<strong>1.) IWB Carry Prints Less</strong></br> IWB breaks up the outline better, particularly with tighter fitting concealment garments. Being inside the trousers, the IWB holster has much less of a profile to “print,” or reveal the shape of the holstered gun beneath the concealing garment. Try on the best IWB and OWB holsters by the same makers with the same guns and then stand in front of a mirror at different angles. You’ll see for yourself.
<strong>2.) IWB Conceals Better Than OWB</strong></br> IWB lets the concealing garment ride higher without revealing the holster. When holster and gun are inside the waistband, their exposure stops at the bottom of the belt and the holster attachments (loops or clips) on that belt. When the gun is holstered outside the waistband, the bottom edge of the holster protrudes considerably beyond that. Simply put, if you have to reach for a high shelf or perform some other movement that pulls the concealing garment upward, an outisde the waistband is more likely to be revealed to view than an inside the waistband.
<strong>3.) IWB Allows For Un-Tucked Shirts</strong></br> IWB works way better than OWB under un-tucked shirts. If the weather is warm and a jacket or vest isn’t in the cards, carrying under an un-tucked shirt is a proven option. Since even un-tucked shirts, if their fronts are closed, will hug the body tighter than jackets, vests or open un-tucked shirts, IWB is clearly the way to go.
<strong>4.) IWB Requires Oversized Clothing</strong></br> Inisde the waistband, for 24-7/365 days of comfort, wants you to wear pants with larger waistbands. There is no simpler way to put it than this: When you bought the pants (or skirt, or kilt or whatever) that you are wearing, you bought it with a waistband sized to fit you. Now that waistband must encompass you and a holstered handgun, and maybe even a spare magazine pouch, too. No one should be surprised when they find things getting pretty tight around the midline. Those of us who regularly carry inside the waistband learn over the years to buy our lower garments with waistbands about an inch to 2 inches larger than normal. The belt also has to be larger. The shooter with a 32-inch waist wants trousers with 34-inch waistbands and 34-inch belts.
<strong>5.) OWB Is More Comfortable</strong></br> Why is OWB more comfortable for most people? See Point Four, immediately above. With OWB, you can use the wardrobe you already have, with no real discomfort. You just need an OWB holster that pulls the gun snugly against your lower torso, so it doesn’t lean out and reveal itself and its contents. The best OWB holsters have belt loops fore and aft, not just a loop behind the gun. This will keep the gun from tilting outward. Thank Roy Baker and his Pancake holster design, one of the most widely copied in the holster industry, which goes back to the late 1960s and early 1970s. It should be noted here that fore and aft holster loops are pretty darn effective with IWB designs, too.
<strong>6.) OWB Offers Quicker Access</strong></br> Why does IWB conceal better than OWB? For one thing, the belt pulls the gun tighter into the body than OWB. Particularly with a flat-sided pistol, that means your fingers have to dig a little harder between gun and torso to get a grasp as you begin your draw, and this can slow you down a bit. How much? With a good holster, the difference is very small…but it’s there. In International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA), the “concealed carry sport,” I’ve won matches drawing from concealment out of IWB holsters and seen others do the same. At the stratospheric level of the IDPA National Championships, though, I’ve never seen the title won by anyone who was using anything but OWB. The difference is small, but it can be meaningful, and that difference in drawing speed.
<strong>7.) OWB Re-Holsters With Ease</strong></br> After a self-defense shooting, local law enforcement will be on the way. They’re expecting a dangerous “person with a gun.” You’ve just had to shoot a criminal to save innocent human life: You are the “person with a gun.” It may have just become very important to your survival to get that gun put away swiftly and smoothly, and without problems. The IWB holster, with the gun having been drawn out of it, is under pressure from the surrounding belt. This compresses the holster and will make it slower and more awkward for you to get the gun muzzle back into the holster mouth and return the weapon to its scabbard. A steel-reinforced holster mouth is therefore imperative in IWB design, and a Kydex IWB may be even better in this respect. But, unquestionably, since the OWB is not being “pulled shut by belt pressure,” it will be the easiest of all to quickly and safely re-holster. Obviously, this element presumes that you are not carrying in a floppy holster that’s made out of chicken hide or some shapeless nylon thing that should probably carry a “Fruit of the Loom” brand tag.
<strong>8.) OWB Offers More Design Choices</strong></br> Look at the catalogs of holster companies who produce both styles. From Fobus and BlackHawk at the lower price end, to Blade-Tech to Safariland and beyond into the custom boutique holster-makers, and you’ll simply find a wider selection of OWB designs than IWB. Choice is good!
<strong>9.) Carry Position Matters</strong></br> Neither IWB nor OWB is at its best for concealment or comfort if worn at the point of the hip or the middle of the back. Worn just behind the point of the hip, the concealing garment drapes down from the latissimus dorsi and tends to hide the gun holstered there. At the point of the hip, the most protuberant part of the skeletal support structure at that part of the human body, the holster will stick out like the proverbial sore thumb. It will also chafe painfully against the ileac crest of the pelvis. It’s true of the OWB holster, and even more true of the IWB, which is being pulled inward against that bone structure by the belt. It’s the same for the center of the back, which is also hard to defend against a snatch attempt, and can exacerbate back injuries if you fall to a supine position. Placement just behind (or ahead of) the hip works better.
<strong>10.) Give Yourself Options</strong></br> I’m on the road more than I’m home as a traveling instructor, and my wardrobe varies from tailored suits for court to the “loose casual” wear I prefer on my own time. Most of us often find our weight fluctuating, and our waist sizes expanding and contracting accordingly. Some of our clothes might be sized with enlarged waistbands for IWB carry, but some not. For those reasons, my luggage contains both IWB and OWB holsters for whatever primary handgun I’ve chosen for the trip. If that’s important to someone who lives out of suitcases with space at a premium, it’s certainly also important to someone with a stable home life and plenty of places to store holsters and hang clothes.
Most law-abiding people who carry handguns regularly, particularly handguns of “serious fighting size,” tend to carry them in hip holsters. Of the vast myriad of holster designs, one primary breakdown is between holsters that carry the handgun inside the waistband (IWB) and those that carry it outside the waistband (OWB).
I began carrying a gun at the age of 12 in my dad’s jewelry store, which was legal at that time and place. That was more than half a century ago. I’ve learned a few things along the way as a full-time instructor in firearms and self-defense, and would like to share them with you now in the matter of inside the waistband (IWB) vis-à-vis outside the waistband (OWB). Let’s look at the attributes of the IWB, and then those of the OWB, and then a couple of similarities they share.
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