Drop leg holsters are one of the most popular ways to open-carry a handgun, offering many advantages over other types, such as OWB hip holsters, shoulder holsters, or chest rig holsters. Learn all about drop leg holsters, their pros and cons, how to use one correctly, what are some of the most common mistakes when wearing one, and whether they are suitable for you.
How Drop Leg Holsters Work
A drop leg holster (also known as a thigh holster or thigh rig) resembles the more traditional OWB hip holster and may even possess the same holster shells. However, they are designed to ride on the wearer’s thigh instead of the waistband.
A drop leg holster comprises four parts: the holster shell, the thigh pad, the leg straps, and the thigh straps. Optionally, drop leg holsters may feature mounted magazine carriers and active retention devices, just as traditional belt holsters can.
If you’re already familiar with hip holsters, the holster shell functions as you’d expect. Its purpose is to retain and secure the firearm in the desired angle and position. Most models are intended for semi-automatic pistols, although you may also find drop leg holsters for revolvers.
Like the hip-mounted counterparts, you can find drop leg holsters with light, laser, and red dot sight cutouts, allowing you to carry a handgun with the corresponding accessories with ease.
The thigh pad is a molded piece of plastic interfacing between the shell and the retention straps. It is contoured to provide a snug fit with the shape of the wearer’s leg, improving comfort and security.
The thigh straps are a set of adjustable straps, typically tipped with plastic side-release belt buckles. The vast majority of drop leg holsters feature two thigh straps, although you may find exceptions. For example, inexpensive nylon holsters may feature just one.
The leg straps (or belt straps) connect the holster to your gun belt via a ring or a holster loop. Most models feature a single leg strap, although specific models (e.g., combination holster and magazine carrier rigs) may feature two instead.
You may find security drop leg holsters featuring active retention devices, such as a thumb break, a tension screw, or a trigger guard lock.
Large drop leg rigs featuring one or two mounted magazine carriers are also available, combining a traditional holster and mag carriers into a single unit, potentially saving space on your gun belt for other equipment.
Today, most drop leg holster shells are made of Kydex, meaning they have the same traits and advantages as Kydex hip holsters. The only potential disadvantage is that each holster may only accept one particular handgun or a small range of nearly identical models (e.g., Glock pistols).
For example, a drop leg holster for Glock 17 will only fit the Glock 17 and other full-size Glocks of similar dimensions (e.g., G22, G31), whereas a drop leg holster for Glock 19 will only accept the Glock 19 and similar midsize models (e.g., G23, G32).
Who Uses Drop Leg Holsters?
Historically, thigh-mounted holsters resembling the modern drop leg holsters were popular among horse-riding gunfighters, such as the U.S. Cavalry. They were simple leather constructions solely intended to make it easier for a shooter to draw from horseback.
Modern drop leg holsters result from military developments and the increasing prevalence of body armor. Traditional belt-mounted holsters were easily obstructed by the new ballistic vests, which had to support an ever-rising quantity of bulky gear.
A drop leg holster allows the modern soldier to carry a sidearm comfortably, spreading the weight between the belt and the thigh and allowing for an unobstructed draw.
Today, drop leg holsters are a common sight in military units and police tactical teams. They are intended mainly for personnel using body armor, tactical vests, plate carriers, and other heavy chest rigs, for whom the traditional belt holster is either uncomfortable or impractical.
However, they have also found acceptance among civilian shooters as one of the many ways to open-carry a handgun. It is one of the most popular alternatives to the traditional gun belt and hip holster setup, drawing inspiration from the same military and police units that use them in the line of duty.
Pros of Drop Leg Holsters
Depending on your needs and occupation, there may be many good reasons to choose a drop leg holster for carrying your handgun.
Positioning Relative to Your Arms
This pro depends on your build, constitution, and the length of your arms, but for specific people, a drop leg holster at just the right height presents a handgun at about the same height as your hand when your arms are at rest.
If this applies to you, you may find that drop leg holsters offer you an outstanding advantage over hip or chest-mounted systems, as it helps make your draw stroke faster and more natural.
Any law enforcement officer will tell you that their duty belt is the best way to carry everything they might need at a moment’s notice. However, they also know the pains of weight management and distribution. If you carry too much, your belt compromises the one thing it’s supposed to preserve: your mobility.
A drop leg holster not only saves belt space but also moves one of the heaviest pieces of equipment (your gun) to one of your thighs, spreading the weight distribution between the thigh straps and the leg strap.
Ease of Access With Both Hands
One of the most challenging scenarios is to plan for situations where your dominant hand is unavailable (e.g., due to an injury) and practice a draw stroke with your non-dominant hand. Although your results may vary depending on your weight, build, and stature, this may be next to impossible for you if you carry a traditional hip holster.
A drop leg holster mitigates the problem by placing your handgun on one of your thighs, where it will be easier to reach with your non-dominant hand. The draw stroke may not be comfortable, but it will at least be possible.
Cons of Drop Leg Holsters
Drop leg holsters are not without their drawbacks which may not make them suitable for every gun owner.
If you’re a civilian looking for a concealed carrying platform, even the best drop leg holster on the market simply won’t be a suitable solution.
However, the design of a drop leg holster forces you to wear a coat or similar cover garment that effectively covers your thighs, which may not be practical or even possible in all everyday scenarios, especially during the hotter months.
Retention and Security
Even if you aren’t a civilian, you may find that the drop leg holster introduces significant potential retention issues. As a general principle, the further your gun is from your torso, the easier it is for someone else to disarm you.
This factor is where the traditional hip holster has the advantage: it is easier to maintain physical control of a gun on your hip or waist than a gun on one of your thighs.
In extreme close-quarters situations, the bad guy may attempt to take your weapon away from you. In these scenarios, the drop leg holster becomes a liability. You can mitigate the issue by using a security holster with multiple retention devices, but doing so sacrifices ease of access, doubly so with your non-dominant hand.
Finding the correct ride height, strap adjustment, and holster orientation for your stature and body type may take time and a lot of testing.
Professionals carrying drop leg holsters on the line of duty recommend that you wear it as high and tight as possible on your thigh to minimize the chances of getting your holster caught into environmental objects, such as a fence, bushes, or branches.
However, even the best drop leg holsters must have some degree of looseness to be comfortable to wear. Tightening your thigh straps too much may restrict blood flow in your leg, causing pain or numbness.
You may be tempted to allow the holster to ride lower than usual to alleviate the comfort issues, but it is a frequent beginner mistake. Wearing a drop leg holster too low means you cannot perform a draw stroke without having to bend down.
Our mission at wethepeopleholsters.com is to help American citizens spend less time choosing gear and more time exercising their Second Amendment rights. Our high-quality, 100% Made in USA Kydex holsters and Leather Holsters are designed to let you carry the handgun of your choice confidently and comfortably.