Gear, Parts and Accessories

Inside the Waistband Holster

One of the frequent questions we get here at Cheaper Than Dirt! comes from customers seeking ways to carry their pistols. There are quite literally dozens of ways to securely carry a firearm, but today we’re going to address one of the most common: the Inside the Waistband Holster.

Inside the waistband holsters (often referred to as an IWB holster) are holsters that, as the name implies, keep the pistiol tucked inside your pants or shorts, between your waistband and your body. They usually have some sort of belt clip that keeps the holster attached to your belt or waistband in order to prevent the holster from slipping down.

IWB holster users generally fall into two categories: Love ’em or Hate ’em. Not many people are ambivalent about them. Of those who despise IWB holsters, the comfort factor tends to play a big role. These users just can’t abide having the holster digging into their side for the better part of a day. Comfort is a huge factor when choosing a holster. If it’s uncomfortable, most people will stop using it or stop carrying their firearm all together. Obviously, a firearm is useless if you don’t have it with you. Fans of the IWB holster tend to laud the concealability of firearms carried in this manner. They also love the fact that, being so closely carried to the body, it is more difficult for any potential bad guy to disarm you.

There are three main types of IWB holsters: Leather, Kydex or Plastic, and Nylon. Leather and nylon tend to be the most comfortable of the three, but they have the disadvantage of collapsing after the pistol is drawn, making reholstering more difficult. Kydex and plastic holsters are rigid and hold their shape even when the gun is drawn, but can become uncomfortable during extended use due to the firm unyielding material. Depending on your body type, IWB holsters can be even more uncomfortable due to the the way it is held so close to your body and the pressure of your waistband and belt.

Leather holsters are often the most comfortable of IWB holsters. Holsters such as Bianchi’s Professional Inside-the-Pants holster are immensely popular with undercover law enforcement, private investigators, and civilians who conceal on a regular bases. It does an excellent job of concealment by carrying the pistol low with the butt of the gun barely peeking above the waistline. If you choose to wear a leather IWB holster, be aware that extended use during the heat and humidity of summer can cause the holster to retain moisture from sweat, possibly damaging the pistol. Because of the proximity of the firearm to your body, you will want to clean and oil your handgun more often, usually once a week or more, in order to clean out salts, lint, rust, and to re-oil.

Despite their drawbacks, IWB holsters are one of the easiest ways to carry concealed. Many are even known as “tuckable” holsters and have features that allow you to carry your pistol in the IWB holster and tuck in your shirt at the same time. It features a leather panel that has a belt clip attached to it that allows the wearer to tuck their shirt in between the panel and the main body of the holster, as illustrated by the photo at left. As you can see from the photo, the belt clip is still visible, but the firearm itself is neatly concealed.

If you choose to use an IWB holster, there are a few things you can do to make it work better for you. First, select pants slightly larger than your normal size. This provides the extra room for your firearm, and decreases stretching and wear and tear on the garment. Make sure your shirt, vest, or jacket you use to conceal the firearm is cut a little long. The bottom of your cover garment should hang at least 6 inches below your belt.

Whether you go with leather, nylon, or kydex, an IWB holster will provide you with an efficient way to carry concealed. IWB holsters may not be for everybody, but that’s just the nature of holsters in general. Ask any old gunny, and they’ll tell you that somewhere they’ve got a box of old holsters that they ended up not liking for some reason or another. Me? I’ve carried in a kydex IWB holster for the better part of a decade. Obviously IWB works for me. It just might work for you too.

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 (8)

  1. I’m a chubby guy and an IWB isn’t very comfortable for those of us with “a spare tire”. I carry my Kimber Ultra Crimson Carry II in a Serpa OWB with a baggy t-shirt in summer or a fleece vest that covers it nicely. Once in a while, I’ll OC (Open Carry). You lose tactical advantage but gain something else: Most scumbags are cowards by nature. When they see an OC’er, they often decide they needed to be somewhere else. I’ve seen it happen many times. Is it possible to calculate how many crimes have been prevented by the mere presence of an OC’er?

    If I carry my BUG (Back-Up Gun; Ruger LCR-357), I keep it in a “pocket holster”. It prevents lint and other stuff from getting inside it.

    IWB is great for skinny folks, but not so good for those of us “packing a few extra pounds”.

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