How to Train for Concealed Carry — Holsters

woman with gun near thief at night in parking lot

There are three primary considerations for selecting a holster that might help you narrow your choices for both method of carry and the holster itself. Here are some of the things I believe a quality holster must do.

The most important thing a holster must do is secure your handgun. The holster must ensure your handgun always remains in your control. You’d be surprised at how easy it is for a firearm to become dislodged when you least expect it.

1911 pistol in a leather holster with a man shaking the holster to test retention
The shake test, proof that a holster is as good as new with a perfect, secure fit that doesn’t let go until you want it to more than 35 years later.

With my students, I often relate the story about me falling into an arroyo awash in early spring rain. My holster never relinquished its hold on my pistol. If the holster is not right, something as simple as running may cause you to lose your handgun. Think about that… Assuming you have the option, running as fast as you can in the opposite direction of trouble is a pretty good idea. However, dropping your gun would make a bad day even worse.

What makes a good holster?

A good test to see how your holster holds on to your handgun is to give your concealed carry holster the shake test. Using an unloaded handgun, holster it without mounting it to your body. Now stand over a chair, couch, or bed, and turn the holster upside-down and give it a couple of shakes. Did your handgun fall out or almost fall out? If your handgun and holster combination fail, I’d consider another selection.

Another important task for the holster is protecting the trigger. It’s really very important to use a holster, even when you practice pocket carry in a dedicated pocket. Despite the news trying to convince everyone that guns have a will of their own, we know that firearms are inanimate objects that can’t act on their own.

That being said, there is a theoretical one-in-million possibility a gun without a manual safety could “go off,” if something catches on the trigger and it moves backward. This is one of the reasons I dislike and discourage the use of striker fired handguns with “safety triggers” that do not have manual safeties. Striker-fire handguns with safety triggers have a propensity to fire when being presented or re-holstered — such as Glocks, which are a prime example.

A good holster solves the problem by covering the trigger and protecting it from hands, fingers, and all sorts of things that might catch on the trigger. A good, concealed carry holster keeps the pesky trigger covered and protected while you are establishing a good firing grip. Establishing that proper grip before you start your draw stroke is an important detail.

A S&W 360PD being placed in a pocket holster.
The first thing a new shooter must learn is proper gun handling. In this picture, the student has the muzzle pointed at his other hand while holstering the revolver.

If your holster, when in the correct position, doesn’t allow you to obtain a proper firing grip, a grip you do not have to adjust once you are out of the holster and before you fire, get another holster. Regarding holster choices.

An expensive gun, training classes, and hundreds of hours of practice are all for naught if your holster prevents you from getting your gun on target as quickly, safely, and as accurately as possible. Your belt and holster combination needs to work in tandem to carry and support your gun the way you want it and keep it there — regardless your activity or position.

Sitting, standing, walking, or running, you need the confidence to reach for your firearm and know it will be there as it should be. You should be able to complete the draw stroke smoothly and quickly without looking. And to that end, the importance of a proper belt cannot be over emphasized.

Man with a S&W 360PD revolver concealed in a pocket holster
When properly worn, the concealed handgun should be undetectable as the Smith and Wesson 360PD in a pocket holster is here.

If the belt is not strong enough to hold your gun and holster without sagging or bending upward as you try to extract the gun from the firm grip of the holster, it will throw everything off. Additionally, if the weight causes the belt to sag, the grip may not be where you expect it to be throwing your timing completely off.

If you are a pocket carry aficionado, consistent orientation is the primary reason it’s important to use a proper holster. When you are purse or pocket carrying, and you reach for your roscoe while getting mugged, only to find it upside-down and pointed backward, you’re toast. This is even more so with semi-automatic pistols because the weight is in the grip. That weight distribution will want to orient toward the ground possibly ending up with the muzzle pointing up — not good when you reach in to grab it.

Additionally, it is of paramount importance that you be able to draw your gun with one hand. On the range, using two hands is fine and seems easy and intuitive. In a life-or-death encounter, you might not have two hands available. You might be pushing someone out of the way or holding a flashlight. Maybe you will need to open or close a door. You might be in contact with the attacker trying to fight him or her off while trying to get your gun into action. There are any number of reasons you might be forced to defend yourself one-handed.

Man with his gun arm at a 90 degree angle holding a semi-automatic handgun
This shooter shows good form in his low ready with the elbow and forearm at 90 degrees and the firearm parallel to the ground.

Practice the Draw

A fast, flawless presentation of the firearm is of paramount importance to any defensive situation. It is a skill that is developed after many repetitions. They say it takes 500 perfectly executed repetitions to learn an action.

Keep in mind that in a defensive situation you are always starting at a disadvantage. You are behind the curve because you are not the initiator. By the very nature of the defensive position, you will be playing catch up. Once you make the decision to act, you must be flawless.

Action is faster than reaction. Because you are reacting, having the correct holster is indispensable to your presentation. You could be as much as 6–10 seconds behind the assailants. When you initiate your response, remember the old adage that slow is smooth, and smooth is fast, so stay calm and smooth.

Smooth flawless movements, without any need of correction, will help make up for not being the aggressor. Another thing to remember, if you are wearing my favorite “Shoot Me First Vest” you can already have your hand on your gun. This advantage will also eliminate much of the reaction time deficit.

I always have my students start their training, and recommend others to start training, from the 3 o’clock OSW position. That makes it easy to learn and practice all the necessary skills to become competent before they start to train for their preferred concealed carry position. As previously stated, the role a good belt and holster combination plays can not be overstated and is key to the execution of an efficient presentation.

A Ken Null Holster with a Jim Hoag 1911 ensconced in it and a knife, watch and spare holster
A Ken Null Holster with a Jim Hoag 1911 ensconced in it. Notice the trigger guard is completely protected. I still carry both on a regular basis after more than 35 years of flawless, comfortable service.

When practicing your presentation, correct form is paramount. Never concern yourself with speed, always move slowly, deliberately, and be precis — remember, 500 perfect reps. The speed will build slowly without you even being aware of it.

The shooter in the photo has presented his firearm to the low ready prior to extension, notice that the wrist and forearm are straight and locked. The wrist is not broken or bent; it forms a straight line from the sights to the elbow. This shooter displays the perfect finish to the classic elbow up, elbow down strong side presentation. This is the fastest way to accurately get your gun to the target, with the sights aligned, and should be practiced until flawlessly executed.

I hope you find these tips helpful and that this article inspires you to practice as often as you can. Remember 500 perfect repetitions.

How do you train for concealed carry? What is your preferred position to carry a concealed firearm? Which holster manufacturer’s products have worked best for you? 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 (7)

  1. Once again – you have given excellent advice. Only recently considered a pocket carry and your advice and suggestion locks that down even more. Thank you Ed!

  2. For my pocket carry, I found that jeans which are “relaxed fit” cut have a larger circumference around the hips which leaves a less restricted and more open pocket entry. Index finger pointed, 3 fingers on the grip, and thumb over the top rear (hammer, sights, etc) make a smooth withdrawal from a large pocket.
    Access is just as important as the holster…

  3. More of us average folk are buying handguns these days for obvious reasons and most of us are not aware of the many issues of gun ownership. All the more reason to get trained properly by an expert like LaPorta. Something like securing your weapon is one of these issues. Thanks again Ed.

  4. As always the old fat guy Ed has it good and right . Keep it tight people we do not want to shoot our foot off .

  5. The author gives great advice in terms of practicing with repetition. I’m guilty of not always doing so, but when the time is available I will.

    One thing that has helped me (when time permits) is using one of those ‘dry-fire laser cartridges’ that puts out a brief red laser dot when pulling the trigger. Gives a better idea of where you’re actually aiming when drawing from concealment or even non concealment and you think you’ve got the perfect grip + stance but don’t. Plus it helps save/protect the firing pin if you feel you need to.

    Solid advice. Thumbs up!

  6. In a defensive situation, it’s the little things that matter the most. Great article, Mr. LaPorta.
    What holster, how you carry it, and its ability to give you a proper and rapid draw can be the difference between life and death!
    Another great article and advice from “the most interesting man in the world.“

  7. Eighty per cent of concealed carry shooters carry a striker fired handgun.

    If they keep their finger off the trigger all is well.

    If not- lots of accidental shootings with every type of pistol.

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