Four Questions To Ask Yourself Before You Buy Your Gun a Holster

Finding the right holster can be a daunting task. As with firearms, holster preference is going to vary from person to person and can only truly be determined through trial and error: find something that works for you, use that until you find something that works better and go with that instead. There are a few items I always look at when I first pick up a holster that really speak to whether or not I will like the holster in the long run.

1.  What material is it made out of?

The first thing I always look at is the holster’s material.  I have my biases, but for good reason and I am often skeptical of leather holsters. If a holster is leather it’s important to be aware of how stiff the leather is, especially around the top of the holster. A holster should never collapse when empty, even inside the waistband because a collapsing or otherwise “floppy” holster, where the leather can fold over on itself, creates a serious safety hazard when re-holstering.  The the mouth of the holster could wedge itself inside the trigger guard and depress the trigger, resulting in a negligent misfire.

I prefer kydex holster to leather; it wears less on the gun, doesn’t collapse over time and frequently kydex holsters have adjustable retention. 

Mitch Rosen Express Line
The Mitch Rosen Express Line I have for my Kahr PM9 is made out of stiff leather and doesn’t change shape when the gun is pulled out.

2.  Will the holster retain my weapon properly?

The designs’ ability to retain my weapon is the second item that I inspect upon receiving a new holster.  My requirements in this department vary and depend greatly on what I plan on using the holster for. For a competition holster I want the gun held in just tight enough that it won’t fall out, but not so tight that it hinders my draw stroke. For carry, I want something that provides a little more retention so my gun isn’t jostled loose during day-to-day activities.

Pancake style holsters are a killer option, but in truth, there are so many design features out there intended to restrict undesired weapon movement, from leather clasps to locking mechanism, that you’ll really have to evaluate each one on its own merit through T&E or intuition. I watch out for retention devices that could put me at a higher risk of a negligent discharge, such as the button on the BLACKHAWK! Serpa CQC.


The button over the trigger guard of the BLACKHAWK! Serpa forces the shooter to put pressure on the holster with the trigger finger, increasing the chance of a negligent discharge.

3.  How easy is the holster to conceal?

Ease of concealment is the next thing I take into account. I expect different levels of concealment from different holsters, hence I also have to consider how and how deep I’m going to carry. I prefer on the body carry so for a good concealed carry holster, the gun needs to sit close to my body but I still need to be able to draw safely from the holster without the muzzle crossing any of part of my body.

That stated, its more important for me to consider what I’m going to have to wear to conceal the gun and holster and whether or not it’s the type of outfit I will be wearing frequently. It’s easy to find a holster that can conceal under a coat or baggy sweatshirt; it’s far more difficult to find one that will conceal under a t-shirt or tank top.

Praetor Defense Holster
This Praetor Defense holster is a great outside the waistband option for a cold day.

4.  What level of craftsmanship went into making the holster?

Sometimes you just know quality when you see it and the final item I look for is the overall craftsmanship of the holster. A good holster maker pays attention to details that may not be important to how the holster functions but show a pride in their product. If a holster looks or feels like it is of poor quality I have frequently found they don’t work as well. The perceived quality is not, and should not be, a defining factor in a holster but it is certainly something to look at before wasting money on something that you’re unsure of.

The only way to find the right holster is by trying different ones until one works for you, but knowing what you’re looking for ahead of time can really help narrow down the selection.  What do you look for in a holster?