C. holsters to me for evaluation: one for the new Glock 43 and another for the M&P Shield 9. This worked out well as I had a pair of the new Glock pistols on loan for another project, and I already own a Shield.
I wore each rig for a week, and I’ve broken down my observations with each rig separately below.
The Glock 43 is the latest-greatest pistol on the market, and is understandably in high demand. These single stack 9mm pistols are solid performers, and I’ve been pleased with the performance of the two I currently have in my possession. I’ve been lucky enough to have several G43 concealment rigs to use with the guns including the A.R.C.
I set this holster up with a straight drop in the high ride position. I’m a righty and carried the pistol on my right side.
I’ve never been a huge fan of appendix carry based on the way the guns tend to ride and poke me. However, I’ve tried a few AIWB rigs lately that have been better than some of the holsters I’ve used in the past. So, one might say I’m appendix-curious.
With the Glock 43, the A.R.C. substantially changed my opinion on appendix carry. I found the holster carried the pistol in a comfortable way without poking me in any of the uncomfortable spots that other rigs have.
As with other AIWB rigs, I found standing and walking to be the most comfortable with the holster. However, seated positions were not uncomfortable for me at all once I found the right position for the holster on my belt. With a longer barrel gun, such as the Glock 17, I may have had a different experience. However, with the G43, I found sitting was perfectly comfortable.
All of the holster edges were rounded and de-burred. No molding seams or excess flash was present to irritate the skin.
The holster was easy to put on and take off. Yet, it did not move about or feel loose while I went about my day. Standing, sitting, walking or driving – the holster stayed in place until I made a conscious decision and deliberately moved its position.
Drawing the Glock from this holster was as fast as any other appendix rig I have tried, and substantially faster than from some other positions of concealment. The rig keeps the gun close to the body, but did not hinder my ability to grip the gun for a draw.
While the polymer material was soft, it did not collapse under the weight of the body and belt pressing together. So, re-holstering the pistol could be accomplished one handed.
Speaking of the soft material, the holster did not leave any visible marks on the finish of the gun.
The only negative thing I could find with the holster was that the belt attachment screw loosened slightly over a period of time. About an 1/8″ turn of the screwdriver snugged it back down, and I did not have another problem with it. The soft polymer allows for you to crank down on the screw more than you might think. This allows you to lock the clip into place. Of course, a drop of Loctite will also work if you want to make the position semi-permanent.
Overall, I was exceptionally pleased with the way the Glock 43 carried in the A.R.C. Should I keep one of these pistols, I will be using the A.R.C. as my daily carry rig.
The Smith & Wesson M&P Shield is another single stack 9mm pistol. Introduced a few years before the G43, this gun has a large base of established owners and carriers. It makes a lot of sense that Blackhawk would introduce an A.R.C. holster for this gun straight out of the gate.
Like the ARC rig for the G43, the Shield version carried well. Between the two, I like the way the G43 rode slightly better than the Shield, but that’s sort of like an argument between a pair of Italian sports cars: both are really nice rides and I’d be happy to have either.
As with the G43 version, I much preferred having the holster set as low as possible in the waistband with a neutral cant. For me, this gave the gun the best concealability while allowing me to maintain a fast draw.
The way the holster is cut fairly low, I’m able to get a full hand grip on the Shield when drawing. The rig does fully cover the trigger guard, reducing the possibilities of an accidental discharge.
Overall I was just as pleased with this holster as I was with the Glock 43 version.
Not Tuckable…Or Is It?
Even though the A.R.C. is not a tuckable design, a good friend of mine used it in just such a way. Paul Carlson, the owner and director of training at Safety Solutions Academy, carried his Shield in an A.R.C. at a recent social event. For that event, tucked-in shirts were the norm. Tucking the shirt around the holster, Carlson was able to properly conceal the pistol for the entire day.
While I would not recommend doing it without testing it for yourself, I can see where Carlson’s accomplishment could be repeated by simply changing the ride height to the lower position. This should give enough room to tuck a shirt in over the mouth of the holster to conceal the entire rig save the belt clip. I want to note that Blackhawk did not design the holster for this style of carry, and the company would likely advise against it. But, it may be an option for you in a limited set of circumstances.
This one is easy: the Blackhawk A.R.C. holster is a great rig at an incredible price. As such it receives the first five-star review I’ve awarded to a holster. For the price of competing rigs, you could buy three or more of these Blackhawk holsters. The fact that they are made in the USA makes the purchase all the more sweet.
I am hoping that Blackhawk will introduce an A.R.C. model that will fit the Glock 43 equipped with a Streamlight LTR-6 light and laser unit. I installed one of those on my G43 and found that it works extremely well.
Last Update: October 19, 2022
You, the reader, are my customer – not Blackhawk or any other company. It is my intention to give you the best possible information with which you can make informed buying decisions. Far too many reviews online and in print are essentially bought – and you know that.
I take a different approach and give you all of the possible biases or influences that may impact my review so that you can properly frame my thoughts and opinions on the A.R.C. holsters.
As I mentioned earlier in this article, Blackhawk provided both of the holsters for review. These were sent to me without charge and with the intention that I review them. No one at Blackhawk or their parent company (Vista Outdoors) asked, demanded or even suggested I do a “positive” review of the rigs.
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In 2010, I was invited to the Blackhawk headquarters in Virginia Beach for a writers conference. At this conference, my meals and lodging was paid for, and I received a number of Blackhawk products to review. This was prior to the company being acquired by ATK and subsequently being spun off as part of Vista Outdoors.
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