I have 3 large boxes filled with many different types of holsters. I'll bet most of you shooters have accumulated at least one box of holsters as well. I even have so many I get mixed up as to what holster goes with what gun. How embarrassing, but I do have a lot of handguns.
Another thing to think about is that we have a lot of bucks tied up in our holster inventory. That money could be used for other shooting accessories and ammo, etc. Not to mention your favorite adult beverage. Well, part of the solution to our continuous hoarding in search of our Holy Grail holster is to use an orderly and logical process and specific criteria to select our holster.
WHERE DO YOU START IN SELECTING YOUR HOLSTER?
About 40 years ago when I started my quest to discover the perfect Concealed Carry gun and perfect holster, I began to realize the immensity of this ongoing challenge. To start, my first holster questions for myself were very basic, like these 8 questions below.
FIRST ASK YOURSELF:
- What GUN is going to be your primary concealed Every Day Carry (EDC) gun?
- What METHOD of carrying concealed are you going to primarily use?
- Do you want to have 2 or 3 methods and a best concealed carry HOLSTER for each way of carrying?
- Is In-the-Waistband (IWB), Outside-the-Waistband (OWB), or another going to be your primary method?
- What “can't live without” features do you PREFER in your gun holster?
- What specific CRITERIA do you use for comparing holsters and then selecting the best one?
- How do you RANK in importance your preferences and criteria when evaluating any holster?
- Where does COST fit into your concealed carry objective and how much are you willing to spend to protect your life?
Over the past few years I have asked myself these challenging questions and came up with my system, specific handgun, method of carry, holster preferences, and criteria for making decisions and selecting my ideal concealed carry holster. So I want to give you the criteria and factors I use for assessing holsters and my opinions to help save you some time. This should help you determine your own system, criteria, and priorities for making your key gun holster and related decisions.
TIP: Don't just start shopping around and looking at holsters, bouncing from one to another, without FIRST answering the above 8 questions and establishing your own criteria, so you will know more exactly what you want to better guide you in selecting your optimum holster, etc.
Needless to say since your life could very well depend on having a reliable holster that effectively performs under all conditions, it is very important to define your requirements, concealed carry method, and recognize your preferences up front, so you can then objectively evaluate your holster options. There is a tendency for most of us to heavily weigh the cost factor of a holster, sometimes to the exclusion of other key factors. This could be a potentially deadly mistake. Less is not always or even often better. And you usually do get what you pay for.
A $15 nylon holster may not offer advantages of a certain leather holster with a body shield, reinforced throat, custom molded fit to your gun, and durableness, for example. Or, the advantages of a hybrid leather and kydex combination with two sets of advantages. So, the caution is to first objectively define all your concealed carry Gun and Holster requirements and expectations UP FRONT and then carefully evaluate each factor for each of your possible holster options and each gun. To take a little more organized, objective-based, and rational approach.
WHERE DO YOU CARRY YOUR CONCEALED GUN?
Your method and location of your holster is directly related to the specific gun you have selected to carry and the type of holster you buy. I recently completed a “My Carry Method” Survey of over 2,200 U.S. concealed carriers. They were simply asked “What is your preferred concealed carry method?” Here are my survey results (% rounded):
|RANK||CC Method||% Responding|
|6||Small of Back||5|
|8||Other: Fanny Pack, Briefcase, Bra, Handbag, Belly Band, etc.||7|
The results indicate that the IWB carry method was selected by most folks, but OWB was a solid second choice. So, what is your preferred method of concealed carry, based on your specific carry gun, preferences, and holster criteria? Well, if you haven't formalized your criteria yet, my Criteria follows. But, remember what works for me and my gun, body build, and factors may not work for you. So this is YOUR process, criteria, priorities, factors, and preferences for your personal decision. Feel free to add a criterion, subtract some of mine, or come up with your own list of personal requirements.
MY CONCEALED CARRY HOLSTER SELECTION PROCESS
First, I list my top 10 criteria for my gun holster. I spent a lot of time thinking about what is important to me for my concealed carry holster. Next, I compare each of the holsters I am considering buying to each of my 10 criterion, using a 10-point scale to assign points to each criterion for each holster. So I start with holster #1 and go through each of my 10 criteria factors and give that holster a score from a 1 to a 10 possible score on EACH factor. I do that for each of my 4 or 5 holster alternatives.
I try to narrow down the 20 or many possibilities to only about 4 or 5 holster choices. For each factor or criterion, a “10” rating is the best, a “0” the worst, and a “5” a mid-level rating. I'm trying to be as objective and rational as possible, realizing we all have different goals, needs, and priorities. Again, you probably have your own and other factors and that is fine. Also, we individually will usually weigh each factor more or less than another because this is a very personal evaluation and selection process.
For example, I may value comfort more than you do. You may place a higher score on ease of drawing than cost as opposed to me, etc. Finally, I compare total points for each holster and usually end up selecting the option with the most points. But, I still retain my subjective fudge factor option to sway the final points. You know one day I may just be attracted by the mere aesthetics of a holster. But, I try to avoid that and stay objective.
Note: My holster criteria below are meant to be my objective, unbiased opinions for your general education, separate from my holster recommendations, and are not meant to sell or promote any particular holster.
My 10 CRITERIA FOR SELECTING A HOLSTER:
Please note these are in MY general priority.
Does the holster perform as you personally need and require for your body style, regular activities, your desired carry method and location, usual attires, and for your effective concealed carry purpose? How well does the holster hide the handgun during your everyday body motions, like walking, bending, sitting, standing, twisting, reaching, running, etc.?
Imagine wearing the holster with your usual different movements and your various garments on a typical day. Is there a cant and angle adjustment for the holster to provide better concealment along with comfort, as needed? For example, a pocket holster must be positioned inside the pocket correctly for a smooth quick draw and the gun must not come out of the pocket with the holster.
2. ALL DAY COMFORT:
How comfortable is this holster style during each of your usual different daily physical positions: walking, bending, sitting, standing, and twisting? Can you wear it comfortably while sitting and/or driving? Does the holster irritate or dig into your hip, pelvis, back, side, or anyplace? Does the holster have quality leather backing or padding support, rounded edges, a body shield, and smooth hardware coverings for comfort? Can you wear it for the entire day comfortably and not even know that you are wearing it?
Does the holster properly fit and retain the handgun adequately? Does it have the proper retention for your desired retention level, activities, and requirements? Do you desire and does the holster have certain retention features you particularly need, active and/or passive, or want, like natural friction resistance, a thumb break, guard, hood, back strap, etc.
Is the holster snug when fitted on a sturdy gun belt for a consistent and fast draw and to reduce draw resistance, as you may require for retention? Is the gun secure at different angles in the holster? A holster designed with solid retention will help prevent a gun from being removed from the holster by another. Yes, there can be a “gun grab” for someone carrying concealed.
How well does the holster cover and provide protection to the trigger and handgun during insertion into or removal from the holster or while being carried that will:
- prevent accidental trigger movement;
- prevent accidental disengagement of the safety mechanism;
- prevent forward or rearward movement of the hammer?
Of course, to test your holster for proper fit and function, you should never first place a loaded handgun in your holster, but rather test the holster for proper fit and function with the handgun UNLOADED. Recognize that a slight change in handgun design can have a major safety effect on the close tolerances of holsters and may change the fit, performance, and actual safety of the gun with its holster. Ideally, it is best to have a holster that is custom-fitted for your particular handgun model's technical specifications, rather than use one holster for several different handguns.
Overall length, width, height, barrel length, rail, light, laser sight presence, etc., have a safety affect. Also, recognize that after-market handgun modifications and worn or inferior parts may cause improper holster fit, accidental handgun discharge, and affect safety.
5. QUALITY MADE & MATERIALS:
What is the material and is the gun holster constructed with quality workmanship? Is the leather of premium quality, genuine leather, or what type of leather is used, if a leather holster? Is it cowhide leather for casual wear and somewhat less durability and cost, or bullhide for more stiffness and firmness, or horsehide with heavy density and grain to protect against much abrasion and moisture?
What weights are the leather and kydex? How thick is the kydex for your specific purpose? Will it stand up to your use, wear and tear, and is it durable and appropriate for your use without impairing performance and mechanical function? (Note- Some exotic leathers like Ostrich, Shark, or Lizard skin may look great, but may not not hold up for constant rough field use.)
What is its thickness and resulting concealed carry profile? Are the rivets, clips, grommets, snaps, rings, and metal parts strong, rustproof, and quality made? Does it have a sweat shield or skin guard and do you require one? Is it a reputable company? What type of warranty or guarantee does it have? Is it limited and in what ways? Will the manufacturer repair and/or replace it for free? Consider the holster's weight and bulk for carrying concealed.
Is the holster designed to minimize the amount of leather or other material needed to hold and protect the gun, thus reducing weight and bulk of the holster? Is there the right blend of leather and kydex in the right places if it's a hybrid combination holster? Construction makes a difference, so is the holster a one piece or two-piece design.
For example, two pieces of leather sewn together usually allow a sleeker, flatter overall appearance for concealability. Also, you may prefer a double-stitched holster primarily for aesthetics and looks. Many personal factors and materials to consider.
6. ADAPTABILITY &
Can this holster accommodate an accessory RAIL and be used with a laser sight or light if required? How versatile is it for your requirements? Is the holster adaptable to your different carry methods and body carry locations? Is it a custom-fit holster for your specific carry gun, since the safety features of a holster require that the holster be engineered and designed for each specific manufacture and model of handgun? Are there modifications available or desired additions that adapt the holster for modularity and other handguns?
What are the approximate costs of these adaptations? Are there free trades for life of molded shells, so you can change shells and use a different gun without added cost? Is the shooter's gun properly fitted and securely retained for this holster? Does the handgun insert so deep in the holster that the gun grips cannot be properly accessed? Does the gun jam so tight into the holster that it takes two hands to draw it or can you draw the gun easily with one hand, after break-in?
7. ACCESS- EASE OF DRAWING & REHOLSTERING:
Can you reach your handgun quickly in an emergency or while sitting in your vehicle? A rigid holster will allow a handgun to be returned to it using only one hand, while a flexible one may collapse after the gun is drawn, requiring the use of both hands to reholster. Do you prefer one that's throated with a leather or metal-reinforced mouth at top to prevent it from collapsing when drawn or reholstered? How easy is it to access your weapon and use it while walking, bending, sitting, standing, twisting, running, jumping, etc., as required?
8. EASE OF PUTTING ON & TAKING OFF:
Can you simply and easily put the holster on and take it off? Consider if you will, putting this holster on and taking it off throughout the day and under what conditions. Must it be removed for taking care of personal needs in public restrooms? If so, can you do it safely and easily?
9. PRICE & AFFORDABILITY:
What is its total price relative to other market options available now? Do you get any special features, options, warranties, guarantees, repair service, or additions that are worth something? Can you return it without any questions and within what time period? Will they repair or replace it for free? Is there a lifetime warranty or just for a few months or a year included in the price? Do you get what you pay for? YES!
10. ADJUSTMENTS & ACCOMMODATIONS:
Can you wear both open and closed cover garments with the holster, as required? Do you have to wear special clothing, buy extremely larger clothing sizes for concealability (and does that bother you?) or make some type of accommodations in dress or draw when wearing and using this holster? Is a cover vest or larger trousers or garments required to effectively hide the holster and handgun?
Does the holster allow tuckability? Can you adjust the tilt angle, ride height, retention, cant, etc. Are there various optional clips available and at what cost, e.g. J clips for over the trouser and tuck under the belt, or C clips that go over the trouser and wrap around the belt with two parts, or leather or plastic loops, etc.? Are colors available?
I hope my process, criteria, analysis, and opinions in this review help you to identify your criteria and evaluate your individual factors to select the best concealed carry holster for your purposes, needs and priorities.
Continued success friends!
Photos by author.
* This personal opinion article is meant for general information & educational purposes only and the author strongly recommends that you seek counsel from an attorney for legal advice and your own personal certified weapons trainer for proper guidance about shooting & using YOUR firearms, self-defense and concealed carry. It should not be relied upon as accurate for all shooters & the author assumes no responsibility for anyone’s use of the information and shall not be liable for any improper or incorrect use of the information or any damages or injuries incurred whatsoever.
© 2017 Col Benjamin Findley. All Rights Reserved. This article may not be reprinted or reproduced in whole or in part by mechanical means, photocopying, electronic reproduction, scanning, or any other means without prior written permission.