Safety is every gun owner’s responsibility. If you plan on carrying a firearm legally and responsibly, the priority should be ensuring your carry method is safe and reliable. For handguns, this means buying a quality holster.
However, with so many options available on the market, you may be wondering what exactly makes a holster safe or dependable. Ensuring your carry holster meets the criteria necessary for safety and reliability is one of your duties as a gun owner.
You may already know that the purpose of a holster is to let you carry a handgun on your body, but do you know what makes a good holster?
Before answering these questions, it is essential to break the holster’s purposes down into three factors: Safety, retention, and draw quality.
Safety: The holster’s shell and construction must cover the trigger of a holstered handgun, preventing the shooter (or other people) from pulling the trigger and firing it.
Retention: The holster’s construction must grip a firearm tightly enough to retain it in place and keep its position consistent and predictable. The only time a handgun should move out of position is when you draw it.
Draw quality: The holster’s design must let the shooter draw their handgun safely and consistently, without causing incidents.
Regardless of your handgun model or the holster’s intended purpose (concealed or open carrying), do not use a holster that does not meet those three essential criteria.
What to Look for in a High-Quality Holster
When purchasing a holster, the four primary factors you need to consider include intended carry style, holster material, retention level, and adjustment features.
There are two broad kinds of gun holsters: Those requiring a belt and those who don’t. Belt holsters require a quality gun belt setup to wear, but they provide the best level of safety, retention, and draw quality.
Although it is possible to carry and conceal handguns effectively with beltless holsters, they are situational and often come with significant drawbacks. Examples of beltless holsters include shoulder holsters, ankle holsters, and belly band gun holsters for running or exercising. Beginners and first-time gun owners should not consider beltless holsters until they have more experience.
You will find two types of belt holsters: Inside the waistband (IWB) and outside the waistband (OWB).
IWB holsters ride on the inside of your pants’ waistband, trading some comfort for better concealment. OWB holsters are more like traditional holsters because they sit on the outside of your pants, offering the best comfort at the cost of some concealability.
There are multiple subtypes inside the waistband holsters: Tuckable holsters, appendix IWB (AIWB), and standard belt holsters. The OWB holster category encompasses standard OWB belt holsters and paddle holsters. Each subtype offers different features and options to adjust your carry setup.
The three most common holster materials are leather, nylon, and Kydex.
Leather is the traditional choice. Before plastic polymers and synthetic fibers existed, leather was the only choice for responsible gun owners. While leather holsters are aesthetically pleasing, there are better choices today, especially for concealed carry.
Leather requires frequent maintenance and degrades with excess humidity. For instance, a leather IWB holster, constantly exposed to body heat and sweat, will wear out quickly.
Nylon is a high-strength synthetic fiber. Invented in the early 20th century, it rapidly gained acceptance as a material for wearables, from clothing to load-bearing equipment.
Nylon holsters seem like a great idea at first glance: They are inexpensive, are often marketed as universal (i.e., they can accept a wide selection of handgun models), and are very lightweight. However, they also break down easily and offer poor retention, making them an unsafe choice.
The last and most modern choice available today is Kydex, a type of thermoplastic. Kydex holsters are molded from flat sheets, meaning they can only fit one specific handgun (or a few handguns with identical dimensions).
However, this property is what allows Kydex holsters to offer the highest level of durability and retention. Kydex is resistant to impacts, sweat, and humidity, making it the best IWB holster material.
There are two types of weapon retention systems: passive and active.
Passive retention is when the holster retains and secures your handgun only through its basic construction and friction forces. Active retention refers to mechanisms that hold the weapon inside the holster, such as a trigger guard lock or a thumb break loop. The user cannot draw without first disengaging these mechanisms.
The retention level of a holster is equal to the number of distinct active retention mechanisms plus one. Therefore, a Level 1 holster is passive retention, while levels 2-4 offer active retention.
Active retention is typically only relevant in OWB holsters used for open carry, such as those used by your local law enforcement officers. The purpose of active retention mechanisms is to prevent unauthorized individuals from accessing the firearm.
The best concealed carry holsters on the market only use passive retention for two reasons: Speed and concealment. Disengaging a retention mechanism makes drawing from concealment needlessly challenging.
Additionally, concealment is a type of security device; if a potential thief or attacker can’t see your holster, they can’t attempt to steal your weapon.
Everyone has a different build, and every gun owner has different needs. Some prefer to carry only in specific circumstances, while others adopt the everyday carry lifestyle and keep a weapon on them at all times.
A quality holster should come with adjustment features to let you customize the fit, orientation, and retention to match your preferences. Typically, only Kydex holsters offer these features.
Examples of desirable holster adjustment features:
Adjustable cant: Adjust your holster’s rotational angle, changing the default straight cant to the positive (muzzle pointed forward) or negative (muzzle pointed rearward) angle of your choice.
Adjustable ride height: Change the depth of your holster relative to your waistband. Higher improves draw speed, while lower is more concealable.
Adjustable retention: Quality holsters come with a retention adjustment screw. Tighter grips the weapon more securely, whereas looser makes drawing and re-holstering easier.
Get Started with the Best Concealment Holsters
No matter what handgun you carry or your reasons for carrying it, pairing your weapon with a quality holster is critical for your safety and that of others. At We The People Holsters, we aim to equip every law-abiding American citizen with the highest-quality holsters on the market to conceal carry safely and responsibly.