Enigma Holster System by Phlster: Field Tested and Approved – Part 2 of 2

In the first half of this series, the very unique Enigma carry system by Phlster was introduced, along with my initial experiences using this rig for daily carry. In this final installment, I describe what it was like to do some activities that are a bit out of the box for my daily routine, all while wearing the Enigma.

Serious Test #1: The Wedding

A frequent excuse for both men and women not to carry on-body is that the form-fitting nature of dress clothes cannot insure against printing, the term used for the identifiable shape of a gun under a garment. Since printing prevention is the Enigma’s forte, and I sincerely attempt to go armed whenever feasible, I decided that a friend’s wedding represented a perfect testing ground.

The Enigma conceals well for me in part by pushing the grip into the squishy part of my belly. This also means having to be extra assertive on the draw to get my thumb between belly and gun.

For the occasion I chose a boldly-patterned skirt to cover which covers most of the holster and all, but the top half of the grip. A slight flare at the waist of my cotton blouse, along with the slightly stiff texture of the fabric, was enough to hide the grip. Now, I’m not saying I could get a secure firing grip in lightning-fast time, but the gun stayed in place all evening and I was able to hug and dance freely with no concern for the gun coming loose or being detected. By this time, I’d been wearing the Enigma without the leg leash and was confident going without that accessory. Though the gun stayed perfectly in place, by the end of the evening the belt had worked its way up to my lower thoracic spine. I felt it catch on the back of a folding chair once as I rose to stand, but otherwise it didn’t bother me.

Yes, there’s a gun in this picture. No, you can’t see it.

Conclusion of the Wedding Test:  The Enigma makes for a secure, snug fit under formal wear. Not only did I prove this to myself; a handful of other wedding-goers on the Phlster Concealment Workshop page have done likewise, even in floor-length gowns. Helpful discussion about drawing from such unwieldy garments ensues there also. As is always the case when I wear the Enigma obtaining a firing grip with the gun holstered is possible, but a two-handed operation (clear shirt/obtain grip). I have to wear this holster fairly deep inside the squishy place between my hip bone and navel. Others can wear the gun at 12:00 under the navel. For me, obtaining the grip requires a rather aggressive thumb-plunge to get past my belly and get the “V” of my hand high on the backstrap. With repeated draws, my belly gets a little abraded. That’s with short fingernails. Manicured fingernails can complicate gun handling, and drawing from the Enigma is a likely place for that to happen.

On the Phlster Concealment Workshop page on Facebook, a couple people have noted their holster rides up when they draw. The leg leash should protect against that, and though I dispensed with it entirely early on, I don’t suffer with this problem much. I attribute that to assertively snatching the gun out of the holster rather than pulling on it (pro tip there, regardless of the holster).

Serious Test #2: Hot Weather Hike

A lovely path between a spring and a cliff. An unlikely place to need to draw a pistol, but things happen.

It was 108F the day I decided to do a hike in Lincoln National Forest in southern New Mexico. The Enigma came along. It was a Sunday and the most popular trails were crowded with weekend revelers, so I chose one headed away from the waterfall attraction that draws the most traffic. It would become a memorable day, in part because of what happened in a narrow canyon blessed with a precious above-ground spring. The resultant water creates an oasis in a landscape parched from a seven-year drought. The trail followed a narrow, dry passage between a rock cliff to my right, and the boggy strip of above-ground moisture to my left. On the moist side of the path was a wall of grapevines with the biggest leaves I’d ever seen on those plants. Each leaf was larger than my hand with fingers outstretched. The wall of vines was more than a story high. As I marveled at the sight, I heard shuffling from the ground behind the veil of vines. “Deer,” my mind said, making the assumption I’d soon see the most common source of a ruckus in the brush, but I assumed wrong. The bow-shaped, mohawk hairdo-decorated outline of an adult collared peccary, commonly called javelina, appeared as a silhouette. As I suppressed a gasp of excitement, it skedaddled in the direction I was also headed, staying behind the vine wall. The critter was followed by two miniature versions of itself. There was more shuffling where the first noise had started. Two more young javelina appeared, partly shielded behind the vines. They faced me, and stopped. I caught my breath and turned on the camera of my phone, already in hand.

The bravest junior pig from the latter group came closer, as curious about me as I was fascinated by our encounter. It stepped nearer, with little hooves poking silently into the ground. It made a sort of grunt that didn’t exactly sound like a farm pig. Thinking it would be fun to “talk” and having nothing better to do, I imitated the sound back. We had our own little conversation going for a few seconds.

About that time there was more shuffling and a deeper grunt from the right – Mama Javelina. About then it occurred to me that I was standing there, my back to a ledge, between a mother pig and part of her litter. Suddenly, it seemed like a very good idea to have a gun in hand and consider a retreat. Also suddenly, I was cursing to myself that drawing from the Enigma was not an efficient process, especially with one hand as I, however stupidly, continued to try and capture photos of this once-in-a-lifetime meeting. The friendly junior javelina was about 12 yards away and curious enough to perhaps come closer.

Finally with gun in hand, I decided to go on in my originally intended direction, understanding now that the noises the sow was making were about rooting and whatever else javelina parents say to their kids. I took a deep breath, told my feet to move, and turned right to pass by the sow and her other two offspring. I was still cautious, but somehow confident all would be okay. It was then I felt my fingers begin to tremble, and realized I’d had an adrenaline dump that was just starting to resolve.

The path immediately passed through a low arch of sorts, a combination of overhanging branches and boulders. As I passed through those into a grassy opening, a rush and rustle of grass immediately headed toward me. The tall grass hid whatever it was, but it was coming fast. It hit the open trail just as I raised the Sig’s muzzle in the direction of the disturbance. It was one of the young javelinas, running blindly through the grass, spooked by my motion, but unable to see me. As it broke into the clearing, the sight of me gave the critter as much of a fright as its approach had me. It wheeled and sped back in the direction of the others. I breathed a sigh of relief. It would be the last I’d see javelina for the day. Pretty sure we were in mutual agreement that we’d had enough of each other for a while.

In the center of this picture, with the sun on its face, is my new acquaintance, a juvenile javelina. 

While no harm was done, the incident was a blunt reminder that most violent criminal attacks happen in less than five seconds. The time it took me between recognizing a potential threat and drawing was – well, more than five seconds. Some of that was how I was prioritizing my actions, and some was due to the added difficulty of deep concealment. There is a compromise with the Enigma or any deep concealment method, and draw time it is.

By the time I finished the hike, the leash-less Enigma belt had crept well up my back, but I didn’t care. The metal/magnetic buckle had worn a small raw spot on my side; a small concern in comparison to other events of this day – the javelinas were just a small part of it.

The Fidlock magnetic quick-release buckle deserves commentary of its own. It’s part of what makes the Enigma unique. It takes no time to buckle into or release the hold of this flat, brilliantly designed bit of hardware. Where circumference is concerned, I’m on the border between the normal size Fidlock and the reduced size one Phlster now offers, at a $12.95 premium.

One unique and handy buckle.

After the hot weather hike, enough salt (from sweat) had accumulated on the webbing to put some white marks on the webbing. It’s unsightly, but doesn’t affect function. It does serve to remind me that there are washable covers made for this rig, available both from Phlster and from other providers who can be found on the Phlster Concealment Workshop page.

Overall, the system kept the gun concealed which was really only a concern in the parking lot where an open-carry gun could draw unwanted attention. It kept the gun secure on a long hike, but where draw speed is concerned, it lags behind both open carry and my normal inside-waistband holster.

Phlster Enigma Holster: Conclusion

Anyone who carries where deep concealment is necessary, or who doesn’t want to severely compromise their manner of dress to accommodate a holster, should check out the Enigma. Plan on investing not only money ($84.99 for the belt system plus up to $79.99 for a holster), but time early on. Fitting this holster to virtually every body is possible. There is substantial information on doing so not only on the Phlster website, but especially on the Phlster Concealment Workshop Facebook page. This system has a supportive community around it like no other. The Workshop page constitutes a supportive family of other Enigma owners, not to mention direct Q&A with the producers themselves. If your grip is sticking out too much even after a belt angle adjustment and you need a wedge that’s just right, there are people there to share where to get experimental or permanent wedges and how to install them. If you have a victorious day of carrying concealed in some uniform or setting where it wasn’t feasible before, it can be celebrated there. It’s the only place on the internet I’ve seen where there’s no shaming and a wealth of technical support for AIWB carry regardless of body type. Discussion is not restricted to the Enigma, but is mostly oriented around it.

In addition to the Phlster website, there is a wealth of information on the Enigma on channels like YouTube where men and women from various walks of life provide reviews. This system represents the freedom to carry without compromising how one wants to, or is expected to, show up for work or other social situations. It is one of the rare products that actually lives up to that overused term, “game-changing.”

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