Most people, after they’ve purchased a handgun, want to be able to have the gun with them when they leave their home. They want to be able to defend themselves wherever they may be.
This leaves folks with two basic holster options – concealed or open carry (see “Open Carry vs. Concealed Carry” for a discussion on the topic). The VAST majority of people will opt for a concealed carry holster.
You’ve got a lot of options! The major determining factors for selecting the type of concealed carry holster will be (1) the situation where you’ll be wearing the holster, and (2) what kinds of clothes you’ll be wearing.
For instance, it doesn’t make much sense to wear an ankle holster when you’re wearing shorts. Conversely, when you’re taking a long trip in the car, that ankle holster might be preferable to an IWB (Inside Waist Band) holster that’s located on your belt near the small of your back.
5 Best Options
I believe these 5 holster types/positions provide the user with the greatest combination of accessibility and concealability for almost any situation. Also, in a future article, I’ll discuss some “off body” (purse, brief case, etc.) concealed carry options.
Before I venture into these types, here are a few common types of which I’m NOT a big fan.
- Pocket Holster – Generally requires a small, less powerful handgun. I use a pocket holster for a Ruger SR-22 that I will occasionally use as a back-up pistol when I’ve got a more powerful self-defense pistol concealed elsewhere on my person.
- Weak-side hip Inside Waist Band holster – I own one, but never use it. I can’t think of a practical application. If the clothes I’m wearing and the situation I’m in allow me to wear an IWB holster, I’ll wear it on my strong-side where it will be more easily deployed.
- Small of the back holster – Again, I own one, but never use it. See Weak-side IWB for reasoning.
- “Boob” holsters – Holster that fit in or near a bra. These seem a bit “trendy” to me, but for a woman wearing a dress, they may be the only viable option.
- “T-Shirt” holsters – These are t-shirts that are usually made from an stretch-y fabric that have a holster pocket. I’ve used them, and they do conceal very well, but are very difficult to draw your weapon, and you MUST use a very light-weight gun, or they slump over time.
A couple of general tips:
- Practice, practice, practice. I cannot stress enough how important it is to practice drawing and presenting your pistol. I’ve mentioned here before that when carrying at my precious metals store, I do a minimum of 10 practice draws before the store opens. If I am ever put in the situation of having to draw my weapon, I don’t want to have to think about how to get my gun out. I want to have all of my focus on the bad guy in front of me.
- Get a holster that is specifically made for your model of gun. You can find generic holsters that will fit, “all semi-autos with barrel length of 2- to 4-inches”. No bueno. I want one that will hold my gun firmly regardless of my physical activities (moving to cover, fighting, etc.).
- Get Kydex or polycarbonate vs. leather concealed carry holsters if at all possible. I know there are a lot of purists that love their leather holsters, but on a hot day, your IWB holster will become soft and moisture-laden, and re-holstering it after use is much more difficult.
- Make sure the holster fully covers the trigger. You DO NOT want to shoot yourself, “in the heat of battle” because you got your finger on your trigger and the gun fires while you are pulling the pistol out of the trigger.
OK, here are my Top 5 Concealed Carry Holsters and how to use them
Strong-side Inside Waist Band
My top choice. I will attempt to alter my dress so that I can use this type of holster. Unlike the guy in the following video, I carry mine at the 4 0’clock position (his is further to the rear, at perhaps 5 o’clock). I like mine just in back of my hip bone, as this offers me great concealability and great accessibility.
I also use a much less bulky holster – a Bladetech holster. It makes for less chance of “patterning” (someone being able to tell you’re packing). I’ve had police officers in my store make the suggestion that I should be carrying a gun just in case bad guys decide to hit the store. On one occasion, I was actually concealing two guns!
This is gaining a lot of favor. One of my employees and one of my partners favors this style.
Also note that a number of semi-autos now have clips available so that you don’t need a holster per-se, just a strong belt onto which the clip slides. My biggest dislike of these clip “holsters” is the lack of a trigger guard.
As the guy in the video notes, appendix carry is great for very crowded areas where you may have people bumping into you.
Appendix Carry – Deep Concealment
I am a huge fan of these holsters. I now use my SmartCarry holster more than any other holster.
Why? Because it is the most versatile holster when it comes to what you’re wearing, and it is virtually invisible to the rest of the world. From jeans to shorts to business suit to tuxedo, this holster gives you a great option to conceal a weapon.
If I run down to the store for bread, I slip this on with either a small 5-shot .38 special revolver, or my Glock 26 semi-auto.
Because of where it’s carried, you don’t need to worry about the holster not being “form fitting” to your specific model. It’s not going anywhere!
It is important to understand its greatest drawback: Drawing your weapon. It is much slower than almost any other type of holster. For this reason, I NEVER use this as my primary holster when I’m in my precious metals store. In that environment, if I ever need to draw my weapon, I will need to do it quickly.
For most other situations – such as picking up a loaf of bread – I am much less likely to be put into a situation that requires a quick-draw.
By the way, I have worn this holster (as a test) on a multi-hour car drive. By simply adjusting where the barrel rests, you are able to sit and drive in comfort.
I SO wanted to like shoulder holsters. While they are probably the best option for a very long car drive, I have yet to wear a sport coat or suit where the gun did not “pattern” very badly. They do work very well if you’re wearing a bulky winter jacket or even a loose-fitting denim jacket.
Most of these will employ a Thumb Break to retain the pistol. Since most of my everyday holsters don’t have thumb breaks, I always put in a little bit extra practice time drawing and re-holstering the gun before going out in public.
Technique is VERY important here, as by their very nature, you’re forced to draw across your body. Practice. A lot.
I only use these as a back-up holster, or if I’m going to be driving for many hours. Since I’m right-handed, the holster is on the inside of my left ankle, and it doesn’t interfere at all with my using the pedals in the car.
It also allows for a much quicker draw than a deep concealment appendix carry, and I can jump out of the car to pump gas or get a bite to eat without having to throw on a jacket to conceal a shoulder holster.
As the guy in the video notes, you MUST get the calf support. Without it, your holster and gun slump to the bottom of your ankle, and you walk like ….. you’re carrying a gun on your ankle! Not good when carrying concealed.
As you may have guessed, you’re going to need more than one concealed holster. You want to plan for the situation in which you’ll find yourself.
And PLEASE, practice your draw and re-holstering techniques on a regular basis. Fumbling for your gun in a nasty situation can literally cost you your life.
Want more information? See, “Spotting Concealed Weapons“.