You may have just one gun you wear all the time. If that’s the case, I’ll help you pick just what you need for that one gun. Or you may have multiple guns that will work in the carry role, and you like to alternate them from time to time. Clothing style will also factor into your holster choice. I’m lucky in that I get to wear polo-style shirts all the time. I’m partial to those made by Propper which have long enough shirttails to a make wearing an OWB holster work for me. Your clothing choices may necessitate a good IWB holster.
Whenever gun toting individuals get together, it seems inevitable that a discussion will come up about drawers full of holsters. There are numerous manufacturers, and most of them make holsters for all the popular make and model handguns. It’s a big industry, and I appreciate all those choices. However, I need my life to be simple.
You might think the business I’m in would complicate my holster choices. I review and write about firearms, I train people in the use of firearms, and I may be carrying a different gun every week, sometimes every day. I also write about and have tested holsters from CrossBreed, DeSantis, 1791, Alien Gear, Bianchi, Milt Sparks, Bullard Leather, and dozens of other makers. And, yep, I’ve got them all.
However, a recommendation from my editor a few years ago, when I was working on a holster article, was life changing. He told me to be sure I included the Bianchi 101 Foldaway Belt Slide holster in my review. That’s a lot of words for a simple piece of leather with two slots cut in it. I ordered one and when it arrived, I laughed. Carry a gun with this?
I’m not laughing anymore. When ordering, you can select a size by make and model, but chances are the recommendation is going to be a Size 16. The Size 16 packaging lists 25 different models it fits and that’s just listing guns made by Springfield, H&K, SIG Sauer, S&W, Beretta, and Walther. There’s no way they could list all the guns this holster will accommodate on the small label that’s on the package.
Earlier, I mentioned I wear polos with my shirttail out. The Bianchi 101 Foldaway is an OWB holster that is so easy to use and so universal, it’s an amazing product. It really doesn’t matter where around your waist you wear it. I put it on my belt at the 3 o’clock position every day, and I don’t even have to think about what gun I may or may not be carrying that day. They all fit. Mine is a right-hand version, but they also come in left-hand.
The biggest gun I’ve carried in my belt slide holster would be a Springfield XDm with 4.5-inch barrel. The smallest would be a S&W CSX. Among other full-size and mid-size guns I’ve carried in it are the Beretta M9, Beretta PX4, SIG P226, SIG P229, Glock 19, Taurus G3, CZ-P07, S&W, M&P, and a few Turkish imports. I’ve carried 1911s, both Commander and Government size. I’ve carried several single-stack nines such as the Shield and XDs and all the current round of double-stack mini-nines such as the Glock 43X, Springfield Hellcat Pro, Shield Plus, Ruger Max-9, and SIG P365XL. Let me pay it forward. If you can wear OWB, get this holster; it’s unlikely you’ll need another. And it works with guns that have optics mounted.
Maybe you need an IWB holster. I carried my gun that way for years. There are two choices in holster material—Kydex or Leather. I’m not going to try to convince you one is better than the other. I’ve worn both types. But I do have a suggestion here that can save you money if you’re prone to using different guns. If you carry a 1911, get a 1911 holster. But for other types, I’ve found that ordering a holster for a SIG P226 or a Springfield XD with 4-inch barrel will get you a holster that will work for almost any mid- to large-size semi-automatic pistol.
My Kydex holster came from CrossBreed, and it was ordered for a Taurus Millennium Pro, but it fits the P226 and countless other handguns as well. My leather holster is a Bullard Leather Company holster that is stamped P226 on the back. That’s the mold they used to make it, and it has carried my P226 plus a plethora of other guns.
You’re going to get the argument that your holster should be molded for your particular gun, and I get that. If I only carried an H&K VP9, I’d order a holster custom made for my VP9. But I don’t, and chances are you will try different guns from time to time. I’m telling you the shape and dimensions of the P226 are so universal, holsters designed for it will accommodate most of the similar-sized guns on the market.
You don’t have to go with my Crossbreed or Bullard to make this work. Get an Alien Gear Holster, Bianchi, or DeSantis, or any well-made holster that says it’s for the P226, and you’ll have a holster that will work for most of the common gun choices for a carry gun.
If you go IWB, where do you wear it? I wear mine at the 3 o’clock position, but you can wear it in front, appendix style, or further back on your strong side or even reversed on your non-strong side. Just determine what’s comfortable and go for it.
Pocket carry may be relevant to you. More and more, we’re being offered guns of an acceptable caliber and enough ammo to do the job that will fit in a man’s pocket or in a pouch in a lady’s purse. If you carry that way, your gun needs to be in a holster that will cover the trigger and keep the gun oriented for easy access.
Most makers have a pocket holster in their product line, and some have multiple ones designed for specific makes and model. I like the Nemesis from DeSantis because it does a good job of keeping the gun upright in your pocket and the holster remains in your pocket when you draw. But a generic holster from Blackhawk or Uncle Mike’s that will fit any small semi-automatic is a good choice. That same holster will work with small revolvers such as the Taurus Ultra-Lite 856UL or S&W K-Frame.
You may say, “All of this is well and good, but I wear scrubs all day at work.” or, “I wear yoga pants pretty much all the time.” In that case, get a belly band holster. Several companies make them and they’re pretty generic. You don’t have to worry about gun fit (within reason).
I hope you carry every day. If you make a holster choice along my recommendations, carrying should not be a burden. Put on your holster just like you put on your pants or skirt and add your gun, loaded with one in the chamber. Unless you’re using a belly band holster, you will need a good gun belt. These belts are thicker and wider than a normal belt, so they offer a secure attachment for your holster, be it IWB or OWB.
Interesting article. I am a retired security professional. Back in the ’70s, I saw a picture of what I know as a Yaqui Slide. Thought it was a great idea, so I got some leather and made one for my S&W mod 60 revolver. Used it under a suit jacket, sweater, etc. whenever the occasion required a close/tight fit as there were no inside the waistband holsters in those days. It held the weapon firmly and when i had to drive, I was able to rotate it to a vertical position, reminiscent of the rotating holsters then used by many LEOs. In the ’90s I switched to a Sig P229 and made another one with the same results. Never had a problem with.
A few years ago, a friend sent me a Bianchi mod 101-16 slide holster that is configured to cover the trigger guard (as were mine), but with a horizontal slot at the lower end of the rear belt loop. It works better than either of my hand-made versions, which I subsequently discarded. I wear it almost all the time. When I am going shopping, etc., I just slide my weapon in and am on my way.
The concerns expressed in some the above replies bemoan the safety aspects of this type of carry. I believe too many people who never have or will experience the realities of real-world civilian carry are much too quick to judge without being in that situation.
The holsters I use are from Comp-tac. They are Kydex and molded to each specific gun. They make IWB and OWB holsters.
The gent who authored this column has put some potentially very dangerous information out there for the folks who might be new to the concept of carrying a firearm!! Given the fact that he is an NRA Instructor, he should know better!! Carrying a firearm in a holster that is designed to securely hold a specific firearm is a basic safety requirement!! Try to imagine the catastrophic consequences if a firearm falls out of a holster it was not really designed to secure! Then the firearm hits a hard surface floor and an accidental discharge occurs in an environment where there are multiple bystanders!! Truly a nightmarish, life-changing incident!!
I happen to prefer my holster of choice made by Blackhawk.
It’s a Kydex holster that fits my P226 with red dot perfectly
It fully covers the trigger, and has a trigger release retention system that is very
Natural to use during the draw, secures the Sig nicely with no chance of it
ever falling out
In regards to the Bianchi holster not covering the trigger, I personally don’t see a big deal not covering the trigger on a revolver, as pictured. However, if you go to the Bianchi website you will see pictures with a 1911 in the holster. The trigger is completely covered as it think it would be with most semi autos.
I second Dave’s comment. The first thing I noticed in the article was the picture of the 1911 in the Alien Gear Cloak holster with the trigger completely exposed. I also noted that the weapon was not “cocked and locked”.
What’s good for a Stoeger STR-9:and a RogerP85
Outside Waist Band and Inside the Waist Band
As a NRA instructor, Chief range SAFETY officer and certified state license instructor how can you suggest a holster like the Bianchi Foldaway holster pictured above and suggest it as a usable holster? if it does not even cover the trigger…IMO one of the mandatory BASIC options for safe responsible carry of a firearm is the trigger must be covered.There are way to many new people carrying handguns to be giving poor information.
Great article. Very useful information. Many thanks!
Great article. I have recently begun carrying but had no clue what would be best for my XDs 9mm. I’m fairly overweight and so I didn’t know if I could even do IWB or if I would need to do OWB and in either case, what position would I need to use to conceal, be comfortable; and be able to draw and reholster. I was particularly concerned with not accidentally defeating the grip safety and compound trigger safety, the only safeties on the XDs, while reholstering.
My son has an Alien Gear ShapeShift setup and he likes it so I got one as well for Christmas.
I am so glad I did! With that package, I get a kydex shell that covers all the working bits, and that ticks off the box in my list of the reholstering concern. But beyond that, there’s like 6 different options to try out for how to carry the shell and they can all be swapped and tried in minutes. I tried 3 o’clock IWB, strong side OWB, and oddly enough, even though I was sure it wouldn’t work for big ol’ me, the appendix carry has turned out to be the one I like the best. A holster type I would never have tried if it didn’t come as part of this kit.
I highly recommend the ShapeShift system from Alien Gear if you don’t know where to even start with deciding on a holster. Or even if you do know what you need…it’s very high quality kit.
What is an OWB and an IWB holster?
OWB – Outside the waistband and IWB Inside the waistband. They indicate the whether the holster will be tucked inside the pants or or outside of your waistband. ~Dave