3 Things To Look For In A Concealed Carry Holster

Kentucky constitutional carry

Courtesy Oleg Volk blog.olegvolk.net

There are a large number of variables for gun owners shopping for a concealment holster: price, quality, carry style and more. But there are three major, over-arching considerations for any aspiring every concealed carrier.

Accessibility

Most defensive gun uses end without a shot being fired. The good guy shows the bad guy his gun, the bad guy abandons the attack. If lead does fly, the person who sends bullets at their target first is the likely winner. Accessibility — how quickly you can get to your gun — is a far more important than the type of gun you carry. Provided you keep control of your firearm, you can’t get to your gun too quickly.

When shopping for a carry system (gun + holster), look for a combination that gives you rapid, efficient, controlled and instinctive presentation. That could be an inside-the-waistband (IWB) or outside-the-waistband (OWB) holster positioned on your hip, your center line (a.k.a., “appendix carry”) or your ankle. It might also be a pocket carry holster.  Or a holster inside a specially-made garment.

While there are plenty of viable options, I do not recommend off-body carry. Off-body carry (e.g., in a handbag or briefcase) isn’t ideal for accessibility and it’s inherently dangerous. By the same token, not every carry system is suitable for every person, given their body shape, dress, motor skills, etc. The only way you’re going to know what works for you: try it.

Courtesy Alien Gear Holsters

If you can find a friendly gun store with a suitable holster selection, ask the owner if you can try various options with your safety-checked firearm, while wearing the clothes that you intend to wear most often when you’re carrying. If not, you may have to join the tens of thousands of gun owners who’ve got shoeboxes stuffed with holsters that didn’t work out.

Concealment

A lot of gun people say “concealed means concealed.” In other words, they don’t want people to know they’re carrying a gun — especially in places where “gun muggles” might freak out if they suddenly realize they’re packing. If that’s you, choose a carry system that hides your handgun without “printing” (revealing itself by making an impression on the cover garment).

Again, it’s a process of trial and error, using various carry system with your normal clothes. All your clothes. You may have different clothing for different occasions that require different carry systems. A scrubs-wearing doctor with an ankle holster may switch to an IWB holster when he changes into casual clothes. Women wear dresses, skirts, shorts and pants; all of which may require a different carry system.

IWB concealed carry

Courtesy Sara Tipton

That said, “printing” isn’t illegal, even in open carry-restricted areas. Second, 45 states allow some form of open carry, where you can wear your gun in plain view, without compromising accessibility for concealment. You can, for example, wear an OWB holster openly and cover it with your shirt when the law requires you to do so.

Comfort

Gun guy Clint Smith once said, a gun should be comforting not comfortable. I beg to differ. If your carry system isn’t comfy to wear, there’s less of a chance you’ll wear it. You may find yourself violating the first rule for winning a gunfight: carry a gun.

open carry i vote gun in holster

(AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

How do you know if a carry system will be comfortable all day, through a range of activities (driving, walking, shopping, working in the backyard, carrying a kid, etc.)? You guessed it: you have to try it. Which brings us back to your personal Land of Misfit Holsters — an expensive place to visit.

It took me several holsters, a couple of hundred dollars, and almost three months of concealing to be able to wear any outfit I want while concealing effectively and comfortably. But it’s worth it. Good luck on your journey.

comments

  1. avatar Gliderguy says:

    “…Land of Misfit Holsters – an expensive place to visit.” That nugget was worth reading the whole article for. Some holster manufacturer is gonna want to license that phrase from you.

    1. avatar Perry says:

      +1. I have 2 in the Box of Misfit Holsters. I am not afraid to add to that box.

      I carry a Blade Tech Nano at 4 o-clock. Very minimal. I custom-formed some Kydex belt-loops because the draw angle matters.

  2. avatar Darkman says:

    In the world on concealed carry. So many people live inside a “1 meter box” they rarely notice if someone is carry a firearm or a cell phone carrier. I watch people to see if they react to the signs of conceal carry. I’ve seen on other people who were carrying. The tell tale bump in the shirt is the big one. The few people who tend to notice if a person is carrying concealed are other carriers.

    1. avatar Dan from Detroit says:

      Very true.
      I was at an event that naturally attracts police, fire, emt/hospital people to volunteer as help.
      One new older guy came in and I asked “hey man, what are you carrying? You with one of the police agencies?”
      He was flabbergasted and immediately nervous. I just said “You’re not printing, but I can see you’re wearing a solid belt meant for carrying concealed. I’m a walther guy with a pps for my edc, how bout you?” He said he’d never been spotted like that before. I said he probably had, but only by other friendlies. He also said his edc was a pps.
      Then we talked guns/knives with some of the other volunteers.

    2. avatar Perry says:

      I buy shirts one size larger. The blousing (triple layer) mostly obscures the steel.

  3. avatar Geoff "Ammo. LOTS of ammo..." PR says:

    I hope to see more of Sara in the near future here. Her perspective is sorely missed… 🙂

    (And where does Oleg Volk find all those sexy women?)

    1. avatar Specialist38 says:

      Are we crushing a little on Sara, Geoff? 😍

      1. avatar Perry says:

        Sara’s 4 o’clock carry is not hard on the eyes. Just sayin’.

        1. avatar Specialist38 says:

          LOL. She is a handsome lady.

  4. avatar GS650G says:

    It’s hard to determine the best holster without taking the iron into a store and spending a lot of time with a variety of holsters. Certain guns are better with specific holsters and if you’re lucky you can buy a winning combination.

    1. avatar Hush says:

      I have several holsters for my daily carry gun but regardless the weight on the belt has always been a problem. Some days I wear a pair of suspenders with a cover garment and the suspenders take the weight off my belt and waist. This makes carry all day much easier. Shoulder holsters make a difference too.

  5. avatar OldSarge says:

    I use a level 2 retention holster and open carry. I may wear my shirt over it but don’t care if it prints. If someone tries to grab my pistol I carry a switchblade on the opposite side. I can latch onto my pistol with my strong side hand and attack the offending hand/arm with sharp steel.
    I believe open carry would discourage predators in the first place. Why attack a sheep dog when you want a sheep?

    1. avatar Montana Actual says:

      Open carry needs to happen more. The only reason we conceal at all is infringements and feelings. I open carry in a movie theater the rare occasion we go there, and walk right past the stupid “don’t defend yourself” sign. Never had a problem. Someone wants to bring it up, they lose my business. Plain and simple.

      1. avatar Five says:

        +1 for “Don’t Defend Yourself” Sign. Nice description.

  6. avatar Ralph says:

    And one thing not to look for in a concealed carry holster — the gun. Because if you can see the gun, it isn’t concealed.

  7. avatar Jimmy James says:

    The first thing to look for in a ccw holster is one that doesn’t point at your femoral artery.

  8. avatar Silentbrick says:

    Steathgear is the one for my EDC. It really is a must here in Texas for the backing to be that nice breathable mesh that Steathgear has. Ventcore it’s called. Worth it, so very worth it. Add in the plastic belt clips which really are quite sturdy and it’s a real winner for hot climes.

    Even here in Texas, it’s comfortable enough for me to wear with shorts and a single shirt, though I usually prefer an undershirt as well.

    1. avatar MtnDewey says:

      I also have a Stealth gear IWB, I like it except for the length. It takes up your whole side and can barely use your back pocket. I went back to my small Kydex I have had for almost a decade.

  9. avatar Negligent Discharge says:

    Should be nothing to look for if it’s the right holster.

  10. avatar Accur81 says:

    Vedder light tuck IWB in police blue carbon with a vedder gun belt. Works great from by Smith BG .380, 365, 365 XL, and G19.

  11. avatar jakee308 says:

    As far as expense when trying out, don’t try leather. It’s not that good for day to day anyway and way too expensive.

    Use the synthetic, man made material holsters with velcro closure and stretchy bands to secure a fit for the gun and for you.

    Try holsters for air soft products they’re very inexpensive and are usually man made materials that will take teflon spray and other stuff to clean and prevent damage from sweat.

  12. avatar Bigus Dickus says:

    One of my favorite holsters to use is my Sneaky Pete, it carries my Shield 9. It’s as close to open carry as you can get and never gets a second look in public.

  13. avatar GunnyGene says:

    This one of those clothing items that should absolutely be tailored made. Buying a holster off the shelf is a waste of time and money. Find a good leather holster craftsman and get one made for you and your gun. For y’all who complain “but, ma money”: How much is your life worth?

  14. avatar Hoodlum says:

    I have several holsters most are OWB
    Tucker gun leather for 2
    Vedder for another.
    But the most comfortable IWB holster I had was by BlackArchHolsters.

  15. avatar Montana Actual says:

    In 2020 if you are buying a holster and it’s not as strong on both sides as kydex, or pretty much if it’s not kydex, you are not paying attention and need to do some more research on why kydex has taken over the market.

    You will try multiple holsters, on multiple locations. You might even entirely adjust your wardrobe. Your body, your clothes, your gun, your holster all play a vital part in concealing and comfort when concealing daily.

    That said, why not just open carry? /s not /s

    1. avatar Specialist38 says:

      Leather has its place and kydex is great for a lot of applications.

      My Bianchi Pistol Pockets offer good comfort, retention, and access. I have them for my J frames, Beretta 92, and now the Glock 48. The hols the pistol a little higher than many kydex holsters and are easier to conceal with some cover garments.

      I like the Dara IWB holster for my G43. I just bought a BraDec holster for my G48 and it is superb for retention and low carry. The Dara has more belt clip options with j clip and a rounded clip in addition to the standard. Since kydex is hard, I find it fits in fewer positions comfortably than leather.

      For OWB carry, leather wins. Especially if you want a thumbsnap (I do – with OWB). Kydex OWB holster fit like a dinner plate for the most part. I guess they work for open carry but lack of a retention strap is a deal breaker for most models. I like the Bianchi pancake, and the Galco Fletch, but really like the DeSantis Thumbreak Mini-Slide for the G43 and G48. Just wish with they made one for the LCR.

      So I’ve done a little research and leather wins for a lot of applications.

      1. avatar Montana Actual says:

        wut? You can find kydex with retention straps. Safari land has tons of applications as such, and it’s the same stuff as kydex, polymer, plastic – whatever you want to call it. Leather does not win, at all actually. It deforms, it loosens, and it’s not as strong. I mean, it’s rare it’s not weak in comparison, but the belt loops on 90% of leather holsters are just that – leather. Again, there is a reason kydex is the new go to. It’s really personal choice, but in terms of durability, retention, interchangeable parts, and heavy duty use – kydex definitely takes the cake. I take it you don’t have a “range belt” – something like the condor lcs with a couple rifle mags, a couple pistol mags, a blow out IFAK, and a holster that allows for drawing during range time especially below a plate carrier… because zero leather holsters accommodate the modern warrior. Seriously, look into safariland holsters for your level 3 retention needs. https://safariland.com/pages/holster-finder#/

        1. avatar Specialist38 says:

          Yeah. Kydex with retention straps mostly sucks.

          Kydex sales are up because everyone and their fat dog sells them.

          Plastic is cheap so the profit margin is much higher.

          Kinda like eyeglass lenses. They are lighter but glass has much better optic clarity.

          But…most lenses are plastic because more money is made.

          I’ll use kydex when it does something better for me and I’m the one that decides that.

          If you think leather is weak, I suggest some better makers.

        2. avatar Specialist38 says:

          I did check your link. For a Glock 48.

          All the OWB holsters with a thumbreak were……leather.

        3. avatar Specialist38 says:

          My belt is my range belt. I practice the way I carry.

          Dont have a plate carrier since I dont EDC one.

          Not on patrol…..just a guy with a gun….or two.

          I have No problems with any quality holster….i even own a couple of serpas … not really kydex. And never had a round go off as I dont draw with my finger in the trigger guard.

        4. avatar Montana Actual says:

          The straps are leather, sometimes. I am certain you are missing the point and if you like leather, then do your own thing. I train like I carry too… I also train for more involved scenarios.

    2. avatar Specialist38 says:

      Open carry is illegal in Florida for the most part.

      Even if it was legal, I would mostly carry concealed……like a ninja.

  16. avatar Specialist38 says:

    Maybe the gun community could do a gunny version of “flat stanley”.

    I could take my box of holsters and send it down the line.

    They could try holsters and take a picture of them plus gun if they find one they like and send it on to the next person.

    Everyone has a box of holsters……maybe two…..hmmmm…the older you are ..the bigger the box.

  17. avatar Anymouse says:

    I’d think safety would be #1. If a holster doesn’t cover and protect the trigger, it isn’t useful. If it doesn’t keep the holster from falling out during vigorous movement, it doesn’t really protect the trigger and isn’t useful. I’ve had holsters that flexed too much and released the magazine when I bumped the grip into a wall.
    Then there’s safety in drawing the gun or falling on it. A small-of-back holster can injure you if an attacker knocks you over or you slip on ice, etc. As others have mentioned, appendix can point at something you “don’t want to destroy,” as can using a horizontal shoulder holster.

    1. avatar Perry says:

      +1 on trigger protection and retention.

      My personal CC (Glock) has a 5# trigger. The firearm is about 2# loaded. That means that the trigger can’t be depressed unless I apply an additional 3# while holstering. Math Matters. I can wiggle, but never push the firearm into the holster.

      Once into the holster, it’s like a cobra in a basket. Still quite dangerous, but controlled.

    2. avatar Jackass jim says:

      All you younguns should learn about revolvers. Covering the trigger on a holstered revolver is essentially pointless.

  18. avatar 45 Twenty Twenty says:

    I am one of the lucky ones. While waiting, and waiting for my IL CCL I did a lot of research. Asked a lot of questions and found TTGunleather. My CZ75 Compact & CZ2075 Rami are all day okay and they love leather. Also found The Beltman and use a 1.75″ double ply. Awesome. $$? Yep. Buy once, cry once.

  19. avatar Hoodlum says:

    While Kydex is practical. I just couldn’t stomach putting one of my Berettas or wheel guns in it.

    1. avatar Cloudbuster says:

      The only Kydex holsters I like are by FIST. They make ultra-thin stitched kydex holsters. Because of the way they’re made their form factor actually has more in common with leather holsters. The K2 High Ride is my go-to. I’ve bought it for a couple different guns

  20. avatar Cloudbuster says:

    Accessibility, concealability, comfort. Are there really people who read TTAG that need to be told this? This isn’t even really good as something you forward to a newbie holster buyer, as it doesn’t really resolve any of the struggles holster buyers encounter trying to satisfy those three requirements. The advice to try holsters on at your local gun store is fine, as far as it goes, but you still probably won’t realize a holster’s flaws until you’ve dealt with it day-to-day for a little bit. The “shoebox stuffed with holsters” is hard to avoid.

    I had to buy a lot of gimmick holsters myself before the obvious truth that what’s tried and true (IWB or OWB holsters at 3 or 4 o’clock) is tried and true for a reason. And then I had to go through a lot of IWB and OWB holsters before I found ones that matched my particular lifestyle (always with firm retention and full barrel cover, because I spend a good amount of time on horseback and nothing will ruin your day more than having a gun bumped right out of the holster due to a rough trot or a badly-timed bang against a saddle cantle).

    The only non-standard holsters that I’ve never soured on are Wilderness Safepacker holsters as ranch work or rough country holsters ( think they’re too big and clunky for concealment holsters, though they advertise them as that) — they really protect the gun and keep it secure — and DeSantis Nemesis pocket holsters for guns small enough to pocket carry.

    1. avatar Specialist38 says:

      I think the target is someone who might be new to the game here in the last few months.

      1. avatar SoCalJack says:

        So a new shooter wont have to learn the hard (expensive) way like we did. Through the years, I must have spent over $400 total in CCW holsters for my Shield 9mm until finding the right one from LLOD, and that one cost $140!

  21. I didn’t read ALL the comments,, just the good ones…..

    But how about RETENTION! Someone said, and I agree, carrying concealed shouldn’t be comfortable, but comforting.

  22. avatar possum says:

    All states should honor Constitutional Carry. No one should need a permission slip to be armed.

  23. avatar MtnDewey says:

    the third picture is a great way to show other assets as well….

  24. avatar Piginablanket says:

    Leather lined leather holsters are best. They’re stiff and will last a lifetime as long as you don’t use any softeners on them. They tool and stamp really well because of the thickness and they protect the finish of your firearm better than dragging it across the meat side of leather filled with dirt and grit. Now try to find a leather lined holster that’s not for a single action colt style weapon, there’s your challenge. From someone who makes his own and for friends. There’s nothing like a Model 10 wrapped in a leather lined pancake.

  25. avatar Steve Huey says:

    Leather for me. Try hand crafted options from Hunter in Colorado and online
    Wide variety and top quality.
    I use cross draw for SW 38 Spec BG Revolver.

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