Self defense is one of the vital skills needed in surviving in our world today. Some people take martial arts lessons giving the edge in close quarter combat while some prefer purchase small personal weapons to deter danger from a distance. Small concealable handguns are light, deadly and effective, that is why it is important to gun owners to have the best concealed carry holsters as part of their armory.
A holster is a body accessory that is used to carry small firearms in a concealed manner while ensuring that the gun is secure and accessible.
The holster also covers a gun’s trigger mechanism to prevent accidental discharge and protects the overall gunmetal aesthetic by preventing scratches from wear and tear. Finding the best concealed carry holsters will often mean trying out several types, brands and/or materials.
Why use concealed carry holsters?
There are many possible reasons why you should purchase and carry a firearm but for concealed carry holsters.
There are only a few reasons why you should use them.
- Concealment – the main reason to purchase a concealed carry holster is to conceal your firearms from prying eyes but not from the law. Most locations provide special licenses for concealed carry weapons; sometimes they include a provision in their permit to carry licenses for concealed carry. A true concealed carry holster would not only hide the firearm visibly but will also prevent the holster itself from “printing” itself through the fabric (or clothing) that hides it. Among the most easy to conceal holsters, are the ones that can be fitted around the ankle.
- Access – carrying a concealed weapon will be of no use if you cannot access it quickly once you need it. The concealed carry holster will provide you with access to your firearm in a short amount of time regardless if you’re coming from a dolphin dive, rolling on the ground to prevent being shot or any other compromising positions. The holster should also be able to provide you with a consistent draw and not just let you pull the gun for the sake of pulling it out. So, if you want accessibility, you should look at our article with reviews on the best appendix carry holster.
- Security – a concealed carry holster should be able to hold the gun securely while you are doing your day-to-day activities, especially if you have an active lifestyle and would sometimes need to run after someone while carrying your firearm. The holster should also be able to prevent accidental discharge by protecting the trigger from being accidentally being fired. Admit it; we sometimes forget to turn the safety button on.
Types of concealed carry holsters
One of the most common concealed carry holsters in the market. We often see this type being used by police officers both in real life and in reel life. But unlike the movies, this type of concealed carry holster is uncomfortable to most gun owners although majority does have it as part of their collection.
Shoulder holsters are like a climbing harness that goes around the back and is secured in the chest area.
The straps are adjustable based on the user’s comfort level while the gun holster is located near the armpit on one side while the other side has provisions for magazine clips. Shoulder holsters are often classified as horizontal carry or vertical carry, the latter being of best use to large handguns while the former is best for small or normal sized guns.
- Concealability – one disadvantage in using the shoulder holster though is that you have to wear an open-front jacket to conceal it.
- Comfort – shoulder holsters provide straps that go around the shoulders and around the chest area which are adjustable but these straps don’t really prevent the gun and it’s accessories toss around, especially if you’re running. This would also prevent you from pulling out your gun quicker while on the move.
- Drawing speed – since shoulder holsters are worn under a jacket, this greatly impedes the ability to draw. Sure, the difference is just mere seconds but those mere seconds can mean life and death.
See our article on how to choose the best shoulder holsters to help you make a good decision.
A cross between a belt bag and a gun holster. This type of concealed carry holster offers little in terms of concealment but it does brag a wide array of utility pockets that you can store other items on. Generally worn around the waist, this holster/bag has several advantages, including ease of access, suitable in any climate; no unusual strap touching your body that can cause allergies or abrasions and most importantly, it can keep things handy when you need it.
It has its share of disadvantages though:
- Comfort – fanny packs provide little comfort while sitting, lying down and driving. The gun will poke you in places you don’t want poke and you will end up having to adjust the bag several times to get the proper comfort that you want. Fanny packs don’t go with everything. You can’t, and should not, wear it over formal wear.
- Concealability – experienced gun aficionados can spot it for what it is from a mile away. Robbers can also mistake it to contain money instead of a handgun and may ask for it first before your wallet.
- Access – fanny packs often require both hands to take the gun out and this slows down the drawing speed dramatically.
This type of concealed carry holster is best for smaller, back-up type of weapon. An ankle holster is worn around the ankles under a pant leg and uses an additional strap to secure the holster in place. You can opt to wear the holster on the outside of your leg as placing it on the inside will probably cause some issues and restrict movement.
There are several disadvantages to using an ankle holster as your primary gun holster:
- Comfort – depending on where you’ll place it, ankle holsters restrict movement and its location prevents you from running while drawing your gun; you will have to make a stop and pull it out. Having your gun strapped on your leg also means that it will trip you sooner or later and will make running with it a bit awkward and will take time getting used to.
- Access – since the holster is way down, you will have to exert some effort to get to it and the extra time spent can mean a life or more.
- Security – a good ankle holster would have an extra strap that you wrap around your calf, just below the knees, to provide additional support and retention.
If you want to see some of the best products, we have a great set of reviews for the best ankle holsters on the market.
Belly band holster
This type of concealed carry holster is almost the same as the fanny pack with the exception of it not having any utility pockets and is made of stretchy material and secured by Velcro strips. The term belly band may imply that it can only be worn around the wait but you can actually wear it around your hips or chest, or diagonally from shoulder to waist.
The disadvantages of this type of holster include:
- Material – the stretchy material has a tendency to curl up like a bacon strip on hot frying pan, but this is mostly due to wear and tear.
- Comfort – there will always be that weird feel especially on humid days and sweat concentrates inside the strap, making you want to remove it altogether. Manufacturers, however, are now developing fabric that will be cooler to the skin and can lessen irritation.
- Access – the belly band holster is design to keep the gun close to the body and does provide a high-level of concealment, this provides poor access though as you would have to rip open your clothes to get to it.
- Re-holstering –since the fabric used for belly bands is elastic, re-holstering a gun can take some time and may be difficult to do one-handed.
As with the name, this concealed carry holster is shaped like a pancake with belt slots located on the left and right portion so you can loop your belt through. The original design has three slots so you can choose the drawing angle.
The disadvantages with pancake holsters are:
- Concealability – the bulge or print created by the holster is noticeable from a distance. Although the original intent for this design is to bring the gun closer to the body, some users with slim-built body types find using pancake holster a bit awkward while heavier-built users find the pancake holster more to their liking.
- Comfort – removing the concealed carry holster require that you take off your belt and slide everything through it to get it out and then repeat the process when placing it back. With this in mind, some manufacturers are eyeing snap-on belt loops and such to get around this cumbersome drawback.
This type of concealed carry holster is almost similar to the Pancake holster in terms of looks that they often get confused with each other. Paddle holsters are concealed carry holsters that have a paddle attachment which is slid inside the pants and is secured by a belt looping around the waist. The main selling point for paddle holsters is its quick-on, quick off feature; one just needs to slide it on and off their pants to remove it.
- Concealability – most paddle holsters in the market are larger in size than most pancake holsters thus reducing the chances of the gun being concealed.
- Security – since the gun’s security is dependent on the friction between the holster and your belt, this leaves the user no choice but to wear pants with belts.
- Comfort – while drawing a gun from a paddle holster while running is pretty cool and is quite easy, it can be awkward at times especially if it’s incorrectly placed.
A convenient, often overlooked, option among concealed carry holsters, this holster require no additional garment to conceal it. This holster is made for smaller firearms and does not have any straps or any other accessory to attach it to a person. You just need to place the gun inside the holster and then put it inside your pocket. The pant pockets help maintain stability, and depending on the fit, will also provide additional security and prevent the gun from being jostled around. Being in your pants, the pocket holster provides easy access and faster drawing speed than most.
Like other types of holsters, pocket holsters have its share of disadvantages:
- Concealability – smaller, thinner handguns are perfect for pocket holsters but larger ones will increase the chances of detection due to the bulging effect.
- Re-holstering – pulling out a gun out of your pocket is easy enough, especially if the holster has a feature that prevents itself from being pulled out with the gun, this comes with a disadvantage however since you will have to take the holster out to put the gun back in.
Inside the waistband holsters or IWB
This type of concealed carry holster goes around your waist, in between your pants and body with the grip of the gun sticking out of the pants.
IWBs often have clips that you can attach to your pants or belt for better security.
One of the main advantages of IWBs is its ability to conceal a weapon. Many IWB advertisements often feature men standing with just the clip showing with no noticeable bulge or print.
IWBs may be one of the best concealed carry holsters out there in the market but it does have its share of disadvantages:
- Comfort – most users, even those who prefer IWBs, report uncomfortably especially when the grips are poking at them. Extended use can also make you uncomfortable especially if the materials that were used are unyielding and stiff.
- Clothes – if you decide to purchase an IWB, you would have to make sure that you have pants that are larger at least by an inch to ensure that you won’t get uncomfortable while wearing them.
For the best appendix carry holster for your convenient, see our article on this topic.
Choosing your concealed carry holster
Along with the reasons to buy a concealed carry holster, there are a few factors to consider when choosing the best concealed carry holster for you.
- Materials – concealed carry holsters are often made from these three materials:
- Leather – this is the traditional material that is used for concealed carry holsters and is still one of the best choices out there. It can conform to your body shape given time and use. This type of material is a bit on the high-maintenance side as exposure to moisture can greatly affect its aesthetics and strength but other than that leather concealed carry holsters are a solid investment.
- Synthetic – these are usually made of rigid, synthetic compounds like nylon and plastic. Ballistic nylon holsters are not that expensive and somewhat offer a universal fit for everyone. Nylon holsters can withstand weather and moisture better than leather but they drawback is the need to replace them sooner since it will wear more than leather.
Plastic holsters, like Kydex, are lightweight and more durable than other materials but their high-grade plastic is their drawback as well since it does not conform to the body shape and has an awkward feel to it during extensive use.
- Comfort – the best concealed carry holster connects you and your firearm in a way that it isn’t seen from another person’s viewpoint and yet it is comfortable enough for you to know that it is there and that you are safe no matter what.
- Concealability – how much hidden do you want your gun to be? Each type of gun holster has its own concealability levels with one being better than another and vice versa.
- Retention – one of the main purposes of a gun holster is its ability to secure and retain a gun. Gun retention can be defined as the levels in which another person can take your gun away from you. The types of concealed carry holsters listed above have a multitude of possible combinations with regards to retention. The types of retention are listed here:
- Open top – this offers no retention at all. Most pocket holsters and belly band holsters have this.
- Thumb break – a thumb break covers the trigger mechanism with a strap that can be removed with a snap using a button or clip. Most types of concealed carry holsters have this type of retention.
- Retention screw – this type provides the best retention since an adjustable screw is involved. This does, however, affect the drawing speed and ease of access to the gun.
- Off-the-body vs. on-the-body – the different types of holsters listed above can be further categorized into this two. Pocket holsters, pancake holsters, IWBs, paddle holsters, shoulder holsters, belly bands and ankle holsters are on-the-body holders. The advantage of holsters falling into this category is the ease of access since they are on your person at all times. Off-the-body holsters include fanny packs as well as other kinds of bags and purses that generally allow your gun to be with you but not on you. Most off-the-body systems will allow you to dress as you want without compromising both style and security.
These factors often go against each other when choosing the best concealed carry holsters for you but much like buying a car, it’s a process of trial and error. Sometimes you have to sacrifice one or two to get the most of the rest. Remember, it’s all about attaining a solid peace of mind when carrying a concealed weapon. If you feel that your concealed carry holster will impede access or will make you uncomfortable then look for something that does. Owning a gun is a great responsibility and, at a lesser scale, so does carrying the best concealed carry holster available. If you want a custom-made holster, see our piece on DIY Kydex hoster for more information.