What Is The Best Concealed Carry Holster?
What is the best concealed carry holster? Concealed carry for gun users is imperative as nearly all US states now prohibit any firearms being ‘on show’. Whether you agree or not, many US citizens do not want to be in a public area where guns are seen on other people (legally known as ‘brandishing’) and even object to guns showing through clothing (known as ‘printing’). The right to bear arms is something that many US citizens feel is their right, but this right is tempered with the need to carry the gun in a concealed fashion. So what are the best concealed carry holster options for you?
There are many different options for you, but it’s worthwhile to keep in mind that it’s nearly impossible to find the best concealed carry holster that you can wear with absolutely everything in your wardrobe. There may also be compromises made when it comes to comfort and ease / speed of draw. For example, some holsters are fantastic when it comes to the positioning of your weapon. Fast access to your gun in a self-defense scenario gives you vital extra seconds that could mean the difference between life and death. However, if such a holster is uncomfortable to wear, you may find yourself using excuses to not wear it and therefore not taking your gun out of the house. In this case, you may choose a holster that does not give immediate access to your gun, but at least you are likely to have it on you, and you are willing to compromise on the slightly slower draw speed. This kind of compromise also comes into play when it comes concealability. An amazingly comfortable holster that hinders what you can wear may stop you from taking it out of the house on many occasions, simply as your chosen clothing for an occasion will not properly conceal your gun.
The point of carrying a gun is to be able to defend yourself and others from unforeseen attacks. And as they are unforeseen, they can happen at any time at any place. It’s amazing to think that many people will put themselves through a lot of time and expense when it comes to buying the correct firearm, but then baulk at the idea of buying more than one holster, and even then, will choose the most inexpensive option. Inevitably, the expensive gun then gets left at home on many occasions because it is either too uncomfortable to carry, is difficult to conceal, is difficult to draw from, or all or a combination of the above. Don’t fall into that trap!
So what considerations do you need to make when buying the best concealed carry holster for yourself?
There are a few considerations to keep in mind when you look for the best concealed carry holster for your needs. First, let us start with your gun. Hand guns commonly used for self-defense situations generally fall in four categories when it comes to size; full size service pistols (such as Beretta 92 series), compact service pistols (such as the Glock 19), sub-compact pistols (such as Ruger SP101), and mini-guns or pocket pistols (such as the NAA Black Widow). Generally, the larger the gun, the more difficult it is to conceal. If you are carrying a huge cannon for a handgun, even the best concealed carry holster will not keep the gun concealed. Does this mean you should always pick the smallest gun possible? Not necessarily. Be honest when it comes your lifestyle choices. A person who makes a living in the great outdoors and is likely to be wearing heavy duty outdoor clothing could possibly get away with carrying even the large full size service pistols. Whereas someone working in an office all day will find even the compact service pistols very uncomfortable to carry on their person, and may find it impossible to conceal. We tend to spend more time at work than we spend with friends and even our family. Your profession (what you do, what you wear when working, and where you are when working) is a massive indicator on what size of gun would be appropriate for you to wear.
It’s also worth looking at how you generally spend your ‘down time’. When you are not at work, what do you do to relax? Do you tend to like going for long walks or hikes outdoors? Or do you enjoy a spot of retail therapy? Working out how you spend most of your waking hours will determine what environments you will be in and also, crucially, what you are likely to be wearing, both of which can point to the best concealed carry holster options for you.
In addition, your chosen gun will be the one that you feel the most comfortable handling. This is a personal choice, and why we recommend going to several gun shops to try out a number of guns to get a feel for which gun you feel the most comfortable using. Many gun shops are attached to a range, and this gives you the perfect way to test out several guns before purchasing.
So you have finally chosen a gun that fits your lifestyle as well as feels comfortable to use, what do you need to look for when it comes to the best concealed carry holster options?
- The most basic function of a holster is to keep your gun ‘put’ and the best concealed carry holster should keep you weapon secure whenever you carry it. It needs to retain your gun in the position you left it until you intentionally draw it out. In a self-defense situation you need to be aware of the exact orientation of the gun so you can draw it quickly and easily. Apart from losing vital seconds if the orientation has changed, the risk of accidental discharge rises dramatically if the gun does not stay in the exact position you left it. A good holster should completely cover and protect the trigger, including the trigger finger, from coming into contact from any outside objects.
- Although it is not always necessary to buy the most expensive options, generally you get what you pay for. A holster bought for under $15 is unlikely to be comfortable. It’s maddening to meet people who have happily parted with $800-1000 to buy a great gun, but then refuse to spend more than $20 on a holster. Generally, you should look to pay at least 10 percent of the value of your gun when buying a holster.
- Look at your wardrobe. Most people tend to stick to certain styles and types of clothing. This can be really informative when it comes to picking holsters as your clothing must completely conceal your weapon and stop it from printing. Also, are you willing to change your wardrobe and adapt to different styles to conceal your gun?
- Are you willing to carry your gun ‘on-the-body’ or prefer it to be ‘off-the-body’? There is no correct answer for this as it is a personal choice. Naturally, on the body usually means you can access it quickly and you have it on you (cannot be accidentally left somewhere). Downsides can be discomfort, especially when wearing your gun with substandard or an inappropriate holster, as well as your weapon being seen by someone. Off-the-body options create no issues when it comes to comfort as the gun is not being held against you, concealability is high, as the chances of your weapon being spotted is much lower, as well as the freedom to wear what you want as your actual clothing is not being used to conceal. The main overriding downside with off-the-body options is the increased draw time. Getting to your weapon generally takes longer.
Once you’ve answered the above questions, you will now have all the information needed to make an informed choice on the best concealed carry holster for your needs. Keep all of the above in mind as you read about the different kinds of concealed carry holsters below so you can choose the best options for you.
These holster have straps that go over your shoulders and you carry the gun in either a vertical position (necessary for larger, longer barrelled guns) or in the horizontal position (for smaller, shorter barrelled guns). Generally, women tend to find these holsters more comfortable, with men finding them rather uncomfortable, and many stating they can only wear these holsters for about an hour or so. Draw speed is white good, but you do need to have your jacket or coat unbuttoned. The major disadvantage is the need to always wear a jacket or coat to cover the holster and its rig. Unless you live somewhere that is permanently cold, than it is unlikely you will be able to use these holsters throughout the year. And even in a cold climate, you will need to ask yourself if you are likely to need the gun in indoor situations and events, as wearing jackets indoors may be uncomfortable as well as inappropriate. Regarding concealability, so long as you are wearing a jacket, detection from members of the public is highly unlikely, and these holsters may even be the only option, besides belt holsters, if you have chosen a full size service pistol as your self-defense gun of choice. Generally though, these are not usually the best concealed carry holster options.
Over the waistband belt (OWB) holsters:
These holsters are probably the most common of all holsters, and you will find the largest range to choose from. These are mounted to a belt (either through slots or with loops) or they make use of a paddle which makes for easy removal. The most concealable of the paddles are the ‘pancake’ styles, which, as the name suggests, are flat in nature and therefore fit snug to your waist. However, remember that if your gun is on the larger side, there are still issues of printing as the barrel of the gun is likely to cause a bump on your hip. Generally, whether you choose a paddle style or mount directly to belt, complete concealability involves wearing clothing that covers the belt and your firearm. This usually means wearing a jacket or coat (wearing just a shirt is likely to cause the bump to be seen by members of the public), Just like the shoulder holsters, the main disadvantage is the need to have a jacket or coat on at all time, inappropriate in certain seasons, climates and occasions, although there is a little more versatility compared to shoulder holsters as you can opt for short or no sleeve jackets and coats. So, generally speaking, there are not the best concealed carry holster options.
The material of the holster also plays a significant part in the concealability factor. These holsters usually come in nylon, kydex (a type of plastic) and leather versions. In general, leather versions will conceal a little better that the kydex or nylon versions. Leather holsters do need some attention, however, when they are first bought, as they need to be broken in. Some holster manufacturers even supply their own liquids to help with this break in process, and general holstering and drawing your gun will also stretch the leather until the retention and ease of draw is just right for you.
We recommenced specific gun belts, especially if you want to carry a larger gun, as they are specially reinforced to carry the weight of your gun, with most boasting extra reinforcement at the point where the gun is being carried. General belts for pant will not have this reinforcement and may cause your gun to move around, making the whole set up likely to be spotted by a member of the public, whilst also causing you discomfort. Even if you opt for a mini-gun, unless you plan on only carrying your gun occasionally, a good gun belt is a worthwhile investment.
Another factor regarding concealability is the ride height. Different manufacturers place the gun at different heights relative to the belt line. Generally, the higher the ride, the more concealable. However, too high a ride, the gun grip may be difficult to get a hold of quickly making it difficult to draw (unless have a rather long torso). This needs to be tempered with the relative ease of draw from a low riding holster that is more difficult to conceal. Always try before you buy.
Regarding comfort, OWB holsters are likely to be extremely uncomfortable, even the leather ones, if you are sitting down for long periods or driving. Lastly, as the gun is on the outside of your belt, retention of the gun is imperative, especially if you get into a struggle with someone, as you don’t want them to easily take the gun of you. Retention in a holster can come in the form of a tension screw, ALS lock, a rotating hood, a thumb break or a Serpa lock. We do not recommend holsters that do not use one of the above and simply rely on the ‘natural’ tension of the gun fitting snugly into the holster. The last thing you want is someone taking your gun of you! These holsters are ideal for the range but should never be used for self-defense carry purposes. If you opt for a leather version of an OWB holster, look for those that come with a thumb strap rather than an open top, as this provides better retention. The Serpa lock provides good retention, but an awkward placement of the release button has led to several accidents. Again, try these holsters before you buy. You want a combination of retention (to stop anyone taking your gun off you) and quick draw. After all, the extreme of either can cause serious problems. A holster that retains your gun well and will not allow an opponent to take it from you, but takes you several seconds to draw can cost you your life. Likewise, a holster without any locks or thumb breaks can give you a lightning fast draw, but your life is in danger when an opponent is able to take advantage of no retention by taking your gun of you.
Inside the waistband (IWB) holsters:
These holsters generally provide more concealability than OWB holster and versions are made in kydex, nylon and leather, with the same consideration needed to be taken regarding materials affecting concealability and comfort as with the OWB holsters.
These holsters also mount onto a belt using loops, but can also be mounted using clips (plastic or spring steel) or J-hooks. We recommend the J-hooks as these fasten under the belt with some allowing you to tuck your shirt in. Clips also work well, but choose good quality ones, such as those from Galco or Alessi. Cheap plastic hooks can break easily and can be uncomfortable, whilst spring steel clips have a nasty habit of drawing your holster out of the inside of your pants as well as your gun, causing possible accidental discharge as well as vital seconds in drawing your gun in a self-defense situation. For concealability, look for guns with offset clips or loops, rather than loops or clips directly over the gun.
Also, as with the OWB holsters, look at the different ride heights as they vary from one manufacturer to another. The grip of the gun needs to sit high enough so you can have a full grip. A low riding holster may involve an awkward grip when drawing your gun.
The main advantage of an IWB set up is that there is far less chance of a would be attacker being able to take the gun off you, as the gun is usually held low and close to your torso. Therefore, retention straps are not necessary. We do, however, recommend that you make sure you buy a holster designed for your gun and not one that appears to be designed for many models. The one size fits all versions tend to be a let-down in all aspects (concealability, comfort, and draw speed – either being too ‘loose’ or retention of gun being too tight)
These holsters are very versatile and are a much better option than simply carrying your gun in a pocket by itself. The best pocket holsters will keep your gun orientated in the correct position for drawing (an upside down gun can cost you vital seconds in drawing, as well as accidental discharge in heightened self-defense situations), will reduce printing of your weapon through the pocket, and also cover the trigger guard which will help reduce the chances of accidental discharge. Also, look for pocket holsters that are made from specialist ‘sticky’ material on the outside, which helps to keep your holster in your pocket when drawing your weapon, instead of the holster coming out with your gun. In a self-defense situation, you may not have time to take off the holster from the end of your gun if it has been drawn out of the pocket at the same time.
Naturally, you will need to take a look at your wardrobe and look at your pocket sizes. Your pocket holster must match the size of your gun as well as the size of your pockets. Because of this, gun users who prefer these types of holsters tend to have more than one to fit different pockets. For pockets on pants, even the best pocket holsters will not disguise the larger guns and they are mainly used in conjunction with mini-guns and sub-compact pistols. However, pocket holsters can be used with the larger pockets found on jackets and coats, allowing you to use these in conjunction with larger guns. However, consideration needs to be given regarding climate and occasions as it may not be appropriate to be wearing a jacket or coat.
These holsters come in versions that can carry all sizes of guns, even the full size service pistols. However, we do not recommend these holster for large guns. Unless your general style is wearing very wide hemmed pants, then these holsters will not be able to conceal your large gun effectively, whilst also causing you discomfort due to the weight of the gun. These holsters are generally best used with mini-guns and sub-compact pistols, as these guns are small enough to conceal (with boot-cut pant legs) and light enough to carry in comfort. A major advantage of these holsters is that they can be worn with men’s formal wear, as most formal pants for men tend to have a reasonably wide hem. These holsters can be very tiring on legs, so unless you have strong legs, or a super-light pistol, then these holsters are ideal for people who will spend a lot of time sitting down. Do watch out for situations where sitting down causes the hem of your pants to ride up and display your gun. This can be even more likely if you tend to cross your legs when you sit. Try pulling your socks over the bottom of your holster to help with concealment when sitting down.
The main disadvantage to ankle holsters is speed of draw. Vital seconds are needed to kneel and draw your gun. The weight of the gun and the holster may also impede your running speed if you are trying to get away from a situation.
Small of the back (SOB) holsters:
These holsters fit onto a belt and are held at the small of your back, usually in a paddle. These can be great for those who spend a lot of time standing up and will be wearing a jacket or coat for concealment. Sitting down, however, can cause printing issues. Another factor is the worry of falling on your back and the possible injuries you may sustain to this vulnerable area. The major disadvantage, however, is the extremely awkward draw. Bearing in mind that these holsters are no more concealable than even the generally difficult to conceal holsters, such as shoulder holsters and OWB holsters, and with a much more awkward drawing position, we do not recommend these holsters for self-defense concealed carry. In our opinion, not the best concealed carry holster options, and possibly the worst.
These holsters are generally for women (drawing your gun is impossible in pants) and are ideal for women who like wearing skirts and dresses. Unless wearing a very frilly or wide hemmed skirt, it is generally best to use these in conjunction with mini guns or sub-compacts. Also, larger guns weigh more and can cause problems for the wearer if they are trying to run from a situation. Comfort is good, although check the materials to make sure they feel comfortable on your skin, and concealability is also very high. Draw is not as fast as OWB or IWB holster, but faster than an ankle holster. These holsters are therefore extremely popular with women, and it makes you wonder if men wearing skirts should come into fashion! One of the best concealed carry holster options for women.
Belly band holsters:
These garments are fabric bands available in different widths, with a holster sewn into one or both sides. These offer great concealability, and are especially compatible with men’s formal wear as well as women’s formal wear. As the holsters tend to be sewn into the sides, your arms conceal the bulk of the gun. However, don’t expect your arms to be able to conceal a full size service pistol. These holsters are best used with sub-compact and mini guns.
The main issue with these holsters is slow draw speed. As you are likely to be wearing a shirt or blouse over the belly band, you will need to unbutton your shirt to get to your gun (or if wearing a top that does not open, reach for your gun from under your top). Look for shirts and blouses that use snaps or Velcro instead of buttons, so it can be ripped off quickly and easily should the need arise. As long as you are aware of the hampered draw speed, these holsters are usually very comfortable to wear and are very concealable. In our opinion, one of the best concealed carry holster options for formal occasions.
Very similar to a belly band holster, these holsters are created to be worn as underwear in the form of a vest or shirt. The holster is usually sewn into the sides, usually under you armpit. As with belly band holsters, concealability is high, so long as you use these in conjunction with sub-compacts and mini-guns. Larger guns will make the holster pull away from the body, and your arms may not be enough to conceal.
These holsters are less versatile when it comes to wardrobe variety than the belly band holsters. For example, women may wear styles such as halter-neck tops or spaghetti straps which will reveal the tops of the holster shirt. This will not happen with belly band holsters. Men who like wearing singlets or vests may also find the belly band holster more versatile for this reason. These holsters are comfortable to wear, but bear in mind that you are creating another layer of clothing underneath. Those who feel warm quite easily may find these holsters uncomfortable, and the belly band holsters become a better option, as they have less material and are therefore cooler to wear.
The main drawback is identical to the belly band holsters, in that you will be wearing some kind of top over these holsters. Choose shirts with snaps or Velcro instead of buttons which will subtract vital seconds in getting to your gun.
Lower abdomen holsters:
These holsters fit onto integral belts and are designed to be concealed with a shirt that goes over it, although some people also wear them over the outer shirt and below the belt line. These are very comfortable to wear, and concealability is high, so long as you are prepared to buy pants and belts that will work with these holsters. The main disadvantage is draw speed, as the whole gun frame is below the belt line and therefore gripping the gun at speed is difficult.
An ingenious holster that doubles as a holster and pager / cell phone holder! This is essentially a type of OWB holster and IWB holster combined. It clips over the waistband of your pants and, on the inside of your pants, carries a small pistol, whilst the outside carries a cell phone or pager. Because it is made to look like a device that’s meant to hold your cell phone or pager, there is no need to wear a jacket or coat to conceal as the ‘outside’ portion of the Pager Pal, together with your pager or cell phone, conceals your gun effectively, although you will not get away with large guns. You are best off sticking to sub-compacts and mini-guns. Ideal for warmer climates and seasons.
The main disadvantage is that you need both hands to draw your weapon and it takes time, as well as the need to adapt your wardrobe with appropriate pants and belts.
Fishing / general outdoor / photographer’s vests:
These are not specifically designed for concealed carry, but many people have found them extremely useful. These vests tends to have many pockets with Velcro, snap or zipper closures. Downsides are the casual nature of these vests, and their unsuitability for formal occasions.
This rectangular gun pouch, made by Wilderness Tactical Products, is designed to be worn as an OWB holster on the belt, as well as being versatile enough to be converted into a fanny pack to be worn around the waist, or over the shoulders via a strap. You can even carry it by hand. They come in various different sizes to fit a wide variety of guns.
An extremely versatile product, it is however likely to look out of place in formal situations, but would look fine in general everyday situations. There are also no issues of concealability, as the pouch is designed to look like a pouch for carrying every day necessities. A major advantage is that it can be secured onto the seat belt of a car, so ideal for those driving for long periods with no discomfort at all.
Naturally, as you gun in concealed into a pouch, draw speed is slow, although this is negligible if you carry this pouch in your hand.
Belt pouch holsters:
These pouches slide onto your belt (we recommend a sturdy, wide belt) and is designed for small guns. As with the Safepacker, it is a pouch, so can hold not only your gun, but other essential items too. Look for belt pouches that have a Velcro partition, as this makes drawing your weapon much faster than fishing it out of a dedicated pocket within the pouch. Again, concealability is high, as the design makes it look like a normal pouch being used to carry essentials, and comfort is also high. Draw speed is slower, as would be expected when these pouches are opened via a zipper. Versatility is good, so long as you wear clothing that would involve you wearing a wide belt.
Fanny pack holsters:
These are designed to look like ordinary fanny packs but with one major difference; they have a sewn in holster inside. Much like the belt pouch and Safepacker, as these are designed to look like general bags to carry everyday items, concealability is high, although do keep in mind that eagle-eyed members of the public may know you are wearing a ‘gun’ fanny pack, as they tend to have a loop of fabric or cord at one of the top corners so you can pull open the pouch holding the holster. There are fanny packs made for all sizes of guns, but be aware that the larger fanny packs for large guns start to become very ‘obvious’ to members of the public
The main advantage to a Fanny pack holster is that it comes with its own belt, and manufacturers make sure that the belt will adequately hold and distribute the weight of your gun. This gives you the freedom to wear what you want and you do not have to be wearing pants with a sturdy belt, as you would do with a belt pouch holster. The only occasions where you would not be able to get away with a fanny pack is at formal events, as fanny packs are generally seen as ‘casual wear’.
These holsters are extremely comfortable as you are not trying to hide your weapon with clothing which would involve you having your gun against your body. And as the fanny pack stays on you, there are no worries of leaving it behind somewhere. The main disadvantage of these holsters, predictably, is draw speed, as two hands are required to draw the gun. Also, a safety issue is that fanny packs can be wrenched off you much more easily than a belt pouch where the pouch has been slotted into a belt, which in turn has been slotted through the belt hoops of your pants.
These is a speciality device designed specifically for the NAA .22 LR mini-revolver. It replaces the standard grips and folds closed so it looks like a pocket knife. Even if the device shows through pockets, it looks like a pocket knife and not a gun. Quite clever! As expected, draw speed is slow, as you need to unfold the device before you even think of taking aim.
Belt buckle holsters:
Another speciality device, these are designed for mini-revolvers (.22 short or 1” barrel), and conceal the gun by looking like an ordinary large belt buckle. A stud on the front releases the gun, so draw is fast, so long as you practice.
Lanyards and neck chains:
These allow you to carry your mini-gun around your neck. You will need to install a lanyard ring onto your weapon, but once this is done, you can carry your gun with ease. Most come with an easy way to disconnect the gun from the lanyard quickly. Purely for mini-guns as even sub compacts will print when wearing a shirt whilst also causing neck ache from the weight. As with any option that involves you reaching under your top or needing to unbutton a shirt, draw speed is hampered.
Designed to look exactly like a wallet, and therefore extremely concealable, these are a great option for those who know they will not leave a wallet lying around. Naturally, only mini-guns can be used with these holsters, as even a sub-compact would make the wallet look huge and members of the public are likely to become suspicious. Most of these holsters also feature cut outs that allow you to fire your gun without removing the gun first from the wallet, saving you valuable seconds. Downsides are the obvious issues of accidentally leaving your wallet, as well as having the wallet forcible removed from you.
Off the body options:
Purses and shoulder bags holsters:
These are just normal bags and purse for men and women to hold their everyday things, but with an added gun compartment. We would never recommend a gun being placed into an ordinary bag or purse, as it’s likely to move about whilst also causing accidental discharge. In these specially designed purses and shoulder bags, the gun compartment is usually held closed with Velcro, a much faster way of getting to your gun than the usual zippers in most ordinary bag compartments. These have become very popular with women as they can be used at the office or even at formal occasions where perhaps a fanny pack holster would not be suitable. Also, they come in many sizes, which means you can even opt for a large gun and it will remain concealed. Disadvantages are what you would expect for all off the body options; it can be accidentally left somewhere, or taken off you by a mugger who tend to target bags, and draw speed is slow as you have to get to your gun in the first place before you draw and take aim.
Day packs and knapsack holsters:
Just like purses and shoulder bag holster options, many people carry knapsacks and day packs, so detection is low when you opt for speciality day pack or knapsack with a built in holster. These also tend to be larger than purses or shoulder bags, so you could even carry a full size service pistol. Disadvantages are exactly the same as for shoulder bags and purses, with the added disadvantage that these do not go well with formal wear and are more ‘casual’ in nature.
These are just like ordinary day planners, usually made of leatherette, and contain a notepad, calendar, address book etc, but with an extra compartment for a gun. An unusually large day planner may look out of place, so generally these are used for smaller guns. The same disadvantages apply here as they do for purses and shoulder bags, and naturally you would not take a day planner with you on certain occasions. So this option can be of limited use.
A great option for those who spend a lot of time in the office, a variation of the concealed holster purse or shoulder bag is the briefcase with concealed holster. These are usually made from leather or Cordura, and most are big enough to fit two full size service guns. Just like the purse and shoulder bags, these also use Velcro for the closure with you accessing the gun by ripping the Velcro panel off. Similar disadvantages such as draw speed, the dangers of leaving the briefcase somewhere, as well as it being taken off you apply here.
So there you have it. And exhaustive list of the best concealed carry holster options! The best concealed carry holster will depend on your personal needs and tastes. You may have already gathered by now that no one holster will fit your lifestyle and your wardrobe entirely. But don’t be disheartened by that. Just as one item of clothing would be unlikely to be suitable for all occasions, you need to take into consideration that no holster is likely to be able to fit all the requirements at every single occasion. It’s good to know, however, that there are so many different options out there, and buying a combination of holsters will ensure that you never have an excuse to leave your gun at home. After all, you bought your gun to protect yourself and your loved ones. It can’t do a thing left lying in your cupboard!
What Do You Think – What Is The Best Concealed Carry Holster?
Everyone has different tastes and concealed carry requirements, which means there are a lot of different opinions on what is the best concealed carry holster! If you have an opinion on what the best concealed carry holster is, please feel free to share your thoughts on what is the best concealed carry holster option in the comments section below.