Pancake holsters were initially designed by Roy Baker nearly 60 years ago as a flat-style carry holster that holds a handgun close to the body. Intended to be worn on the belt, either strong side or cross draw, Baker’s three-slot design is incredibly versatile allowing the wearer to position the pistol at differing angles depending on where the holster is worn. Two slot pancake holsters also are manufactured, but unlike three slot designs limit the angle and position at which the pistol can be carried. Most two slot pancake designs position the pistol best when worn on the strong side hip position.
A number of pancake designs exist on the market, most notably Safariland’s two slot pancake holster with thumb break retention strap and Bianchi’s Model 77 Piranha three slot pancake holster. The thumb-break retention strap on both of these models is reinforced for additional stiffness to help ensure an easy, clean and consistent break. Both models also feature custom boning specific to your model handgun which gives the holster enhanced retention. If you choose to go with a leather model that does not have a thumb-break retention strap, make sure that the holster is custom fitted for your particular firearm. Pancake holsters constructed of nylon instead of leather should always fit the pistol snugly and incorporate the use of a thumb-break strap.
How well a pancake holster fits depends largely on your body type, and like all concealed carry holsters, the pancake style is a compromise between comfort and concealability. In general, individuals with larger waistlines will find that pancake holsters suit them more than slimmer individuals. The design of the holster is intended to bring keep the pistol tight against your body, reducing the chance of “printing” and keeping the holster snugly in place. Pants that fit loosely will cause the holster to sag and the butt of the gun to be angled away from the body. Individuals with slimmer waistlines should look for pancake holsters that have the belt loops up high, bringing the butt of the gun in closer to the body while hanging the pistol barrel lower. Cover garments for these type holsters will need to be slightly longer in order to conceal the lower hanging pistol.
Pancake holsters are not without their drawbacks. First among these is the fact that donning or removing the holster requires that you remove your belt: there is no quick and easy way to take it on and off. Some manufacturers are beginning to make pancake holsters that have snap belt loops which allow the holster to be removed without taking off your belt, but these holsters are not yet readily available.
If you’re uncomfortable wearing IWB holsters and are looking for a different style of carry for your full size, compact, or sub-compact handgun, consider a pancake holster. They are available to fit most pistols and come in a variety of materials and colors.