To some, choosing a holster sounds like a pretty straight forward and simple task. To anyone that spends time in any firearms social media groups, you know that choosing a holster is about as frustrating as any task could seem to get. And if you choose the “wrong one” you will be endlessly berated by the “cool kids” in these groups because you don’t have the holster their favorite YouTube shill convinced them to buy. One of the many downfalls of the “gun community.”
With this article, I hope to ease your path to choosing a holster that is right for you and avoid the onslaught of pointless suggestions most people make on social media.
Let’s first define what a holster is and its primary functions.
A proper holster should protect the firearm and trigger from you and any outside elements. Meaning, it should encompass nearly the entire firearm and trigger, protecting it from sweat, abrasions (both you and the firearm), and anything from sneaking its way into the trigger guard. This means that those Kydex trigger guards attached to a rope are a no-go. Another function of a proper holster is to keep the firearm secured in the holster (retention), secured to your person and secured in place, wherever it may be mounted. This means those padded clip-less sticky holsters are out. Lastly, a good holster will allow for a full, or nearly full grip on your firearm while it is holstered. The ability to deploy your defensive pistol without fidgeting around to find the correct shooting grip is extremely important.
How are you planning on carrying?
As you can see from the picture, outside the waistband (OWB) is when your firearm and holster are mounted somewhere on the beltline, outside of the pants. This is very concealable, with the proper holster, and is widely considered to be the most comfortable way of carrying. Another upside is that you’re likely not going to need to go out and buy all new pants, a size or two bigger, because you’re now carrying a gun and possibly a spare magazine inside your pants. The downside to OWB carry is, if you plan on concealing your firearm, the need to wear overshirts, looser t-shirts, or even a jacket.Bravo Concealment: Glock 43 IWB Gun Holster + Free Mag Pouch
As mentioned, (IWB) is when you’re carrying your firearm inside the waistband of your pants. This is usually where the nightmare of choosing the correct holster really begins. IWB carry is widely accepted to be the most concealable way of carrying, but also sacrificing a certain amount of comfort to do so. Unlike OWB carry, the failures and successes of IWB hinge on several factors. Body type and build, clothing, normal daily range of motion, size of your firearm, and of course if you intend on carrying a spare magazine.
As you can imagine, there isn’t a do-all one correct holster for everyone.
There is also a sub-category to IWB carry, and that is AIWB (appendix inside the waistband). These are holsters that are designed almost specifically to be carried at the front of your body, inside the waistband. An example of this is the picture at the top of the article.
Another example is shown here, where the firearm can be worn inside the waistband anywhere from the 4 o’clock to 12 o’clock positions (or left-handed equivalent), and the holster holds just the firearm and no spare magazine.Vedder Holsters LightTuck IWB Kydex Gun Holster- Glock 19, 23, 32 (Gen 3, 4, 5) (Right Hand Draw)
The advantage of this type of holster is its ability to be worn in such a wide variety of positions, and they are generally less expensive and more comfortable than the AIWB options. However, that’s not to say that AIWB is without its merits. Depending on your body type, usually thin, AIWB is considered to be the most concealable and even by some, the fastest draw.
Now that you have decided what and how you want to carry, let’s talk holster materials.
There are generally four popular material options. Kydex, leather, nylon, or a hybrid of them.
While I am trying to give all options a fair shake in this article, I’m not going to give nylon any credit at all. In my opinion, it’s not an option. Nylon is not very rigid, does not secure to the body well, it does not have any retention, and tends to absorb sweat and water. It also deforms easily and while unlikely, you do run the possibility of the holster bunching up inside the trigger guard and accidentally discharging your firearm.
Leather is probably the next one that has the most faults. While leather can be incredibly comfortable, it too has similar downfalls like nylon. Leather tends to have some structure and retention issues, minus a retention strap and snap. Depending on the manufacturer, that retention strap tends to get in the way often and runs a serious possibility of making its way into the trigger guard during reholstering. Leather also tends to hold sweat and water.
A firearm only has two enemies…politicians and rust.
One of the most popular options for OWB or IWB carry is Kydex. Kydex is a line of thermoplastic acrylic-polyvinyl chloride materials. Basically it feels a bit like plastic. The upsides to Kydex is the ability to form it to almost any pistol, or pistol/magazine combo a user would like or need. Kydex is used for many things from holsters, knife sheaths, handcuff pouches for police, to belt-mounted holders for your can of dip. It’s really the wonder material. Kydex is extremely rigid, non-porous, and has great firearm retention qualities. this means that it holds its shape, isn’t affected by sweat or water, and doesn’t have any goofy and potentially dangerous straps to hold retention. The retention is molded right in.
This isn’t to say that Kydex doesn’t have any downfalls either. Some people complain that Kydex scratches the finish of their firearm. Although this isn’t normal and has more to do with the way the manufacturer molded the holster. Also, as mentioned, Kydex is extremely rigid. This can and does cause some comfort issues when carrying IWB.
That comfort issue is what brings us to the last material option, and that is hybrid holsters.
Hybrid holsters are exactly what they sound like. They are a hybrid of two materials in order to make one holster. Most popularly, this is done with leather and Kydex. Although in the past few years some companies have been using neoprene and Kydex, as well as other blended materials with Kydex.Alien Gear holsters Glock – 43 Cloak Tuck 3.5 IWB Hoslter (Right Hand)
These are probably some of the most hotly debated holsters on the interwebz. One side claims these are highly dangerous holsters, complete garbage, and have no retention. And then there are the people that have been using them for years without issue who say otherwise.
The upside to these holsters is the ability to have a very soft and comfortable material against your body while having much of the security and rigidity of Kydex. These also tend to have a wider footprint helping to spread the weight of the firearm across a larger surface. The downside is that the cloth or leather inside can retain sweat and water, it is missing half of the retention of a full Kydex holster, and does have the oh so slight possibility of curling up and getting caught in the trigger guard upon reholstering. I’ll let you search for yourself and see how many times there has actually been an accidental discharge because of the cloth or leather material of a hybrid holster getting caught in the trigger.
I am not going to get much into the body placement of your holster. Use some sense. If you have any gut at all, much less if you are very large, AIWB tends to be very uncomfortable. In this case, you may want to choose a 2 o’clock to 4 o’clock position for your holster. If you are carrying OWB, that 2 o’clock to 4’oclock are almost your only options. If you are athletic or skinny, AIWB may be right for you. This is just all very subjective, and while some people on the gun groups will try to convince you otherwise, there is no “one holster solves all” holster out there.
As far as positioning though, there is one position I will warn against. Anywhere from 4 o’clock to 8 o’clock position (small of the back). Most fights go to the ground and whether you want to admit it or not, your choice to carry in the small of the back is a horrible idea. There is nothing quite like laying on your firearm while trying to fight off an attacker.
While I do understand that none of this compares to actually trying holsters on and using them, I hope this article has done something to help in your journey to finding the correct and most comfortable holster for you.