Best Concealed Carry HolstersBy Randy Tucker |
You’ve seen it a thousand times in crime dramas, the hero, or the villain, with equal frequency takes a handgun from the glove compartment, and stuffs it in the back of their pants. While this is one way to conceal a handgun, it’s far from perfect and requires just the right combination of pants, belt, and shirt to pull it off.
A much better solution if you’re going to conceal a handgun on your person is a concealed carry holster. They hold a weapon more securely, they’re easier to access, and most importantly, they’re much safer than the Hollywood version of concealment.
The characteristics of a great concealed carry holster
Your choice of a concealed carry holster depends on a lot of factors. The first is gender, men and women have different requirements when it comes to a concealed carry holster. Women on the hole are smaller than men and wear tighter-fitting clothes. These are huge factors (pun intended) in determining which type of holster either a man or woman should choose.
The second consideration is ease of access. If a holster is comfortable, lightweight, and holds a firearm conveniently, but is difficult to access, why bother? Situations involving the use of concealed carry firearms are always instantaneous. If you can’t access it when you need it, why bother carrying a firearm at all?
The third characteristic to consider is how well it fits you and the specific use you may have for a concealed firearm. In certain situations, a shoulder holster is best, in others one that can be concealed on your beltline is the right choice, and in still other situations, an ankle or lower leg holster is best. The style you choose should reflect the situation you may find yourself in.
Types of holsters
There are six main styles of concealed carry holsters. They vary greatly in style and functionality. They each have benefits and drawbacks. The most important aspect of each one is if it meets your needs as the end user. Easy access, combined with concealment and safety for you as the user are the three main components to consider with all of these concealed holster styles.
Inside the waistband holsters (IWH holsters)
For concealment without wearing a jacket, sweatshirt, or other outer garment, you can’t beat an IWH holster. They fit inside a gun belt, are concealed by just about any loose garment, and are easy to access. Those are the good points. The bad point is comfort. Since the holster and sidearm sit against your waist, inside the belt, you’re going to feel it. These are not comfortable holsters and are not intended for day-long use, or even a few hours of use. For unobtrusive, nearly invisible carry, an IWB is your best choice. IWB holsters aren’t as widely made as OWB and the best ones are brand specific.
- Complete concealment
- No need for a covering jacket or sweatshirt
- Uncomfortable for long wear
- Doesn’t fit with an elastic waist
- Requires a belt
Suggested inside the waist holsters
This is a great example of a handgun specific IWB Holster. Designed for the Springfield Hellcat it is moisture resistant and one of the flattest holsters you can find.Check Price
A more generic offer, that fits either right or left-handed shooters. This is a universal design that works with Ruger handguns in either OWB or IWB.Check Price
Outside the waistband holsters (OWH Holsters)
Wyatt, Morgan, and Doc didn’t worry about concealed carry, but the holsters they used were similar to OWB-style holsters, aside from one very important feature. Modern OWBs are flatter, conceal well under sweatshirts, jackets, or sweaters, and are flatter than open carry holsters. Not revealing a telltale bulge on our right or left hip can be a life-saving feature in critical situations. OWB holsters are more comfortable than IWB since they are outside the belt and separated from your skin by both the belt and the fabric of your shirt. They are easier to access as well. Just flip back your jacket or pull up your sweatshirt a fraction and you’re ready to draw.
- Easy to wear for long periods
- Hundreds of designs
- Easy access
- Requires a jacket or sweatshirt for complete concealment
- Not as flat as IWB
Suggested outside the waistband holsters
While it’s made for a Colt 1911, it works great with Springfield, Taurus, and other manufacturers of this classic .45 ACP semi-auto pistol. The 1911 is a large handgun so concealment is difficult but this does the job.Check Price
The Smith and Wesson .357 Magnum remains a popular revolver and this OWB holster conceals this classic handgun well while maintaining easy access and a quick draw.Check Price
Belly band holsters
Think of it as a big elastic waistband that covers your stomach, only this one holds a smaller handgun and has pockets for additional ammunition, or even personal items like credit cards, or a wallet. The belly band holster is the most comfortable style of holster for many concealed carry handgun users. It wraps around your waist and offers good concealment under even lightweight clothes. It is a great choice for smaller handgun users and even a loose t-shirt can disguise the outline of a belly band holster when it's properly arranged.
- Excellent concealment
- Ammunition storage
- Separate wrap around belt required
- Not good for larger handguns
Suggested belly band holsters
This is a great choice for waists up to 40 inches. It is a universal design that fits a wide variety of handguns. Added to the functionality is a pocket for your cell phone and another for a pocketknife or keys.Check Price
An excellent choice for slighter builds, and smaller handguns. An added feature is its ambidextrous design, so left-handed users are not neglected.Check Price
If you’ve watched crime dramas, or know a police officer personally, you know they often carry a backup firearm. Most of the time, that backup pistol or revolver is hidden in an ankle holster. Women wearing tights can’t use these holsters, but men or women wearing traditional, loose-fitting pants can utilize the concealment of an ankle holster with few problems. Few, but not none, but the biggest drawback is the smaller size of a handgun needed for an ankle holster and access in a tense situation. This is the slowest draw holster in our review. In the ankle holster world, the biggest determining factor is the size of the user’s leg. Ankle diameter ranges greatly in size.
- Complete concealment
- Easy to carry
- Slow retrieval
- Not designed for many women’s fashion
- Not good for larger handguns
Suggested ankle holsters
Joe Friday wore one on Dragnet, and so did P51 pilots in World War II. The shoulder holster is the ultimate concealed carry device. It involves a harness that wraps around your shoulder and waist, but it offers the least obstructive access to a handgun and is preferred by undercover and plain-clothes police officers above all other styles. A shoulder holster is the best for long-term use since it distributes the weight of a handgun across the body rather than limiting it to a leg or perhaps one hip or the other. The shoulder holster conceals well under a suit or flight jacket and can hold a wide variety of different-sized handguns.
- Wears easily
- Excellent concealment with covering garment
- Quick access
- Requires harness
- Requires exterior garment
Suggested shoulder holsters
Made for the wide variety of 1911-style handguns, this is as close to a one-size-fits-all holster as you’ll find on the market. It works well with pistols from small to medium size and remains the preferred holster for law enforcement.Check Price
These are much less expensive than leather shoulder holsters. They are a synthetic design but are brand specific and not a universal option.Check Price
Belt gun holsters
A one-size-fits-all design is the draw (yes, pun intended) of a belt gun holster. It’s not the gun belt you watched Matt Dillon take off at the end of a busy day on Gunsmoke, but it is a comfortable design that fits just about any handgun and offers easy access at a reasonable price. Lower cost and functionality are the best features of a belt gun holster. It doesn’t conceal as well as other styles with a slightly bulkier presence that must be concealed with longer jackets or sweatshirts, but it does work with almost any style of weapon.
- Low cost
- Quick Access
- Holds larger handguns
- Visible without outer garment
- Requires separate belt
Suggested belt gun holsters
Bridging the world of a standard gun belt with the thigh strap option, this gun belt offers concealment within limits, meaning it is not a noticeable design, but it is not completely concealed either. The belt gun design does not lend itself to total concealment.Check Price
My favorite holsters
Living in Wyoming, I’m not constrained by the rules of concealed carry that other states present. I only have one holster, for my Taurus 1911 .45 ACP, it is a Blackhawk Serpa CQC 1911 Platform Outside the Waistband Right Hand Holster. I carry it when fishing in areas where grizzly bears can be encountered. It fits well outside my waist, and I’ve noticed it is easy to conceal under the heavy sweatshirts I prefer in the outdoors. It is invisible under my Carhart work coat.
For my much smaller, much slighter daughter-in-law, a Mission First Tactical Versatile Glock 48 inside/outside the Waistband Ambidextrous Holster works well for her much smaller 9mm pistol. It conceals well under the vests she likes to wear and is equally difficult to see under a sweatshirt or down jacket in the winter. She prefers the OWB use of this holster since the pants she prefers usually have an elastic waistband so an IWB holster would be uncomfortable.
My nephew is a police officer, and he has a backup gun that he carries in an Uncle Mike's Sidekick Ankle Size 16 Right Hand Holster. The holster is advertised as universal for pistols up to 3.25 inches and it works well with his 3.1-inch Sig Sauer P365 in .380 caliber.