If you have a concealed carry permit, you may have heard about holster claws and their many benefits: improved concealment, eliminating printing, and generally making carrying more comfortable.
But what is a concealed claw and how do they work? Is there any difference between a holster claw and a concealed claw? Do holster claws work as advertised? Learn everything you need to know about these devices and find out if they’re suitable for your needs.
Holster Claw Basics
If you’re unfamiliar with holster accessories, a concealed claw may be new to you. A holster claw is a modification for your concealment setup, typically in the form of an accessory for your Kydex holster.
A holster claw’s primary purpose is to improve concealment by modifying your pistol’s orientation, resulting in less printing (or being able to see the gun’s shape through your clothes). The secondary purpose is improved safety and comfort, depending on your carry position and the particulars of your EDC setup.
Naming and Terminology
Excluding specific product names, a holster claw is often called by many different terms including a concealment claw, an IWB (inside the waistband) claw (or IWB holster claw), a belt claw, and a mod wing.
If you have wondered, what the difference is between all of the terms, you can rest assured that functionally there is no difference.
How Claws Work
A typical Kydex holster claw is an L-shaped attachment for your concealed carrying holster. These claws usually employ high-strength plastic polymer in their construction, mounted to your holster using one or two metal screws. The mounting point is generally located under the trigger guard.
This protruding element features a textured surface intended to engage with your gun belt, applying pressure against the belt and leveraging your handgun’s grip when worn.
The user must align the claw with the belt clip to ensure the best possible results. The best way to check whether the claw works correctly is to check the gun’s grip angle and position.
When functioning correctly, the leverage causes your handgun to rotate slightly, turning your grip slightly inward (toward your body) and your muzzle outward (away from you).
The handgun should appear to be completely flush against your body without protruding away from your body.
Holster Claw Requirements
A holster claw can only function correctly with a belt-mounted IWB holster. Because the claw functions using your gun belt as leverage to tilt your gun’s grip, using a sufficiently stiff and robust gun belt is necessary to get the full effect.
Concealment claws are incompatible with OWB holsters, paddle holsters, pocket carry holsters, beltless carry systems (e.g., shoulder holsters, belly bands), or any form of off-body carry.
Your holster must also feature a compatible mounting point for the screws, typically taking the shape of one or two screw holes. A soft or loose belt or a waistband with no belt would bend and deform, being ineffective at best and causing discomfort at worst.
For the best possible results, use a sturdy gun belt.
What Using a Holster Claw is Like
Now that you have the answer to “What’s a holster claw,” you may be wondering what it’s like to carry one and what are the benefits and drawbacks.
Effects on Concealment
A correctly installed and aligned holster claw should feel noticeably different.
With a holster claw, your handgun’s angle and muzzle direction should cause the grip to be flush with your body, bringing it closer to you and resulting in less printing. This effect presents several advantages. You can conceal larger handguns more effectively, and you have a little more space between the gun and your cover garments.
This solution is advantageous during the summer months or in environments with relatively strict dress codes.
Concealment claws are reversible and 100% compatible with left-handed holsters. The installation process is the same; just make sure to orient the claw in the correct direction.
Compatibility and Interchangeability
Most claws employ standard dimension screw inserts, fitting into most Kydex holsters. However, some models may be proprietary to that manufacturer’s holsters, potentially limiting your choices.
Since most claws and holsters are compatible. If you find your holster is not, do not attempt to DIY and fit an incompatible claw and holster together.
Not only does it present the risk of hurting your holster’s comfort and concealment, but you may also damage or break your claw or your holster in the process.
If your claw doesn’t fit, try a different model instead.
The vast majority of holster claws on the market employ high-strength materials in their construction, providing an adequate amount of strength, durability, and impact resistance for everyday carry.
The materials that holster claws are composed of are very inexpensive, so opting to use a claw for your concealment setup will not break the bank.
Be aware that a small number of manufacturers offer aluminum claws, under the principle that metal parts are more durable and give the user more peace of mind. Although aluminum parts may offer a higher degree of durability, the difference is marginal at best. An aluminum holster claw increases your EDC setup weight without providing any appreciable or realistic benefits.
The holster claw’s effects on fit, comfort, and everyday carry depend primarily on your preferred carry position.
Appendix Inside The Waistband (AIWB) Carry
Although using a claw improves concealment with virtually every concealed carrying clock position, claws exist mainly to improve appendix IWB (AIWB) holsters, where the advantages are the most obvious.
Although AIWB carry presents safety concerns, it is also one of the most popular carry methods. One of the primary challenges of AIWB carry is to balance concealment with safety.
Due to the holster’s 12-o’clock position, the handgun’s muzzle may end up pointing at the user’s own body, either in the crotch area or one of the thighs where some of the human body’s major arteries reside.
Holster claws are one of the best methods employed by AIWB carriers to mitigate these safety concerns. By guiding the gun’s rotation to point the muzzle away from the shooter’s body, the claw can improve safety and concealment.
AIWB carry without a claw may create as much as a 2-inch gap between your body and your gun, resulting in a significant protrusion and causing substantial printing.
An appendix carry holster with a claw eliminates this gap, keeping your grip flush with your pelvic area.
However, you may require a neutral or very minimal cant. If the cant angle is too high, the muzzle may still point at one of the thighs, depending on your body shape and physiology.
Holster claws are not intended exclusively for AIWB carry. They can work with other carry positions as well.
Shooters who prefer the classic strong-side carry method (3-o’clock for right-handed shooters, 9-o’clock for left-handed) can also use holster claws effectively, provided they understand the potential downsides.
Due to the way a holster claw works, there may be downsides to combining claws with strong-side carry. An IWB holster carried strong-side adds more tension to your gun belt than any other carry position, theoretically providing a tight and snug fit.
With a concealment claw installed, a gun carried strong-side may dig into the shooter’s hip or side, potentially causing discomfort or making it a little more challenging to draw.
The sensation of discomfort comes from the fact that there is only a small amount of flesh and skin is separating your hip bone from your holster; any errors or imperfections when aligning your belt clip and holster claw may amplify this sensation.
However, the concealment benefits remain, offering the shooter a choice: Keep the claw on to gain maximum concealment at the cost of some comfort, or remove the claw when carrying strong-side and losing comfort and risk printing once again.
Remember: The concealment benefits you get from using a holster claw in this carry position may not be as noticeable with AIWB carry.
If you have significant difficulties concealing a handgun on the strong side, you may need more than a claw. Consider adjusting your holster’s ride height and cant first.
If you cannot find a way to carry strong-side comfortably with a claw (pain or discomfort even with good alignment), remove it or try a different carry position.
4-5 O’Clock Carry
If you prefer to carry between 4 and 5-o’clock (or 7 and 8 if you’re left-handed), you may find that the concealment claw offers all its advantages with less potential discomfort than with strong-side carry.
However, claw alignment and adjustment may be more challenging due to the holster’s position.
When using this carry position, your gun is functionally behind you and so is your claw, which may require you to adjust your holster’s ride height to one of the highest positions.
As long as you can find a way to align your claw correctly, you may not have any issues. However, check for fit and comfort in as many positions as possible, especially when sitting down. If you experience noticeable discomfort or if the holster doesn’t feel right, you may need to switch carry positions or remove the claw.
Are Holster Claws Mandatory?
While a holster claw is a valuable tool to have for configuring your everyday carry setup, it is not mandatory to have. After all, millions of people successfully conceal carry using regular holsters with no additional attachments.
However, remember a holster claw is an inexpensive and easy-to-install modification, requiring no more than ten minutes using a screwdriver.
Reputable manufacturers offer you multiple sets of screws, washers, and claw pads for you to customize your holster claw’s fit and leverage, allowing you to adjust how aggressively the claw pushes on your belt.
If you carry AIWB, a holster claw may be one of the best investments you can make to improve your holster’s safety, comfort, and concealment. You can also use them in conjunction with other holster mods, such as belt clips.
The Bottom Line: Do I Need a Holster Claw?
Whether you need a holster claw depends on your carry position, your physiology, and your preferences. Your choice of carry firearm may also influence how effective the claw may be.
Generally speaking, if you prefer appendix carry with mid-size and full-size handguns, a claw may be the solution to eliminate printing issues without changing the cant angle.
Don’t underestimate the peace of mind factor; many concealed carriers started wearing an AIWB carry after using a claw.
If you prefer a strong-side carry or other carry position, you may need to experiment. It may be the secret to ideal concealment for some, while it may be unsuitable for others.
Don’t hesitate to give holster claws a chance. Try them with your EDC setup, especially if you need to improve your handgun’s concealment. Holster claws are inexpensive and do not require much time or effort to try out.
At We The People Holsters, we believe in the people’s natural right to self-defense. We understand that choosing a quality holster and holster claw is as critical as choosing a firearm for your personal protection.
Our 100% hand-crafted, US-made Kydex holsters allow you to carry with confidence, providing the best fit and the most conform when carrying your handgun. Complete your EDC setup with our lineup of holster claws, magazine carriers, gun belts, and other accessories.
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