Call it kismet, karma, or fate, but when I got an email a couple months back from Henry Holsters asking if I wanted to review its new Springfield Armory Echelon holster, I went ahead and tipped my psychic friend regardless. It was perfect timing as I had an Echelon for review, and I needed something in an IWB designed for deep concealment. The Henry Holster Cipher was the Universe granting my wish.
My first impression of the holster was its sheer neatness. The molding was surgical in nature and even in the deepest bends the Boltaron (thermoplastic sheeting) was not stretched and over worked. The edges were nicely polished with no sharp edges to rub you while carrying. Another first impression was the mysterious feeling of déjà vu.
I found myself looking at the logo on the face of the holster “Echelon Henry,” thinking, if this is my first Henry holster, then I must have known it in a past life. I should call my psychic friend. Or maybe the Henry rep. Whichever. Turns out Henry is actually an OEM and manufactures all my favorite Phlster holsters. No wonder the holster looked so familiar!
The Cipher series is a folder-type holster, formed by one piece of folded-then-molded sheet of plastic. Envision a tasty street taco; the pistol would be the Carne Asada held securely in the middle. (Leave the salsa out of this metaphor, please.) Because it’s all one piece, it can be molded precisely to fit each gun with no excess material. Instead of needing rubber grommets to tighten the retention, the ends of the holster perfectly meet together.
The bonus on this is that the holster shell is not being spread apart, putting stress on the screw holes in the holster. The screws basically act as a closing mechanism for the shell instead. The retention is great with a nice tactile click feeling, letting you know it’s locked in place. You can easily flip the holster upside down and shake it, but the pistol ain’t going anywhere.
Here’s where the Henry Cipher’s performance shines: Even though the Cipher securely holds my Echelon, it does not fight me when I have to draw the pistol. The hold is just enough to do the job, without deforming the pistols polymer trigger guard.
Cipher holsters are ambidextrous, and the mounting points are pre-drilled. All you have to do is flip the hardware over to the other side to go to work. The sweat guard—the plastic portion that covers the slide from your belly—for the Echelon is mid-height and symmetrical for equal comfort for either-hand shooter.
This type of holster is a straight North – South type of holster, so there really is not any adjustment for cant (angling the holster). This is my preferred style of shooting anyway, so that did not bother me. The belt clips do technically have about a 1/2 inch of adjustability up and down, but mine was set to allow the holster to sit as low as possible. Speaking of those clips, once you set the holster in place, it is not going anywhere. They hold onto my belt harder than a fat gun writer hoarding logoed merch he was given for free.
Interestingly enough, the Henry website discusses developing the ModWing, an invention that is now basically standard concept on every quality holster. The Modwing is a protrusion with a bump. The theory is that the wing and bump push the butt of the pistol back into your body, better concealing it. The Cipher comes with two height bumps that adjust the amount of push on the holster.
The bottom of the Cipher is open, meaning that I was able to carry my Echelon with both the standard barrel and my threaded barrel and muzzle device attached. If the holster was closed it would limit the fits. (For example, if Springfield releases an Echelon with a longer slide, the same holster will still work. The Cipher has a nice sight channel that seems like it can fit sailboat-sized front sights.
Because I was testing a new closed-emitter electronic sight as I evaluated the Springfield Echelon, my first experience with either, I had added rather a lot of bulk to the rig. It wasn’t a problem. Even though the sweat guard covered most of the slide, the optics relief cut is generous and easily can fit any optic I can think of.
So I talked about the fit and finish of the Cipher, but what about the comfort? I am not exactly the skinniest person out there and what I have found out is that everyone is different. What works for one person may or may not work for the next. I just cannot appendix carry inside the waist band, because if I sit down my belly just gets in the way. The Cipher was designed for both AIWB or IWB. By moving the Cipher over to my side, I was able to comfortably carry IWB so for me that’s a win. Interesting is that Henry offers a 30 day return policy:
“If you don’t like your new holster, you may return it within 30 days, in “like new” condition, for a full refund, minus shipping and any incurred “Restocking Fee”.
Restocking fees (up to 20% of the original sale price) are intended to cover the cost of manufacturing for all IWB products that, due to the nature of items worn inside the waistband, cannot be listed for resale.”
I honestly don’t think you will need it, but it is nice to know that Henry stands behind their products and designs that way when most don’t. On top of that Henry Holsters is unique in that they offer a lifetime warranty:
“Henry Holsters products are covered by a Limited Lifetime Warranty. If your holster fails it will be repaired or replaced at no charge unless it appears to have been deliberately destroyed. So if you decide to cut your holster apart with a Dremel and then send it back, it won’t be covered.”
My Dremel tool is the most powerful tool in my gun-smithing arsenal, but the Cipher did not need any craziness. In past searches for the perfect holster I have had to Dremel to trim or smooth out a sharp edge. Think of Henry holsters as an end to end manufacturer. They not only design the holsters, but they machine their own molds, then hand-finish the holsters. Saying quality control is rigorous is an understatement—they even check the fit of every holster with an actual firearm, not a molded replica.
As a professional concealed carrier (and a highly unpewfessional gun writer), I know a good holster is the basis upon which we do our work. The holster provides the solid indexing point which allows us to train to muscle memory. A good holster provides the security to hold our pistols in place, no matter our activities. That same holster must not slow us down if we need to unholster. Someone at Henry put a lot of thought into creating a holster that does that, and does it well. I have been a huge fan of Phlster products for ages, and even though I did not yet know it, I was a huge fan of Henry holsters too. If you’d like a psychic phone pal who can help you choose holsters for $7.50 a minute, keep an eye on late-night TV. If you’d like to go ahead and get the holster you need right now, visit www.henryholsters.com.
—James the “XDMAN” Nicholas Mr. UnPewFessional Himself!
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