One of the crucial decisions you’ll make when it comes to concealed carry is choosing between an inside-the-waistband (IWB) holster and an outside-the-waistband (OWB) holster. You may wonder which handguns work best in OWB? In IWB? Which holster styles work best with which body types? We’ll discuss the details, advantages and disadvantages of each.

Let’s start with the basics. An IWB holster is designed to be worn inside your pants, providing a discreet and concealed option. On the other hand, an OWB holster is worn outside the waistband, typically attached to your belt, making your firearm more visible — especially if not wearing appropriate cover garments — but easily accessible.

IWB Holsters

IWB holsters are probably the most popular concealment holster design for carrying a handgun along the beltline. When you opt for an IWB holster, you’re choosing a method that keeps your firearm tucked away, minimizing visibility. A wide variety of designs exist today to accommodate an equally wide variety of users and handguns.

Black Kinetic Concealment IWB holster holding a Walther PPS M2

Kinetic Concealment IWB holster holding a Walther PPS M2

IWB holsters offer a snug fit against your body, reducing the chances of printing (when the outline of the gun is visible through clothing). IWB holsters are superior to OWB holsters when it comes to concealment. With IWB, the holster holds basically all but the handgun grip below the beltline, concealed by the trousers or shorts. Having loose-fitting concealed carry clothing aids in concealability.

An IWB holster is held in place by one or two spring metal clips that work best when locked over a thick, 1.5-inch trouser belt. Many modern designs are “tuckable,” so the shirt can be tucked over the top of the handgun grip and down into the waistband. The only part of the holster and gun visible are the spring clips that are locked over the belt. These can be a dead giveaway to the sharp-eyed observer (unless a cellphone or other object can be strategically placed to obscure at least one of the clips). While this style gives additional concealment to the handgun, it does slow access. The shirt has to be pulled clear — and kept clear — of the pants before the handgun can be drawn.

Pros and Cons of Inside-the-Waistband Holsters

Opting for an IWB holster prioritizes enhanced concealment, keeping your firearm discreetly tucked away inside your pants. This method minimizes visibility and reduces the chances of printing, ensuring a close and secure fit against your body. However, IWB holsters may be less comfortable. IWB holsters work best with small- to medium-sized handguns. Using them with full-sized handguns can make you miserable in short order. The draw can be slower compared to OWB holsters, but they remain an ideal choice for those who value concealed carry in various seasons.

OWB Holsters

An OWB holster conceals less of a handgun than an IWB holster because the entire handgun is positioned outside the pants. OWB holsters are often favored by those who prioritize a rapid and unrestricted draw, such as competitive shooters. This is why it’s important to select an OWB holster that pulls the carry gun as close as possible to your outer clothing and to carry it on a strong gun belt that doesn’t sag.

Because an OWB holster doesn’t place the gun inside the trousers — and in close contact with the skin — a much larger handgun

Black Beretta 92 in OWB holster from CrossBreed

Beretta 92 in OWB holster from CrossBreed

can be carried more comfortably, although more care will be needed in selecting a covering garment. An OWB holster is vastly more comfortable than an IWB because the carry belt isn’t pulling the entire holster against lightly protected skin. While some manufacturers add extra padding, most IWBs are not as comfortable for all-day carry as OWB holsters (in my opinion). OWB is the only type of carry to be considered when packing a handgun on the trail or for extended “walkaround” carry.

Pros and Cons of Outside-the-Waistband Holster

Choosing an OWB holster emphasizes a quick and easy draw, as the firearm is positioned outside your pants for rapid accessibility. This style offers comfort, especially for larger firearms, making it a versatile option for different concealed carry positions. However, increased visibility and the potential for printing are drawbacks. While concealment may be challenging in certain situations, OWB holsters excel in scenarios where a swift draw is crucial, such as competitive shooting.

How to Choose the Best Holster

Consider your lifestyle. If you’re constantly on the move in various environments, an IWB holster might be more suitable for discreetness. For those in more controlled environments or participating in shooting sports, an OWB holster may be the better choice.

Think about your preferred concealed carry gun. Larger and heavier firearms may be more comfortable in OWB holsters. If you’re carrying a compact or subcompact, an IWB holster might offer better concealment without sacrificing comfort.

Your proficiency in drawing from your chosen holster is crucial. Regular training sessions will help you overcome any drawbacks associated with your chosen carry position.

In the end, the choice between IWB and OWB holsters boils down to personal preference, lifestyle and priorities. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer, and what works for one person may not work for another. Your holster is not just an accessory. It’s a crucial part of your self-defense strategy. Consider your needs, weigh the pros and cons, and most importantly, practice with your chosen holster to ensure a seamless and safe draw in any situation.


Kinetic Concealment:
CrossBreed Holsters: