An excerpt from the USCCA’s Concealed Carry Guide.

Holster shopping can be as confusing as gun buying until you know the ins and outs of it. Here are a few of the most frequently used terms that will help you choose the holster that best fits your day-to-day carry needs:

Appendix Carry

This is more of a carry position than a style of holster. An “appendix carry” is an inside-the-waistband holster that holds your sidearm in the front left or right side of your abdomen. These holsters hang from your belt or otherwise clip onto your pants and allow for an extremely fast draw.

Belt-Slide Holster

This is a very basic type of holster that slides onto the outside of a belt. Yaqui and Pancake holsters are of this type. When worn for concealed carry, it requires a covering garment, such as an untucked shirt or a sports jacket.

Hybrid Holsters

These holsters are typically worn inside the waistband, but some outside-the-waistband varieties do exist. They are most often constructed from more than one type of material — usually polymer and leather.

Inside the Waistband (IWB)

An inside-the-waistband holster allows a concealed carrier to carry a holstered sidearm inside his or her pants, allowing for more discreet concealment.

Off-Body Carry

This refers to carrying a gun in a purse, briefcase, backpack or another manner in which the gun is not directly mounted to the clothing of the carrier. It is very important that when carrying off-body, the carrier remembers to use a holster rather than just dropping a loaded gun into a bag or pack.

Outside the Waistband (OWB)

An outside-the-waistband holster, such as a belt-slide or Yaqui model, mounts to a belt and carries the gun on the outside of the pants.

Pancake Holster

This is a type of OWB holster that uses the pressure created by the belt and the holster itself to hold your gun in place. This type of holster is typically inexpensive and can sometimes be used with more than one model of pistol or revolver.

Pocket Holster

A pocket holster is a sheath into which you place your handgun and then place into the pocket of a pair of pants or other garment. These are especially well-suited to small and hammerless guns. It is extremely important that a carrier use a pocket holster rather than simply drop a loaded gun into his or her pocket unsecured.

Positive Retention

This refers to a holster that actively holds your gun and prevents it from being removed without intentional action other than simply pulling. These holsters are most common among uniformed law enforcement officers, though some private citizens prefer them from a security standpoint.

Shoulder Holster

A shoulder holster is a harness that carries a handgun on one side of the body and possibly spare magazines on the other. It is a traditional style of holster, well-represented in Hollywood, but most concealed carriers find that shoulder holsters do not fit their needs as well as other types.

Yaqui Holster

The Yaqui holster is a specific style of belt-slide holster that basically covers the trigger of a sidearm and not much else.

*Read the full version and learn more about concealed carry in the USCCA’s Concealed Carry Guide.


Concealed Carry Gear for Everyday Carry

A reliable sidearm isn’t the only piece of equipment you’ll need to effectively defend yourself. When it comes time to stop a deadly threat, the sidearm is important but only part of the necessary gear.

Your everyday carry — or EDC — gear is the set of tools that you as a responsibly armed American carry every day wherever it is legal for you to do so. The core of your EDC will be a reliable sidearm and a quality holster in which to carry it, a powerful hand-held flashlight, extra ammunition in a magazine or speedloader, a cellphone, pepper spray or other less-lethal option, and a good knife. This might seem like a lot to carry around, but with the correct holster and clothing choices, you’ll find that your EDC gear will melt into your daily life as easily as your wallet and keys.

Armed self-defense isn’t free, but it doesn’t have to be prohibitively expensive either. As far as sidearms go, there are perfectly serviceable autos and revolvers available for around $300, and there really isn’t a top end of the price range for sidearms. Quality tactical flashlights can be purchased in stores and online for less than $30, and respectable knives and pepper sprays can be bought for approximately the same amount, sometimes even less. Don’t worry about going all-out right away. Your tastes will likely change as you become more experienced, so you can expect to make some changes to your EDC as time passes.


Most states require some level of training before granting you a license to carry a concealed handgun. That training typically teaches safe gun handling, basic marksmanship and local laws about self-defense. The class teaches students where guns may and may not be legally carried. Many, but not all, states also require you to demonstrate that you can safely fire a gun.

Finding a trainer is not difficult. A quick web search will yield many in your area. Finding a good one is a little harder though. Check the gun store where you bought your firearm to see if it offers courses in self-defense and handgun tactics. Ask around at your gun club or shooting range. You can even ask your local police for suggestions.

To respect your instructor’s time is to respect your instructor, and whenever you head off to a class, it’s important that you remember everything you’ll need on hand in order to maximize the experience.

Few feelings are as frustrating as arriving at your destination and realizing that something you needed to bring with you was sucked into your kitchen table, garage floor, home entryway or other such shooting-gear black hole. In-hospital deaths were reduced simply by having surgeons employ simple checklists before and during surgery, so there’s no reason why you can’t streamline your shooting and training through the addition of a training or range checklist.

Depending on your circumstance, there will be other class-specific gear that you’ll include, but this list covers the bare-bones quantity of equipment that should accompany you to any training seminar or even just to the range:

✓ Proof of registration for the class you are attending and required class materials as designated by the instructor

✓ Eye and ear protection with backups

✓ Brimmed hat and shooting gloves

✓ Gunshot-specific emergency first-aid supplies

✓ Firearm with which you intend to practice and, if you have one, a backup

✓ Ammunition for this gun and extra magazines

✓ Multi-tool and cleaning rod for basic maintenance and barrel-clearing

✓ Targets and staple gun, thumbtacks or whatever you use to affix targets to a backstop

✓ Notebook or shooting journal with extra pens or pencils

✓ Extra batteries for lasers or weapon lights

✓ Permanent marker for target identification

✓ Seasonal items (sunscreen, insect repellent, warm clothing, raingear, etc.)

✓ Lunch (if applicable)

✓ Water

*Read the full version and learn more about concealed carry in the USCCA’s Concealed Carry Guide.