Part 8 in our concealed carry series.
Sometimes you have to pick the gun and sometimes the holster; you should consider the system when purchasing a handgun. You should consider how and where you will carry it. Comfort, access, speed, retention and likely activities require thought too.
The holster must be well made of good material. You may get by better with a second-rate handgun than a second-rate holster. And frankly, only a very few holsters are service grade. A holster is a load-bearing device; the better the design, the better you will be able to carry a heavier and more capable handgun. A properly molded and fitted holster ensures maintenance between balance and speed retention. There is some confusion about the different types of holsters and you it is important to choose one based on a real need. Even with the perfect choice for a certain situation, chances are you will need more than one holster for carry in every climate and season.
You should have a compelling reason to choose any holster type other than a strong side. A strong-side holster allows a natural draw—shoot the elbow to the rear, scoop the handgun out of the holster and get on target. The draw is natural, and you can draw the gun into the target. If a handgun is relatively compact and the holster rides high, a reasonably light covering garment may conceal the handgun. There are variations on the strong-side holster, such as the pancake holster and the scabbard.
The pancake holster is among the most interesting. While taken for granted today, the pancake was quite an advancement when Roy Baker developed it. The Hidden Thunder let working cops, detectives and armed citizens efficiently carry a larger handgun close to the body. The pancake holster has two pieces of leather sewn together with separate seams. One of the pieces of leather shapes to the handgun, and the other shapes straight to the body. Be certain the holster is properly molded for the handgun; pancakes tend to be a bit loose and must have enough molding to keep a handgun secure. The two pieces of leather in the pancake form the holster. With the belt loops cut into the leather, there is no belt tap or pronounced belt loop. A holster that rides that close to the body is a compromise on the draw, and the pancake is faster than an inside-the-waistband holster. When you wear a belt holster, be certain to wear your belt tight with the holster close to your body.
The second type of strong-side holster, typically called a scabbard, has a more pronounced molding to the handgun. Its design makes for excellent speed and security. The drawback is it sits offset more from the body, creating a compromise in concealment. For small-frame handguns, the scabbard is often a good choice, although the pancake with a thumb break is often not rigid enough for a fast draw. I do have an original Roy Baker pancake with thumb break that remains serviceable, and the thumb break still works fine. If you prefer a thumb break, and some like the security, the scabbard is a good choice. Practice with your thumb break holster—practice until breaking the snap is second nature. Do not carry the concealed carry strong-side holster on the point of your hip; it imprints like a water moccasin that swallowed a possum. Wear the holster behind your hip to avoid that.
I appreciate and use a cross-draw holster often. A cross-draw rides on the non-dominant side, just in front of the hipbone. Properly concealing a cross-draw holster requires an appropriate covering. The advantage is that it is accessible when seated or driving. Although it it does compromise the draw. it is not compromised as much if you use a proper draw technique. To reach across the chest, stop, draw a gun and aim is very slow. The proper draw is to blade the body toward the threat and sweep the hand down, drawing the handgun and taking a two-hand grip. That way a cross-draw may be quite fast.
The cross-draw does not let a gun butt bump on chairs when you sit and, when seated, your handgun is accessible. There are situations in which a seated person cannot draw a gun at all. The cross-draw demands practice.
The inside-the-waistband holster is the superior system to conceal a larger handgun. That holster rides inside the pants; your covering garments need only cover the handgun, not the holster, so you may wear a shorter covering garment. The holster is also secure because the belt pulls the gun in to the body. You should plan to buy your clothing slighter larger to accommodate an inside-the-waistband (IWB) holster.
For those who practice, an IWB is not slower than a pancake. Make sure practice includes drawing from concealment and pressing aside covering garments. You may use the IWB holster to conceal a Commander-size .45, 3-inch barrel .357 Magnum revolver and other formidable defensive handguns. For a compact handgun, such as the GLOCK 19, the IWB holster is a particularly good choice.
Tuckables are a branch of the IWB family. These holsters tuck completely under your shirt with no need to wear a covering garment. Some folks adapt to the system well; it is popular. A tuckable works best with lighter handguns, although some folks are comfortable with handguns in the Commander .45 or Kimber Pro Carry range. There are many variations and while some are well made of good material, many are not.
I have two shoulder holsters, one by Jack Gully and an old Bianchi for reference. Jack’s shoulder holster features top-flight supporting straps and a magazine carrier that offsets the weight of the handgun on the offside. A shoulder holster is difficult to adjust properly plus the draw is more difficult than a cross-draw. While it seems a shoulder holster would have many of the advantages of the cross-draw, that is not usually true. The advantage is it takes the weight of the handgun off the hips, which is good if you have a back problem.
You must always wear a covering garment with a shoulder holster. If you decide on a shoulder holster, only purchase a very good one. It might be wise to buy a bargain-basement fabric holster just to consider if you like, or can live with, the concept. Few handgunners, adopt a shoulder holster; many try it for a few weeks. One niche I found fits the shoulder holster well is when traveling. The IWB and cross-draw on the belt sometimes become uncomfortable.
A properly designed shoulder holster is comfortable when driving; a poorly designed shoulder holster cuts circulation. While I always carry a spare gun load of ammunition, a shoulder holster makes that easier because it usually includes space to carry a spare magazine. Jack Gully’s shoulder holster addresses and solves each problem (kbarjleather.com).
Pocket handguns and pocket holsters are very popular, and I will defer to common wisdom that a small gun is better than no gun. A properly designed pocket holster must conceal the handgun’s outline. The handgun must draw smoothly from the holster. Some type of stabilizing toe that maintains contact with the pocket lining as you draw the handgun usually accomplishes that. The draw is critical. You must keep the hand bladed at all times until the handgun is clear of the holster. If you affirm the grip inside of the pocket, making a fist, the hand will not withdraw from the pocket. Among the most widely distributed and well-regarded pocket holsters is the DeSantis Nemesis.
As you can see, no one holster is able to carry the burden in every situation. You may carry a heavier gun in the winter when concealment is not as difficult, and at other times, carry lighter handguns. A holster is always important, and most often, you need one holster for each handgun.
What is your favorite holster? What do you love about it? Tell us in the comment section.