Women are one of the fastest growing demographics regarding concealed carry. According to the Pew Research Center, “Women are more likely than men to cite protection – rather than recreation – as the only reason they own a gun” — 27% of women say protection is their only reason for owning a weapon compared to 8% of men.
While gun holsters were originally only designed to fit male bodies, manufacturers have addressed the differences between male and female bodies by designing holsters that work well with both men and women. As a result, there are a wider variety of female concealed-carry options than ever before.
The most common holsters for concealed and open carry are designed to be worn inside or outside the waistband in one of four positions: strong side, appendix, cross draw, and small of the back. Out of these four carry positions, the strong side and appendix are the two that have the most appeal.
In strong side carry, you place the weapon on the side of your pelvis that corresponds to your dominant or strong hand. If you’re right-handed, you will wear the gun on your right side.
In appendix carry, you wear the gun in, or outside, the front of your pants, between your navel and your hip bone.
Women’s Concealed Carry Holsters
Gun holsters for women require special consideration due to anatomical differences between males and females, differing manners of dress, and other factors. For example, when carrying in the strong side position, as women tend to have wider hips than men, placing the holster behind the right hip, rather than directly over it, can be more comfortable when carrying for a protracted period. If you have natural curves, you can conceal the weapon better, preventing it from printing.
IWB and OWB
The two methods of carry are IWB (inside the waistband) and OWB (outside the waistband). An IWB holster is designed for deep concealment, placing the weapon between your body and the waistband of your pants. As women’s pants are often more form-fitting than mens, this provides less space for IWB holsters and accessories.
Normally, if you could wear one holster consistently, in the same position, that would be ideal. However, real-world circumstances don’t always permit this, and you need to decide whether to adapt your wardrobe to the holster or vice versa. If you can’t wear an IWB holster comfortably with a particular pair of pants, consider substituting an OWB holster.
OWB holsters place the weapon outside the pants. While many gun owners wear OWB holsters for carrying openly, you can conceal an OWB holster with the proper covering garment, such as an untucked shirt or jacket.
Mid and high-rise pants or jeans are often necessary for properly concealing an IWB holster. Buying a pair of pants one or two waistband sizes up from what you normally wear is generally good advice for an IWB holster; however, this isn’t necessary for OWB.
Women’s pants also tend to be less heavily constructed than men’s, including the belt loops. For this reason, you’ll need to experiment with different women’s holsters to see which complements your wardrobe best.
Your choice of firearm also plays an important role in comfort and concealability. The most critical dimension regarding a firearm for concealment is height — the distance between the top of the rear sight and the bottom of the frame or magazine base plate. This dimension determines the extent to which the weapon will print when you carry it on or behind your hip.
There are criteria that every women’s concealed-carry holster should meet. The best concealed-carry holsters must exhibit the following:
Retention is the primary requirement that a holster should fulfill — it must allow you to carry your firearm securely. That means preventing the weapon from falling out and anyone other than you from drawing it.
Kydex holsters provide a tight fit because of the custom molding. Unless there is a separate locking mechanism, you’ll have to break the gun free by applying upward pressure on the weapon.
The purpose of a concealed-carry firearm is protection during a life-threatening event; therefore, it needs to be immediately accessible when you need it most. Ideally, a women’s holster should be both comfortable and convenient, allowing the user to easily access the weapon if needed.
You should be able to place your hand firmly on the weapon, wrapping your middle and ring fingers, at a minimum, around the front strap. If the grip can also accommodate your little finger, that’s even better. You will need to balance the retention and accessibility to achieve the best draw stroke.
Concealed-carry holsters for women must, of course, be concealable. While your choice of clothing and firearm affect concealability, the holster should improve concealment as much as possible.
In IWB holsters, concealment devices are designed to drive the holster into your body and away from the inside of your waistband. You’ll also need to pay close attention to how you move and the way that your clothing falls when you’re carrying.
These factors affect the extent to which your handgun prints — i.e., forms a visible outline through the fabric. Your choice of gun belt also plays a role, as will effect the ride height and cant of the holster.
Dress belts are fashionable but often lack function. A specialized women’s gun holster belt provides a more stable platform for carrying your weapon, ensuring that the holster remains in the same position every time. You don’t want your weapon sagging or canting outward.
A good holster is a safe holster. In addition to a fully covered trigger guard, there should be no release mechanisms that require you to use your index finger. Ideally, an active-retention holster should be manipulable via the strong-hand thumb.
Safety also means that the holster mouth doesn’t collapse when you draw your weapon. It should remain open at all times, allowing you to reholster your firearm with one hand.
Durability indicates the ability of the holster to resist moisture, chemical solvents, lubricating oils, and temperature changes. The holster should not deteriorate due to sweat or regular use.
Your ability to adjust the ride height, cant and retention of the holster is critical to ensuring that you can carry your firearm comfortably and securely.
Although the best women’s holsters for concealed carry ride on the waistband, non-waistband options can be useful under specific circumstances. Wearing a dress or skirt, for example, poses unique challenges for concealed carry. As there is no waistband, you may need to seek alternative methods. Some examples include:
Shoulder holster for women
The shoulder holster can be useful for pregnant women or those who can’t comfortably wear a waistband holster — e.g., those who spend prolonged periods sitting or driving or women who wear dresses.
However, the shoulder holster makes one-handed reholstering difficult and can pose a safety risk, as many designs cause the muzzle to point horizontally rather than vertically. In addition, women’s jackets tend to be made from thinner material, which can more easily reveal the harness.
Thigh holster for women
The thigh holster, fastens to the non-dominant leg. This type of holster can be useful for women who wear dresses or free-flowing skirts, although it does limit the practical size of your firearm. Access can also be a problem.
Belly-band holster for women
Belly-band holsters are designed to wrap around the abdomen, bypassing the need for a belt or a waistband. If you’re looking for a women’s gun holster for running, the belly band keeps your weapon secure under sportswear. For everyday use, however, a waistband holster still provides superior access.
When searching for concealed-carry holsters for women, specifically, off-body carry can be tempting. Unless you need to carry your firearm in an off-body location due to your health or work circumstances, it’s generally preferable to carry your weapon on your person.
The most pressing reason is access: unzipping a backpack or purse is a slow, involved process, especially if you’re responding to a violent threat. Furthermore, purse carry is a liability. If a mugger assaults you, your purse will be a target. It’s only attached to you via a thin strap, and it’s where many women keep valuables. If your firearm is also in your purse, you’re now fighting to retain your only means of self-defense.
The Bottom Line
Everyone is different and needs a holster that suits their needs. Experiment with various holster designs, materials, and carry positions to see which works best. Carrying a firearm is a highly personal exercise and requires practice.
When you find the most comfortable and concealable carry position and holster combination, you should practice your draw stroke from different positions: standing, kneeling, crouching, and sitting. Practice drawing and firing from behind cover, while seated in a vehicle, and when wearing the clothing you normally wear. Always practice drawing only when your gun is unloaded.
At wethepeopleholsters.com, we manufacture various holsters to help women exercise their Second Amendment rights.