If design is a way to solve real-life problems, it must evolve in response to the needs of its end-user. This was the case with the recently redesigned ShapeShift Thumb Release.
As it turns out, our end-user is vocal, which is useful for our research and development team when seeking real-world feedback from prolonged day-to-day use.
The active retention thumb release has been a commonly discussed feature in the ShapeShift Modular Holster System. Recently, it was updated.
What has changed with the newly designed holster thumb release
The new ShapeShift holster thumb release targets a common complaint: the prior iteration felt stiff and required more time to draw the weapon.
Although it was an intended feature to require more force to unlock, overwhelming feedback directed mechanical engineers to do something different with the design.
At the end of the day, every person at this company works for the customer, creating solutions for their problems and/or needs.
So, what did we do?
The internal components within the thumb release were altered to reduce the pressure needed to depress the thumb release.
Functionally, it remains the same. Once installed on the full-shell configuration of the Shape Shift Shell, a polymer claw extends through the trigger guard to lock the handgun in the injection-molded shell.
When holstering, it's the pressure needed to push past that internal mechanism that creates the satisfying click often heard with Alien Gear Holsters.
Note that there is a 1/8 inch increase in travel in the new thumb release.
There are two sizes for the thumb release to compensate for the dimensional differences between compact and full-size frames.
It's still compatible with all the same carry styles as before. Its overall functionality and use remains the same. All that has been changed is the pressure required to activate the release.
The fact that it changed also poses an important question: why?
Why Alien Gear's OWB holster thumb release changed
The change to the OWB holster thumb release is just us listening to you. It takes time to redevelop solutions for problems, but this highlights our highest priority:
The customer comes before all else and is served above all else.
However, the change also reflects basic design process.
After inspiration, ideation and implementation, a product must be tested out in the real world. Hundreds and thousands of prototypes can be made, but at some point you just have to release it to the world.
It's like a baby bird leaving the nest, or a child leaving for college. Day-to-day life in the real world will change anything and anyone over time.
It's far more useful as a company to listen to the needs of the customer and course correct to better serve their needs.
That's why Alien Gear changed the design of the product. The product didn't fully resolve the problem, so it was iterated to function more competently for those it was made (in America) for.
Companies across the globe each have their own flavor of "design thinking," which is a concept developed long ago that tailors the product development process toward gathering (through divergent thinking) a set of criteria that define a problem and aggregating those criteria (through convergent thinking) into a worthwhile solution.
However, not to get lost in the weeds here, a key aspect in design theory is empathy — placing yourself in the shoes of the end-user and thinking about their lives.
An empathetic approach to a level two retention thumb release for the civilian market would be to make it an accessible tool that is easy to use, but still secure, and completely optional.
To add to that, it would be decent if the company allowed the customer to try it out for a bit before committing to it.
Alien Gear does that. We offer a 30-day test drive. Try out the new design.