August 10, 2022


While there may not be a perfect handgun for every carry situation, the Springfield Hellcat Pro tends to be ideal for many situations in which I need a defensive firearm. The main consideration I wrestle with is picking the right holster.

black arch protos m holster
The Black Arch Protos-M holster proved to be an excellent CCW rig and solved one of the major concerns the author has with some other hybrid holsters.

Recently, Black Arch sent me the company’s Dual Clip Protos-M holster to try with my Hellcat Pro. I was intrigued as the rig seemed to have some of the characteristics common to typical hybrid holsters, but it offered a substantial difference. And that difference makes this a rig you should really consider for inside-the-waistband (IWB) carry.

Problems with Hybrid Holsters

The Dual Clip Protos-M is an excellent example of design ingenuity applied to an existing class of products. On the surface, the holster looks similar to several other rigs on the market commonly referred to as “hybrid holsters.” In general, these kinds of carry holsters use a leather or other soft backer with an attached half-shell made of Kydex or another rigid material. With this design, something soft is placed between the gun and the owner’s body while the pressure of the body on the soft material anchors the gun in the hard shell.

black arch protos m holster review
In this Black Arch Protos-M holster review, the author used the new Hellcat Pro equipped with a HEX Wasp.

In theory, a standard hybrid holster offers great comfort and reasonable retention while keeping the cost very affordable. What’s not to love?

Unfortunately, some hybrid designs don’t live up to my expectations. One company, for example, made a hybrid rig with a backer that was so large, it hindered drawing the pistol. Another company makes a rig that fails to completely cover the trigger guard. Some hybrid designs allow for a finger or other object to slip between the backer and the pistol to access the trigger. Even if you perceive the odds of this happening as low, I think you can see where this could be an issue.

What Makes the Protos-M Different

Black Arch holsters designed the Dual Clip Protos-M differently. The designers appeared to have taken the known limitations of some existing hybrid holsters and developed solutions that work.

back of the Protos-M holster
Here, you can see the breathable mesh on the back of the Protos-M holster. This material helps to keep your body cool when carrying.

To begin with, Black Arch uses a rigid shell that fully covers and wraps around the trigger guard. The company calls this its ¾ Hybrid system for providing consistent retention. I find that the system provides reliable retention that is consistent in its feel. When I insert my Hellcat Pro into the holster, there is a clear snap as the gun seats in the rig. With an empty pistol, I can invert the rig and vigorously shake it from the edges without the gun slipping out of the holster.

I want to make sure I am clear on the subject of retention. The Protos-M is an excellent holster, but it does not offer protection from an attempt to disarm you. With normal activities, running and even falling down, the holster should keep your pistol secure. However, for an actual attack on the gun itself, you will want a security holster that offers more advanced retention. Be sure to read my article about holster retention.

Another benefit to the ¾ Hybrid system is that it prevents accidental activation of the trigger while the gun is seated in the Protos-M. I tried with both hands and I cannot touch the trigger until I remove the gun from the holster. It likewise seems nigh on impossible for a foreign object to enter the trigger guard while the gun is seated. Black Arch did an excellent job with protecting the trigger in this holster.

Black Arch Protos-M holster with Hellcat Pro pistol inside
The author found that the Protos-M had a clean, contemporary look that matched its features.

At the mouth of the holster, the shell is flared for easier insertion of the pistol into the rig when worn. If you draw your pistol and have to return it to the holster, this can be important. Many traditional hybrid holsters do not have this and allow for the soft backer to collapse in on the mouth of the holster once the gun is drawn. To safely holster a gun in this pistol, I found it is relatively easy to tilt the muzzle of the gun slightly away from the body so that the back of the pistol is slightly tilted to the body. Then, lightly draw the side of the pistol up the edge of the holster mouth. Once the muzzle clears the holster mouth, straighten the pistol and insert it straight down.

Black Arch also did an excellent job with the leather backer. It is cut in a manner to avoid interfering with obtaining a full grip to draw the gun. While the gun side is slick, the body side of the leather is sueded for softness. Additionally, the center section of the backer uses a padded mesh called Dri-Matrix to further cushion the gun from the body. This cushioned area also increases airflow between the body and the holster while simultaneously preventing sweat from reaching your pistol.

Wear Time

I found the Dual Clip Protos-M to be one of the most comfortable IWB rigs I have worn. As I sit writing this article, the holster is on my hip with the Hellcat Pro solidly locked in place. With many IWB holsters, I pull the rig completely off when I sit down to work. That’s not the case with the Black Arch Protos-M holster. When I’m wearing it, it stays on my belt.

Black Arch Protos-M holster with Hellcat Pro pistol carried inside the waistband
The author used a special-purpose 1.5″ reinforced leather belt when carrying the Hellcat Pro in the Black Arch holster.

Speaking of staying in place, there are different clip types that you can order when purchasing the Protos-M holster. For this review, I have the Griphook clips. These are a modest upgrade cost (less than $4) and worth every penny. They do an excellent job of locking onto my 1.5” gunbelt. I’ve not been able to get them to fail yet.

For me, the rig is easiest to draw from when the clips are moved to the highest ride position. While the rig is slightly more concealable when it is lower in the waistband, I feel the gains in draw ease are more than worth the small sacrifice to concealability.

Black Arch Protos-M holster
Without a gun in the holster, you can see the full styling, materials and parts of the Black Arch Protos-M IWB carry rig.

Living in Florida puts me in more heat and humidity than many people realize can exist. It’s great for tropical plants, alligators and deodorant salesmen. For folks carrying a pistol, it can be an obstacle. That’s where the mesh, breathable back of this holster really comes into its own. While it is not a miracle product, the Dri-Matrix mesh definitely improves comfort in the heat.

Like a great many people carrying a Hellcat Pro, I’m running a red dot optic on my pistol. That extra bulk can sometimes interfere with a holster. That wasn’t a concern with the Protos-M. Black Arch designed the rig to fit Hellcat Pro pistols with a red dot, and I experienced no problems at all.

Can You Appendix Carry with the Black Arch Protos-M Holster?

While you can carry in the appendix position, the author found the Black Arch Protos-M holster was better suited for strong-side carry. The 4-5 o’clock position was determined to be the most comfortable in his testing.

What Is a Hybrid Holster?

A hybrid holster is a specialized holster designed for inside-the-waistband carry. It uses at least two materials — typically Kydex and leather — though other materials can be used. The intent is to provide a holster that offers a secure method of concealed carry while improving the comfort of the wearer.

Is a Hybrid Holster Safe?

Generally, a hybrid holster can be a safe method of carrying a concealed firearm. As the author’s review shows, the Protos-M hybrid holster offers a number of unique safety advantages that standard hybrid rigs do not offer.

Conclusion

Here’s the bottom line: All holsters are a compromise. To improve security, you may have to give up comfort or vice-versa. However, I find the Black Arch Dual Clip IWB Protos-M to be a fantastic holster with little downside. It offers better retention and safety than most hybrids while offering a greater degree of comfort than many pure Kydex rigs.

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