hanks holsters leather p238 inside the waistband rig

Which Holster Is Right For You?

Whether you’ve never carried a gun before, or you’re just looking for a rig for your latest firearm purchase, it’s worthwhile to take a closer look at the different types of holsters you can choose from.

Of course you know that you should never ever ever carry a pistol without a holster, but did you know that your style of carry can (and should) change with weather conditions, situations, and your clothing styles? Most educated firearm owners who carry regularly have multiple holsters for each gun.

Before we take a closer look at the different types of holsters, though, you should know what to look for in a good holster.

What To Look For In a Good Holster

Your holster should:

  • Fit comfortably on your body
  • Satisfy your local carry laws (for example – if you can’t legally conceal, don’t choose a holster that goes under your clothes)
  • Hold your firearm securely with no risk of it falling out if you move wrong
  • Cover the trigger guard completely
  • Reduce/eliminate the risk of snags when drawing and reholstering your pistol

Since we’re all responsible gun owners, it’s also important to safely practice drawing and reholstering your pistol correctly. There is an appropriate technique which improves your accuracy and drastically reduces the risk of accident or injury, so learn it! If you’re not willing to learn and practice with your gun, you have no business carrying it. Period.

And for our female visitors, there are some extra considerations that most gun blogs won’t tell you about.

Holsters for Women

By the way, Gadsden Guns is woman-owned, and the writer for this blog is also of the female persuasion.

For that reason, we’re very aware of this fact:

Women have curves.

That’s not a shocking revelation, but the shape of our bodies can make it difficult to find holsters that are easy to wear, conceal our guns effectively, and are easy to draw from.

Take a look at this image:

comparing holsters and carry guns on a woman's body

These are both great guns and high quality holsters, but one is clearly a better option in this particular case.

The gun on the left (the writer’s preferred pistol, by the way) sits at a comfortable angle and the holster tilts it slightly forwards (that’s called the cant) so that it can be drawn safely without getting snagged on the ribcage.

The gun on the right is bigger and boxier, and the holster sits at more of an upright cant. Most men prefer that vertical position, but as you can see from the image, the gun digs into the ribcage when it sits on a curvier carrier and it cannot be drawn safely unless the wearer leans away, which means that she’ll sacrifice a steady and safe shooting stance, risk getting hung up and firing accidentally, and will take longer to draw and get on target.

Women often opt for holsters with a more extreme cant, choose crossdraw holsters, or carry inside the waistband at the small of their back.

If you choose to carry in one of those less common positions, make sure that you have an instructor teach you the correct way to draw and reholster your gun.

Look:

Our friends and family have great intentions, but they can often pass on dangerous habits by accident…and a dangerous habit can turn deadly in an instant. Responsible gun ownership is a little inconvenient sometimes, but it’s worth it. We never compromise safety for convenience, right?

Right.

Now, let’s talk holsters.

The Types of Holsters

Depending on your body, your lifestyle, your carry gun, and your personal preferences, you might choose only one of these options, or you might get several different holsters for the same gun.

We’ve tried to put together the best information available to help you make an educated choice, but the bottom line is this:

You’re the only one qualified to make this decision.

No matter what anyone else says, if you’re carrying safely and legally, you can use any of the types of holsters listed here.

Inside the Waistband

hanks holster inside the waistband iwb for p238Perhaps the most popular option, an inside-the-waistband (IWB) holster is generally used for concealed carry.

They can be leather, kydex, nylon, or perhaps some other material, and they generally attach to your belt…though there are exceptions.

The most popular position for an IWB holster is at your hip, though some are made to position on your weak side, called crossdraw, in the small of your back, or even directly in front under your belly button.

Pros of IWB holsters:

  • They’re usually fairly comfortable
  • They tend to be safer and more secure than less traditional options
  • Ease of access means that you can draw quickly and safely when you need to
  • They’re common, so training on proper technique is readily available
  • Attaching to your belt improves comfort and security
  • Much easier to conceal
  • Popularity leads to lots of manufacturers and options

Some things to consider:

  • Women may need a more radical cant or a position off the hip
  • Look for holsters with a reinforced opening that won’t collapse after you draw
  • If there’s a retention strap, practice unsnapping it one-handed
  • Wider holsters more evenly distribute weight and pressure
  • IWB holsters can’t be worn with some clothing, like dresses, coveralls, or elastic waistband pants

Outside the Waistband

girls at the shooting range with an outside the waistband holsterHolsters that are meant to position on your belt outside of the waistband (OWB) are similar in many ways to IWB holsters.

They’re generally carried in the same position, including the options for crossdraw and small-of-the-back, but instead of being tucked inside the waist of your jeans, they hang from your belt.

Many people prefer OWB holsters for comfort, convenience, or even political reasons since the firearm is much more visible in this position.

Pros of OWB holsters:

  • They tend to be a little more comfortable than IWB holsters
  • If you need to use the bathroom or remove your belt, it’s easy to deal with your gun
  • It can be easier to draw from outside the waistband
  • Popularity means there are lots of manufacturers and options
  • A visible sidearm may be a deterrent to crime in some situations

Some things to consider:

  • Your gun is harder to conceal
  • When people see that you’re carrying a gun, they’ll often approach you. Some people consider this an advantage, but be aware that there might be some fear
  • Since your gun is visible, you must be extra attentive to people around you that might do stupid things (like try to grab it)
  • OWB holsters can snag and bump things as you walk around
  • Open carry is not legal in all states and areas. Check your local and state laws
  • If you are intentionally and legally carrying openly and accidentally conceal your gun with a jacket, seat belt, or purse, you may be subject to legal repercussions

Pocket

Despite the fact that little guns are sometimes called “pocket guns,” there’s never a time when you should put an unholstered gun in your pocket.

Bulldog pocket holster - large, And on top of that, you don’t just put any holster in your pocket.

You use a pocket holster.

A good pocket holster should fit snugly in your pants pocket AND should hold the gun securely.

NOTHING ELSE goes in that pocket while the holster is there.

Can you imagine your keys getting caught and pulling the trigger on a gun inside your pocket?

Not pretty.

Fortunately, pocket holsters are fairly inexpensive and tend to be universal, so if you choose to carry in your pocket, you have options.

Pros of pocket holsters:

  • They’re convenient – just stuff it in your pocket and go
  • You can put on or remove the holster without taking off your belt…or pants
  • For small guns, they’re both cost effective and practical
  • The drawing position is similar to most IWB and OWB holsters
  • Universal holsters work for multiple guns
  • When you can’t use your primary IWB or OWB holster, a pocket holster may be a good backup

Some things to consider:

  • A pocket holster that is a poor fit for your pocket or your gun can be dangerous. It must fit correctly for both
  • It’s concealed enough that you need to obey concealed carry laws, but difficult to conceal completely
  • Be sure that you can draw your gun without also drawing the holster
  • Your holster might only fit in some pants. If you have very tiny or very deep pockets, it may not be an option at all
  • Using incorrectly is dangerous, so use proper care

Thigh

Most designs of thigh holster are similar to the standard OWB, except that they strap to the leg and hang a bit lower.

If a belt isn’t an option, a thigh holster might be a good choice: for example, if you’re wearing a skirt, you might opt to wear a thigh holster underneath.

Some designs attach to your belt, while others have a waist strap.

Some are intended to ride high, while others come down to approximately knee-height.

A few are even designed so that the gun is carried on the inside, between your thighs. If that’s comfortable for you, go right ahead.

Pros of thigh holsters:

  • You can carry multiple weapons on your strong side if you use a waistband holster and a thigh holster together
  • When carrying larger pistols, a thigh holster may help distribute the weight
  • Thigh holsters are available for shorter rifles and shotguns, too

Some things to consider:

  • Drawing from a thigh holster is different than drawing from the waist, and you’ll need to practice
  • The gun is less secure when you’re kicking, climbing, or crawling
  • You’re more likely to snag and bang your gun against things in your environment
  • It’s obvious, so you’re likely to draw attention from those around you

Ankle

If you regularly wear clothing that doesn’t facilitate any of the carry options mentioned above, you might be thinking that an ankle holster is a good alternative.

While ankle holsters are a fantastic solution for carrying backup guns, they’re rarely ideal for a primary carry method.

Still, carrying on your ankle could be better than opting not to carry at all.

Pros of ankle holsters:

  • They’re very concealable – most people won’t notice
  • You can ankle carry when you can’t keep your gun around your waist
  • They’re perfect for a small, backup pistol
  • They’re less dependent on clothing choices than some other options

Some things to consider:

  • Drawing correctly from an ankle holster is very difficult
  • Your ankles are mobile, so there’s a chance you might drop your gun, which is expensive AND incredibly dangerous
  • They can be uncomfortable
  • The size of an ankle holster limits your carry options

Purse

never leave your purse unattended or off your shoulder when you're thinking of types of holsters that work with purse carry of gunsNEVER carry your pistol in a standard purse or tote!

Carrying in your purse should be a last resort when no other options are available, and if you must purse carry, do so in a specially-designed bag made to carry guns.

A carry purse should have a separate compartment for your pistol with a built-in or removable holster, a metal cord running through the strap so that it won’t break if someone tries to grab the bag from you, and you should be able to fire your gun from inside the purse if the need arises.

Pros of purse carry:

  • When wearing clothing that does not facilitate carry, a concealed carry purse allows you to stay protected

Some things to consider:

  • You cannot hang your purse on the back of your restaurant chair, leave it in your grocery cart, or take it off your shoulder. If you would not leave  your gun sitting there, do not leave your purse (with your gun in it) sitting there
  • Drawing from a concealed carry purse is difficult and takes a long time – you’re more likely to fire from inside the purse if the need for self defense arises
  • Crossbody bags with metal inside the straps are the safest option
  • Well-designed concealed carry purses are difficult to find
  • Never use a purse insert as a substitute for a carry purse – they’re unsafe!

Shoulder

Shoulder holsters come with a variety of carry angles, and in most cases, they’re designed for cross draw.

A shoulder holster can be worn concealed under a jacket or openly.

The holster may position the gun under your armpit, or more on your chest, and depending on the design, your gun might move around quite a bit.

Pros of a shoulder holster:

  • Once you’ve practiced, a shoulder holster can be easy to draw from
  • When you can’t wear at your waist, you can often wear on your “shoulder”
  • They can be more comfortable for people with tight waistbands
  • Good rigs evenly distribute the weight of the gun for comfort
  • Under a jacket, they’re very concealable

Some things to consider:

  • If you zip or button your jacket, your gun is much more difficult to reach
  • Crossdraw can be dangerous if not learned and practiced correctly
  • Daily wear might cause neck and shoulder pain and fatigue
  • In hot weather, you’re probably not going to want to wear a jacket or overshirt
  • Reholstering your gun might be more difficult

Bra

this bra doesn't have a holster, but bra holsters are one of the types of holsters we discuss when talking about concealed carry options for womenFor women, a shoulder holster may have an added obstacle: breasts.

There are some feminine protection options out there that can address that problem, though.

Note that every manufacturer of bra holsters has a different design, and a very specific set of instructions for correct and safe use. You should follow those instructions.

Pros of bra holsters:

  • Concealability is excellent
  • With small pistols, it’s fairly comfortable
  • Used correctly, these holsters keep your gun secure

Some things to consider:

  • You have to pick up or otherwise open your shirt to draw
  • Extra practice is needed to learn to draw correctly and safely
  • Reholstering might be difficult
  • Some designs have open spaces at the bottom to facilitate drawing, but improper movement might dislodge your pistol in those designs
  • Your boobs might look funny. Just saying

Fanny pack and belly band

What if you want to carry at your waist, but your pants don’t have belt loops?

What if you’re wearing a skirt, yoga pants, or dress pants with one of those stupid useless skinny belts?

A belly band or a fanny pack type holster might be an option.

These holsters offer some of the same advantages as the standard IWB and OWB holsters, but with more versatility.

Pros of fanny pack and belly band holsters:

  • Carry at your waist without a belt
  • Often more comfortable than other carry options
  • Ideal for wearing during physical activity like jogging or hiking
  • Can carry in most of the same positions as with IWB holsters
  • Adjustable for comfort and security
  • Some models come with additional pockets
  • The same holster might accommodate several different firearms – universal

Some things to consider:

  • For safety, belly bands must be worn tightly, and some people find it uncomfortable, especially with heavier guns
  • With some clothing, fanny packs and belly bands are obvious
  • Some models use clasps and closures that have a tendency to snag
  • If not cleaned regularly, tightly fitting holsters like these might cause rashes and infections

Also available: clothing with built-in carry options

For women and men, there are tee shirts and other articles of clothing with built-in carry options.

It can be convenient, but be sure to do your homework and make sure that the built-in holster is secure, reliable, and easy to access.

Every manufacturer is going to have different standards and guidelines, so just as we mentioned with the bra holster, follow the manufacturer’s directions carefully!

And Remember…

No matter how you choose to carry, you’re responsible for doing it smartly, safely, and legally.

Deadly force is an absolute last resort, and there are people who would never be able to take a human life. If you’re one of those people, you should not carry a gun. Hesitation, shooting to wound, or trying to intimidate rather than defend yourself all put you at higher risk in a dangerous situation.

And, of course, the holster you choose is entirely dependent on the gun you want to carry.

Choosing the right gun for you is an intensely personal choice!

Don’t let someone else impose their preferences on you – the perfect gun for you is the one you can shoot accurately, that you’re comfortable with, and that you’d bet your life on.

If you need help, please reach out to us. You can leave a comment on this blog post, or you can give us a call. We’re here for you.

Meanwhile, happy shooting!

2 thoughts on “Which Holster Is Right For You?

    • A lot depends on what kind of firearm you are carrying. If it is a micro size, you can use a pocket holster. Otherwise, an IWB is a good choice for concealment. We prefer IWB carry most of the time and like the holsters that distribute the weight over a wider area because they are more stable and less bulky. Feel free to call our store if you would like more personal advice.

What do you think?

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