At least once a week I get a message asking for holster recommendations. In and effort to reduce the number of times I have to repeat this information I thought it would be beneficial to you (and me) to include this as a topic in our On The Hunt series.
First and foremost we should go over the requirements of a holster. Any holster that does not meet these requirements should be excluded from consideration!
- The holster must completely cover the trigger guard. Any gaps that would allow a finger or any other object to slip behind the holster and into the trigger guard should immediately be considered unsafe.
- The holster should be made of rigid materials and be model specific. If the holster is not made of a rigid material such as kydex or quality leather it may allow foreign objects to enter the trigger guard. In addition, any holster that states it fits “multiple guns” is usually not made of quality materials. I also would caution against hybrid holsters, those that have a kydex front and leather back. While they may start off “ok”, over time the leather will become less rigid and can start to fold over, making re-holstering more difficult and dangerous.
- The holster must securely retain the firearm. Regardless of the retention level you chose, your holster should retain the firearm during your everyday activities. I would also encourage you to ensure there is enough retention to retain the holster during more strenuous activities such as running and possibly even a ground struggle.
- The holster should allow for quick and easy presentation. In most civilian gun fights, the entire event is over in a matter of seconds. A good standard for the average concealed carry permit holder to shoot for (pun intended) is to be able to draw and accurately put one shot on target at a distance of about 5 yards in 2 seconds or less. The safest and quickest means to do that is going to be from either an appendix or strong-side hip holster. While there are quality purse, crossdraw, ankle, shoulder and small of the back holsters, these carry modes usually take much longer to draw from and may require special considerations to avoid muzzle sweeping of yourself or other innocent people around you.
- The holster must be comfortable to wear all day – Finally, if the holster is not comfortable, then you probably won’t wear it. If the firearm is not on your person, it will likely be of no use to you when you need it most.
Up front I want to mention that I have no financial interest in any of the holsters that I recommend. My holster recommendations are going to be pretty specific and based on what I have had extensive experience with, or have seen used extensively in classes by fellow instructors. I will also list what I like about the holsters and why I think these features are superior to other holsters that may seem similar, but have what I consider to be less than acceptable inferior features.
Inside The Waistband (IWB)
My everyday carry (EDC) holster is a Vedder LightTuck™. I have carried this holster everyday for at least the past 5 years, and I own one for each of the guns I carry or have carried in the past. I simply will not switch to a different carry gun unless I have a Vedder LightTuck™ holster for it. I have used this holster in multiple training classes and IDPA matches and have thousands of draw strokes (both live fire and dry fire) under my belt with this holster.
The Vedder LightTuck™ meets all of the requirements above, and has 3 important features that similar holsters do not. First, is the metal clip. I have tried many similar holsters that have a plastic clip, but over time the plastic clips break from repeated flexing while putting the holster on and taking it off. The plastic clips also have to be thicker in order for them to resist breaking which means they protrude farther off the belt . This can lead to the clip getting snagged on chairs when sitting and dislodging the clip from the belt. Additionally, I have had similar holsters with plastic clips come off the belt while drawing the firearm. For these reasons. I immediately disregard any holster that has a plastic clip. There are some that will only opt for holsters that have belt loops instead of clips, and it is most likely due to them having similar experiences with plastic clips. I believe there is a valid point to be made for the belt loops, but as I mentioned above, I have worn and tested the metal clip on the LightTuck holster for over 5 years with no issues.
The next important feature on the LightTuck is the tension adjustment. Holster requirement number 3 and 4 is that the holster must securely retain the firearm while still allowing for quick and easy presentation. I have used other IWB holster brands where the fit was inconsistent from one holster to another. One holster would be too loose and the next too tight. I have literally seen some students where the fit was so tight that they would yank the holster off the belt.
While not a “‘must have” in my opinion, the adjustable cant is a nice feature that lets me better conceal the firearm. By canting the holster forward, it positions the butt of the pistol grip more inline with my body and helps prevent the gun from printing under my cover garment.
Finally the last feature is the adjustable ride height. One of the challenges of an IWB holster is getting a good grip on the gun before drawing the gun out of the holster. Because an IWB holster fits close to the body, it can be difficult to slide your thumb behind the gun while gripping it. With an adjustable ride height you to adjust how high or low the gun rides above your belt. For me, the higher setting allows my thumb more space to slide behind the pistol and makes it easier to quickly get a better grip on the gun. When necessary, you can also set the ride height lower which will better conceal your handgun.
Outside the Waistband (OWB)
While I don’t use an OWB on a regular basis, there are times when I will switch to an OWB holster for an upcoming class. There are some classes where we do extensive drawing and re-holstering and when you do that a lot with an IWB holster, you tend to have to deal with an undershirt that doesn’t want to stay tucked in. For those times, my go to for OWB is the Comp Tac Warrior . It meets all 5 requirements of a holster and does so with minimal bulk. Plus it allows for a much quicker/better grip on the pistol and does so without catching the undershirt. In fact, I have used this holster extensively in Dave Spaulding classes including his Advance Covert & Vehicle Combatives courses where you spend a considerable amount of time rolling around on the ground. In one of those classes, Dave actually tried to “confiscate” my holster. Another feature that I like on the Comp Tac Warrior, is the holster design and belt loops allow the gun to remain close to my body. This means that I could easily wear it for EDC, but it also means the pistol is very close to the same location on my body when compared to my IWB holster. It also has an adjustable tension option like that of my IWB holster.
Appendix Inside The Waistband (AIWB)
While appendix carry is not new, it is becoming significantly more popular. With that, there are tons of options for appendix carry holsters. The advantages of appendix carry is that you will likely have a quicker draw from an appendix holster (about .25 seconds on average) over a strong side hip holster. The disadvantage is that in some positions your firearm will be pointing at your leg or other sensitive body parts. Therefore it is IMPERATIVE you select a quality holster and learn the proper technique for reholstering. While I have experimented with appendix carry, I don’t carry or train with this carry mode. Therefore my recommendations are limited to those I know that train and carry with appendix holster on a regular basis. If you are considering getting an appendix holster, I strongly encourage you to look at the options available from Keepers Concealment. Two of our instructors here at Boondocks FTA™ (Andy and John) are heavily into appendix carry and both of them highly recommend Keepers Concealment Holsters. Both of these gentleman are some of the most experienced and highly trained instructors in the country so when they talk, I listen.
In addition, Spencer Keepers has been out to Boondocks for a class and he talked about all the research and design options incorporated into his holsters. Based on his recommendations, I have experimented with The Cornerstone holster and I found it to be a safe and comfortable option for those wanting to appendix carry.
Just about every concealed carry person I know has a box full of holsters they bought, but did not like, including me. So, if you are considering purchasing your first or next holster, I strongly suggest you start with one of the above. Investing in a Safe, Comfortable, Quality Holster will pay off in the long run.