Holster Boot Camp

I now suspect that when moving to concealed carry, after which gun would be best, the question of concealment is next in importance, namely, which sytle and make of holster will do the job. Unfortunately, there is no recourse but to try out a number of them in order to decide.

Everyone is different: different shape, size and preferences. By preferences, mean the kind of wardrobe one is accustomed to wearing and where is it least objectionable to carry a holstered handgun.

In general, semiautomatics are the best to conceal, given they are much thinner than revolvers. Even a model 1911 .45 is often easer to conceal, and wear, than a large frame revolver. So, sticking with semiautos as the point of discussion, and with male shooters, there are only a few places to carry concealed that are effective in concealment and access. They are:

1. IWB - Inside Of Waistband.
This is probably the most used type of carry. The gun is carried in a holster of varying designs that fit between the wearer's waistband and body. This arrangement covers the holster and gun that extends below the upper belt line so less will show should the outer garment ride up momentarily.

The holster is held in place by various means - metal or plastic clips that attach to the belt on the outside (or sometimes, inside) of the belt. The inside attachments really rely on gripping, or clipping to, the waistband and the clip is mainly there to keep the holster from being pulled out of the waist on the draw.

Some holsters of this type also depend on leather loops attached to the holster and through which the belt is threaded. They are also made to be "tuckable" if desired, by attaching the clip, or loop, at the bottom of the holster so that it will hinge outwardly enough to tuck a shirt tail between the hook or loop and the holster body, covering the gun and holster from view. This, of course, makes access more difficult, but not excessively so. One can yank the shirt up with the non-shooting hand while grasping the gun with the other.

Among this type of 'tuckable' IWB holsters are the so-called hybrids. They are typically composed of a wide and rather tall piece of leather cut to offer some protection to the body from the gun that sticks up out of a synthetic, usually kydex, holster that is moulded to the gun's shape for retention. The broad leather backing goes next to your body and is secured to you by metal clips, fore and aft, that clip to your belt. For almost any handgun, these are very comfortable although they can be a small hassle to put on and are not amenable to being moved to a different position without taking the entire rig off and repositioning it and re-clipping it to your belt. Most have different mounting holes for the metal clips so that the holster can be adjusted for ride height, and for cant - up to a point. Also, most designs now are 'tuckable' since the clips are held to the leather backing at their bottom ends, enabling the user to tuck his shirt over the holster and gun and below the clips. The only down side to this is the fact that your belt will bulge out over the holstered gun and you will have to yank your shirt out of the way before you can get to it.

Another more recent innovation is the "clipless" holster, pioneered by Remora. It is a synthetic holster, slick on the inside for easy draw, but made of a high friction material on the exterior which grips the waistband and inner garment, like the shirt, tenatiously. These are surprisingly effective, lightweight and inexpensive.

2. OWB - Outside Of Waistband.

These types are what most people think of when they think about holsters. They are worn primarily on the belt outside the waistband secured by a loop, slots or metal clip. They are the most comfortable and the least concealable without a coat or other covering garment. They are often equipped with a security device like a thumb break snap or other locking device that makes it easy for the person carrying to release it but difficult for anyone else to draw the gun. For all day comfort I prefer the OWB style.

Some holster makers are designing OWB holsters to be more concealable. D. M. Bullard, working out of his shop in Azle, Texas has a new design called. BTB (Between The Belt) which is very compact and holds the gun snug to the body. This, and keeping the bottom of the holster close to the bottom of the belt will make a very concealable OWB holster for wearing under a light shirt or T-shirt. The biggest advantage I can see with this style is its rounded bottom, which, if exposed below a garment, does not look like a holster.

There is a new design called the "3-Speed" holster, made of softer materials and held about the waist with a soft, integral belt, secured with velcro. This is demonstrated to be worn at the 12 o'clock position and can be pulled down deep into one's pants so that the gun does not show at all. One would have to wear pants loose enough to get a hand under the belt and waistband deep enough to grab the pistol and yank it out. It can also be made to ride higher so that the grips are above the belt line, but still at the 12 o'clock position. I would think that this might be acceptable for a small gun, like a Ruger LCP, but something larger would require a big gun and holster to be stuck right down the middle of your pants behind your fly. I think this might prove to be uncomfortable both when sitting and when having to heed nature's call. But it might work for some. I will watch for reviews of this product.

3. Pocket
A good pocket holster, for either front or back pockets, is a fine way to carry a small gun like a Ruger LCP either as a primary carry or back up gun. There are many fine holster makers who cater to this type of carry, so there are many quality designs and holsters to choose from. Most effective designs incorporate some kind of panel that lies between the gun and the front, or outside, of the pocket, to prevent the gun's outline from "printing" through the pocket. The panels are attached in such a way that one's hand is easily inserted between the panel and the grips of the gun to draw it from the holster, which stays in the pocket.

Obviously, the larger the gun, the larger the pocket needs to be to conceal it. This is a matter of diminishing returns. Some guns are o.k. for pocket carry and most are not.

4. Ankle
It's what it says it is. A holster for your gun strapped to your ankle. Suitable for a back up gun, should you lean that way, but difficult to get to. Certainly, some situations would favor this style of carry, but not many. If you are down, for whatever reason, it might be easier to grab your gun from an ankle hoster than, say, an IWB carry. But, maybe not. I've never fancied having a gun strapped to my ankle, so I can't report on this style from any personal experience.

5. Shoulder
The classic "detective" rig. A gun slung under the weak-side armpit, secured by an arrangement of straps and buckles and concealed by a loose shirt or coat. I would consider that this is a good choice for someone who sits a lot during the day and may need quick access to his or her firearm. There are many different rigs running from $40 or so for the synthetic materials rig, to well over $100 for leather.

I hope this helps those new to concealed carry and who are dealing with holsters. No matter what you end up with, you can count on having probably three or more holsters per gun. The only way to know which suits you and your lifestyle and wardrobe is to try some out, and the used holster market isn't all that great. If you know someone who is a licensed conceal carry holder and has a few extra holsters (and who doesn't) you could ask to borrow a few to try out. Otherwise think carefully about how yo think concealed carry would work best for you, given the gun or guns you will be carrying, and get the best holster(s) you can. Buy one good holster be done, or buy three or four bad ones and spend more.