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The modular ShapeShift MOLLE holster

Modular MOLLE

Modularity is not a new concept in the gun industry — which makes the Alien Gear MOLLE Holster a testament to a storied history.

The Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment (MOLLE) system has been with the U.S. Army and Marine Corps for just shy of two decades now.

Alien Gear's recently released MOLLE holster adapts civilian guns and holsters to a system born in the grit of the U.S. Armed Forces.

Knowing where this holster comes from is just as important as understanding what it is and what it can do.

What you should know about MOLLE systems

Here's a quick crash-course on what MOLLE is and how it came to be.

MOLLE is the framework for a military specification of a load-bearing design that NATO armed forces use to carry equipment. It is a system with webbing for smaller packs and various accoutrement to be attached on apparel like backpacks, belts, range bags, vests and so on.

What the equipment attaches to is actually the Pouch Attachment Ladder System. This is a grid of interwoven nylon strips that MOLLE-compatible gear loops or hooks onto.

What is MOLLE?

It's patented by the United States Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center (NSRDEC).

A brief rundown on a few recent tactical fighting systems:

  • 1956: The M-1956 Load-Carrying Equipment updated the World War II web gear and included a pistol belt, load bearing suspenders and field pack
  • 1967: The prior system, made from cotton, was updated with the M1967 Individual Load Carrying Equipment with new materials that would better survive in Vietnam — Nylon replaced cotton, aluminum/plastic replaced steel/brass where possible and zippers/snaps were replaced by a Velcro-esque "hook and pile" fastener
  • 1974: The Army began using the All-purpose, Lightweight, Individual Carrying Equipment (ALICE) system, the precursor to MOLLE and the replacement for two prior systems in the U.S. Army and Marine Corps
  • 1988: The Individual Integrated Fighting System was presented as a possible replacement, although there were updates in 1995 for magazine-accessibility and for textile-breathability to optimize ventilation
  • 1996: A survey was delivered to soldiers and marines that led to the operating characteristics of the MOLLE system: modularity, durability and comfortability
  • 2001: Speciality Defense Inc. received a contract to produce 216,000 MOLLE systems for the Marine Corps and Army fielding
  • 2002: An additional 1,200 MOLLE backpack frames were issued to the Marine Expeditionary Unit deployed to Afghanistan

MOLLE equipment was produced in camouflage, then desert camouflage and then in 2006 the Universal Camouflage pattern.

The MOLLE system improved load-carrying abilities with a padded shoulder strap and waist belt that soldiers could modify to shift the weight of their load to a more comfortable position.

PALS Pouch System

The interwoven, grid-like MOLLE Pouch Attachment Ladder System (PALS) replaced the metal clips in the ALICE system that were previously used to attach equipment. PALS was an addition to the load-bearing MOLLE system that offered a flexible system to personalize what accessories and pouches were necessary to carry in various environments.

Of course, there are a lot more details than what was listed above, but that's a quick take on it.

Civilian everyday carriers found that the system is extremely versatile and companies have started to produce packs, belts and what not with PALS webbing. The MOLLE holster is, almost by default, an open carry holster setup.

Alien Gear's MOLLE Holster: What You Should Know

The Alien Gear MOLLE holster is an extension of the ShapeShift Modular Holster System.

The Shift Shell — an injection-molded polymer shell fitted to specific handgun models — attaches to a two-pronged, heat and impact-resistant polymer base at a single point.

Those two prongs then slide into PALS webbing. At the bottom of the two prongs, there is a MOLLE Lock that slips onto the end and locks the MOLLE Holster base onto the webbing wherever it is on or off the body.

Wearing the ShapeShift MOLLE Holster

The MOLLE Locks are available in two sizes to fit either two or three columns of regular or irregular PALS webbing.

There are three options for Alien Gear's MOLLE Holster:

  1. The ShapeShift MOLLE Holster, which includes a Shift Shell, adjustable retention unit and a thumb release
  2. The ShapeShift MOLLE Carry Expansion Pack, an option for those who already have a full Shift Shell configuration
  3. The Cloak Mod MOLLE Holster, which hooks the Cloak Mod base to the MOLLE extension
The MOLLE system is available for the Cloak Mod

The Cloak Mod MOLLE Holster is available now

As it stands the Cloak Mod is available for over 500 firearm models. The ShapeShift Holster is available for a select, growing number of handgun models, with new handguns scheduled and tracked here.

The MOLLE adapter's prongs are 3.5 inches long and 1.125 inches wide.

The holster has 360-degree rotation, custom retention, adjustable ride height and impact-resistant polymer.

Alien Gear's MOLLE Holster does not reinvent how to carry firearms and equipment. It expands and redefines holster compatibility, extending the range of possibilities and adaptability for gun owners.

It's a respectful tip of the hat to those who've carried MOLLE equipment in the military, and a thoughtful addition to the civilian gun-owner marketplace.

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gun blog writer jake smith

About The Author

Jake Smith (@notjakesmith) is a copywriter and photographer based in the pacific northwest. He graduated from the University of Idaho with degrees in public relations and apparel.