Safariland Holster Composites with Thermoplastic Alloy Core
Resist Impact, Temperature Extremes
Armed services personnel worldwide rely on high-performance security products, including holsters, body armor, and firearm accessories from Safariland LLC, Ontario, CA, a leading international supplier of innovative products for law enforcement and military personnel, as well as competitive shooters and firearm enthusiasts. The company's holsters dominate the law enforcement industry with roughly 80 percent of global market share. Originally made of leather, the holsters are now formed of a proprietary composite that relies on a custom-formulated thermoplastic sheet product from Boltaron, Newcomerstown, OH, to impart its holster products with outstanding strength, impact resistance and cold crack resistance.
The composites from which Safariland holsters are formed are comprised of Boltaron thermoplastic alloy with or without an exterior lamination of urethane or nylon. All composites slated for holster applications are laminated with SafariSuedeTM genuine suede on the interior surface prior to thermoforming.
A business unit of BAE Systems, Safariland began forming gun holsters of thermoplastic sheet when it acquired Rogers Holster Co. in 1984. Rogers held patents for a unique laminating process that utilized thermoplastic sheet as a sandwich material to overcome the performance limitations of leather. Safariland converted its entire line to the production process, which uses heat to laminate nylon or urethane fabric to the sheet. The products, which are lined with SafariSuedeTM genuine suede, are laminated prior to forming using Safariland's specially developed adhesion process, which prevents delamination.
An important manufacturing consideration is the extremely tight tolerances essential to offering holsters that meet a range of security retention levels. Tooling is designed and built with the use of CAD technology, and aluminum molds are cut using CNC routing machines. "It's the only way we can achieve the extremely tight tolerances that are required," says Scott Carnahan, a 30-year company veteran and currently vice president of category marketing, equipment division. Most of the holsters are designed gun-specific so the company works closely with firearm manufacturers to ensure that changes in gun design don't dramatically affect the fit and function of the holster. Each holster is physically checked with an actual pistol.
Safariland currently uses a custom Boltaron sheet product a proprietary, fire-resistant thermoplastic alloy exhibiting greater heat resistance, cold-crack resistance, and impact resistance than the competitive sheet it replaced, according to Carnahan. "Safariland composites formed using Boltaron sheet deliver the performance expected by users of Safariland holsters in Alaska and Afghanistan alike," he says.
"Millions of our holsters used by the military easily withstand 'normal use' conditions in Middle East locations where ambient temperatures can reach 125 degrees F (52 degrees C). The bigger challenge, however, is to produce a holster that resists deformation when left on dashboards that can reach 220 degrees F (104 degrees C) on a 110 degree F (43 degree C) day, so improved heat resistance was an important objective for Boltaron to achieve when custom-formulating our proprietary grade of sheet," he explains.
The proprietary alloy also exhibits greater impact resistance (20 ft-lb/in, 1068 J/m) than the sheet it replaced, and carries a UL 94 V-0 fire rating. The company uses the sheet in thicknesses of 0.028, 0.040, 0.060, 0.093 and 0.125 in. (0.7112, 1.02, 1.53, 2.36 and 3.18 mm) and reports extreme formability and reduced shrinkage with minimal thin-out in deep recesses and on outside corners.
The holster's exterior color and texture are achieved via the Boltaron sheet product or the urethane or nylon covering laminated to it. Safariland offers a wide range of textures and finishes from STXTM Basket Weave and Carbon Fiber Look to Plain Black and Leather Look. Sheet colors include OD Green, Brown Flat Dark Earth, and Foliage Green.
Once the lamination and forming processes are completed, several secondary operations are performed including burnishing and smoothing of the edges.