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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.