Concealed Carry

Concealed Carry: The Right Holster

Pale tan IWB holster shown positioned on a woman wearing a purple shirt and jeans.

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.

Strong-Side Holsters

Black OWB Holster
Safariland OWB Holster

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.

Cross-Draw Holsters

Brown Leather Cross Draw Holster
DeSantis Gunhide Criss-Cross Cross Draw Holster

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.

Inside-the-Waistband Holster

Brown Leather IWB holster
Don Hume IWB Holster

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.

Shoulder Holsters

Black Leather Shoulder Holster
Galco Miami Classic Shoulder Holster

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 (

Pocket Holsters

Black Leather Pocket Holster
Galco Pocket Protector Pocket Holster

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.


About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.

Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Rifle Magazine
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns

Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (28)

  1. Is it illegal to have a bulge or inprint of your firearm wearing a t shirt covering your firearm in Florida?
    I was told by a Hillsborough County deputy that if he saw a buldge or imprint of a firearm even though it is fully covered that he will draw his weapon on me.
    I think this is ludicrous and an abuse of authority.
    I gave no probably cause or made no threats to anyone,
    Just minding my business and putting my groceries in my car.
    I was asked to surrender my firearm and my concealed
    weapons permit, after they ran my information they placed my firearm with the magazine in the trunk of my car and suggested I carry a smaller fire arm.
    BTW I was carrying a Smith & Wesson MP 45 with tactical light and lazier.
    This was a white deputy and I am Hispanic. I totally felt this was discrimination, There was no reason for this Deputy to stop me and conduct an investigation.
    I believe my civil rights were violated but I guess in the state of Florida having a CWP is taking a risk if your a minority.

    1. A person has reached their height of arrogance and ignorance when they choose to spend their life assuming that any negative activity between two ethnicities must be due to nothing other than racism.

      I can’t wait until white people become the minority and scream racism every time an officer does something they don’t like. Only then will those previously in the minority begin to see how ridiculous they’ve looked for throwing down the race card just because some cop was really just an a$$hole.

      In reality, I could show you just as many documented cases where cops treat white people just as poorly and for the same reasons. So how then do you explain that phenomenon away?

    2. @ G-Man.

      I think it back in or around 2002 CE. I was sitting in the West bound lane of Waples Mill Road, wait for the light to change so I could go East on Lee Hwy./Rte. 29. At the intersection, there were three Fairfax County Police Cruisers. Sitting on the West Bound Lanes of Lee Hwy.Rte. 29, next to the Self-Storage Facility. The three Officers were out of the vehicles and trying in vein too slow the traffic down, going through the intersection. When three-White Ladies gabbing away at each other and Not paying attention too the traffic flow and to the County Mounties.

      Doing about 70-mph, can within inches of making and/or becoming Fly Splatter On the Windshield of one of the officers directing traffic. After the officer dove over the hood of one of the cruisers, the other two officers got into their vehicles and gave chase. after about a mile, near the Fairfax County Government Center Parkway. They caught up the car of “Three Old Babbling Bimbo Fools/Ladies”. And before the driver of the Gold color Crown Vic. could open her mouth to ask a question. The two officers plus the one that almost got hit, bodily dragged the women out of the car. And non-politely slammed face forward and front torso too the roadway. Hogged-Tied her, gave her, her Miranda Rights, then bodily with some dignity into the back of one of the Patrol Cruisers. And casually took her back to the Fairfax County Detention Center off Paige & Main/Rte.236 East. For some Down Too Earth, Harsh, but Polite Talking. And all that took place in less then 10-minutes. I know this because my place of business was just two-blocks down the road. And I knew several Fairfax County Deputy Sheriff’s at the Detention Center as drinking buddies, at the time.

    3. Three years ago My father and I were hunting in a club in central Florida when we decided to cross the dirt road that splits the club in half. As we emerged from the woods and stepped onto the road, we saw a sheriffs office K-9 unit rounding the bend. I believe that the officer saw us a little later than we saw him because he jumped out of his SUV with an ar-15 on us and ordered us to drop our firearms (which was my ar-15 loaded with a 5 round mag, and my dads 30-30 along with a couple of sidearms) we complied and in the sugar sand my dads beautiful rifle went along with my AR. The officer cuffed us and backup soon arrived. There we were, two obvious hunters in realtree camo and orange vests in zip cuffs against a suv with our hunting licenses, drivers licenses, and ccw permits getting examined by 3 cops. After getting questioned by each one of them for an hour on what we were doing, they finally found the grace to free us and give our guns back.

      I don’t know why they held us or even stopped us to this day. I attempted to contact the sheriff by email, phone, and in person but I have heard nothing back yet. Like I said that was three years ago.

    4. @ Michael,

      Thanks for your contribution which helps make my point – some cops will always just be a$$holes and are in this profession for the wrong reasons. Unfortunately our dialogue will still have fallen on deaf ears by those who choose to believe whatever fits their narrative; rather than logically attempting to tackle the real issue with reason.

      The downside is that law enforcement interactions which really are directly attributable to racism get buried and will NEVER be distinguishably rooted out because minorities flood the system by tagging every single stop as racism. When minorities do this, they fail to realize how it hurts their own cause. This issue becomes so common that it dilutes the impact of the real cases and severely diminishes the motivation of those assigned to investigate racism.

      Within the same vein of their refusal to accept reality, minorities’ ignore that the very nature of their own culture, social structure and values plays a large role in why they are subjected to so-called “minority profiling”. Take gang culture for example: If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.

      No amount of societal re-education or policy will ever strip mankind of his natural primal ability to detect the potential for danger; and thus everyone will continue to internally harbor some form of intuition which requires profiling. It is how we assess situations and make daily decisions that affect our lives. All societal shaming (re-training) does is teach us to cover up this built-in survival mechanism, but it will never stop us from using it.

      Case and Point: Throughout my law enforcement career I have worked with many minority law enforcement officers. They will be the first to tell you to screw all this anti-profiling minority re-education BS. Even they more-so admit to profiling their own race because they grew up first-hand knowing their culture and that without effective profiling as a matter of safety, they would never make it home to their wife and children each night.

      So while the rest of the social warrior society prefers to call this activity “hate”, these officers don’t care what it’s called as long as it gets them home alive.

  2. For a small-frame auto. such as my Kahr cw-9 , I found The “outbags” cordura IWB a good fit, well made, and inexpensive, answer to my c.c. holster needs. They even provide measurements of the holster you have in mind, to make selection easier. B.W.

    1. Dave, I bought an Alien Gear IWB holster for my Rock Island Armory 1911 FS. Extremely pleased with the quality, fit and feel. And it comes with a lifetime warranty.

  3. * For the Wheelchair Drivers, out there:

    For those of you who wheelchair jockeys Scot Shearer of Scot Works, LLC. offers a wheelchair holster rig’s for various models of handguns. In both Left handed and Right handed models. You can contact him through (http//

  4. I have tried many of the holster mentioned in this article. However, the holster that I found to be the most comfortable IWB is not listed. The crossbreed supertuck in horse leather is the best one I have found. I allows for tuckable too, if wanted. I carry a Glock 27 and have found it easy to conceal, very secure and easy to quickly draw. From the very beginning it did not scratch or cause irritation from sweating like all previous cowhide holsters I’ve tried. I highly recommend this holster.

  5. As Steve Allen stated, I use an Alien Gear IWB holster as well, and I carry a Rock Island Armory 1911A1 FS Tactical .45. If I’m up it’s on. Very comfortable. If it wasn’t for the weight of my gun I’d forget I was carrying. Plus they come with a lifetime warranty as long as I own it. If I decide to change my EDC I can send the holster back and they will change it to match the new gun free of charge. The price is awesome and for $5 more you can get it in black leather (which was my choice), as opposed to the standard brown leather. The absolute best accessory I have purchased for my 1911!

  6. Don’t forget belly bands. Light pistols hide well, but also, pockets in a belly band conceal wallets, mags, 410 shells, phone etc keeping them out of your pockets when pocket-carrying. A very useful pocket holster is homemade from a lunchbox pie box (no cellophane) plastic fluid bottle (shampoo, etc) cut to length and wrapped with fabric tape (similar to duct tape) lined with foam packing roll material or similar. Roll roofing underlayment wrapping outside works well also. This holster is fast drawing, no imprint possible. These can also be mounted to vehicle seats, bed frames, whatever. I’ve used them with larger bore 3″ revolvers and semi-auto.

  7. Help please… Who prefers appendix carry? Who has tried it and what worked well and what didn’t? I am thinking of something like a crossdraw but on appendix (strong) side. I like my gun up front. Pocket carry doesn’t work well while sitting. A vertical straight up draw from appendix can’t work that well from sitting not to mention the length of the gun sitting where the body bends. Right now I am wearing a little OWB Galco Stinger at 2:00-4:00.

    1. Have you tried 5.11 ?

      They have new shirts, both sleeve and sleeveless. With hidden catch pockets on either side, just above the waist. It might be a good alternative to a shoulder-rig.

    2. I recently changed my mode of carry. I used to carry inside a leather vest for concealment and in a Blackhawk Serpa in a crossdraw position when just sitting around the house. I liked the Serpa, but it stuck out too far for easy concealment and the leather vest could be hot in summer. I decided to try a CrossBreed IWB holster. I thought I might like an appendix position since I was used to carrying in front, but I found that to be uncomfortable when seated. A 3 o’clock position at my side pressed against my hip bone too much and at first I was reluctant to try it farther back, but when I did, that was by far the most comfortable position without the expected interference with seat backs. Even a relatively fat gun like my Glock 30 conceals well with only a light garment over it.

  8. I use an Alien Gear ITW for my S&W M&P Shield .40 cal. Does a great job and conceals well with just a tshirt over it. Takes a little getting used to but after that it is quite comfortable

    1. Thanks for the heads up! I’ll give it a try. I’d like to have as succure as possible, I don’t like it when hang loose, it feels like its not part of me.

  9. You might also consider P239 in .45ACP caliber, 6+1 magazine/gun.
    At least, with .45ACP the perp. is not going to be getting up anytime soon.

  10. I will check out the size of the P239 in person at a store and see how I like the fit in my pocket. If I buy the pocket holster I may be able to upgrade to .40S&W and have more firepower. Thanks for the recommendation Secundius.

  11. I like the Holsterpro shown with the Ruger LCP. My LCP is always in my pocket, and I’m tired of padding it with my wallet when I walk in a store or restaurant. I’ll probably buy the one shown.

    1. A pocket holster is necessary for pocket carry. It covers the trigger and guard. It keeps the gun in the proper position for drawing. And it helps prevent printing. And never carry anything in the same pocket with the gun or in the other pocket with reload ammo, quick strip, speed loader, extra mag, etc. It’s a bossy sounding opinion but the logic is sound.

  12. Any rigging I get, would have to be a Shoulder Rig and/or Wheelchair Rig.
    Because I spend most of my time in a wheelchair.

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