Team Erhardt Project: Mediocrity Is Fixable. Stupidity...Not So Much

Jun 10, 2011
Mediocrity is something that one can work through, improve upon and, hopefully in my case, overcome. Stupidity is a curse. And one not easily shrugged off. But before I get sidetracked, let me tell you about the holster I'll be using to win the Steel Challenge... OK. I'm not even going to pretend there was serious, rational thought put into selecting the holster and rig I'm using.
The ELS is ideal for competition but its flexibility means you can do so much more with it. Photo: Yamil Sued
Honestly, I wanted to go with the Safariland ELS Belt System because it looks cool. And before I get accused of being the shooting range equivalent of a 'fashionista', or wanting what the 'cool kids' have - which I do - there's actually a good reason to go with the ELS Belt System. A couple good reasons in fact.
The locking fork secures to the holster and allows for easy transition from belt to bedside.
The ELS - ELS stands for Equipment Locking System - utilizes a hard plastic receiver plate and locking fork that allows for the quick attach and detach of any of Safariland's accessories, and the transfer of accessories to any two-hole mounting platforms or MOLLE loop gear. In other words, it's all about flexibility. Walk off the range and take the gun-in-holster from the rig you set up for competition and lock it into a vehicle security position. Once you're home go from the car position to the bedside home security position. And so on. All along the way the holster which has the locking fort attached to it, simply locks into the prepositioned receiver plates with a an audible click.
The receiver plate gives you flexibility with 4 possible angles to position gear on your belt.
The belt itself features two rows of staggered holes where you position your holster and mag pouches. The system design gives you the flexibility to secure the plates at four different angles: 0° (completely vertical), 30°, 60° or 90° (completely horizontal). Honestly, the design of the system is just brilliant. Which is probably why so many competition shooters and tactical trainers are adopting it as their rig. The first moment I actually realized I wanted one was at the 2010 USPSA Nationals in Las Vegas where I happened to walk up on a conversation Michael Voigt was having with another shooter who had asked him about the ELS system. I weaseled my way into the conversation circle to hear Voigt run through the system. For those of you that don't know Michael Viogt, he's a top shooter, the President of the U.S. Practical Shooting Assn., and a member of Team Safariland. He also happens to be one of the best rifle shooters in the world, and because of that he ends up doing a lot of training. So you could say he's got a really good perspective on gear selection. After a couple minutes of Voigt's off-the-cuff demo and product backgrounder, I knew I wanted an ELS Belt System...and it looked cool. By-the-way, if you're reading this sitting behind your desk at some company in the industry that's trying to figure out why on earth you'd want to sponsor shooters - that's why. So once I knew I wanted an ELS rig to show off during my run for speed shooting glory, I had to figure out exactly what components I needed to get. And while the design of the ELS Belt System is brilliant, the same cannot be said for the Safariland website. Without a Safariland catalog handy, I went to the website to do the requisite research. After about 20 minutes of not being able to find the answers, I gave up and did what all resourceful people do. I emailed somebody who'd know. I fired off an email to Julie Golob, the captain of the Smith & Wesson shooting team, and Team Safariland member, who has 35 world and national titles to her name, asking her, 1) Was the ELS legal for USPSA Production division? and 2) What holster and parts do I need? And again, proving why companies should sponsor shooters, Julie emailed back, "yes and tell Scott you want the same set up I have. He'll know what you mean." It's that easy? That's all I have to do? Well, yeah. It is that easy. And sure enough Scott Carnahan at Safariland knew exactly what Julie used and sent me the gear I'd need. Now, you might not know Julie Golob, or Michael Voigt. You might not get a chance to meet Scott Carnahan and get this kind of gear guidance, but you probably know local top shooters who can give you the same insights. Ask them for help and you'll find they're more than happy to lend a hand. When I got the package from Safariland I was eager to get the rig put together and set up. But that's when I ran into another minor bump in the road. The ELS doesn't require a degree from MIT to figure out, but it does help if you have some guidance. Again, I went to the Safariland website looking for a video on the step-by-step set up of the rig for competition use, or at least a good diagram or two. No such luck. And since my laziness is matched only by my impatience, I emailed Julie again asking if she knew of a video, or a cheat-sheet I could follow. You see, she told me during a previous email exchange that it took here about two hours to get the rig set up just the way she wanted it. I wasn't going to be as particular about the rig but I didn't want to accidentally set it up in a way that got me DQ'd later on down the road. Unfortunately, there isn't a reference video but, even better, Julie offered to help me if I brought the components to the Smith & Wesson booth at the NRA Show in Pittsburgh. Done deal.
You know what Julie's thinking, "35 major titles and I have to help this joker?"
The last day of the show I headed over to the big blue booth and met Julie. I'd like to tell you I had a hand in putting my own rig together but, in reality I just sat there and watched as Julie put it together. She asked me a couple questions. I answered. The next thing you know I have a fully functioning competition rig around my waist. Now I have the holster and rig to go with the gun, an Apex Tactical tricked out M&P Pro 9mm. So I'm well on my way to leaving mediocrity behind. In fact I was so confident that I headed out this past weekend to a small local match which featured three of the Steel Challenge stages. And after driving an hour, filling out the match paperwork and throwing down my $20 match fee, I headed out onto the range. And this is where I learned a very important lesson. The ELS Belt System from Safariland, the rig used by so many top shooters and rolling death operator types, is absolutely no damn good if you leave it sitting at home on your couch. No more than 15 minutes after arriving on the range I got back in my car, turned around and went home...leaving my $20 match fee behind because I was so pissed at myself. Mediocrity is fixable but stupidity.... - Paul Erhardt You can also follow the Team Erhardt Project on Twitter at @TheShootingWire, use hashtag #TeamErhardt.