Category: Gear

Holsters: The Money Pit of Concealed Carry-Updated

Holsters: The Money Pit of Concealed Carry-Updated

Holsters: The Money Pit of Concealed Carry

Holsters are the veritable money pit of concealed carry. You will spend nearly as much time, effort, and money on finding a good, suitable, comfortable concealed carry holster, and sometimes more, than on the firearm you intend to conceal. There is an adage in the personal defense circles that bears on the comfort and suitability of holsters: “It is better to carry a firearm and not need it than to need a firearm and not carry it.” From this bit of street wisdom one can draw that if a concealed carry holster is not comfortable or suitable you will not carry your firearm, thereby depriving you of the opportunity for self-defense should the need arise. The money pit part comes to bear in finding the concealed carry holster that is safe, comfortable, and suitable for you.

Activity, Weather, Clothing, and Suitability

Among the first elements for determining a holster’s suitability is what you will be doing when carrying, and the activity you plan often dictates what kind of clothing you will be wearing. Add to that that weather is the primary driver in one’s dress. Cold weather means more layers, and a better opportunity to conceal a firearm under those layers. Warm weather means fewer layers and greater potential for exposing or printing the firearm (“Printing” is the where the outline, or general shape, of the firearm can be recognized by an observer even when it is covered). When the weather is warm enough to render a jacket or coat obviously unnecessary, and you ordinarily tuck shirts in, trying to conceal a firearm is even more challenging.

Holster Materials

A popular construction material for holsters is kydex, or its more rugged counterpart, boltaron. Leather is still a classic and very popular construction material, and there are many varieties of holsters that are hybrids–part kydex and part leather, or some other material. A third material often seen on the shelves of sporting goods stores is codura. Codura, because it is a woven material, is often more forgiving when used with handguns, where “forgiving” connotes flexibility and the characteristic simply to print an amorphous bulge should anyone see it. One codura holster style often will fit multiple handguns that are similar in size and shape. Kydex and leather, on the other hand, are molded most often to specific handgun makes and models, making them less interchangeable. With possible exception of pocket holsters, a holster molded specifically for your handgun’s make and model is a better choice in terms of size (i.e., concealability), retention, and positioning (i.e., printing reduction).

Holster Construction

There are certain key points to look for in a concealable holster.

  • The holster material entirely covers the trigger guard. This is safety issue. Entirely covering the trigger guard lessens the possibility of something other than your finger encountering the trigger and firing the handgun.
  • Positive retention. This, also, is a safety issue. Positive retention helps to prevent one’s handgun from inadvertently separating from the holster. Some holsters, especially kydex and polymer styles, have “click” retention, where there is a click that can be heard or felt as the handgun moves past the positive retention point when the firearm is inserted into the holster. Other styles rely on friction and usually have a retention screw to increase or decrease the amount of retention (friction) desired. Still other models have retention straps that hold the handgun in place.
  • Body shield. This is a comfort issue, principally on inside the waistband holsters. The body shield is an extended portion of material on the inboard (body) side of the holster that prevents one’s body from contacting parts of the handgun that are not covered by the holster material that shrouds the barrel, slide, and trigger guard. For example, S&W’s new M&P M2.0 line has an aggressive grip texture. While the texture is well suited for gripping the handgun with the comparatively tough skin of one’s hand, it can feel like extremely course sandpaper when in contact with more sensitive areas on the body.
  • Cant. Cant is the relative tilt of handgun as it normally sits in the holster. The two most common for concealment holsters are a zero cant, which means the holster sits with the slide or barrel in a vertical position, and the commonly (but erroneously) called “FBI” cant that rotates the handgun’s grip about 15 degrees forward around the trigger guard, which arguably offers a more natural grip angle for presentation.
  • Retention clips and belt loops. Depending on the holster’s manufacturer and holster design, retention clips and belt loops may, or may not, be removable. Popular retention clips typically are labelled “J” clips, “C” clips, “O” clips, “V” clips, belt “loops,” what may be identified as “n” clips, or they can simply be spring retention clips. All the clips are designed with three purposes in mind: Keep the holster in place by using the wearer’s belt as retention foundation; keep the firearm in a consistent aspect for presentation, regardless of the wearer’s position, and present a minimal “tell” that may alert bystanders you are wearing a concealed firearm.

Inside, Outside, or Pocket

Holsters, for the most part, breakdown into five relative locations: Outside the waistband, inside the waistband, shoulder carry, ankle, and pocket carry. There are also other alternatives especially designed for women, such as bra holsters. Here, we will discuss waistband, shoulder, ankle, and pocket holsters.

  • Ankle holsters are the least favored among professional personal defense trainers as a primary carry position. The main reason is that ankle holsters are more difficult to access than other locations since the wearer must first move to a position where the firearm can be grasped. Only then can presentation be initiated. Ankle holsters, however, are suitable for backup firearms.
  • Shoulder holsters require a cover garment to conceal even the smallest of them. Integral to shoulder holsters is a harness that loops around both the right and left shoulders to provide security and stability.
  • Pocket holsters are for smaller firearms, in that these holsters are designed to be concealed in one of the wearer’s pockets. Pocket holsters are often made of codura, however there are pocket holsters made with kydex or boltaron molded for specific handguns. As mentioned above, since pocket holsters print as a function of where they are, they are generally designed so that the print simply is an amorphous blob in the wearer’s pocket. Pocket holsters can also be appropriate for ladies’ off-body carry, such as in a purse. A good pocket holster, preferably one of kydex or boltaron, positively retains the handgun, and covers the trigger guard, making it less likely to be dislodged in a purse. Many pocket holsters also have a thumb ledge, a bend in the kydex where you can push the handgun and the holster apart with your thumb as part of establishing your grip, another desirable feature for an off-body carrier.
  • Waistband holsters come in two different flavors: outside the waistband (OWB) and inside the waistband (IWB), and generally are classified by their location on the waistband, e.g., 3 o’clock, 4 o’clock, 5 o’clock, 6 0’clock (9, 8, and 7 for left-handed folks), and appendix carry, where 12 o’clock is the direction in which you are facing. Simply by where they are in relationship to the wearer’s belt, IWB holsters offer better concealment since the bulk of the handgun is covered by the belt and pants. The grip, and a small portion of the frame are the only exposed parts of the firearm that must be concealed by other articles of clothing. An OWB holster, on the other hand, is entirely exposed.

Ladies (New)

For you ladies, selecting a holster is especially problematic. Almost all holsters are made for male physiology and styles of dress. For the most part, women dress differently–your shirts and blouses are more diaphanous, and you may be wearing skirts or dresses rather than pants or jeans. Even so, pants and jeans for women are generally cut differently than men’s, creating other unique challenges for concealing handguns on the body. One of the unique holsters I’ve seen for women is offered by CanCan Concealment. Plus, this holster line comes recommended by a woman, Youtube’s “thepatriotnurse.”

Bottom Line-Safety and Comfort

In the end, safety and comfort are the deciding factors, with suitability for the climate being a strong third. If a holster is unsafe, that is not totally covering the trigger guard, or one from which the handgun falls uncontrollably during normal activities, it is dangerous, and if the holster is uncomfortable over the long term, you will not wear it. Warm climates introduce other distracting factors, such as the issue of covering garments. Unless you have the opportunity to sample a wide variety of holsters over time, I can just about guarantee you will not find your preferred carry holster until about your third or fourth try. They are, therefore, the money pit of concealed carry.

A Smattering of Holster Manufacturers