<strong>Holster Materials</strong></br> Leather or molded plastic are usually your two best choices for holsters. Leather requires a little break-in period and will eventually stretch over time. This stretching molds to the gun and to your body so they become more comfortable as they age. If it gets too loose, simply dunk it in warm water for 20 to 30 seconds and let it dry overnight. There are lots of good thermoplastics like Kydex and injection-molded plastics used for holsters. Thermoplastics are molded with heat, so leaving it on a car dash on a hot day may cause it to warp and be ruined. They require no break-in period and will never stretch, but they will never conform or get more comfortable either. If any part of the holster (such as a belt clip) has to flex, it may break there eventually. Plastic holsters can grip parts of the gun such as the triggerguard and click it into place with friction far better than leather. Both leather and molded plastic are excellent material for holsters, but for completely different reasons. (Pictured: <a target="blank" href="http://www.miltsparks.com/Nexus.htm">Milt Sparks Nexus IWB</a>)
<strong>Weapon Retention</strong></br> Keeping the gun in the holster is important. We have all heard stories of someone accidentally dropping a gun in a public place. Cops worry about someone grabbing their gun out of their holster. If you carry concealed, you don’t need to worry about this nearly as much as a cop, because no one should know you have it unless you draw down on them. An open-top holster is fine for most people. If you are athletic and like to do handstands in the park with your kids, I recommend some type of retention device like a thumb-break snap. Just make sure you can disengage any retention device during your natural drawing motion. (Pictured: <a target="blank" href="http://www.safariland.com/paddle/model-6378-als-paddle-holster-23341.html">Safariland 6378 ALS with Paddle</a>)
<strong>IWB Holsters</strong></br> IWB holsters are typically worn at the 1 o’clock position, and anywhere from the 3 o’clock to the 6 o’ clock. They offer the maximum in concealability, but many people find them uncomfortable. As a general rule, you will need to buy pants 2 inches bigger in the waist to wear an IWB. There are a lot of great companies making IWB holsters in both leather and Kydex. Some IWBs can also be worn outside the pants but inside the belt. Some even allow a shirt to be tucked into the pants, over the holster. Gun grips tend to be lot tougher than skin so wearing an undershirt is a must, unless you buy a holster that has some type of backing that prevents the gun from rubbing against you.
<strong>OWB Holsters</strong></br> OWBs are probably the most popular style of holster. These are typically worn from the 3 o’clock back to the 6 o’ clock, but also can be worn from the 9 to 11 o’clock as a crossdraw. Crossdraw holsters are excellent for someone who spends most of their time seated and may have to draw from that position. However, they present the gun, butt first, toward an adversary. They are also typically slower to get on target than a pistol carried on the strong side. Most OWB holsters worn on the strong side will come with the “FBI cant,” meaning that the gun is tilted slightly forward. This is to aid in concealment. The grip remains the toughest part of the pistol to conceal. Canting the holster forward slightly makes the telltale bulge under a shirt or jacket much less obvious. This cant also makes it easier to draw when the gun is positioned further back on your body, typically in the 4 o’clock position, right behind your “love handle.” (Pictured: <a target="blank" href="http://aliengearholsters.com/holsters/alien-gear-products/alien-gear-cloak-slide-owb-holster-outside-the-waistband.html">Alien Gear Cloak Slide OWB</a>)
<strong>Pocket Carry</strong></br> The worst thing about a pocket holster is that you lose the use of that pocket for a wallet, keys or incidentals. However, on a hot day, when you are wearing shorts or can’t wear a belt, pocket holsters are excellent for concealment. With a little practice, they are easy to draw from. Most have a little tab at the bottom on the front or the back. That tab is supposed to hook onto the pocket as the pistol is drawn to keep it from coming out with the pistol.
<strong>Shoulder Rigs</strong></br> While they have the same advantages and disadvantages as crossdraw holsters, shoulder holsters are extremely comfortable, and are often excellent at concealment. Women who do not want a baggy shirt or jacket concealing their waist will often find that a shoulder holster easily conceals a small-frame pistol when they put a short jacket or open blouse over the top of it.
<strong>Ankle Holsters</strong></br> Ankle holsters range from super comfortable to excruciatingly painful depending on the amount of padding, whether the gun rests on your ankle bone and how tightly it is strapped. They can become exposed when seated as pant legs ride up, but they make most smaller-framed weapons almost disappear. However, they are very slow to draw from, require practice hiking the pant leg before drawing and are generally impossible to get to while physically fighting with someone. That said, they remain my favorite type of holster if I cannot wear one on my waist.
<strong>Hidden In Plain Sight</strong></br> Women carry purses and men can usually get away with carrying a backpack, messenger bag or attaché. All of these can be purchased with hidden holsters built in. While they are excellent at concealment, they are also easily snatched away by a thief, can easily be left unattended in a shopping cart or restaurant table, and are vulnerable to the exploring hands of curious children. While these holsters certainly have their place, a lot of extra precautions and care should be taken when using them. (Pictured: <a target="blank" href="http://shop.concealedcarrie.com/all-products/compact-carrie-30.html">Concealed Carrie Bright Red Leather Compact</a>)
<strong>Exotic CCW Methods</strong></br> Exotics is the category where I put the more unusual holsters: Belly bands, fanny packs, thigh holsters, jackets with hidden pockets, day planners, underwear holsters, triggerguard clips, trigger blocks and Kleenex boxes. There are good reasons why these types of holsters are unusual. However, when faced with an unusual circumstance such as participating in a wedding, going to the beach, or simply jogging, you may need to resort to an exotic to be able to carry without detection. If you find you cannot carry in your normal method, you may need to start looking at this list. (Pictured: <a target="blank" href="http://www.blackhawk.com/product/Belt-Pouch-Holster,781,34.htm">BLACKHAWK! Belt Pouch Holster</a>)
<strong>Carry With Confidence</strong></br> Although I do not recommend the world of CCW to all adults, I do recommend it to all adults who are responsible, mature, willing to make sacrifices and willing to practice. Guns are heavy, guns are uncomfortable, and they require commitment. However, there are a large number of manufacturers today who make excellent holsters to minimize the discomfort, maximize the ease of use and help to keep you safe in a world that that never will be.
As a plainclothes federal agent, I have been carrying a concealed weapon almost everyday of my life for over 15 years. I have taught concealed carry tactics to both novice shooters and experts alike. I have plastic storage bins full of holsters I have bought. A carry pistol needs to be properly concealed, secure and quickly accessible. This almost always means using a holster. Carrying a gun without any of these requirements invites embarrassment and tragedy. Like firearms, I recommend trying out lots of different holsters before you decide which one will work best for you. Scroll through the gallery above to learn the top 10 tips for choosing the right holster.
This article was originally published in the 2015 issue of CONCEALED CARRY HANDGUNS. Subscription is available in print and digital editions below.
This ambidextrous 5.56mm pistol packs in tons of power in a portable package.
by Michael Humphries / Oct 20, 2014