Every great carry gun deserves a great holster … or two. I’ll admit to being a bit of a holster snob myself. Each of my carry guns has a few different holster options because my carry needs differ depending on where I’m going and what I’m wearing.
Having a properly fitted holster isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity if you want to carry a firearm safely and confidently. When buying a holster, there are a few important boxes you need to make sure you are checking along the way.
Purpose-Built Holsters: Your holster should be designed specifically for your model of gun. This will help hold the gun in the holster. Universal holsters do exist, but you should ensure that it’s recommended for your exact firearm to make sure it fits securely inside the holster.
Safety First: Your holster should completely cover your trigger guard. A space between the holster and your trigger can allow a foreign body to enter your trigger guard and cause a negligent discharge. Good holsters completely cover this area to ensure nothing can accidentally move your trigger.
In order to know which holster may be right for you, you’ll need to know where on your body you’ll carry your gun. I’ve broken the options down below, as you’ll see. You’ll also need to know what type of material you want your holster to be made from. Today’s popular options are:
Leather: Leather/horsehide holsters have been popular choices for decades … well, centuries at this point. Most are custom molded to each model of gun they fit. Warm against the skin, they’re very comfortable to carry inside the waistband, IWB, outside the waistband, OWB, and even appendix carry. You can’t go wrong with a classic.
Kydex/Polycarbonate: Kydex is a popular brand name for polycarbonate. These holsters are custom formed to fit each model of gun. They generally offer adjustable retention and are lightweight, comfortable, and durable.
Hybrid: Hybrid holsters combine the best of both worlds by using a polycarbonate shell with a leather backing. These are comfortable against the body and provide great retention at the same time.
With a multitude of manufacturers producing great quality holsters, I’ve broken down seven different carry options to go with seven great carry guns. Although I’ve paired them together, most of these holsters are available for most of these carry guns. Odds are they’re also available for the gun you carry, too.
7 Different Types of Holsters
IWB/Inside the Waistband
IWB holsters ride between your body and your pants. The clip on an IWB is secured by your gun belt and is virtually undetectable to the untrained eye, unless you know what to look for of course. It’s a very comfortable and very secure method of carry with a proper IWB holster. You’ll also see IWB holsters advertised as “AIWB.” The “A” stands for appendix, indicating that this holster is designed for and comfortably carried in the appendix position.
A belt holster rides on the outside of your pants and is popular where “open carry” is legal because the gun and holster are generally visible to the naked eye. It’s also popular in cooler weather as it can be easily concealed with a shirt or a jacket.
As the name implies, an ankle holster wraps around your ankle with an integrated holster that allows your pants to fully cover your firearm. Ankle holsters are popular for backup guns or when your clothing choice doesn’t allow your gun to be on your belt. They do take some practice to get used to, and you’ll have to be careful about practicing your draw. But they’re a comfortable method of carrying for a smaller carry gun.
Belly band holsters are usually made from a thick piece of elastic or neoprene. They wrap around your waist and secure to themselves with Velcro or buckles. They allow you to carry under your clothes and are perfect when you don’t want to wear a gun belt and traditional holster. They’re often worn with sweat pants, yoga pants, leggings, etc.
Shoulder holsters were made mainstream popular by the character Sonny Crocket in Miami Vice. But you don’t have to wear a T-shirt with your blazer to carry one, shoulder holsters are very versatile. They're a great choice for men and women, and they offer fast access to your gun. They’re also easily covered with a jacket, comfortable while driving or sitting, and are perfect if you carry a heavier/larger carry gun like a full-size 1911.
Pocket holsters are designed for the smallest of carry guns and fit neatly into a pocket. The carry gun you’re using will dictate whether you can fit it comfortably in a front pocket or should reserve pocket carry for your cargo shorts.
Although carrying on your body is ideal, many women opt to carry in a purse. Done correctly, it’s an acceptable and safe method of carry when the clothing you’re wearing doesn’t allow for a gun belt and holster. Most purse holsters are integrated into a specially designed purse, allowing for a completely separate, sometimes lockable, and easily accessible compartment for your holstered gun.
Whichever type of holster you decide to carry, it’s imperative to practice your draw and reholster technique. There are pros and cons to each type of holster, and only you will know which type works for you. If you choose a leather holster, make sure you follow the manufacturer’s instructions to properly break in the holster so that it properly fits your gun.