With literally hundreds of options on the market, choosing a concealed carry holster can be a confusing task. There are also tons of holster reviews floating around on the internet. However, instead of being helpful, those reviews often make the decision process even more difficult.
Unfortunately, what works perfectly for one concealed carrier could be torture for another. Ultimately, the best type of holster is whatever safely, discreetly, and comfortably holds your firearm while allowing easy access to that weapon when you need it. What that holster will look like depends on your weapon, body type, carry style, and wardrobe choices.
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What Makes a Holster Good for Concealed Carry?
Although the needs of individual carriers differ, there are a few qualities every concealed carry holster should possess.
- Concealability – If the holster doesn’t help you carry your sidearm discreetly, it isn’t really a “concealed” carry holster.
- Retention – Retention is important because you need your firearm to stay in the holster until you draw it. A good holster will firmly secure your weapon through all the activities of your day.
- Security – Not only should your holster securely hold your firearm, but the holster must also securely attach to your body or your clothing. A holster that falls from its place of concealment is not safe nor effective.
- Safety – A quality holster should cover the weapon’s entire trigger guard to prevent accidental discharge.
- Handgun Protection – A concealed carry handgun spends a lot of time pressed against your body. The holster should provide a barrier between you and the sidearm to prevent corrosive sweat and oil from damaging the finish. The holster’s interior should also prevent wear and tear on your sidearm, especially during drawing and holstering movements.
- Promotes a Proper Grip – Your CCW holster should allow you to easily, quickly, and smoothly acquire a full combat grip before your weapon leaves the holster. That way your gun is ready to enter the fight as soon as it is drawn. Seconds are precious during self-defense situations and you should never have to fumble with your weapon or shift your grip before you can fire your sidearm.
- Promotes Holstering – The opening of a good CCW holster should be rigid and retain its shape, even when the weapon isn’t in it. If the mouth of the holster collapses, re-holstering becomes a nightmare, especially in high-adrenaline situations.
- Comfort – If a holster isn’t comfortable, you are less likely to wear it. A firearm on your person is a thousand times more useful in a dangerous encounter than the one you left in the safe because wearing your holster is an unpleasant experience. The best concealed carry holsters are the ones you can easily forget you are wearing.
Best Types of Concealed Carry Holsters
There is no one perfect type of concealed carry holster. The type of holster that will work best depends on too many variables (your body, weapon of choice, lifestyle, etc.) to crown one type king of them all.
However, here is a quick run-down of the most popular CCW holster styles. These holster types are popular because they work well for a wide range of concealed carriers.
IWB (Inside the Waistband) Holster
The IWB holster is hands-down the most popular option for concealed carry. Carrying inside the waistband has several advantages. First, it makes the weapon easy to conceal. All you really need is a loose-fitting shirt or a jacket, and your CCW weapon virtually disappears. Second, IWB allows you to easily access your weapon when you need it.
Most IWB holsters can be positioned anywhere around your waist. Common carry positions include over the appendix, on the hip, slightly behind the hip (at the 4 o’clock position), and small of the back. Not all holsters will work in every position. The cant of the weapon needs to be slightly different for each position to allow for a solid grip when you draw your firearm. Most high-end IWB holsters provide some level of adjustability to help you customize the angle of carry to suit your favorite position and your draw stroke.
Belly Band Holster
Belly Band holsters are a smart option for deep concealment. They also offer a secure way to carry your sidearm when your wardrobe choices don’t work well with an IWB. For example, a belly band works well with elastic-waisted pants or shorts. Belly bands are a popular option for jogging.
These versatile holsters also allow you to covertly carry your weapon if you prefer less conventional concealed carry attire, including crop tops, skirts, or dresses.
Some concealed carriers prefer a belly band because the holster helps hug the weapon close to your body, which minimizes printing no matter what you’re wearing.
Although an ankle holster might not be the best option for concealing a full-size 1911, these discreet holsters are perfect for micro-pistols and snub nose revolvers. If you need a holster for a backup gun, an ankle holster might be your best bet.
The biggest drawback to ankle holsters is accessibility. You have to bend over and hike up your pants to draw your firearm. The process can require some fumbling and could cost you several valuable seconds getting your firearm out of the holster and into the fight. However, if it is the only feasible way for you to carry your CCW, it’s a better option than leaving it at home.
Other less-popular options for concealed carry include the OWB (outside the waistband) holster, pocket holster, and shoulder holster. While these work well for some, they tend to either compromise concealability, safety, or access to your weapon.
In this article, we discussed the most popular holster styles for concealed carry. These types are popular because they work well for a large percentage of CCW permit holders. However, if you aren’t the typical carrier, either in lifestyle, body construction, or wardrobe preferences, there are plenty of other options on the market. Thankfully, there are thousands of concealed carry holsters available to modern shooters. Ultimately, the best type of holster for concealed carry is the one that safely secures your weapon and is comfortable enough for you to wear every day.