Concealed Carry

Everyday Carry Gear: Best Holsters

Best Concealed Carry Holsters Man With IWB Holster

There are many considerations when choosing everyday carry holsters. Comfort, concealment, a balance of speed and retention, handgun fit, and affordability are large factors.

The holster is an important part of the process when studying concealed carry. If the handgun holster isn’t suitable for the task, then it will be a negative instead of a positive in your balance of skill and gear selection.

The draw stroke is an important part of training. In personal defense, the ability to reholster the handgun is also important. A holster should fit the gun belt tightly and not shift as you move.

You don’t wish to give away the fact that you are armed to the general public. Let’s look at some of the big questions when choosing an EDC holster.

First, the holster should be concealable. This means it should ride close to the body. Belt holsters for hunting, uniformed duty and range work are offset to allow a fast draw.

They work well, but when you don a covering garment they produce a bulge under the garment. A holster that is worn for duty is designed to be worn at the point of the hip, which is the worst point on the belt for concealed carry.

A concealed carry holster (barring appendix or crossdraw carry) is worn behind the hip. The element of surprise is important, and you don’t want anyone to know you are carrying.

Galco Stow-N-Go Crossdraw Holster
The Stow-N-Go is useful as a crossdraw holster.

The Presentation

The pistol should be angled at the proper degree for a rapid presentation from the holster. For most of us, this means about a fifteen-degree cant forward.

The muzzle will be angled to the rear and the handle forward, allowing the handle to be grasped quickly with a good firing grip.

The holster should be comfortable, relatively so, without sharp edges or design features that conflict with comfort or concealed carry.

The holster should be properly fitted to the handgun, not a roughly-designed universal that accepts several handguns. There are a few exceptions, such as the Alien Gear Universal Fit holster, which does a good job of accommodating handguns in a certain size ranges.

The holster must be a good fit to retain the handgun during normal movement. The balance of speed and retention demand a good, strong tug to release the handgun from the holster.

This makes for good control and a rapid presentation to the threat. The draw should be into the target, straight in line from the holster. If you are fighting or running, then the handgun should not work free from the holster.

A simple jump test, jumping up and down with the holstered handgun (unloaded during the test!), will confirm retention. The holster should be fitted to the handgun and maintain the fit over a long period of time with minimal slop.

Some holsters feature a retention screw to tighten the holster and to allow the user to set their most suitable level of retention. As a rule, you get what you pay for in features.

As for a thumbreak on concealed-carry holsters, only the most advanced shooters will be able to properly use these. They tend to bind in concealed carry, and are not needed with a holster that demonstrates proper retention.

Snub Nose Revolvers and Concealed Carry Holsters
Blackhawk! and Alien Gear offer diverse designs in IWB holsters. The snub .38 is a popular choice for concealed carry.

The holster mouth should feature a strong welt that allows the handgun to be reholstered with one hand.

I have cut some slack on this requirement depending on the individual’s need for concealment, but the rule is the holster should not collapse after the handgun is drawn.

Some are better than others — much better. The trigger guard is often used to supply retention by tightly molding the holster to the trigger guard, and that is a good thing, but the trigger guard should be covered by the holster for safety.

Keep your finger off of the trigger during the draw and until you fire. Not when you think you will fire, but when you fire! The draw angle should be suitable for a rapid presentation.

Some holsters are ‘tricky’ in this regard, and the draw angle is compromised depending on the cant or rake of the holster. Be certain to practice until the draw is mastered.

This means at least 250 draws from concealed carry. Use a triple-checked unloaded handgun for practice.

There are anatomical considerations. The mesomorph, ectomorph and endomorph have different considerations. The thinner you are, the less foot print (width of the holster) you may tolerate.

Those with a few extra pounds on the belt line tend to push the holster out on the covering garment. All of these factors should be considered.

Alien Gear Holster
The Alien Gear Universal Fit holster has proven viable in long-term testing.

Specific Holsters

Let’s look at specific gear that I use in carrying and testing handguns. I test a lot of holsters and handguns, and these are among the best for specific purposes.

If you need a holster right now that fits your handgun —  and maybe a couple of handguns — the Alien Gear Grip Tuck Universal inside-the-waistband holster is a good choice.

The Alien Gear holster features a removable belt clip that may be adjusted for angle and drop as well. Galco offers two very interesting holsters for those on a tight budget.

The WalkAbout is a usually revolver holster in my battery, but it is also useful with self loaders. The Stow-N-Go is a similar holster, but without the WalkAbout’s magazine or speedloader pouch.

These holsters are affordable, but feature a strong belt clip for inside-the-waistband carry, and a reinforced holstering welt. Moving up a bit in price and features, the Galco Summer Comfort is a classic design for an inside-the-waistband holster.

This holster features a strong, reinforced holstering welt and two belt loops for firm attachment to the gun belt. The tilt is what we used to call the FBI tilt, and is ideal for concealing a serious handgun under a covering garment.

Moving up a bit, is a holster that fits my needs well. The Galco N3 features a single loop that brings the holster in tight against the body. This works well in limiting exposure when carrying a Government Model 1911.

I like this holster a great deal because it is comfortable and offers a fast draw for those that practice. For the many shooters that prefer a modern Kydex holster, Galco offers the Triton, recently updated into the Triton 2.0.

I own more of these than any other Kydex type. They do not collapse after the draw and the “snik” sound they make when they are holstered as the holster retains the pistol is comforting.

Additionally, these holsters are impervious to oil and solvent.

Blackhawk! offers a line of inside-the-waistband holsters with much merit. A key point of the design is that the belt clip is enclosed in the holstering welt and sewn into the holster body.

A holster that I am very impressed with is the R Grizzle City Slicker. This holster features excellent boning (fit achieved by running a smooth bone over the wet leather, filling in the holster to the contour of the handgun) and a pair of well-designed offset belt clips.

This is a great design for those carrying a heavy handgun in concealed carry. These holsters — all inside-the-waistband designs — offer good concealment and feature good to excellent fit to the individual handgun.

Wilson Combat RangeTac Holster and 1911
Wilson Combat’s RangeTac is an impressive holster.

Other Considerations

For many reasons, some cannot acclimate to inside-the-waistband carry. Try purchasing trousers an inch larger than normal to accommodate the holstered handgun.

Get used to the design by wearing the holster. It should not bruise and chafe. but the holster will be noticeable on the body to the wearer. For those that must use outside-the-waistband holsters, there are options.

If you are able to wear concealment vest and look natural doing so, an OWB holster works well. I have placed a fishing lure on one of my vests and it looks like a fishing vest!

But then, I don’t live downtown and am reasonably close to the earth. As long as legal requirements for concealed carry are met, you are good to go. The Wilson Combat RangeTac is among my favorite range holsters.

This holster offers a good draw angle and carries the pistol comfortably for long-range sessions. It is a great holster if you are able to use a long covering garment.

A holster that offers a high ride (this means it is higher above the belt line that a service-type holster) is the 1791 Gunleather BH2. This holster accommodates several sizes of handguns depending on the size holster you order.

Get a good snug fit and the holster breaks-in to accommodate the handgun. This results in a good fit and a fast draw.

If you are going to use an OWB holster, this high ride, worn behind the hip, offers a natural draw and real utility. Pick up a good gun belt at the same time!

When you choose a holster, the task seems daunting, but take time to study your needs, choose a holster appropriate for your lifestyle and practice.

What is your favorite concealed carry holster? Why? Let us know in the comments below!

About the Author:

Wilburn Roberts

When Wilburn Roberts was a young peace officer, he adopted his present pen name at the suggestion of his chief, as some of the brass was leery of what he might write. This was also adopted out of respect for families of both victims and criminals. The pen name is the same and the man remains an outspoken proponent of using enough gun for the job.

He has been on the hit list of a well-known hate group, traveled in a dozen countries and written on many subjects, including investigating hate crimes and adopting the patrol carbine. He graduated second in his class with a degree in Police Science. It took him 20 years to work himself from Lieutenant to Sergeant and he calls it as he sees it.
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 (7)

  1. Great article! For me I have carried both 1911’s and 3 & 4 inch barrels, S&W 66, 586/686+ revolvers for the last 40 yrs. My choice of holster for OWB are “Raven Concealment System” kidex holster or a Roys pancake, both sit high and forms tightly to the waistline and offers great retention and draw and the RCS holster utilizes a friction lock, while the Roy’s Pancake uses a thumb snap.

    For my wheel guns the best IWB Leather holster I’ve found is a “Milt Sparks,” I can carry a full size 1911’s or 4 inch L frame revolvers easily all day with no issues. I use the magnetic belt loops over an designed gun belt in either a 1.5 or 1 3/4 inch belt.

    For a back up, I carry a S&W J frame revolver, IWB holster from Desantis with a single over the belt hook. I also carry 2 Safariland speedloaders in J frame belt loop style single speed loader pouches.

    What ever style of holster you decide to carry you need to practice drawing your firearm from concealment and workout the bugs now, before you have to use your firearm. Training is key in developing muscle memory so that it becomes a fluid motion of drawing your firearm from the holster and cover garment.

  2. I am a huge fan of the 1791 Gunleather holsters. I have several for my various 1911’s-Commander size to doublestack 10’s and 45’s with full rails- as well as my M18 and XDM 10mm. Superior craftsmanship and lasting quality and durability! All of them are OWB. I’m a retired deputy and I live and work on a cattle ranch in North Idaho as well as log in the surrounding mountains. Two and four legged critters are a daily threat. All day carry and security with my firearms is paramount and these holsters fill the bill completely. Constantly concealing a firearm is not an issue in the free state of Idaho but the high ride of the BH2 makes it easy to do so when going out on the town or traveling to more left leaning jurisdictions. Occasionally deep concealment is required and IWB and pocket holsters will be used but as I grow older and less flexible, OWB with a slight forward LE style belt bias works best for me for drawstroke and combat retention scenarios.

  3. My edc rig is a t-rex arms side car. I carry a g17 (full sized) with a 17+1 in the weapon and a 22 rds mag as the spare. I’m a more slender guy but with a button-up/polo I dont print. Its a comfy rig but still reminds me that in carring which is good. Compliance kills. Been using this set up for a year now and it’s worth the “worry” and “inconvenience” of appendix carrying. If you’re a fit/slim person highly recommend. If you got a bit of a belly id recommned teir 1 conceiled. Its the same set up as the side car but theres a more forgiving flex in their rig.

  4. I have purchased two DeSantis IWB molded leather holsters designed to fit their respective handguns. The first was for my usual EDC, a Ruger Security 9. Absolutely love the set up, good retention, feel, draw ease etc..the second was for my first love, the all enduring Colt 1911 Government. Well thought out design, it has an adjustable clip for angle and height for IWB, and a single belt loop for OWB, just one screw to remove the clip for that mode of carry, which I find preferable for the weight. Neat addition I find is it does have a retention snap, that’s designed to go under the hammer when carried like a 1911 should be, locked and cocked. All in all, I find they compare very favorably to more expensive Galco holsters, and while not dirt cheap, they won’t break the bank. Couple years in with both, no complaints. Bought em both from Cheaper than Dirt, maybe they’ll send me another sticker or something for the plug.

  5. You always show guys with perfect waist line, how about the big man. Why don’t you show a CCW carry a gun. You just show perfect models. You are missing a big market.

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