Choosing the right concealed carry holster is as important as choosing the right gun. Just as you would never drop a couple million on a Bugatti Chiron and top off the oil reservoir with some slightly used Crisco, you should never buy a cheap holster. To ensure your concealed carry setup is top-notch, we delve into the intricacies of choosing the best concealed carry holster, exploring various carry methods and shedding light on essential considerations for your holster purchase.
Types of Concealed Carry Holsters
There are a few main types of holsters. The first one that usually comes to mind is a traditional belt holster. Most of us can picture one of these hanging outside the waistband (OWB) on the belt of a law enforcement officer or even a cowboy. Although the materials and styles can vary quite a bit nowadays, OWB holsters are made to maximize draw speed and to facilitate easy reholstering under stress.
Some OWB types of holsters are a bit bulky for concealed carry, so many modern belt holsters are slimmed down and made to be worn inside-the-waistband (IWB) to prioritize and maximize concealment. There are a variety of materials, clips and accessories to make an IWB holster work for you, including some “no-belt necessary” holsters for those who do not regularly wear a belt. Proprietary clips have also made securing these holsters directly to your pants or other clothing simple and effective.
Best OWB Holsters
Safariland 7TS: Safariland holsters, particularly those with the ALS (Automatic Locking System), are favored for their security features and durability. MSRP: $72-$87
Desantis Speed Scabbard: A classic choice known for its sleek design and reliable performance, offering secure OWB carry with quick draw capability and excellent firearm retention. MSRP: $43
Best IWB Holsters
CrossBreed Supertuck Holster: CrossBreed’s Supertuck holsters are well-regarded for their comfort, adjustable retention and ability to accommodate different concealed carry positions.
Alien Gear Cloak Tuck 3.5 IWB Holster: Versatile and comfortable, this holster stands out with its modular design, allowing for seamless customization to various carry styles while maintaining top-notch comfort for everyday use. MSRP: $64
In the past decade, the rapid growth of the concealed carry market has seen many other types of non-traditional holsters appear on the market, allowing you to carry almost any size gun nearly anywhere on your body with the right concealed carry clothing choice. There are ankle and thigh holsters, bellybands and corset holsters that stretch and wrap around the abdomen, yoga pants and compression shirts with built-in holster pockets, holsters that clip to a bra, and a wide variety of bags and purses to fit your off-body carry needs.
Concealed Carry Positions
One driving force for holster choice is the concealed carry position or location on the body you intend to use. Everyone is different, but in general, traditional carry positions are referred to as a clock position around the waistline, with 12 o’clock at your belly button, 3 o’clock on the right hip, etc. Another common concealed carry location is just behind either hip bone on the waistline, also known as the 4 o’clock position for righties. This position allows for easy access and good concealment just behind the hip.
Choosing Where to Wear Your Holster
As you are considering which type of holster to get and where to place it on your body, you should try on your most common wardrobe items and find the “gaps” in your tops. Look for any loose clothing areas around your torso or waistline where you have space to fit a firearm. A common position that works well for newer students is appendix carry. Appendix carry is a term used to describe carrying on the front of your body on either side of the belly button. It allows for a quick smooth draw and the gun is easily concealed by the loose fabric hanging down from the chest area.
Material Matters: Building Blocks of Concealed Carry Holsters
In addition to the type and location of your holster, there are a variety of holster materials that are suitable to carry a firearm safely. For many, the number-one option is Kydex. Kydex is a line of thermoplastic acrylic-polyvinyl chloride materials manufactured by a company called Sekisui SPI. Simply put, it is a plastic that can be molded to fit almost any shape with a little heat and pressure. Manufacturers can heat and wrap Kydex around a mold and produce a perfect fit for your specific firearm. This material is more lightweight and durable than many other thermoformed plastics, it retains its shape, it does not deteriorate due to moisture, and it can make for very safe and easy re-holstering.
Best Kydex Holsters
PHLster stands out as a premier choice for Kydex holsters, excelling in precision molding and crafting holsters with unmatched attention to detail, providing a secure and custom fit for various firearm models, coupled with a commitment to durability and innovative design.
Vedder Holsters distinguishes itself through meticulous craftsmanship, offering Kydex holsters that combine comfort and functionality seamlessly with adjustable retention, precise molding and a dedication to user-friendly designs, ensuring a reliable and customized concealed carry experience.
Another quality option for a holster is leather. Good quality leather can be a little more forgiving than Kydex and a little more comfortable, while at the same time being very durable. The leather will usually soften from use, which can be great for the comfort factor, but be aware that too much moisture and wear over time could make the holster flimsy and unsafe.
Best Leather Holsters
Galco is renowned for producing the finest leather holsters, mastering the art of hand-boning to create holsters that snugly fit the contours of your firearm, ensuring unparalleled retention and comfort, coupled with a commitment to traditional craftsmanship and high-quality materials.
DeSantis sets itself apart in the realm of leather holsters with the Speed Scabbard and other offerings, delivering timeless designs and meticulous attention to detail, resulting in holsters that not only exude elegance but also provide reliable OWB carry, quick draw capabilities and exceptional firearm retention.
Many holster makers are combining materials into hybrid holsters that often provide the stiffness and fit of Kydex with the comfortability of leather. These types of holsters are usually designed for IWB and combine a soft, leather “pad” for the part that touches your skin and a form-fitted Kydex shell on the pants side for securing the firearm. Some brands offer interchangeability with different Kydex shells which can be easily swapped onto the leather piece for different gun models.
How to Choose the Best Concealed Carry Holster
How do you choose the right holster? There are thousands on the market, all promising the most comfortable and effective design. Fortunately, there are three primary criteria for holster selection that will help you narrow the choices for both method of carry and the holster itself.
Read full holster reviews from concealed carry experts
Secure Your Handgun
Job one is to ensure that your handgun remains in your possession at all times. Don’t breeze by this one. You’d be amazed at how easy it is to lose a firearm when you’re engaged in vigorous activity like fighting for your life. Even running may cause you to lose your handgun. Think about it: At the first sign of trouble, assuming you have the option, running as fast as you can in the opposite direction is a pretty good idea. Losing your gun in the process would make a bad day worse.
Most quality concealed carry holsters use friction, shape molding, retention screw pressure or a combination of those to secure the handgun. And that’s not counting holsters with active retention systems that require a manual release.
Here’s a test you can try on holster candidates. Using an unloaded handgun, holster it without mounting it to your body. Now stand over a chair, couch or bed and turn the holster upside-down. Better yet, give it a couple of shakes. Did your handgun fall out? Did it almost fall out? Would it have fallen out if it were weighed down by an additional half-pound of loaded ammo? If your handgun and holster combination fails, consider re-evaluating your selection.
Protect the Trigger
An equally important holster task is protecting the trigger. It’s important to use a proper holster even when you’re carrying in a dedicated pocket. Contrary to what the news reports say, guns don’t just “go off.” With a theoretical one-in-millions exception rate, a gun “goes off” because the trigger moves backward.
A good holster will cover the trigger and protect it from hands, fingers and foreign objects. A good concealed carry holster will keep that trigger covered and protected while you get a “permanent” firing grip. This is an important detail. If your holster, in its correct position on the body, doesn’t allow you to obtain a proper pistol grip that you won’t have to adjust before firing, move on to another model.
Present Your Gun Quickly and Consistently Under Stress
An expensive gun, training classes and hundreds of hours of range time are all for naught if your holster doesn’t help you get your gun into action as quickly, safely and intuitively as possible. The holster needs to carry and support your gun in the desired orientation — and keep it that way. Whether you’re sitting, standing, walking or running, you need to be able to reach for your firearm and know precisely how it will be positioned. In other words, you should be able to draw your gun smoothly without looking.
Consistent orientation is a secondary reason it’s so important to use a proper holster when you’re purse or pocket carrying. If you reach into your bag while getting mugged only to find your gun upside-down and pointed backward, you’re going to be digging out of an even deeper hole.
Last and certainly not least, you’ll want to be able to draw your gun with one hand. On the range, using two hands is fine and seems easy and intuitive. In a life-or-death encounter, you don’t get to decide whether you have two hands available. There are an infinite number of scenarios that might cause you to defend yourself one-handed.
Invest in Your Safety
When choosing a concealed carry holster, remember that it’s the one thing standing between you and your ability to use your firearm to literally save your life. Make sure that your holster choice will support your ability to get your handgun into action in the most intense and chaotic of circumstances — even in the middle of an active fight. Don’t go cheap. Choose quality and keep the three essential holster requirements in mind.
This article is a compilation of previous blog posts authored by Tom McHale and Sara Ryan.