Tips for Choosing the Right Holster

Tooled leather case with dark brown edge and gold, red and orange design on a woven gray-and-white background, with the stippled black handle of the Ruger showing.

Finding  the right holster should not be hard to do, but it can be. How many of us have a box, bag, or drawer full of holsters we do not use? Why are they there? Like most people, you likely purchased them and they either did not fit your gun, were the wrong type, did not wear comfortably or you just decided you didn’t like it.

Arex Rex zero one paddle holster
To find the right holster you need to ask yourself a couple of questions.
  1. What hand do I draw and shoot with?
    What? Too simple you say, but think about this; most shooters are right-handed, but if you are left-handed you want a holster that you can draw easily from with your strong hand. Also there are many people that buy a shoulder holster thinking that the left hand holsters are correct because they want the gun under their left arm, when the correct holster is a right-handed holster. If you want an inside-the-waistband holster worn in the small of the back and are a right-handed shooter, than you want a left-handed holster. This will put the handgun’s grip in a position that will be easier to grab. Pocket holsters are constructed where one side is stiff and flat, which is to help hide the outline of the gun in your pocket, the wrong side will show the outline of the gun in your pocket.
  2. What type of material are you looking for?
    You can choose leather, nylon, or Kydex. Leather is good for a comfortable concealed carry holster that is worn on the belt or inside the pants. Nylon works great for carrying your handgun when out hunting, in either a shoulder holster or a belt holster. Nylon also work well when you want a holster that it not affected by sweat or water. Molded plastic is good for concealed carry on the belt; most are molded to lock the gun in place without the need of a retention strap. Nylon, leather and plastic can be molded to fit a certain model of gun, for a tight precision fit. Nylon is normally the cheapest in price, molded plastic can cost a little more if it is a mass-produced holster or a lot more if the holsters is custom-molded. Leather is normally going to cost the most, but almost all leather holsters are made by hand and take time to construct.
  3. What type of carry position do you want?
    There are many different carry positions, on the outside the waistband, inside the waistbandankle, pocketshoulder holstersmall of the backfanny pack, or on the thigh. Carry position is very important. For example, you would not want to carry a large gun like the S&W 500 in an ankle holster. But some people do try to carry a large-frame gun like the Ruger P90 or Beretta 92 on the ankle and you can see it within about 20 feet of them, not what you want for concealment. Pick the holster that works best for your style of carry. If you are carrying the gun for hunting, a shoulder holster or belt holster would be a good pick. For SWAT or a tactical situation the thigh or leg holster would work well.
  4. What size is your gun and what is your body size?
    You also have to think about your body size. Someone that has a small frame may not want a large gun pulling down on their belt. A person with a large frame can carry a larger gun on the belt or shoulder. Think about your size and the size of your gun. Remember, in a lot of states where concealed carry is allowed the gun has to be kept hidden, so pick a holster that keeps the gun close and well hidden on your body.

What’s your favorite holster and carry position? Do you carry a backup gun? Share your answers in the comment section?

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 (18)

  1. I am a woman, new to shooting, I have taken a gun safety course and need a holster for the next level class. I like the belly band that our instructor (female police officer) showed with possible choices of holster we could get. It seems like this would work well for me, to wear the gun on my left. Anyone have suggestions?

  2. I’m right handed and thinking a bandolier shoulder holster would work best. It seems to me that it would be easier to draw the gun if it were hanging on the left, to reach across with the right hand. Does that mean I should by a right hand holster? Pictures I’ve seen seem to indicate a right hand holster under and to the side of the right arm. That seems cumbersome. So I need some advice, thanks

  3. Good breakdown of the points to consider when shopping for a holster, and a valuable article for newbies and old hands too. Drawer full, I think I’m on my 3rd box full of holsters that didn’t make the grade, so I agree with the author on all of his points and considerations. Just because a holster works well for one pistol, doesn’t mean that it will make the grade for another in your collection. My CC holster (an Alien Gear 3.0 IWB) for my PPK/S is great, but it doesn’t work well with my Beretta 92 or Walther PPQ. An old Hunter is great for my Colt clone SAA with its 8″ barrel, but an Uncle Mike’s nylon is easier to carry my 3″ S&W Mod. 60 as a trail gun. An Uncle Mike’s nylon is used for my Walther P22 Target for field carry, but I use a Hunter Vintage for my 1938 High Standard Model B.

  4. Thanks for clarifying one thing for me; small of the back carry. When I first started carrying about 3 years ago, I decided on SOB carry. I thought carefully about it before purchasing. As a right hander, I decided I needed a left hand holster for for SOB carry, and ordered my holster accordingly. I don’t go to public ranges, so I really didn’t think much more about it. Then I read several posts with different shooters advising neophytes to get a RIGHT hand holster for a right handed shooter to carry SOB. I mentioned this in comment and was told no, if you carry in a left handed holster you sweep yoursellf on the draw. One guy was very vigorous, and not at all polite about it. So, I tried it. I was 61 at the time (my reason for carrying, not as strong or as fast as I once was). Evidsently, I am not as flexible either. Heck, as I practiced, I had a tough time drawing with the left hand holster. Anyway, I adjusted the LH holster to where I could reach the pistol, and I mmediately saw a great deal of difference from in the way I drew from the LH holster. When I drew SOB from the RH holster I had to swing my draw way wide, which I consdered a very good way to surrender your weapon to your attacker. Since I found SOB problematic with either holster, I went to a Level 3, pancake ar 4 o’clock, and have been happily shooting better, since.

  5. I’m old school, I prefer officer’s size 1911’s, one is a Colt New Agent in 9mm, the other is a Kimber 45. I also prefer leather holsters OWB with a FBI forward cant worn at the 3 o’clock position. I have a couple of holsters with double belt slots that pull the holster tite to my body and are moulded for the guns, but I also have an old school scabard style holster that an Amish saddle maker made for me. It has a leather keeper strap that snaps on the side of the tooled holster. This is the holster I use the most, the strap makes sure the gun is secure and only requires a nudge with my thumb and grip the gun in one motion.

  6. After working in law enforcement, military, federal, state and local, and several years undercover, I have accumulated a couple bushels of holsters. When I was a young fed, I like the Jackass shoulder rig, later named the Miami classic for both 1911s and revolvers. It works well when seated anywhere including cars, but then you must take the time to reach across your body, today I prefer a cross draw, and the advantage is you keep the handgun lower and more out of sight when making the draw. For CCW I carry in the right front pocket with a Glock 43 or J frame. Bigger guns go in a strong side holster. I have ankle holsters, but never recommend them. Just too slow and obvious for any draw from the standing position, If you have to stoop or bend, you have wasted motion. I have made many, many arrests including those where people were reaching for guns and knives, the draw must be such that your eyes never move unless you are moving for a better position or to dodge a bullet. You should be able to have your eyes steady on the other folks hands or movement while your hands quickly and automatically bring the gun to eye level. Any holster should be picked with that in mind. This is very different from police shooting competitions, where people run and dodge and concentrate on moving from station to station rather than focusing on the exact movement of the hands of the bad guys, just saying…holsters are a small part of the equation. My 2 cents.

  7. I have only a few holsters. The detonics have shoulder holsters only one at a time wearing both at the same time double shoulder holsters is asking for ridicule best saves for real shtf events when exposure and ridicule are irrelevant. The 45 Colt and 454 single actions have quick draw Western and chest holsters for hunting. I also have one 38 iwb paddle rig that goes nicely with a coupe of my tailored suits. My tailor fitted the suite while I was wearing the rig. An understanding and skilled taior can make a big difference in comfort and appearance.


  9. I’m “Wheelchair Handicapped”, and looking for a Comfortable Right Hand Cross Draw Holster. Preferably in Leather, because “Kydex” has a tendency “Dig Into the Skin” over prolong periods of time…

  10. I’m looking for help/advice from anyone willing. I am a very large individual (400lbs). I have a Taurus PT-111 Millenium Pro 9MM. Due to my size and where most of my weight is, around the waist, an IWB or OWB seem impractical. A smart carry would be completely impossible. I am thinking a shoulder rig may be the only option, but since I normally wear sweat pants with tie strings, couldn’t use one with tie downs.

    Being new to CCW I may be missing something that is available. Any input would be greatly appreciated.

    1. Just make certain that if you buy a shoulder holster that the straps that support the holster over you shoulders are wide enough that you can comfortably carry your pistol for hours. Narrow straps 1″-1.5″ will not do that. Too narrow will make the gun feel like you are carrying a brick under your arm and put a strain on your neck!

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