Exploring Different Types of Holsters: A Comprehensive Guide

Selecting the right holster is a crucial decision for anyone who carries a firearm. With a wide array of different types of holsters available, each with its unique features and benefits, it can be challenging to determine which one best suits your needs. This comprehensive guide will explore various holster options, including shoulder, IWB, OWB, ankle, thigh, belly band, bra, and pocket holsters. By examining the design, comfort, concealment, accessibility, pros, and cons of each type, this article aims to help you make an informed decision when choosing the best holster that aligns with your specific requirements and preferences.

Different Types of Holsters

At a Glance

  • There are many types of holsters available, each with its own advantages and disadvantages, including shoulder, IWB, OWB, ankle, thigh, belly band, bra, and pocket holsters.
  • Shoulder holsters distribute weight evenly and are comfortable for extended wear, but require a cover garment for concealment.
  • IWB (Inside-the-Waistband) holsters offer excellent concealment and versatility, but may require some adjustment for comfort.
  • OWB (Outside-the-Waistband) holsters provide quick access and comfort, but can be more challenging to conceal.
  • Ankle holsters are highly concealable and comfortable when seated, but have slower accessibility compared to other options.
  • Thigh holsters are comfortable for larger firearms and offer quick access, but are not well-suited for concealed carry.
  • Belly band holsters are versatile, adaptable, and provide good concealment, but may require experimentation for the best fit and comfort.
  • Bra holsters are designed for women, offering excellent concealment and comfort, but are limited to smaller firearms and may have slower accessibility.
  • Pocket holsters are simple, discreet, and comfortable, but are limited to smaller firearms and may have slower draw times.
  • Factors to consider when selecting a holster include body type, clothing style, and daily routines.

Shoulder Holsters

Shoulder holsters are a popular choice among law enforcement professionals and civilian gun owners who seek a comfortable and easily accessible carry option. These holsters feature a harness that goes over the shoulders, with the holster itself positioned under the arm. The design of a shoulder holster allows the weight of the firearm to be distributed evenly across the shoulders, reducing strain on any single part of the body. This makes shoulder holsters an excellent choice for individuals who carry larger or heavier handguns.

Shoulder Holsters - Different Types of Holsters

Design

Shoulder holsters are particularly beneficial for people who spend a lot of time sitting, such as drivers or office workers. The design of the holster ensures that it doesn’t impede movement or cause discomfort when seated for extended periods. However, it’s worth noting that shoulder holsters generally require an additional layer of clothing, such as a jacket or coat, for effective concealment. This can be a drawback in warmer climates or more casual settings.

Comfort

One of the main benefits of shoulder holsters is the exceptional comfort they provide, even during prolonged wear. The even distribution of the firearm’s weight across the shoulders minimizes fatigue and discomfort, especially when carrying heavier handguns. Shoulder holsters often feature adjustable straps and the option to choose between horizontal or vertical carry positions, further enhancing their overall comfort.

Concealment

Although shoulder holsters offer a high level of comfort, they do require an outer garment for proper concealment. This necessity can be a disadvantage in warmer weather or when a more relaxed dress code is appropriate. However, for individuals who frequently wear jackets or suits, a shoulder holster can be seamlessly integrated into their attire, providing a discreet carry option.

Accessibility

Accessibility is another significant advantage of shoulder holsters. Drawing from a shoulder holster is smooth and natural, allowing for quick access to the firearm when needed. However, it’s essential to practice drawing from this holster type, as the motion is different from waistband holsters and may require some adjustment to master.

Pros

  • Ideal for comfortably carrying larger or heavier firearms.
  • Distributes weight evenly across the shoulders, minimizing strain.
  • Provides excellent comfort for extended wear, particularly when seated.
  • Offers a smooth and natural draw once mastered.

Cons

  • Requires an outer garment for effective concealment.
  • May not be suitable for warmer climates or casual attire.
  • Drawing from a shoulder holster requires practice to master.

Shoulder holsters offer a comfortable and accessible carry option, especially for those who regularly wear jackets or suits and carry larger firearms. While they do necessitate an outer garment for concealment and may require practice to master the drawing technique, shoulder holsters provide a reliable and practical choice for many concealed carry enthusiasts.

Inside-the-Waistband (IWB) Holsters

Inside-the-waistband (IWB) holsters have gained significant popularity among concealed carry practitioners due to their superior concealment capabilities and versatility. These holsters are crafted to be worn inside the waistband of your pants, with the firearm positioned between your body and the waistband. This unique placement allows for a high degree of discretion, making IWB holsters an ideal choice for individuals who prioritize concealment above all else.

Inside-the-Waistband (IWB) Holsters - Different Types of Holsters

Design

IWB holsters feature a slim and low-profile design, which helps to minimize the appearance of the firearm under clothing. They are typically secured to the pants using clips or loops that can be adjusted for height and cant (angle) to suit individual preferences and body types. Some IWB holsters also incorporate a sweat shield – a layer of material between the firearm and your body – to prevent moisture accumulation and enhance overall comfort.

Comfort

When selecting an IWB holster, comfort is a paramount consideration. Since the holster rests inside the waistband and directly against your body, poorly designed or ill-fitted holsters can cause discomfort. To ensure optimal comfort, opt for holsters constructed from high-quality, breathable materials that minimize irritation and moisture buildup. Moreover, look for holsters with adjustable features, such as customizable ride height and cant, to find the most comfortable position for your specific body type and carry style.

Concealment

One of the primary strengths of IWB holsters is their exceptional concealment. With the majority of the firearm hidden inside the waistband, IWB holsters allow for discreet carry, even when wearing form-fitting clothing. To further improve concealment, consider pairing your IWB holster with a dedicated concealed carry belt. These belts are designed to distribute the weight of the firearm evenly and prevent sagging or shifting, which can compromise concealment.

Accessibility

When evaluating IWB holsters, accessibility is another crucial factor to consider. A well-engineered IWB holster should permit a smooth and rapid draw while maintaining adequate retention and security. Seek out holsters with adjustable retention features, such as tension screws or friction-fit designs, to achieve an optimal balance between accessibility and firearm security.

Pros

  • Provides excellent concealment, even when wearing form-fitting clothing.
  • Offers versatile carry options with adjustable ride height and cant.
  • Ensures a secure fit, reducing firearm movement during everyday activities.
  • Compatible with a wide variety of firearms and body types.

Cons

  • May require some trial and error to find the most comfortable position.
  • Can be less comfortable compared to other holster types, particularly during extended wear.
  • May necessitate wearing pants one size larger to accommodate the holster and firearm.

Best IWB holsters offer an exceptional combination of concealment, security, and versatility for concealed carry. Although some experimentation may be necessary to find the perfect comfort level and fit, the ability to wear these holsters discreetly and securely makes them a premier choice for numerous concealed carry practitioners.

Outside-the-Waistband (OWB) Holsters

Outside-the-waistband (OWB) holsters are a popular option among gun owners who value accessibility and comfort above all else. These holsters are designed to be worn on the exterior of your pants or belt, making them a common choice for law enforcement officers, security personnel, and civilians who prefer a more classic carry style.

Outside-the-Waistband (OWB) Holsters - Different Types of Holsters

Design

OWB holsters are crafted to be worn on the outside of your waistband and are usually secured to a belt using loops or clips. They are available in a wide range of materials, including leather, Kydex, or a combination of the two, and can be tailored to fit specific firearm models. Some OWB holsters also incorporate retention devices, such as thumb breaks or adjustable screws, to ensure a secure fit and prevent unauthorized access to the firearm.

Comfort

One of the primary benefits of OWB holsters is the exceptional comfort they provide, particularly during extended periods of wear. Since the holster is not in direct contact with your body, there is significantly less irritation and discomfort compared to IWB holsters. This makes OWB holsters an ideal choice for individuals who spend long hours standing or sitting, such as law enforcement officers or security personnel.

Concealment

Concealment can be a bit more challenging with OWB holsters, as the firearm is more exposed compared to IWB options. However, many modern OWB holsters feature a low-profile and contoured design that minimizes the firearm’s outline under clothing. When coupled with appropriate attire, such as a loose-fitting jacket or untucked shirt, an OWB holster can still provide sufficient concealment for most situations.

Accessibility

OWB holsters truly shine when it comes to accessibility, allowing for a quick and smooth draw. The positioning of the firearm on the outside of the waistband facilitates a more natural and intuitive drawing motion, which can be critical in high-stress situations. Moreover, OWB holsters are often compatible with a broader range of firearms, including those with longer barrel lengths or larger frame sizes.

Pros

  • Provides exceptional comfort for extended periods of wear, especially when sitting or driving.
  • Facilitates a quick and intuitive drawing motion.
  • Compatible with a wide variety of firearm sizes and types.
  • Suitable for open carry in jurisdictions where it is permitted.

Cons

  • Can be more challenging to conceal, especially with form-fitting clothing.
  • May not be as secure as IWB holsters, depending on the retention features.
  • Requires a sturdy belt to ensure proper support and stability.

OWB holsters provide a comfortable and easily accessible carry option, particularly for those who prioritize a quick and smooth draw. Although concealment may be more challenging compared to IWB holsters, the advantages of comfort and ease of use make OWB holsters a popular choice for many firearm enthusiasts and professionals.

Ankle Holsters

Ankle holsters are a specialized carry option that provides a unique blend of comfort and concealment. These holsters are designed to be worn around the ankle, securing the firearm against the lower leg. While ankle holsters may not be the most popular choice for primary carry, they offer several advantages that make them a valuable addition to any concealed carry setup.

Ankle Holsters - Different Types of Holsters

Design

Ankle holsters typically consist of a padded band that wraps around the ankle, with a holster attachment to secure the firearm. They are usually made from breathable, lightweight materials to ensure comfort during extended wear. Some ankle holsters feature additional support straps that wrap around the calf for added stability and security.

Comfort

One of the main advantages of ankle holsters is their comfort. By positioning the firearm away from the waist and torso, ankle holsters minimize discomfort and irritation, especially when sitting for long periods or driving. The padded design of most ankle holsters also helps to reduce rubbing and chafing, ensuring a comfortable carry experience throughout the day.

Concealment

Ankle holsters excel in terms of concealment, as they are worn under the pant leg and are rarely visible to others. This makes them an excellent choice for those who need to maintain a high level of discretion, such as undercover law enforcement officers or civilians who prefer to keep their firearms well-hidden. However, it’s important to note that drawing from an ankle holster requires a bit more time and practice compared to waist-mounted options.

Accessibility

Accessibility is one of the main drawbacks of ankle holsters. Drawing from an ankle holster requires bending down or raising the leg, which can be challenging in a rapidly evolving self-defense situation. Additionally, drawing from an ankle holster while seated or in a confined space can be difficult or nearly impossible. For these reasons, ankle holsters are often used as a backup or secondary carry option rather than a primary means of defense.

Pros

  • Excellent concealment, as the firearm is hidden under the pant leg.
  • Comfortable for extended wear, especially when sitting or driving.
  • Ideal for backup or secondary firearms.
  • Suitable for a variety of firearms, including small revolvers and semi-automatic pistols.

Cons

  • Slower access compared to waist-mounted holsters.
  • Requires practice and flexibility to draw effectively.
  • May not be suitable for larger or heavier firearms.
  • Can be uncomfortable in hot weather or during physical activities.

Ankle holsters provide a discreet and comfortable carry option, particularly for those who need to maintain a high level of concealment. While they may not be the best choice for primary carry due to accessibility limitations, ankle holsters can serve as an excellent backup or secondary carry method when paired with appropriate training and practice.

Thigh Holsters

Thigh holsters, also known as drop leg holsters, are a popular choice among military, law enforcement, and tactical enthusiasts. These holsters are designed to be worn on the upper leg, offering a unique combination of accessibility and comfort. While thigh holsters are not typically used for everyday concealed carry, they provide distinct advantages in certain situations.

Thigh Holsters - Different Types of Holsters

Design

Thigh holsters consist of a platform that attaches to the upper leg using adjustable straps. The holster itself is mounted on this platform, allowing the firearm to be carried on the outer thigh. Most thigh holsters are constructed from durable materials like nylon or polymer and feature retention devices such as thumb breaks or adjustable screws to secure the firearm.

Comfort

Comfort is one of the main advantages of thigh holsters, particularly when carrying larger or heavier firearms. By distributing the weight of the firearm across the leg rather than the waist, thigh holsters reduce fatigue and discomfort during extended wear. The adjustable straps also allow for a customized fit, ensuring that the holster remains stable and secure during physical activity.

Concealment

Concealment is not a primary focus of thigh holsters, as they are designed for overt carry in tactical or military settings. The positioning of the holster on the outer thigh makes it difficult to conceal under clothing, limiting its usefulness for everyday concealed carry. However, in situations where concealment is not a concern, such as open carry or tactical training, thigh holsters provide a practical and accessible carry option.

Accessibility

Thigh holsters excel in terms of accessibility, allowing for a quick and efficient draw. The positioning of the firearm on the outer thigh enables a natural and intuitive drawing motion, even when wearing bulky gear or body armor. This ease of access can be crucial in high-stress situations where every second counts.

Pros

  • Comfortable for carrying larger or heavier firearms.
  • Allows for a quick and intuitive draw.
  • Ideal for tactical or military applications.
  • Distributes the weight of the firearm across the leg, reducing fatigue.

Cons

  • Difficult to conceal under clothing.
  • May not be suitable for everyday concealed carry.
  • Can cause discomfort or chafing during extended wear, especially in hot weather.
  • Requires practice to ensure a smooth and efficient draw.

Thigh holsters provide a comfortable and accessible carry option for tactical and military applications. While they may not be the best choice for everyday concealed carry due to their limited concealability, thigh holsters offer distinct advantages in situations where quick access to a firearm is essential. When used in appropriate contexts and with proper training, thigh holsters can be a valuable addition to any tactical gear setup.

Belly Band Holsters

Belly band holsters have gained significant popularity in recent years as a versatile and adaptable concealed carry solution. These holsters are designed as a wide, elastic band that wraps around the torso, offering a secure and comfortable platform for carrying a firearm. Belly band holsters provide several unique advantages, making them a top choice for gun owners who prioritize flexibility and discretion in their carry setup.

Belly Band Holsters - Different Types of Holsters

Design

Belly band holsters are crafted to be worn around the midsection, typically spanning the area from the waist to the lower ribcage. The elastic band is usually constructed from breathable, moisture-wicking materials to ensure optimal comfort during extended periods of wear. Most belly band holsters incorporate built-in pockets or holster attachments to securely hold the firearm, as well as additional pockets for carrying spare magazines, cell phones, or other small essentials.

Comfort

One of the standout features of belly band holsters is the exceptional comfort they provide. The wide, elastic design evenly distributes the weight of the firearm across the torso, minimizing pressure points and reducing discomfort. The breathable materials used in the construction of most belly band holsters also help to minimize sweating and irritation, making them an ideal option for all-day wear.

Concealment

Belly band holsters truly excel when it comes to concealment. They can be easily hidden under a wide variety of clothing types, thanks to their slim, low-profile design. These holsters can be worn under even form-fitting garments without printing or revealing the presence of a firearm. This makes belly band holsters an excellent choice for individuals who need to maintain a high level of discretion in their daily carry routine.

Accessibility

Another key advantage of belly band holsters is their accessibility. The positioning of the firearm on the torso allows for a quick and intuitive draw, as the gun is often carried in a natural resting position for the hands. Many belly band holsters also offer multiple carry positions, enabling the user to customize the location of the firearm for optimal accessibility and comfort.

Pros

  • Highly versatile and adaptable, suitable for a wide range of firearms and body types.
  • Provides exceptional comfort for extended wear, even during physical activity.
  • Offers excellent concealment under a variety of clothing types.
  • Allows for multiple carry positions and easy customization.
  • Often includes additional pockets for carrying spare magazines or other essential items.

Cons

  • May require some experimentation to find the most comfortable and secure fit.
  • Can be challenging to draw from quickly, especially when wearing multiple layers of clothing.
  • May not provide the same level of retention as traditional holsters.
  • Some users may find the elastic material to be less durable compared to other holster options.

Belly band holsters offer a versatile and comfortable concealed carry solution that prioritizes discretion and adaptability. While finding the perfect fit and setup may require some trial and error, the benefits of comfort, concealment, and customization make belly band holsters a popular choice among many concealed carry enthusiasts.

Bra Holsters

Bra holsters are a specialized concealed carry option designed specifically for women. These holsters provide a discreet and accessible way to carry a small firearm close to the body, making them a popular choice among female concealed carry practitioners. While bra holsters offer several advantages, they also come with unique considerations and challenges.

Bra Holsters

Design

Bra holsters are designed to be worn in conjunction with a brassiere, either by attaching directly to the bra or by being worn as a separate garment. Most bra holsters are made from lightweight, breathable materials to ensure comfort and minimize bulk. They often feature a molded cup or a flat pouch to secure the firearm, as well as adjustable straps for a customized fit.

Comfort

Comfort is a primary concern with bra holsters, as the positioning of the firearm can put pressure on sensitive areas of the body. To mitigate this issue, many bra holsters are designed with padded or moisture-wicking materials to reduce irritation and discomfort. However, finding the right fit and position for a bra holster may require some experimentation and adjustment to ensure optimal comfort.

Concealment

Bra holsters offer excellent concealment, as they allow the firearm to be carried close to the body and hidden under clothing. The small size of the firearms typically used with bra holsters also contributes to their overall discretion. When properly fitted and positioned, a bra holster can be virtually undetectable, even under form-fitting garments.

Accessibility

Accessibility is a key consideration with bra holsters, as the positioning of the firearm can impact the speed and ease of the draw. Some bra holsters are designed for cross-body draws, while others may require the user to reach under their clothing to access the gun. Practicing with a bra holster is essential to develop muscle memory and ensure a smooth, efficient draw when needed.

Pros

  • Provides excellent concealment, even under form-fitting clothing.
  • Allows for discreet carry of small firearms close to the body.
  • Can be a comfortable option when properly fitted and adjusted.
  • Offers a specialized carry method tailored to the needs of female concealed carry practitioners.

Cons

  • Limited to smaller firearms due to the size constraints of the holster.
  • May require significant experimentation and adjustment to find the optimal fit and position.
  • Can be uncomfortable or cause irritation if not properly fitted or if worn for extended periods.
  • Accessibility may be slower compared to other holster types, depending on the specific design and carry position.

Bra holsters provide a unique and discreet concealed carry option for women. While they offer excellent concealment and the potential for comfortable carry, they also come with specific challenges related to fit, comfort, and accessibility. As with any holster choice, it is essential to carefully consider individual needs and preferences when deciding if a bra holster is the right option for you.

Pocket Holsters

Pocket holsters are a minimalist and discreet concealed carry option designed for small firearms. As the name suggests, these holsters are meant to be carried inside a pocket, providing a simple and convenient way to keep a gun close at hand. While pocket holsters are not suitable for all firearms or all situations, they offer several benefits for those who prioritize simplicity and discretion in their carry setup.

Design

Pocket holsters are typically made from lightweight, durable materials such as leather, nylon, or Kydex. They are designed to fit snugly inside a pocket, with a shape that conforms to the contours of the firearm. Many pocket holsters feature a textured or rubberized exterior to help keep the holster securely in place within the pocket. Some designs also incorporate a hook or clip that catches on the pocket’s edge, ensuring a smooth and consistent draw.

Comfort

Comfort is one of the main advantages of pocket holsters. Because the firearm is carried in a pocket rather than on a belt or waistband, there is no pressure or rubbing against the body. This makes pocket holsters a popular choice for those who find traditional holsters uncomfortable or irritating. However, it is important to note that carrying a firearm in a pocket can be less comfortable when seated or during physical activity, as the gun may shift or press against the leg.

Concealment

Pocket holsters excel in terms of concealment, as they allow the firearm to be carried discreetly within a pocket. When used with appropriately sized firearms and clothing, a pocket holster can be virtually undetectable, making it an excellent option for those who need to maintain a low profile. However, it is crucial to choose a pocket holster that fits the specific firearm and pocket size to ensure optimal concealment and prevent printing.

Accessibility

Accessibility is a potential drawback of pocket holsters, as drawing from a pocket can be slower and more challenging than drawing from a traditional holster. The confined space of a pocket can make it difficult to establish a proper grip on the firearm, and the act of reaching into a pocket may be more conspicuous than reaching for a waistband holster. To mitigate these issues, it is essential to practice drawing from a pocket holster regularly and to choose a holster design that facilitates a smooth and consistent draw.

Pros

  • Highly discreet and easy to conceal.
  • Comfortable for everyday carry, as there is no pressure on the waist or body.
  • Simple and minimalist design, making them easy to use and maintain.
  • Affordable compared to many other holster options.
  • Suitable for a variety of small firearms, including revolvers and semi-automatic pistols.

Cons

  • Limited to smaller firearms due to the size constraints of pockets.
  • Can be slower and more challenging to draw from compared to traditional holsters.
  • May not provide the same level of retention or trigger protection as other holster types.
  • Can be less comfortable when seated or during physical activity.
  • Requires practice to develop a smooth and consistent draw technique.

Pocket holsters offer a simple, discreet, and comfortable concealed carry option for those who favor small firearms. While they may not be the most versatile or accessible holster choice, their ease of use and low profile make them a popular option for everyday carry. As with any holster, it is essential to carefully consider individual needs and preferences when deciding if a pocket holster is the right choice for you.

Recommendations

When choosing a holster for concealed carry, it is essential to consider your individual needs, preferences, and lifestyle. What works well for one person may not be the best option for another. To help you make an informed decision, we have compiled some general recommendations based on common priorities and scenarios.

Best holsters for specific body types

Different body types and shapes can impact holster comfort and concealability. Here are some suggestions based on common body type considerations:

  • Athletic or slim build: IWB holsters, belly band holsters, and ankle holsters tend to work well for those with a slimmer build, as they provide a low profile and minimize bulk.
  • Larger or heavier build: OWB holsters and shoulder holsters may be more comfortable for those with a larger build, as they distribute the weight of the firearm more evenly and reduce pressure on the waistband.
  • Curvier or petite build: Bra holsters and belly band holsters can be excellent options for women with curvier or petite builds, as they provide flexibility in positioning and help to avoid printing or discomfort around the waist.

Holsters for different clothing styles

Clothing choices can significantly impact holster selection and concealment. Consider these recommendations based on common clothing styles:

  • Business attire: Shoulder holsters, IWB holsters, and ankle holsters can be easily concealed under suits, jackets, and dress pants.
  • Casual wear: OWB holsters, IWB holsters, and pocket holsters are versatile options that can be worn comfortably with a variety of casual clothing, such as jeans, shorts, and untucked shirts.
  • Activewear: Belly band holsters and specialized activewear holsters (e.g., leggings or shorts with built-in holsters) are ideal for concealed carry during exercise or physical activity.

Holsters for various situations

The choice of holster can vary significantly depending on an individual’s lifestyle factors and daily routines. Here are some recommendations based on common situational requirements:

  • Extended periods of sitting or driving: For those who spend a considerable amount of time seated, such as during long drives or office work, ankle holsters and shoulder holsters can provide a more comfortable carry experience. These holster types help to alleviate pressure on the waistband and lower back, which can become uncomfortable during prolonged sitting.
  • Physically demanding work or outdoor activities: Individuals engaged in jobs that involve physical labor or outdoor work may benefit from using OWB holsters or thigh holsters. These holster styles offer easy access to the firearm and a secure fit, ensuring that the gun remains stable and accessible even during strenuous activities or movement.
  • Formal events or special occasions: When attending formal events or special occasions that require dressier attire, such as suits, dresses, or tuxedos, pocket holsters and belly band holsters can be excellent choices. These holster types can be easily concealed under formal clothing without compromising style or comfort, allowing for discreet carry in settings where discretion is paramount.

It is important to note that these recommendations serve as general guidelines, and individual experiences may differ. It is essential for each person to experiment with various holster options to find the one that best suits their unique needs and preferences. Moreover, regardless of the holster chosen, it is crucial to always prioritize proper training and safety when carrying a concealed firearm. Investing time in practicing drawing and reholstering, as well as familiarizing oneself with the specific holster and firearm combination, is essential for responsible and secure concealed carry.

Conclusion

Selecting the right holster for concealed carry is a crucial decision that can greatly impact your comfort, safety, and overall experience. By understanding the various types of holsters available, such as IWB, OWB, shoulder, ankle, thigh, belly band, bra, and pocket holsters, you can make an informed choice that best suits your individual needs and preferences. Remember to consider factors like your body type, clothing style, and daily routines when choosing a holster, and always prioritize proper training and safety. With the right holster and a commitment to responsible carry, you can effectively balance your personal security with your desired level of comfort and discretion.

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