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The 5 Best Holsters For Most Purposes
There’s a lot of argument over what the best concealed carry holster is in terms of material, brand and so on.
And most of it is down to personal preference. There are a lot of really good ones out there. Is there really an objective “best?” Of course not; it’s like trying to argue what the best sports car is; people have such different preferences that it eventually becomes pointless.
So instead of a pointless debate over a matter of personal preference, let’s take a slightly different approach.
Instead, what are the best holsters for concealed carry based on how widely they’re used? Put differently, what kind of holster are you most likely to have a good experience with if you buy one?
There are a number of different kinds of holsters. However, only a few are used routinely, every day, by civilian carriers of all skill levels as well as professionals. These are what they are. Buy a good example of any of them, and you’re likely to have concealed carry success.
The IWB holster is the modern default for concealed carry, and for good reason.
You tuck the holster into the waistband, cover with your shirt, adjust your belt and you’re good to go. Overall, it’s the easiest and most intuitive method of concealed carry.
An IWB holster is easier to conceal, as most people find a standard t-shirt is all that’s needed if it has a slightly roomy fit. It’s also easiest to conceal a compact- to full-size gun; anything from a Kimber Micro to a Beretta 92 can be carried and concealed with one.
Selection of a holster, however, is important as you’re looking to balance function – how well the holster works in terms of letting you draw and reholster the gun – with comfort while carrying it.
If you don’t find your holster comfortable enough to wear all day, you will find reasons not to.
The only real drawback to an IWB holster is that putting one on is a bit of a ceremony, but doesn’t really take too long. Others find that having something jammed in the waistband isn’t entirely to their liking.
However, it’s simple, it’s effective, and with a bit of training and practice, getting the gun out from concealment is almost as fast as if open carrying. Again, it’s the default for good reason.
Some people prefer to pocket carry because of how simple it is. You put a small gun in a pocket holster, put the holster in the pocket and go.
Others will pocket carry a backup gun, similar to how some people carry a backup gun in an ankle holster. A lot of police officers in previous eras would have at least one snubby revolver in a pocket along with their service revolver…some of them would have one in both pockets!
Carrying a gun in a pocket unprotected is dangerous and irresponsible, but add a pocket holster and it becomes a lot more viable.
The upsides of pocket carry – with a pocket holster, because it’s not safe otherwise – are that it makes carrying a gun a lot easier, simpler and certainly a heck of a lot more convenient.
There are also a few things to know before you start.
You have to pick pants that work well for pocket carry. You need front pockets that are roomy enough, but aren’t so big that the pistol and holster aren’t safely retained.
Drawing a pistol from a pocket is very hard while sitting, so training to deal with that scenario is important.
It’s easier to shoot a big handgun really well than a small pocket pistol. Granted, modern subcompact 9mm pistols like a S&W Shield, Glock 43, Sig P365 or a Springfield Hellcat can fit in a pocket holster and are easy to shoot well. But that is something to be aware of.
A pocket holster lets you pocket carry in a safe fashion so you can pocket carry. It’s incredibly convenient, but does make some demands in terms of practice and clothing for best results.
An outside the waistband – or OWB holster – is just as concealable as an IWB holster IF you pick the right one. Many OWB holsters aren’t made with concealment as a priority, so make sure to choose one that is.
That idea isn’t new; high-ride OWB designs have been popular for concealed carry for decades. Older holster designs like leather scabbards and Askins Avenger holsters have just given way to newer designs and better, more comfortable materials.
What you’re looking for is a holster that rides high on the belt and close to the body. That will make the holster snug up to the contours of your body, making it easier for a shirt to cover the holster and gun without imprinting through.
A lot of people find OWB carry more comfortable than IWB carry, because the holster and gun aren’t inside the waistband, but effective concealment takes a little more effort than with an IWB holster for some people.
Concealing an OWB holster requires the shirt fabric to drape down far enough to cover the holster and then some. At least an inch of fabric past the muzzle end is a good rule of thumb.
In other words, effective concealment requires a gun, holster and shirt selection to work in concert. That said, most compact or subcompact pistols are pretty easily concealed in an OWB holster. If you can wear tall size shirts without looking weird, the OWB world is your oyster.
Slightly more difficult to conceal than an IWB holster, but arguably more comfortable. High-ride OWBs will always be a great choice of concealment holster.
Appendix Carry Holster
Appendix carry is IWB carry, just at the front of the waistband, but an appendix carry holster does bear mention as a standalone class of holsters.
The holster is placed in the waistband somewhere between the front pants pocket and the waist button. Some prefer closer to the pocket, others don’t, this much is down to your personal preference.
The advantage of appendix carry compared to an IWB holster at or behind the hip is faster draw time, and easier access in a seated position, or at least it is for most people.
For that reason, appendix carry is becoming the thing to do for modern armed citizens.
That said, just about anyone can make an IWB holster work at or around the hip. Not everybody can make appendix carry work. Having a gut doesn’t really seem to be the issue; having a low natural waist (ie where your pants sit) tends to make appendix carry less tenable.
If you carry a modern striker-fired pistol like a Glock, you need to be conscious of safely handling and holstering the weapon. This applies to using ANY holster, of course, but becomes even more pointed when a loaded gun is pointing at sensitive areas.
Comfort, of course, becomes even more vital. Plenty of holsters are made for appendix carry, but you’re not going to find all of them comfortable enough to carry with.
As mentioned, there are lots of advantages to appendix carry, but there’s less wiggle room than with other holster styles and carry methods. It either works for you or it doesn’t, whereas almost anyone can make carrying around the hip work.
Belly Band Holster
A belly band holster is a more complete carry system, as it’s typically a holster with a belt or girdle that’s worn under clothing. The idea is to carry a concealed handgun without needing a typical leather or web belt.
The upsides? They’re usually very comfortable, can be worn with any – and we mean any – clothing, from sweat pants to slacks. The gun can be placed in the appendix position or hip position just like a typical holster, so you can train all the same motions.
The downside? Holster selection is critical. Most belly band holsters are made out of cloth, including the holster itself. That means the trigger isn’t as protected as it needs to be to safely carry the gun.
There are a select few quality examples on the market, which are a belt or strap that’s made to work with an actual IWB holster. Those are the kind to acquire, as they will be safe to carry with, effective should you have to use it, as well as being comfortable.
Some people use a belly band as their primary carry system for various reasons, and some people use it as a supplemental holster for when they can’t wear an IWB or OWB with a belt.
Choose a quality example, and it will work at the range and on the street, as a good holster should.
Honorable Mentions: Ankle Holster and Shoulder Holsters
Ankle holsters and shoulder holsters are some of the other most popular holster styles that are used for daily carry outside of a uniformed/duty application.
Uniform police officers and active duty soldiers tend to use an OWB holster or a drop leg holster. Concealment is not a concern at all, and the environment they’re in and the job they do is obviously way different than what concerned citizens are doing.
So what about ankle holsters?
An ankle holster is not a good choice of primary holster, unless you’ve no alternative. Classically, an ankle gun is a backup gun for in case the first runs out of ammunition, or is dropped, taken or otherwise rendered inoperable.
Ankle holsters are awkward and slower to use than a holster that’s on or about the waistband. You have to bend over at minimum, if not kneel, to draw the gun and get it into action.
In other words, it’s fine for a backup gun but you do not want an ankle holster to be your Plan A.
Shoulder holsters are definitely a viable carry method IF you get the right shoulder holster and IF you happen to have a body shape that works really well with one. Not everyone does.
Most people who have used a quality shoulder holster (key idea!) would agree that they’re very comfortable. What causes a lot of people trouble is finding a manner of dress that lets them use it on a regular basis. They add bulk where none typically is, so concealment isn’t easy.
Some people find they’re a winter-only proposition. Some people only use them in certain instances, like riding motorcycles, and others just carry them on occasion just because.
Your mileage, of course, may vary, so to speak, so it’s worth it to experiment and see if you can make a shoulder holster work for you. However, not everyone can, and that has been the issue with shoulder holsters for quite some time.
The above holster styles are the ones that are used more than any other by most people who carry on a daily basis. If you start with a good example of any of them, you’ll be off to a great start.