Concealed Carry

The Best Solutions for Any Concealed Carry Method

Woman wearing a Comfort Tac Belly Band holster

Imagine there was a shop you could go to and pick a gun, ammo, and a concealed carry method that was customized for your body style and size, work environment, experience level, and budget to provide you with the best setup possible. My parents owned a retail clothing shop, and I worked in the men’s clothing shop of a department store in the few months prior to my enlistment in the Army. That’s what gave me the idea of using the retail wardrobe environment to portray the idea of helping you choose the setup that works best for you.

I’ve been carrying concealed for almost 20 years. During that time, I’ve been an instructor and a writer/reviewer which has enabled me to try multiple carry guns and holsters. I’m not a typical armed citizen because I’m in the business of helping others to be properly armed. During the time I’ve been carrying a gun, I’ve gone from being an active walker to relying on a wheelchair. I’ve gone from being a normal-sized person to being a way overweight person.

Crossbreed SuperTuck leather and Kydex holster with a Taurus semi-auto handgun inserted
The author’s first concealed carry combo was this Taurus 24/7 in a Crossbreed SuperTuck holster. This combination still works well, but smaller guns have come to dominate the CCW environment.

A few years ago, I wrote an article based on an oft-discussed fact about holsters and how finding the right holster is an ongoing struggle for many of us. There are so many options when the choice of gun has already been made. Changing guns brings even more variable to be considered. Most of the carry guns 20 years ago were either double-stack full-size guns or pocket guns.

Time has added single-stack nines, micros, double-stack micros, various mouse guns, snubbies, double-action revolvers, and other guns that defy logical grouping. Over the years, I’ve made multiple carry decisions for myself, clients, and friends who have come to me for help. I’ve changed my carry method a couple of times along the way. So, let’s put on our “You’re the customer and I’m the store clerk.” hats and get started.

The Basics – A Good Gun Belt

Before you think about carrying in a holster at your waist, you must wisely choose a good gun belt. Most of the companies that sells holsters, also sells belts specifically designed for the added weight of carrying a gun. These may be leather, or they may be one of the newer tactical, nylon ratchet belts such as the Nexbelt. Either type belt needs to be 1.5 to 1.75 inches in width and stiff enough to hold the clip on the holster securely. My first gun belt was a leather one made by Crossbreed, but now I am very comfortable with a nylon tactical EDC belt from Nexbelt.

IWB Holsters

Carrying in an IWB concealment holster works best if you can wear a polo-style shirt with the shirttail out. Since you’re in my imaginary shop to get fitted, I’d like to introduce you to the Propper brand of polo shirt. These shirts are designed for concealed carry. Because of relaxed guidelines for business casual, I’ve been able to wear these shirts in most environments where I worked.

Bullard Leather IWB holster with a SIG P226 handgun inserted
The author’s favorite leather IWB holster is this Bullard Leather Company holster. Built for a SIG P226, this holster accommodates several double-stack semi-autos. The author has the same holster cut for his 1911s.

Scenario 1 – Full-size semi-automatic in Kydex inside-the-waistband (IWB) holster. This will work with guns such as the Glock 19, S&W M&P, Springfield XD, SIG P226, P229, or P320. Lots of other guns fit into this category, and it may be necessary to specify a holster to fit the gun. My first choice of holsters in this category was the Crossbreed SuperTuck. That’s still an excellent choice. I’ve also successfully used the following with this type of gun and carry method: Alien Gear Cloak Tuck, DeSantis Intruder, and Galco TacSlide.

Scenario 2 – Full-size semi-automatic in leather holster. I love leather, especially when carrying a 1911 or an all-metal double-stack semi-auto. My favorite holsters in this category are made by a Texas Company, Bullard Leather Co. I have Bullard holsters for Government and Commander-size 1911s and a SIG P226. That 226 holster has carried at least 20 additional types of mid-size semi-automatic pistols. I know the holster makers would rather you buy a custom holster for each gun type you may have, but when you look at these guns, so many of them are so similar it just makes sense that there be some crossover with the holsters.

When I was teaching in-person concealed carry classes every week, we typically had three instructors in the room during the session we did on holsters. We represented three different body styles. One guy was beanpole skinny, another was what I’d call normal-size, and I was the overweight guy.

We were each wearing a rather large gun at the three o’clock position under our shirts. Two of us were wearing IWB holsters and the other an outside-the-waistband (OWB) holster. At some point we’d all lift our shirts to show off what we were carrying, and the class members were generally amazed that they had been around us all day and had no indication that we were carrying such big guns.

Scenario 3 — You don’t, or can’t, wear a belt. Maybe you wear scrubs at work, or maybe a pantsuit. Maybe you wear shorts or a jogging suit. In these types of dress, a belly band holster is usually your best bet. The brand I’ve worked with most is Comfort Tac through Personal Security Products. Blackhawk, DeSantis, Galco and other holster makers have them, too.

OWB Holsters

People in uniform usually wear OWB holsters, and many of these have security devices on them. That’s a topic for another discussion, but in general, many of the IWB holsters easily convert to OWB simply by turning the belt clips around. Because I wear my shirttail out, OWB works fine for me, should I choose to go that route. I use such a simple OWB solution that you might look on it with skepticism. I did, until I tried it, and I was amazed.

Bianchi 101 Foldaway holster with a Ruger 1911 .45 ACP pistol on a man's belt
The Bianchi 101 Foldaway holster will accommodate a variety of handguns in an OWB environment.

The solution is a belt slide holster. Several companies make them. I have them in black and in brown, two sizes each, made by Bianchi and branded as the Foldaway 101 Belt Slide holster. I can carry darn near every pistol I have securely in one of these minimalist holsters. Just slide it onto your belt whenever you get dressed, and when you’re ready to go armed, slip one of your loaded handguns into it.

Appendix Carry

Early adapters of what has become known as appendix carry had a hard time selling many of us on the idea of having a loaded gun pointing at the most treasured parts of our body. But if you understand the safety mechanisms built into modern handguns, you learn to trust them. For me, the key to making this work is a new kind of holster. The holster is made from Kydex and molded to the gun, with a single belt clip that holds the gun vertically. The holster also has an adjustable tension in various areas of the holster.

Most of my holsters of this type are made by Incognito Concealment, but similar holsters are made by Safariland, Taurus, CrossBreed, and others. The biggest gun I carry in the appendix position is a Springfield Echelon, and for this I have a CrossBreed holster.

Man carrying a firearm in the appendix position
Appendix carry has become very popular, especially with the proliferation of so many small, high-capacity handguns.

I have most of the smaller guns that have helped make appendix carry popular such as the Springfield Hellcat, SIG P365, Glock 43X, S&W Shield Plus, and Ruger Max 9, just to name a few. With one of these new vertical-type Kydex holsters, these guns practically disappear when you put them on. The guns wear comfortably, and the draw stroke is easy.

As you leave my fitting room, I have one last bit of advice to pass along. Appendix carry will work just as well for a woman as for a man — if the woman is willing to wear a belt and cover the gun with a shirttail. A gun carried in this manner is a lot more accessible than carrying one in your purse, and it really is comfortable.

Do you prefer IWB or OWB holsters for concealed carry? Which carry position do you prefer and why? Which position would you recommend someone new to concealed carry start out with? Share your answers in the Comment section.

  • Safariland Kydex holster with a SIG P365XL handgun equipped with a red dot sight
  • Kydex IWB holster with a compact pistol inserted
  • Man carrying a firearm in the appendix position
  • Bianchi 101 Foldaway holster with a Ruger 1911 .45 ACP pistol on a man's belt
  • Woman wearing a Comfort Tac Belly Band holster
  • Bullard Leather IWB holster with a SIG P226 handgun inserted
  • Crossbreed SuperTuck leather and Kydex holster with a Taurus semi-auto handgun inserted

About the Author:

David Freeman

David is an NRA Instructor in pistol, rifle and shotgun, a Chief Range Safety Officer and is certified by the State of Texas to teach the Texas License to Carry Course and the Hunter Education Course. He has also owned and operated a gun store. David's passion is to pass along knowledge and information to help shooters of all ages and experience levels enjoy shooting sports and have the confidence to protect their homes and persons. He flew medevac helicopters in Vietnam and worked for many years as a corporate pilot before becoming actively involved in the firearm industry.
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 (16)

  1. Inside the waistband and appendix carry all the way ! It is much easier and faster to draw from that position than trying to reach back and pull up from the 3 o’clock position. At my age, I’m much faster and an easier draw!!

  2. I was on the job in a division of my state’s law enforcement. I was one of our field unit’s firearms qualification instructors, range masters, our 2nd armorer, and on our ERT. I also used work for my county’s sheriff’s office part time. In those positions you don’t have much leeway in what and how you carry. Luckily what we were issued with the state worked for me and our sheriff allowed certain models and holster for alternate carry (AFTER the red tape and approval). First thing I can recommend to a civilian is find what works for YOU. Just because a certain firearm, holster, or carry position is popular doesn’t mean it’s the best method for you or your situation. I have the option in my state to open carry. When I do open carry I use a Cytac OWB paddle holster with belt loop slots. It’s not thin Kydex style but a thick plastic and has a secondary retention lock that must be hit in order to be drawn. It’s a duty holster and carries a duty size sidearm. Either an S&W SD40VE or an M&P. I prefer to carry in a crossdraw. 1: It allows you to be seated and still access it, whether that’s seated in a dining establishment or your vehicle. 2: I’m “technically” ambidextrous. Write left handed, prefer to shoot right handed… but I take a left handed bladed defensive stance. Carrying crossdraw with OWB puts my sidearm to the rear with my body between it and an assailaint. Works for me in civlian life but SOP rules wouldn’t allow for that while in uniform. For IWB I use a Gunmate/Uncle Mike’s soft holster in the appendix carry. Yeah, some don’t like that Idea and I don’t like Kydex digging into the area between my hip bone and my “junk”. I’m 6’1′ and 170lbs. I’m slim so the soft holster with an S&W Shield Plus tucks in quite nicely and is secure the way it rides. I wear a 1.5″ leather belt that I’ve worn for the last 30 years. The .38 6 shot snub rides IWB appendix carry Lightning Leather Works handmade custom leather. Biggest thing is to FIND WHAT WORKS FOR YOU AND YOUR NEEDS.

  3. @Robert Royster; what David was refering to is the brand named “Propper”. I have some Propper brand clothing, but not their polos. My stuff is their BDUs that was used when I worked for a division of my state’s law enforcement ERT (emergency response team). If their polos are anything like their BDUs they should be good to go.

  4. I am fat with no butt! Whenever I try IWB or OWB holsters they pull my pants down. I use pockets holsters now with mini guns and sometimes they’re heavy too. What works best is a shoulder holster with a good cover shirt or coat.

  5. Good article. Retired County Sheriff here w/40 years carrying for the job and 8 years civilian. (48 years total), taught NRA police firearms course 28 years, etc. etc. Anyway, here’s my take on the subject and, like all free talk, it’s worth what you paid. Choose the rig that suits YOU. Price is really not an indicator of utility, but cheap crap seldom holds up. I know/see/read people who get off “Carrying”. “I’d do this..I’d do that if …”etc. etc. when, in actuality, they’d freeze, poop their pants, or worse. Several former students have shot bad people. I know the topic.

    We teach the value of repetitive practice with the duty/offduty rig the person actually uses. Not an hour on an indoor range, but days of hard, perfect repetitions. Draw. Fire. Holster. All sorts of positions, running, prone, right/left barricade, night with/without a flashlight. Serious Stuff.

  6. First of all, it’s a good article.
    I personally prefer to carry OWB. I find it the most comfortable I’ve tried to carry IWB, and it was very uncomfortable. I suppose it was the combination of the handgun and the holster. Anyway, it was painful.
    I recently purchased a bellyband holster that I have yet to try out. I think I will try it out with my XD-S in 45ACP and see how that works out.

  7. I don’t know about swapping most of my iwb to owb. My iwb’s tend sit a bit lower and there isn’t enough adjustment to bring it high enough to stay concealed owb under an untucked shirt. By contrast, my owb specific holsters ride much higher and even a full size 1911 or 5” revolver are surprisingly well concealed with an untucked shirt.

  8. Thanks Dave for a well written article.I’ve been carrying for six to eight years and like many others have burned through several holsters. I finally found the ultimate holster. It is called the $35.00 holster by the Glock Store.It barely covers the gun. It depends which one (right or left) you purchase. Weather it is inside or out side the waist band. If you carry IWB on the right side you get the left side OWB and use it IWB on the right. I know this sounds a little strange, but believe me it works great. Been using it for three years and have had ZERO issues By the way, I am a real user not a Glock Store shill.

  9. Robert, Propper is the Proper brand in my book for a polo shirt. Try one. I think you’ll like it. I first ran across them at an NRA show years ago and I know have both long sleeve and short sleeve in several colors. They conceal my gun well whether i’m carrying IWB or OWB at 3:00 or Appendix carry.

  10. I also prefer OWB for comfort. I use a Wright Predator cross draw for car trips or a Tucker Crossdraw. But in warm weather I have begun carrying Appendix more often. My S&W 640 in a Tucker leather IWB appendix is very comfortable. I have recently started carrying my Glock 48 in a Covert IWB from Crucial Concealment appendix position. It disappears under any untucked Nylon pull-over and is very comfortable.

  11. I also prefer OWB for comfort. I use a Wright Predator cross draw for car trips or a Tucker Crossdraw. But in warm weather I have begun carrying Appendix more often. My S&W 640 in a Tucker leather IWB appendix is very comfortable. I have recently started carrying my Glock 48 in a Covert IWB from Crucial Concealment appendix position. It disappears under any untucked Nylon pull-over and is very comfortable.

  12. “I want a Sig P365 and an IWB appendix carry holster for Christmas.”
    “No way, kid, you’ll shoot your third eye out.”

  13. First I am not disagreeing with with your assessments, but I personally don’t at any time carry IWB I have tried it and frankly I find it very uncomfortable, I am 6’3” and weigh around 230 lbs and my main carry gun is a 1911 colt compact in 45acp and sometimes a Glock 19 I almost always carry at 3:00 and if I am traveling and doing a lot of driving I carry in a sky marshal holster at 9:00 of course living in the great state of Texas I don’t worry too much if it prints a little and no one else does either unless you happen to live in some bright blue city. But I firmly believe that everyone should carry in a manner that works for them and the state where they live. keep up the good work that you do.

  14. Nice article Dave. I found a great family run holster maker in Savoy. I prefer OWB being 5’7” & 140, and have 3 OWBs for my SiG P226, Hi Power, & Springfield Xd-m Compact. My P290 rides in. Savoy IWB, Uncle Mike’s OWB, or an ankle holster depending on setting & clothing.
    When I worked our dept. provided security-style holsters for full sized weapons. The key is being able to access quickly and safely from whatever style carried. (Another reason I prefer OWB).
    My Springfield .40 gets carried nearly every day and maintenance on the high quality custom Savoy has been only been some shoe polish- for just over 5 years. It’s retention and comfort are 1st class. (plus they have many styles, great tooling, & color choices for the OWB styles.)

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