Selecting your concealed carry holster is crucial for your personal safety and the safety of those around you. With no shortage of manufacturers and places to buy a gun holster, purchasing this essential everyday carry gear can be daunting. Finding a gun holster and finding the right concealed carry holster are different. You’ll need to know more than your firearm model when holster shopping.

Here, we’ll simplify the process by detailing what makes an effective concealed carry holster, exploring different types, and providing guidance on choosing the best one for your needs. Whether you’re a new gun owner or a professional updating your gear, this guide helps you navigate the world of concealed carry holsters confidently and easily.

Gun Holster Common Terms

Before carrying concealed, it’s important to understand where and how a firearm is worn when concealed. A self-defense gun is often carried behind the strong-side hip. And the draw angle must be suitable for rapid presentation. To choose a good gun holster with the right draw angle, it’s important to understand cant, rake, drop and the two common acronyms of CCW holsters.

Holster Cant

This is the angle at which the holster is presented. A very tall person may wish for a neutral cant, but most of us need a 15-degree cant to tilt the handle of the handgun into the draw.

Holster Rake

Rake also refers to the angle. A forward rake means the muzzle is forward of the centerline. Rear rake — the most popular — means the muzzle of the handgun is to the rear compared to the handle.


Drop is sometimes called ride and indicates where a holster sits. A high-ride holster is elevated on the belt for concealment. When the holster is worn inside-the-waistband, drop becomes more important. A low drop may make for greater concealment. But a higher ride holster will be more exposed above the waistband. This can make for greater draw speed.

IWB Holsters

Acronym for Inside-the-Waistband holsters, sitting inside your pant waistband and usually secured by clips that wrap around the top of your pant and secure around a belt or pant line.

OWB Holsters

Acronym for Outside-the-Waistband holsters, usually secured on your belt line with either a paddle inserted inside the pant waistline or belt slide loops.

Two holster show the difference in tilt.

A slight forward tilt is needed to afford a sharp draw (right). The holster on the left has a more neutral draw.

Determining The Right Factors For Your CCW Holster

To determine the most beneficial rake and drop for you, use either a triple-checked unloaded firearm or a training tool, such as a SIRT pistol. Place the handgun at different angles in the waistband: tuck it low and ride it higher on the belt. This will give you an idea of how drop and angle work. It may also be good to start with a more generic holster before ordering an expensive custom holster. As well, though reading holster reviews is beneficial, where possible, try the holsters on in-store before purchasing.

Using A Holster When You’re New To Carry

There is a certain acclimation period when you begin carrying a holstered handgun. A concealed firearm is comforting, not comfortable. You will never forget it’s there. But a holster should isolate the hard edges of a firearm from the body. A gun holster also separates the handgun from clothing and perspiration.

Along the way, you must obtain a good gun belt, with a sturdier strap, loop and buckle than a dress belt. Without the proper belt, the holster is useless. The frame, buckle and bar must be up to supporting the weight of the handgun. Thick gun belts may last for decades and are essential to concealed carry. Modern ratchet-type gun belts, such as those produced by Nexbelt, are increasingly popular as another option. These are just a few of the additional nuances you need to know before you start to concealed carry.

Differences in Kydex and Leather Holsters

In the world of carry options, the conversation frequently centers on holsters made from two prominent materials: Kydex and leather, each boasting distinct strengths and weaknesses.

A leather holster should not be made of very thin suede leather but a thick, heavy leather similar to a saddle skirt, ideally something that is Top Grain or Full Grain leather. Kydex holsters are another option. These have varying thicknesses, with some of the thinner gear being merely plastic. Kydex holsters are bolted together, whereas leather is sewn. The pattern is laid out, formed to the gun or mold, and then stitched. The edges are combined and glued together.

When purchasing a leather holster, it is important to look at the welt — the reinforcement around the holster mouth. A welt should keep the holster mouth open and allow re-holstering. Welt is even more important with an IWB holster. After drawing, you should be able to re-holster with one hand. And the holster should keep a tight fit on the handgun. Leather achieves this by tight molding or boning — using a smooth bone to form wet leather around the gun mold. Some makers get a good fit with a press that steams leather. Kydex is designed to get a tight fit on the bodyguard and muzzle of the firearm.

Some holsters may feature a retention device such as a thumb break snap. A well-designed gun holster coupled with body compression makes these straps unnecessary in my opinion. If you do use a holster with a retention device, be certain to practice your draw from it. And use a retention device that is reinforced and will not bind against the body on the draw. A quality holster will offer a sharp draw and a good balance of speed and retention.

Training With Your Concealed Carry Holster

Training with your newly purchased firearm holster is an essential part of becoming comfortable and proficient. Safety should be your priority. Always ensure your firearm is unloaded before you start practicing. Familiarize yourself with how the holster works, from fastening it securely to drawing and reholstering your weapon smoothly.

The main goal of handling your handgun in its holster is to develop muscle memory. This means repeatedly practicing the same actions until they become automatic. Start by practicing your draw. Pay attention to every detail, from the grip on your gun to the angle of your arm. Repeat this action until you can perform it smoothly without needing to look at your holster.

Include movement in your training as well. Practice walking, running, sitting and kneeling while wearing your holster for concealed carry to understand how it feels in different positions. The more you train for defensive shooting scenarios, the more natural it will feel to reach for your weapon when necessary.

Inside-the-Waistband and Beyond

For most, a quality IWB holster is the best choice. In a climate that includes cold weather, carrying concealed in a good outside-the-waistband belt holster under a cover garment is also a good idea.

This Advanced Shooting Performance holster shows a sharp draw angle and rides high on the belt.

There are other, advanced options as well. Some will explore appendix holsters, cross-draw, shoulder holsters or other styles. But the default holster should be a strong-side belt holster. An IWB holster allows carrying serious armament well concealed and keeps most of the handgun under the beltline, concealed by the trousers. Before choosing a holster, examine as many as possible and carefully consider what you need. Finding the right concealed carry holsters for women may involve asking more questions and examining your wardrobe. Don’t go cheap on your everyday carry option. While handgun prices vary from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, a quality gun holster begins at just over $60.

And a superb design can be found for around $150. In between, there are many excellent choices. Consider your needs and plan ahead before you purchase.