Searching for a decent concealed carry handgun seems daunting, but the hunt for a quality holster often can often be more difficult. There are two to three holster manufacturers for every gun maker, resulting in a vast sea of options. If you’ve been around long enough, you probably have a drawer full of holsters; but if you’re new to the concealed carry game, Guns.com is here to prevent the collection of holsters with a breakdown of what you should look for in a quality inside-the-waistband holster.
Since we’re focusing on concealed carry, we’re going to stick with IWB holsters, though there are other styles of holsters available.
Choosing a Comfortable Style
“Wearing a gun isn’t supposed to be comfortable, it’s supposed to be comforting,” a trainer and old friend of mine says. While this is a catchy phrase, some level of comfort is important. A comfortable holster is one that you’ll wear. On the flip side, comfort should not be chosen over safety or accessibility. As with anything concealed carry, it’s a delicate balance that must be struck.
It’s important to decide on the right holster construction for your body and gun. There are a variety of materials used to construct a holster, but we’re going to take a look at the four most prominent styles --Kydex, leather, hybrid, and nylon/fabric.
Kydex/Polymer Injected – A preferred material for holsters, Kydex offers a durable design paired with moisture and heat resistance. Because it’s waterproof, you won’t see discoloration or material breakdown due to sweaty or muggy conditions. Kydex is molded to each gun model, meaning that it is gun specific – you can’t swap it between guns. The advantage of this is retention. Its molded design grabs all the nooks and crannies of the gun, resulting in a flawless fit and excellent hold. Even better, Kydex can be cut to special specifications – if you need a holster to accommodate lights and lasers, Kydex can accommodate.
Similar to Kydex, a polymer injected holster is molded to fit each gun model. Using polymer, or plastic, as its material of choice, it differs from Kydex in that it is usually easier on the wallet. Often mass-produced by larger holster makers, it comes in with a lower price tag than its Kydex counterpart.
Leather – Leather has been around the block, still holding great appeal for many people. For one, it’s more visually pleasing. Though the holster is nestled inside the pants, many concealed carriers still want something that looks nice, and leather brings a classic style. Leather also tends to feel more comfortable against the skin and is softer than its Kydex competitor. How the hide is treated will impact its weather resistance, and it’s worth noting that leather can change shape over time.
Hybrid – For the best of both worlds, a hybrid pairs a Kydex or polymer injected holster shell with a leather or fabric backing. The advantage of this style is retention from the molded plastic shell matched with comfort via the leather or fabric backing, which comes in contact with the wearer’s skin. The holster shell adheres to the backing with tension screws that can be loosened or tightened to adjust the holster’s retention on the firearm. While comfortable, the holster backing often changes shape over time, sometimes even drooping into the holster shell.
Nylon/Fabric – Nylon and fabric holsters are exactly as they sound – constructed using some sort of fabric. These are usually universal in the sense that they can accommodate a variety of models. They also tend to be more affordable since the fabric is often cheaper to produce than plastic or leather. Nylon and fabric holsters tend to wear out and break down easier because of weather and body conditions.
Retention: One (or Two) Clip to Rule Them All
Once you’ve settled on the material, you now must figure out where to wear the holster. Whether you place it in the appendix position or 3-,4-, or 5 o’clock, the holster needs a means of securing to your clothes. Most IWB holsters opt for either a clip or belt loop approach.
Quality clips or belt loops make a huge difference in concealed carry, especially on your draw. This is the difference between the holster staying in place in your pants and having it pop out with your pistol. Some holsters opt for one pair of clips, while others adopt two for added stability. Belt loops often come in pairs. Both clips and loops can be a little difficult to manipulate at first but will ease up over time.
While there are IWB solutions that are clip free, like Sticky Holsters and belly bands, they tend to move as nothing is holding the holstered gun in place. I carried with a Sticky when I first began carrying and, although it was a low-cost option, it slid down my pants at times, which is inconvenient and dangerous.
The other issue I have with Sticky and similar brands is that they collapse when you draw your pistol. This becomes especially problematic when dry-fire practicing. You cannot simply reholster your firearm the way you would with every other holster listed here. This, in turn, could become a deterrent to dry-fire practice.
While comfort may lead you to carry a gun more often, concealment affects how well you carry. The concept of concealed carry is that you are the only person who knows there’s a gun on you. If someone else spots your gun – whether that be from printing or brandishing – then the gun is no longer concealed.
Printing can be eliminated by choosing a good gun belt, the right rise of pants, and clothing suited for concealed carry (patterns work wonders.) Printing can also be minimalized with an appendix claw attachment. My Kydex holster of choice is a Knightfall Custom that makes use of an appendix claw. This attachment tilts the muzzle of the gun ever so slightly away from the body while rotating the grip towards the body. This makes the gun and holster that much more concealed.
If you’re handing over cash for a holster, you want it to hold up. Choosing a holster that is durable and can handle the wear and tear of everyday carry is vital in not only saving money in the long-term but also preventing negligent discharges.
Kydex holsters are, by far, the most durable due to its material. The hard-molded body lends itself to a longer shelf life than fabric or leather holsters. If you decide to go with a leather rig, make sure the leather is of good quality and thick enough to withstand daily use. Thin sheets of leather will quickly warp and distress due to weather and body conditions.
If you choose a nylon or fabric holster, double-stitching and added rigidity are signs of durability. The Falco A805 I’ve been testing has extra rigidity built into the top where the slide makes contact.
Regardless of your holster choice, check your gear daily for signs of wear and tear. A great time to examine gear is during daily dry fire practice.
While I prefer to carry with Knightfall Custom and Crossbreed Holsters, there are tons of reputable holster companies on the market like PHLster, Dark Star Gear, JM Custom, Raven Concealment, Henry Holsters, Zulu Bravo, Keepers Concealment, HolsterCo, and Safariland’s duty holsters.
I’d love to hear from you, our readers. What holster do you carry? Drop your favorites in the comment section below.