Holsters 101 – How to Buy Holsters

IWB Gun HolsterGun Holster Guide – An Overview

These days, the amount of holsters out there can create a bit of confusion and can often leave someone wondering what is right for them with so many options out there.

A lot people new to concealed carry may not even be aware of alternative options. All this can end up with a lot of wasted money of holsters that don’t work and aren’t right for the user.

This post is going to cover the basic holster designs, holster methods, and the needs and methods of carry they address. Examples of quality versions of these holsters will be provided to give the reader a better understanding of the holster and how it can best serve them.

These examples are in no particular order, and the first and last are not a list of best to use first, or vice versa, just the best method to put them together.

First one needs to understand the most common materials used in making holsters.

Leather Gun Holster

Leather Gun Holster

Leather Holsters – one of the oldest forms of making gun holsters is leather. Leather is a tough and stylish material that was the standard for holsters for centuries.

Leather is still a popular option and is often cited the most comfortable for IWB carry and are the most stylish. Leather Holsters can be molded to specific weapons, or act as a universal holster.

Kydex Holster

Kydex Holster

Kydex- Kydex is the new standard in holster manufacturing.

Kydex is an advanced polymer that is considered extremely tough. Kydex is used extensively by military and law enforcement.

Kydex does not rip or tear, it does not absorb sweat, gun oils, or any moisture. Kydex requires no special cleaning materials. Kydex can be molded for specific weapons to increase in retention.

Nylon – Nylon holsters are often the most economical option for carrying. Nylon is a tough water resistant material. Nylon holsters are most often universal holsters that are not molded for one type of handgun.

Nylon holster are most used for OWB and shoulder holsters.

These three materials are the most common used in holsters, but newer materials occasionally make their way into the mix as well. These materials can be combined to produce crossbreed holsters of different materials and to take advantage of each material’s strength.

Outside Waistband Holster

The oldest style of pistol wear has been around since some of the first pistols were carried. This type of wear has been used for centuries. OWB holsters have sub-categories we will address later since outside the waistband is such an open statement.

For this article, outside the waistband will be considered holsters worn on the strong side, or in a cross draw position.

Strong being the side with the dominant hand, cross draw is the opposite side with the grip of the gun reversed to facilitate the dominant hand crossing the body to draw the weapon. Cross draw is considered out of date and is rarely used for a primary handgun, but often back up handguns or tasers are carried in this method.

OWB Carry is often considered the most comfortable method of carry and is the most common among law enforcement. OWB does require a covering garment for concealed carry, and this can range from a jacket to a baggy shirt.

Outside the waistband is typically one of the faster draw methods when used strong side. The OWB style of carry does make moving inside tight areas tricky, and can make simple actions like buckling up in a car difficult. OWB is the easiest way to carry a full sized duty weapon comfortably.

Good OWB Holsters:

Blackhawk SERPA Holster

Blackhawk SERPA Holster

BLACKHAWK! SERPA – The SERPA is an extremely modern design, made entirely of kydex. The SERPA is modular and can be mounted to a variety of different holster platforms including waist, leg rig, shoulder, and chest carry.

GALCO Speed Scabbard – A classic leather holster design by one of the most revered leather holster makers. The Speed Scabbard emphasizes comfort of carry and speed of draw featuring its active retention capabilities.

Visit Gun Holsters Unlimited’s OWB Holster section for a full selection.

Inside the Waistband

Inside Waistband Holster

Inside Waistband Holster

Inside the waistband, or IWB is another extremely popular method carry among concealed carry practitioners. The IWB holster hides the gun inside of your pants and fits between your body and your pants.

IWB is one of the most concealable methods of carry, and requires only a slight portion of the gun to be concealed, usually meaning a t shirt is capable of being a cover garment in some cases.

IWB is a love it or hate it affair. The key if being realistic about the gun a person carries. A Glock 30 carries a lot easier and lot more comfortably than a Glock 21.

A proper holster and belt is also important. A fitted holster, meaning the holster is designed for that model of gun, is often much more comfortable than a universal IWB holster.

To carry IWB you may find yourself having to buy pants that are a bit larger than normal to keep the pants comfortable and to fit the weapon.

IWB Holsters

El Paso Summer Cruiser Holster

El Paso Summer Cruiser Holster

EL PASO Summer Cruiser- This open top design is built to carry you weapon at a slight forward cant and is designed with a strong side carry preferred.

The holster is made from leather is very comfortable for daily wear. The mouth of the holster is reinforced with a thin metal layer to insure easy and quick reholstering.

GALCO KingTuk – The Kingtuk is a crossbreed style holsters featuring the use of both leather and kydex. The portion is what makes contact with the skin, and ensures a chafe free experience.

The kydex portion is molded for each gun and ensures an easy draw, and reholster as well as years of use. The belt clips can also be adjusted for individual user needs.

Appendix Carry

This is an offshoot of inside the waistband holster, but deserves it’s own category. Appendix carry is exactly what it sounds like, a holster tucked into the front of your pants.

Most people point to the body’s natural curve in that area as promoting an increased level of comfort. Appendix carry is particularly popular with women and several companies has stepped forward to fill the growing popularity of this style of carry.

Appendix Holsters

Blade Tech Klipt Holster

Blade Tech Klipt Holster

Blade TECH Klipt Appendix holster– This all kydex holster is extremely thin and therefore very comfortable. Designed to carry compact weapons the Blade Tech Klipt is immensely popular. The light weight low profile nature of the holster insures that your weapon stays concealed, and the oversized metal clip keeps it in place all day.

Small of the Back Holsters

This is an alternative outside the waistband holster. Many consider outside the waist band more comfortable, but are nervous of printing or having the weapon in a predictable area.

Small of back carry also known as SOB carry prevents the holsters from being in a predictable position.

SOB carry proponents often point to the advantage of having a weapon near the wallet position in the situation one is mugged they can access the weapon without raising suspicion.

Small of the back holsters usually rides horizontal instead of vertical, increasing their overall ease of concealment.

Desantis Small of Back Holster

Desantis Small of Back Holster

SOB Holsters:

Desantis 067 SOB – A leather horizontal holster by Desantis. This holster is designed for sub compact automatics and can ride left or right side, or center.

The holster features an aggressive upward cant to present the weapon to the hand without a visual from the user. The high quality leather is both attractive and functional for comfort and is extremely lightweight.

Shoulder Holsters

Shoulder holsters have been around for much longer than most people give them credit for. The shoulder holster was pioneered and near perfected in the old west. The shoulder holstered weapon often being either a surprise or an ace in the hole. The Shoulder holster became popular with dust bowl outlaws like John Dillinger. The shoulder holster has continued to be popular.


Shoulder Holster

Shoulder Holster

Shoulder Holsters

Shoulder Holsters are excellent for a number of reasons. The Shoulder holster is perfect for someone who finds themselves driving for a majority of their day.

Delivery drivers and professional chauffeurs and taxi drivers are the perfect candidate for the shoulder holster. The same goes for bodyguards filling the position of driver.

Drawing the weapon from a seated position is much faster and much easier with a shoulder holster.The shoulder holster is incredibly comfortable as long as weather permits a covering garment.

Shoulder holsters are also excellent for concealing large pistols, including duty sized handguns.

A proper shoulder holster can disburse the weight of any weapon evenly across the shoulders and guarantee all day comfort for the wearer.

Shoulder holsters come in two varieties – horizontal and vertical. The user will decide their preference.

Typically, horizontal is perfect for duty sized weapons and is a faster method of drawing. Vertical is better for concealing large frame revolvers but is often slower than horizontal draw.

Best Shoulder Holsters:

Galco Miami Classic Holster

Galco Miami Classic Holster

Miami Classic – The Miami Classic has long been the standard for comfortable and effective shoulder holsters. The Miami classic is designed and built by Galco and is one of the most comfortable shoulder holsters in existence.

Made from fine leather, the Galco Miami Classic is capable of carrying the largest and heaviest automatics with ease. The Miami Classic gained it’s name and fame from the television show Miami Vice where it was worn by several characters.

Desantis BodyGuard – The Desantis bodyguard holster is made from lightweight nylon. Nylon is extremely weather resistant and capable of being subjected to sweat and rain.

Desantis Bodyguard Shoulder Holster

Desantis Bodyguard Shoulder Holster

The Body Guard is a holster than rides high, which aids in concealment and comfort as well as weight disbursement.

The Body guard features slots for two weapons, or a weapon and any additional tools an operator may needs like extra magazines, handcuffs, or a flashlight. The Body Guard holster is ambidextrous and made for use with small automatics of J frame revolvers.

Desantis M40 – The Desantis M40 is for the largest frame revolvers. The holster is designed for serious revolvers like the 44 Magnum, the 454 Casull and even the 500 S&W revolvers.

The holster is not so much for defensive concealed carry but for hunting revolvers and is meant to be worn vertically across the chest. The holster supports the heavy weight of any revolver and allows a hands free approach to aid in navigating the roughest terrain.

Ankle Carry

Ankle Carry

Ankle Carry

Ankle carry is considered the slowest of draws, but is also one of the easiest to conceal.

Ankle carry holsters are designed to securely hold a weapon on what is basically an all-day pendulum.

Ankle carry is slow, but easy to access while standing or even laying on the ground. Ankle holsters are extremely easy to conceal with only the length of pants being a restriction.

Ankle carry is an excellent way to carry a backup weapon. Ankle carry is quite comfortable with the right holster but is limited to sub compact and micro compact weapons.

Ankle carry is almost impossible to detect simply because the weapon is slow on the body rarely do people look to your ankles. Ankle carry is not always optimum, but it does fill a niche that is hard to fill elsewhere.

Ankle Gun Holsters

BlackHawk Ankle Holster – From famed tactical company, Blackhawk, their ankle holster is made from entirely nylon. This nylon holster is designed to fit a wide variety of weapons within 3-4 inches for barrel length.

The Blackhawk nylon holster features two straps to connect ot the ankle that are both padded and soft to provide all day comfort for the wearer. The weapon is secured by a thumb strap that is adjustable. The Blackhawk Ankle rig is an incredibly comfortable holster that is very easy to wear.

Galco Ankle Glove

Galco Ankle Glove

Galco Ankle Glove – The Galco Ankle glove is one of the most absolute comfortable ankle holsters on the market. The weapon truly fits like a glove and has earned its name. The Galco Ankle Glove fits and feels extremely well.

The Galco Ankle Glove is a combination of nylon, elastic and polymer that forms one of the most advanced ankle holsters out there. The ankle glove carries most popular sub compact pistols like the Glock 26 and Military and Police shield by Smith and Wesson.

Uncle Mike’s Ankle Holster – The Uncle Mike’s Ankle Holster represents both economy and quality. The Uncle Mike’s is entirely soft nylon with varying holster sizes to accommodate a wide variety of compact weapons.

The Uncle Mikes features two straps a low and high to guarantee a secure carry during the day. The Uncle Mike’s is a comfortable and affordable holster that fits everything from a Glock 26 to a Beretta Tomcat.

Blackhawk Serpa Tactical Platform

Blackhawk Serpa Tactical Platform

Leg Rigs

The Leg rig also known as the thigh rig, or drop leg holster, has become immensely popular as of late. The thigh rig is popular due to its comfort of carry, the fact the weapon naturally rests where the hand falls, and the fact a duty size weapon can be carried with ease.

Thigh or leg rig carry is always open and extremely difficult to conceal without a trench coat.

Leg rig carry is primarily for the Military and Police forces. A leg rig is much easier to draw from than a belt holster when wearing a flak jacket or tactical vest. A leg rig is a excellent way to carry a full size firearm like a 1911 of a Beretta 92.

Drop Leg Holsters

Serpa BlackHawk Leg Rig – The Serpa leg rig is issued by the United States Marine Corps and has been immensely popular with the Marines carrying M9s. The Serpa leg rig features broad and soft straps that keep the holster from rubbing and chafing the leg after hours of wear.

The Serpa leg rig holster can carry both a holster and up to two magazines on one platform. The platform is adaptable to any Serpa holster from the M9 to the Glock 17 or even a Smith and Wesson J frame.

Blackhawk Omega Drop Leg Holster

Blackhawk Omega Drop Leg Holster

BlackHawk Omega – The Blackhawk Omega is built from stiff nylon infused with polymer to form a strong holster. The holster is designed for full size duty firearms equipped with a modern accessory like a laser of flashlight.

The Blackhawk omega is perfect for those with multiple weapons for a wide variety of different missions. The Omega features a thumb strap and a tight mold to insure retention of the weapon. The Omega is available in a wide variety of modern camouflage colors and is designed to match the uniform of the operator.

Pocket Holsters – Pocket holsters are some of the most comfortable ways to carry. A Pocket holster does require a pocket pistol, often a small 9mm or a .380 ACP, or even small revolvers like the NAA line of .22 lr and 22 magnum derringers.

These pockets pistol absolutely disappear in the pocket. Pocket holsters are divided into two different and distinct types, each offering their own unique advantages and disadvantages.

Front Pocket Holsters- Front pocket holsters are unique in the fact it’s very easy to draw and even easier to hide a weapon. A front pocket holster allows the user to have their hand a weapon just by having their hand in their pocket.

This is an immediate advantage when the danger level in not clear, like walking through a dark parking garage or when encountered by an individual or groups of individuals whose motives are unclear. Front pocket carry is limited to very small weapons, but the ability to conceal comfortably means it’s much easier to carry every day.

The front pocket carry should always be done with an appropriate holster to guarantee safe carry and easy draw. A front pocket holster must remain in the weapon when the weapon is drawn or complications are bound to arise.

Pocket Holster Choices:

BlackHawk Pocket Holsters- The BlackHawk Pocket holster is a combination of several different fabrics, primarily nylon the Blackhawk Pocket holster is perfect for every day wear. The BlackHawk holster is extremely soft on the inside to protect the weapon and coarse and rough on the outside to retain the weapon in the pocket.

The Blackhawk pocket holster features a very rough strip of a gripping material to guarantee a solid fit in the pocket. The holster also features a wing to keep in anchored in the pocket. The holster comes in a variety of size to fit several different weapons.

Desantis Pocket Tuck

Desantis Pocket Tuck

Desantis Pocket Tuck- The Pocket Tuck by Desantis comes in both left and right handed variations and is made from soft leather. The leather is softest inside the holster to protect the weapon’s finish and a bit stiff on the outside the guarantee retention.

The pocket Tuck goes a step further and features a metal clip to further root the holster into the pocket. This clip adds a bit of bulk, but is hardly noticeable. The Desantis Pocket Tuck is a slight step up from the usual pocket holster.

Back Pocket Carry

Desantis Pocket Shot

Desantis Pocket Shot

Back pocket carry or wallet carry is either loved or hated. Those that hate it claim a discomfort when sitting and a fear of weapon damage which is unfounded.

Back pocket carry is often praised as being the most concealed method of carry for small automatics.

Wallet holsters are often placed in a way to gain easy access in case of robbery. The back pocket holster is often considered one of the most concealable methods of carry purely because anyone staring at your butt is rare and will be hesitant to admit it.

Desantis Pocket Shot – The Pocket shot is a wallet holster that is designed to be carried with a locked and cocked weapon. The holster permits the weapon to be fired without being taken out of the holster.

The weapon’s trigger is partially covered just enough to guarantee safety, but the hole permits a decent grip when firing the holster as a reactionary device.

Belly Band Holster

Belly Band Holster

Belly Band Carry – Belly band carry is often popular with the shirt and tie crowd.  A belly band allows the user to hide a weapon, extra ammo, a flashlight, and an entire utility belt worth of supplies without hardly a second look.  Belly Band carry is most often an elastic strip designed to hold a weapon and accessories.

This form of carry can be paired with nearly all manner of clothing and is more comfortable for those who carry with a shirt and tie, but no jacket to permit concealed holsters.

The Desantis Natural is flesh colored to aid in concealment and disguise. Different colors blend in with most skin tones and further aids in camouflage when wearing more transparent colors like white.

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Art R. has written 160 post in this blog.

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