When buying a handgun for personal defense, you need something to keep it safe and close to you. While some people choose to disregard safety precautions and keep a bare pistol in the pants waistband or a pocket, responsible gun owners prefer to carry it in a holster.
A holster doesn’t just keep a pistol at hand for you to draw it in an emergency. It holds a handgun safely and securely, providing trigger support to avoid accidental discharges and preventing a firearm from slipping.
Many holster types are also designed specifically to conceal a weapon. Some holster designs help to smooth out the outline of a pistol, others achieve concealment when covered by a garment.
Holsters can be classified based on several aspects. If we take closeness to the body as a base aspect, we get on-body and off-body holsters. Off-body holsters don’t contact a person directly and attach to the nearest subject. Thus, we have bag holsters, motorcycle and car gun holsters that attach to a vehicle seat, and bedside gun holsters that use a folded design for one side being tucked under the mattress and the other to hang freely.
Holsters can also be classified by use. There are duty holsters featuring retention mechanisms. Everyday carry holsters are widely popular among both law enforcement officers and civilians. Tactical holsters are designed for military use. Competition holsters are made to follow specific rules set by competitive shooting organizations.
In this article, we’ll be classifying on-body gun holsters by placement. We’ll shed light on the advantages and downsides of each type and provide examples of the most effective uses.
7 Types of Handgun Holsters
Belt Holsters (IWB, OWB, Paddle)
Belt gun holsters are the most common. This design has been in use for hundreds of years now and is still considered the most effective for carrying a handgun. Compared to the other types, increased adjustability of belt holsters is a major advantage. You can adjust belt position, ride (point of attachment to the belt relative to trigger), cant (angle at which a handgun sits), and other elements.
Belt holsters include inside-the-waistband holsters for concealed carry and outside-the-waistband holsters for open carry.
IWB gun holsters attach to a belt or pants so that you can carry a handgun inside your waistband. Your pants conceal most of a pistol, and your upper garment covers the grip left exposed.
The extent of printing and your comfort depends on the size of a gun. Larger handguns can cause discomfort when carried for extended periods and can leave a visible print, while smaller pistols typically don’t have such issues.
Some people may experience problems when accessing a handgun carried inside the waistband. Practice your draw so that you can use your weapon as quickly as possible. For those new to firearms, a detailed guide to dry fire training systems can be an excellent resource to safely practice and improve shooting skills without using live ammunition.
OWB holsters are clipped to the belt and worn outside your waistband. They are not intended for concealed carry, though, in colder environments, your clothing may aid concealment. With an OWB holster, you can comfortably carry a handgun of any size, and the ease of accessibility results in a quick draw.
A paddle holster is a subtype of OWB holster. It features a paddle mechanism that allows you to detach a holster whenever you like. While it ensures flexibility as you don’t need to remove your belt to take it off, paddle holsters can create a danger in close-action fights
Belly Band Holsters
It is worn around the abdomen and above the waist, and loose-fitting upper clothes conceal it. People often choose this design as a gun holster for running because it keeps a handgun tight, and nothing flops around.
Poorly designed belly band holster can cause skin irritation, and sweat from your body can reach a handgun and damage its coating.
The design of a shoulder gun holster is similar to a backpack. The straps are wrapped around shoulders, and an actual holster hangs off on the side of your rib cage or under the armpit. It’s comfortable to carry a larger gun, but you need to wear a garment over it to conceal a weapon. What is great about this design is that you can carry mags or other accessories on the side that doesn’t accommodate a pistol.
Compared to belt gun holsters, it allows for faster and easier access to the gun when sitting or driving. Your pants don’t experience extra loads, which results in increased mobility.
Ankle gun holsters attach to your ankle, and for successful concealment, you need to wear pants with loose leg cuts. While it’s considered one of the best designs for CCW, it has a few downsides. The most obvious is encumbered access. To draw a handgun, you need to incline, lift a pant leg, and extract a weapon. There also is a limitation on the size of the gun that you can carry comfortably.
Ankle holsters are often used to accommodate smaller backup pistols that are easier to conceal and carry while moving, driving, or running.
Before you think anything, remember what we have already discussed. Hosters prevent a gun from falling and accidental discharging. That’s why it’s safer to keep a weapon in a holster rather than a pocket.
Pocket holsters are designed to fit in a pocket large and deep enough to accommodate a finished system. They are used for carrying small handguns. Pocket holsters are a great choice for CCW people because they aid concealment by breaking up the outline of a gun.
Carried inside a pocket holster, a handgun won’t get caught on clothing, which results in a quicker draw.
There are two types of thigh holsters. One of them is a tactical thigh holster designed to be worn over your clothes and carry a handgun openly.
Concealed carry thigh holsters are gun holsters for women as they are worn under a dress or skirt. Women can easily access a gun because lifting such garments doesn’t require much effort. The use of thigh holsters is limited to small EDC handguns.
The downside of such a design is that it can slip. So buy a thigh holster and fasten it securely.
As it follows from the name, this gun holster attaches to a woman’s bra and carries a small pistol tight to the body. To actually conceal a weapon, women need to wear loose-fitting clothes.
As far as materials are concerned, typically gun holsters are made of leather, nylon, and plastic. Leather gun holsters provide a nice balance between stiffness and flexibility and next-to-skin comfort but are prone to degradation when not maintained properly. Gun holsters made of molded plastics such as Kydex are lightweight, rigid, and low-maintenance. Nylon gun holsters make something in between leather and Kydex. They are the least expensive, universal, and resistant to abuse if they have a high denier rating.
We hope now you can make an informed decision on what type of gun holster will suit your needs just right.
To choose the best gun holster, think about what holster placement feels comfortable, what material you prefer the most, and what level of retention you want. The higher the level, the more time you need to draw a weapon. At the same time, level 3 and level 4 holsters maintain higher security as no one will easily get hold of your gun.