If you’re a new gun owner or haven’t tried concealed carrying before, the sheer volume of holster options available on the market can make choosing the right one a daunting task.
Make sense of the different types of holsters available, discover which are the most popular ones for concealed carrying, and learn what traits and advantages each type offers.
If you haven’t concealed carried a firearm before, you may be wondering why a holster is so vital in the first place.
The bottom line is that carrying a handgun without a holster presents a significant safety risk. Without a holster, you have no adequate retention, no secure positioning on your body, but most critically of all: no guarantee that your trigger guard will be appropriately covered and protected.
In short, never carry a concealed handgun without a holster. The risk of losing it or endangering yourself and others is not worth the money you’d save.
A Brief Overview of Holster Types
There are many types of gun holsters available on the market; belt holsters, shoulder holsters, ankle holsters, thigh holsters, drop-leg holsters, pocket holsters, belly band holsters, and more.
However, the most common types of holsters for concealed carry are, by far, belt holsters. Although alternatives exist, if you are new to concealed carrying, you should first explore belt holster options, as there is far more documentation and industry support for these holsters than any other type.
Overview of Belt Holsters
Belt holsters are the most commonly encountered in the United States and perhaps the oldest way to carry a handgun in history.
As long as handguns have existed, there have been gun belts and matching holsters to carry them. Today, despite the vast array of options and alternatives, most concealed carriers continue to carry their gun holsters on a dedicated gun belt.
One of the main advantages of a belt holster is the possibility to adjust the holster to your liking. A good belt holster should let you adjust its belt position, cant, riding height, and other elements to suit your body and preferences.
There are three main types of belt holsters: Inside the waistband (IWB), outside the waistband (OWB), and paddle holsters.
IWB holsters are gun holsters mounted on a belt, with the holster shell presenting on the inside of your waistband. IWB holsters are one of the most dominant holster styles for those looking to carry a handgun concealed, as it allows you to wear a shirt directly over your holster without the need for an additional cover garment, such as a jacket.
At their best and when carried properly, IWB holsters are almost impossible to detect. However, there are certain limitations to keep in mind. You must carefully choose your cover garments, carry gun, holster, and gun belt, and you will probably need to spend some time configuring your carry setup to your liking.
Improperly configured IWB holsters result in discomfort, lack of confidence, or worse: printing. This is when the outline of your gun is distinguishable under your clothes, alerting people nearby that you are armed. Printing defeats the point of carrying concealed.
Finding the right balance of comfort and concealment can be challenging, but a well-adjusted, properly-fitting IWB holster is worth the effort.
OWB and Paddle Holsters
OWB holsters function on the same fundamental principles as IWB holsters, but with the holster shell riding outside the waistband.
The main advantage of OWB holsters is improved comfort and more leeway when choosing a carry gun. Because you don’t have to worry about your gun fitting on the inside of your pants, you can get away with carrying a larger handgun, and you don’t have to make adjustments to your wardrobe (different pants and cover garments).
However, what you gain by going with an OWB holster, you lose in concealability. An OWB holster will be overtly visible (and therefore, not concealed) unless you wear an additional clothing layer over your shirt and holster, such as a jacket or a suit.
Depending on your local weather, average temperatures, and dress code requirements, you may or may not be able to get away with concealed carrying in an OWB holster.
Some shooters consider paddle holsters a type of OWB holster. However, unlike a traditional OWB holster, a paddle holster does not have belt loops, attaching to your waistband using a large paddle and claw system that “bites” on your belt.
The paddle system allows you to install and remove your holster from your belt quickly, without the need to remove your belt first. Aside from the mounting method, paddle holsters have about the same advantages and drawbacks as OWB holsters.
Just as not all holsters are created equal, even models similar in design may not employ the same materials in their construction. Therefore, knowing the pros and cons of each holster material is critical, as some are more durable and less suited for daily, long-term use than others.
Typical holster materials include:
Leather is the traditional holster material. For as long as firearms have existed, so have holsters; and in the beginning, leather was the only viable option. Even today, leather continues to be used extensively as a holster material.
However, good-quality leather can be prohibitively expensive, and all leather products require regular care and maintenance, without which they will wear out quickly. Even then, leather holsters eventually degrade, forming cracks and losing their ability to retain a firearm securely.
Another major disadvantage of leather is its porosity, giving it poor resistance against sweat and humidity. This factor makes it possible to sweat through a leather holster, allowing your perspiration salts to reach your firearm, potentially degrading its finish and inducing rust and corrosion.
Nylon is a synthetic polymer fiber commonly used in various types of equipment, such as belts, tactical vests, pouches, straps, and many more. The durability of a piece of nylon equipment is measured using the Denier rating.
The higher the Denier number, the higher the fabric density, and in turn, the higher the resistance to wear, tear, and abuse. Good nylon equipment features a denier rating of at least 500D, with some high-quality holsters reaching as high as 1000D or 1050D.
The most significant advantage of nylon holsters is their cost. They are almost always the least expensive option, and there is no reason not to purchase the highest denier rating you can, as the price difference will be minimal to nonexistent.
Nylon holsters are also remarkably lightweight, and drawing a firearm from one. produces almost no noise. Most nylon holsters are advertised as universal, capable of accepting a large variety of handgun models.
However, the property that allows them to be universal is also its biggest drawback. As a fiber instead of a solid material, nylon simply does not have the same structural integrity and strength as leather or molded plastics. As a result, a nylon holster tends not to offer satisfying retention for your firearm. In addition, nylon is even more porous than leather, absorbing humidity, oils, sweat, and other debris, offering no protection to your gun’s finish.
Even the toughest nylon holsters do not have the lifespan of models made from other materials. You’ll be lucky to get more than a few years out of a nylon holster used regularly.
Kydex is a thermoplastic material and a relatively recent invention compared to the other options available on the market. Designed initially as a lining material for aircraft interiors, Kydex was first used as a holster material in 1972, when Chicago-based FBI agent Bill Rogers experimented with a potential replacement for his old, agency-issued leather holster.
Rogers’s creation was so successful; he took a 3-year leave from the FBI to focus on producing holsters just to meet demand. Today, Kydex holsters are among the most popular types of holsters on the market.
Kydex is a lightweight, durable material that offers the best protection and the highest level of security and retention. In addition, Kydex does not degrade from exposure to the elements, sweat, or humidity, and it possesses excellent impact and scratch resistance.
Each Kydex holster is molded to match a single firearm’s specific shape and design of a single firearm (or a small number of dimensionally identical models, e.g., Glock 17 and Glock 22).
Although a potential disadvantage of Kydex holsters is the need to purchase one holster for every handgun model, with little cross-compatibility, this is a minor concern far outweighed by Kydex’s desirable traits.
By far, the most significant advantage of Kydex holsters is their cost. Kydex is a relatively inexpensive material, making it possible to buy top-quality holsters for a reasonable price. Although not as inexpensive as nylon, a good Kydex holster is far less expensive than a leather model of equivalent quality.
If you’ve never carried a handgun concealed before, you should start with the most common and reliable options first and see whether they work for you, such as an IWB holster made of Kydex. Not only is it many gun owners’ first choice, but it is also the favorite configuration for many more.
Our mission at We The People Holsters is to provide American citizens with the highest-quality holsters for the most reasonable prices. Browse our large selection of IWB and OWB holsters, compatible with a wide selection of pistols and revolvers. No matter what make and model you carry, we have a holster for you. For any information regarding our products, please call us at (888) 998-6191.