Exploring Inside Waistband (IWB) Holsters: An In-Depth Look at Their Pros, Cons, and Usage

Inside Waistband (IWB) holsters have gained significant popularity among those who carry concealed firearms due to their ability to provide a low-profile, easily accessible means of carrying a gun. However, before investing in an IWB holster, it’s essential to weigh the advantages and disadvantages to determine if it aligns with your specific needs and preferences. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll dive deep into the world of Inside Waistband (IWB) holsters, examining their benefits, drawbacks, and key considerations when selecting one. Additionally, we’ll provide step-by-step instructions on how to safely and effectively use an IWB holster for concealed carry.

Inside Waistband (IWB) Holsters

Essential Overview

  • Inside Waistband (IWB) holsters are a popular choice for concealed carry, offering excellent concealability, versatility, and ease of access.
  • IWB holsters sit between your body and clothing, providing a low-profile and discreet carry option.
  • Advantages of IWB holsters include excellent concealability, a wide range of carry positions, easy access to the firearm, and compatibility with various clothing styles.
  • Disadvantages include potential discomfort for some body types, the need for a sturdy belt, slower draw compared to OWB holsters, and possible printing if not properly concealed.
  • When choosing an IWB holster, consider factors such as firearm compatibility, holster material, retention, adjustability, comfort, and ease of use.
  • Proper use of an IWB holster involves finding the optimal position, mastering safe drawing and reholstering techniques, and selecting appropriate clothing for concealment.

What are IWB Holsters?

Inside Waistband (IWB) Holsters 01

Inside Waistband (IWB) holsters are a specific type of holster that is worn within the waistband of your pants, sitting between your body and your clothing. This unique design offers a superior level of concealment, making IWB holsters a top choice for those who prioritize discretion when carrying their firearms.

IWB holsters stand apart from other holster options, like Outside Waistband (OWB) holsters, in a few notable ways. OWB holsters are worn externally on your clothing, which can make them more noticeable to others. In contrast, IWB holsters are tucked away inside your waistband, offering a higher degree of concealment. Moreover, IWB holsters typically feature a more compact design, further enhancing their ability to remain undetected beneath your clothing.

Another key aspect of IWB holsters is that they sit close to your body. This positioning provides a more secure and stable carrying experience, as the holster is supported by both your waistband and your body. However, this proximity to the body can sometimes cause discomfort, especially for those with larger body frames or individuals who are more sensitive to pressure against their skin.

Advantages of IWB Holsters

IWB holsters offer several significant advantages that make them a popular choice among concealed carry practitioners:

Inside Waistband (IWB) Holsters 05

Excellent concealability

One of the primary benefits of IWB holsters is their exceptional ability to conceal your firearm. By positioning the gun inside your waistband, the holster minimizes the visible profile of the weapon, making it less noticeable under clothing. This is particularly important for those who need to maintain a discreet appearance, such as professionals working in office environments or individuals who prefer not to draw attention to their concealed carry.

Allows for a wide range of carry positions

IWB holsters provide a great deal of flexibility in terms of carry positions. They can be worn in various locations around the waistline, including strong side (3 o’clock), appendix (1-2 o’clock), and even small of the back (6 o’clock). This versatility allows users to experiment with different positions to find the most comfortable and accessible option for their body type and personal preferences.

Easy access to the firearm

When properly positioned, IWB holsters offer quick and easy access to your firearm. The close proximity of the gun to your body allows for a smooth, natural draw motion, which can be crucial in self-defense situations where every second counts. With regular practice, drawing from an IWB holster can become second nature, ensuring that you can access your weapon quickly and efficiently when needed.

Versatile and compatible with various clothing styles

IWB holsters are designed to work well with a wide range of clothing styles, from casual attire to more formal outfits. By wearing the holster inside your waistband, you can easily conceal your firearm under untucked shirts, jackets, or even tucked-in shirts with the right holster design. This versatility makes IWB holsters a practical choice for everyday carry, as you can adapt your clothing choices to your concealment needs without drastically altering your personal style.

Disadvantages of IWB Holsters

While IWB holsters offer many benefits, they also have some potential drawbacks that should be considered:

Can be uncomfortable for some body types

Due to the close proximity of the holster and firearm to the body, IWB holsters can cause discomfort for some individuals. This is particularly true for those with larger body types or those who are sensitive to pressure against their skin. The constant contact between the holster and the body may lead to irritation, chafing, or even pain, especially when worn for extended periods.

Requires a sturdy belt for proper support

To function effectively, IWB holsters require a sturdy, high-quality belt that can support the weight of the firearm and holster. Without proper support, the holster may sag or shift, leading to discomfort and potentially compromising your ability to draw the weapon quickly. Investing in a dedicated gun belt is often necessary to ensure optimal performance and comfort when using an IWB holster.

Slower draw compared to OWB holsters

While IWB holsters can offer quick access to your firearm, they typically have a slower draw speed compared to OWB holsters. This is because the gun is tucked inside the waistband, requiring a slightly more complex motion to clear the holster and clothing during the draw. With practice, however, this difference in speed can be minimized.

May cause discomfort when sitting for extended periods

The position of an IWB holster can sometimes cause discomfort when sitting for prolonged periods, such as during long car rides or while working at a desk. The pressure of the firearm against the body may become more pronounced in a seated position, leading to discomfort or even pain in some cases. Adjusting the holster’s cant and ride height can help alleviate this issue, but it may require some experimentation to find the optimal configuration.

Holster may shift or move during physical activity

During physical activities or strenuous movement, an IWB holster may shift or move, potentially compromising your ability to draw the firearm quickly and safely. This is particularly true if the holster is not properly secured or if the belt is not sufficiently sturdy. Engaging in activities that involve a lot of movement may require additional measures to ensure the holster remains stable, such as using holster clips or attachment systems.

Potential for printing if not properly concealed

Although IWB holsters offer excellent concealment, there is still a potential for printing, which is when the outline of the firearm is visible through clothing. This can occur if the holster is not positioned correctly, if the clothing is too tight or thin, or if the firearm is too large for the individual’s body type. To minimize printing, it’s essential to choose the right holster and clothing combination and to practice proper concealment techniques.

Factors to Consider When Choosing an IWB Holster

When shopping for an IWB holster, it’s important to take into account several key aspects to ensure you select the best option for your individual needs:

Inside Waistband (IWB) Holsters 03

Firearm Compatibility

First and foremost, you must consider the specific make and model of your firearm. Holsters are crafted to accommodate particular guns, so it’s crucial to choose a holster that is designed to fit your weapon perfectly. Many holster brands provide model-specific choices, guaranteeing an ideal fit and optimal gun retention.

Holster material options

IWB holsters come in a range of materials, each with unique advantages and potential drawbacks. Traditional leather holsters are known for their comfort and ability to conform to your body shape over time. However, they often need a break-in period and can be affected by moisture. Kydex holsters, on the other hand, are rugged, lightweight, and provide excellent gun retention, though some users may find them less comfortable against the skin. Hybrid holsters offer a combination of a Kydex shell for the firearm and a leather backing for enhanced comfort.

Gun retention and trigger protection

Retention refers to the holster’s capability to keep the firearm securely in place, preventing it from unintentionally slipping out during everyday activities. Opt for a holster with sufficient retention to keep your gun secure, even during vigorous movement. Furthermore, ensure that the holster fully covers the trigger guard to minimize the risk of accidental discharge and enhance overall safety.

Adjustability for cant and ride height

Cant describes the angle at which the holster holds the firearm, while ride height refers to the gun’s position in relation to your waistband. Some IWB holsters feature adjustable cant and ride height settings, giving you the ability to fine-tune the holster’s position for maximum comfort and accessibility. This customization is especially beneficial if you intend to carry your gun in various positions or have specific preferences regarding your draw angle.

Comfort and user-friendliness

Since you’ll likely wear your IWB holster for long periods, comfort is a vital consideration. Seek out holsters with smooth edges and contoured corners to reduce irritation and chafing against your skin. The holster should also be user-friendly, featuring a straightforward, intuitive design that facilitates quick and safe holstering and drawing. Look for additional features such as sweat guards, which shield your gun from moisture, and reinforced holster openings, which simplify the reholstering process.

How to Properly Use an IWB Holster

After selecting the ideal IWB holster for your specific needs, it’s essential to master the proper techniques for safe and effective concealed carry:

Finding the optimal holster position

Discovering the perfect position for your IWB holster requires some trial and error. The most popular positions include strong side (3 o’clock), appendix (1-2 o’clock), and small of the back (6 o’clock). Begin by trying the strong side position, as it typically provides a good balance of comfort, concealment, and accessibility for the majority of people. Fine-tune the holster’s cant and ride height to achieve the most comfortable and concealable setup for your unique body shape and clothing preferences.

Safe and efficient drawing techniques

To draw from an IWB holster safely and efficiently, adhere to the following steps:

  • Obtain a secure grip on the gun while it remains in the holster.
  • Use your support hand to move aside any clothing that might hinder your draw.
  • Pull the gun straight up and out of the holster, keeping your trigger finger along the slide.
  • Rotate the gun towards the target, uniting your support hand with your shooting hand.
  • Extend your arms towards the target, aligning your sights, and engaging as necessary.

Regularly practice drawing from your holster using an unloaded gun or training tool to develop muscle memory and improve your speed and proficiency.

Safe reholstering practices

To reholster your firearm safely, follow these steps:

  • Prioritize slow and deliberate movements to prevent accidents.
  • Ensure your finger is off the trigger and the gun is aimed in a safe direction.
  • Use your support hand to clear any obstacles, like clothing, from the holster’s opening.
  • Carefully guide the gun back into the holster, verifying that it’s fully seated.
  • Release your grip on the gun only after confirming it is securely holstered.
  • Avoid rushing the reholstering process, as haste can lead to unsafe handling practices.

Remember, taking your time and maintaining a focus on safety during the reholstering process is crucial to prevent negligent discharges or other dangerous situations.

Clothing choices for optimal concealment

Selecting appropriate clothing is vital for successful IWB concealment. Choose pants or shorts with a robust waistband that can support the combined weight of your gun and holster without sagging. Steer clear of tight or thin fabrics that may print or expose the outline of your firearm. Darker colors and patterns can help camouflage the gun’s silhouette. When picking shirts or jackets, opt for styles that are long enough to cover the holster and loose enough to hang naturally without clinging to the gun. Try out various clothing combinations to determine the best options for your body type and holster configuration.

IWB Holsters: Frequently Asked Questions

Inside Waistband (IWB) Holsters 02

Q: Can IWB holsters be used with any type of clothing?

A: While IWB holsters offer great concealment, they work best with clothing that can comfortably accommodate the holster and firearm. Looser fitting clothes are generally recommended.

Q: How do I choose the right material for my IWB holster?

A: Consider your daily activities, the climate you live in, and your comfort preferences. Kydex is durable and low maintenance, leather offers a custom fit feel, and nylon is lightweight and budget-friendly.

Q: Is it necessary to adjust the position of my IWB holster throughout the day?

A: It may be necessary to adjust your holster’s position for comfort or accessibility, especially when transitioning between sitting and standing.

Q: How often should I practice drawing from my IWB holster?

A: Regular practice is key to ensuring you can draw swiftly and safely in a defensive situation. How often depends on your comfort level, but consistent practice is recommended.

Q: Can IWB holsters accommodate different firearm sizes?

A: Yes, IWB holsters are available in various sizes to fit different firearms. Ensure you choose a holster designed for your specific gun model for optimal fit and security.

Q: Will wearing an IWB holster change how I dress?

A: It might require slight adjustments, such as opting for slightly looser fitting pants or shirts to comfortably accommodate the holster and ensure concealment.

Q: Are IWB holsters suitable for all-day wear?

A: Yes, with the right material and fit, IWB holsters can be comfortable for all-day wear. It’s important to choose a holster that suits your body type and comfort needs.

Q: How do I maintain my IWB holster?

A: Maintenance varies by material. Kydex can be wiped down with a damp cloth, leather may require conditioners to prevent drying out, and nylon should be cleaned according to manufacturer instructions to ensure longevity.

Q: Can I adjust the retention of my IWB holster?

A: Many IWB holsters come with adjustable retention screws, allowing you to customize the hold on your firearm for a secure fit and easier draw.

Q: Is it difficult to conceal larger firearms with an IWB holster?

A: Concealing larger firearms may be more challenging but is possible with careful selection of holster position and appropriate clothing.


Inside Waistband (IWB) holsters offer a popular and effective solution for concealed carry, providing excellent concealability, versatility, and ease of access. However, it’s essential to consider the potential drawbacks, such as comfort issues and the need for a sturdy belt, when deciding if an IWB holster is right for you. By carefully evaluating factors like gun compatibility, holster material, retention, and adjustability, you can select an IWB holster that best suits your individual needs and preferences. With proper positioning, practice, and clothing choices, an IWB holster can be a reliable and secure option for everyday carry, ensuring that you’re always prepared to defend yourself and your loved ones.


Leave a Comment