“My advice?  Start with a quality Outside the Waist Band holster, professional training and practice to proficiency. “

There we were in Northern Virginia – Surrounded………Dozens of  people, some invigorated, some frenzied, others – despondent.  We were at a shopping outlet and my Wife and I had just entered the COACH® store.  It was a special occasion and were buying her a purse.  My Wife being very sensible would likely never purchase a designer bag herself so this was my doing.  Inside the other men and I exchanged knowing glances however that day I came to realize:  All purses are bags but not all bags are good purses.

Purses are utilized to secure important items.  The best are made of quality materials to suit one’s utility and taste.……just like holsters.

People drop $50 on a bar tab yet balk at spending money on serious things like lethal weapons and training

Buyer beware.  So called “expert” gun writers promote the manufacturers that advertise with them.  No specific brands or models are headlined in this column and there are many holster makers out there.  I will share my current go-to holsters below.


OWB = Outside the Waist Band Holsters attach to your belt and carry on the outside of your pants on the hip, or slightly forward or rear.  OWBs are the most common and comfortable.

IWB = Inside the Waist Band holsters carry inside your pants sandwiching the holster/gun between your pants and body and attach to your belt line.  These offer more concealment and tuck the weapon closer to the body although do compromise comfort and ease of draw and weapon presentation.

AIWB = Appendix Inside the Waist Band are often just IWBs position in the front of your body (appendix) although some are tailored specifically for AIWB.  Carrying appendix positions the weapon in an accessible and defensible position at the front/center line of the body.  The muzzle will be pointed toward the wearer’s groin and femoral artery (yes people have shot themselves “there”) – not ideal for the those without firearms safety knowledge, the faint of heart and those with minimal exposure to firearms and experience.

DUTY HOLSTERS are most often spotted on uniformed law enforcement and armed professionals.  Carried on a heavier duty belt they are more rugged and include security mechanisms to mitigate gun grabs by bad guys.

Some quality holsters are less than $40 but stay away from cheap material

Many moons ago I bought my first duty holster.  It was floppy sloppy nylon junk.

Holster Material should provide rigid support and fully cover the trigger to prevent the trigger from being pulled/snagged while inside of the holster.  Many modern holsters are made of a thermo-plastic called, Kydex®.  Others made with injection molded plastic or synthetic materials.  Some IWB “hybrid” holsters combine materials and offer a flexible flat backing coupled with an outer shell molded to fit the gun- these holsters are comfortable and hold handguns quite well although do have drawbacks.

*Many negligent discharges(accidents) happen while holstering, un-holstering and re-holstering.  Professional firearms instruction is suggested.


LOOPS are the gold standard on OWB holsters.  Your belt runs through the loops of the holster and secures both together.  Loops are good.

CLIPS often found on IWB holsters are designed to clip over top of the belt and snag the bottom lip of the belt to prevent the holster from being pulled out.  Not as secure although provide easy off/on.

SNAPS are designed to loop around the belt and snap into place with a button or snap accessory.  Strength and retention may vary.

PADDLE HOLSTERS have a “paddle” which is placed inside of your pants.  The holster rides around the outside of your pants and the paddle snags the belt line from the inside.  Paddle holsters are more bulky and may not be as secure.  The Pro is they’re easier to put on and take off.


SHOULDER HOLSTERS include a rig which slings around your shoulders with the pistol basically positioned under your armpit.  I’ve never bothered with them although know some folks who spend a lot of time seated or driving like them.  Fans of TV crime drama and nostalgia seem to like this type.

CROSS DRAW HOLSTERS mounted on the belt also provide accessibility and comfort while seated.  To me the cons outweigh the pros.  There are also larger variations commonly used for larger caliber hunting handguns.

ANKLE HOLSTERS are popular with folks not wanting a gun on their waistline.  An ankle holster can conceal small frame handguns under a pant leg.  The weapon is not readily accessible and to me the weight of a gun on my ankle feels funny.  That said they offer concealment for the limber among us.

POCKET HOLSTERS are more like sheaths for small handguns and are typically placed inside of a pants pocket.  They cover the trigger and help protect the firearm and clothing from wear although do not have much retention aside from the natural compression of the pocket.  Over time a good pocket holster molds to the contour in which it is worn.  I sometimes use these holsters when carrying a small sub-compact handgun with a heavier Double-Action(DA) trigger.

CONCEALED CARRY BAGS & PURSES fall into the category of “off-body” carry and should be carefully considered.  They do provide excellent platforms for carry and concealment although are not often within immediate possession and control.  They can be left, forgotten, found and searched.  They can be snatched from a shoulder or rummaged through by children.  If considering off-body carry expect responsibilities not to be taken lightly.  One reference on the matter is posted here by Melody Lauer.

BELTS. Ideal CCW belts are made of strong rigid material.  If your belt folds and flops like a tortilla it may become a liability.  There are plenty of great belts on the market ranging anywhere from $20 – $200+.  The width of the belt(s) and holster attachment(s) should correspond.  Fashion Belts:  I’ve seen many Police Detectives carrying guns on fashion belts and wearing sub-par holsters.  Not ideal.

FIT. The holster and gun should not feel sloppy, flop around or feel top-heavy on your belt. A good holster will hug and move inline with your body.

RETENTION. Refers to the method(s) your holster employs to retain or hold the firearm.  Retention is important.

Place the gun(unloaded) in the holster, hold it by the belt attachment then flip it upside down and shake it – the gun should not fall out.

Some holsters have adjustments for tuning the retention.  Most often a tension screw.  Traditionally a thumb break/snap was used – currently the most common retention is pure friction fitting tightly to the the pistol and sometimes combined with other methods such as a mechanism depressed by your thumb or finger, manipulating the gun in a specific manner or a combination of these.

There are manufacturers producing holsters requiring a press/swipe of your trigger finger near the trigger guard to unlock the pistol.  I recall these holsters coming to market and thinking them innovative although was curious and envisioned them prone to mechanical and safety misgivings.  These holsters became all the rage and flew off the shelf onto hips of Cops & CCW citizens everywhere……Fast forward several years and the trepidation proved correct.  Now many facilities including LAPD and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center as well as Independent Firearms Instructors, myself included, dissuade or even outright ban their use.

WEAPON ACCESSORIES like Weapon Mounted Lights, Lasers, Red Dot optics and the like may require holsters tailored to the specific accessory.  Some holster makers offer variations fitting popular handgun accessories.  Order accordingly.

MAGAZINE HOLDERS Many folks like to carry a spare magazines.  There are many spare magazine holders on the market.  They correspond with the type/size of the magazine.  My experience is to keep it simple.  

GIMMICKY STUFF Some holsters prove good for very specific and often gimmicky applications.  Avoid gimmicks.

“Open Carry.”  Here’s my take.  The cons of Open Carry outweigh the pros.  There are only a few practical reasons for it.  A: If you’re in uniform.  B: At the Homestead/Farm/Ranch or C: At the range.  Open Carry fits well in few places.

One often overlooked matter is the proper and safe draw and presentation of a handgun.  A quote attributed to Col. Jeff Cooper, “Owning a handgun doesn’t make you armed any more than owning a guitar makes you a musician.”  Learn how to safely draw and manipulate your pistol from a holster with a knowledgeable and experienced firearms instructor.

My Holsters…..


I have drawers full.  Here are the current go-to’s:

A.  AIWB DeSantis or sometimes a BladeTech holster with belt belt clip

B. OWB Raven Concealment with belt loops

C. For the occasional uniform details I wear an OWB Safariland which accommodates a weapon mounted light and has retention mechanisms for added security

LEARN TO SHOOT (click image)

WHERE TO BUY If you know the model there are deals to be found online.  Local guns stores are a coin toss – You may find an excellent selection and the benefit of handing and trying the holster on.  Some stores have a terrible selection with sophomoric staff.

You saw a few of my choices listed above.  My advice?  Start with a quality OWB holster, professional training, and practice to proficiency.

” Start with a quality OWB holster, professional training, and practice to proficiency”

To learn how to shoot handguns and shoot them well contact Nicholas Group for your Private Instruction or Group Course today.