Choosing a good weapon holster is crucial. And a weapon is only as good as your ability to use it. Being able to draw fast while keeping your weapon safe from enemies can mean the difference between life and death in a tactical scenario.
This is why choosing a really good weapon holster is so important. Using the wrong holster reduces safety and comfort, it slows down your reaction time and general efficiency. And in a civil situation, it may violate concealed carry laws.
You probably put a fair amount of time and effort into choosing the right firearm, doing research and perhaps trying them out at a shooting range. Making a rushed, uninformed decision when it comes to your holster doesn’t do your gun justice. Going right for the cheapest option is very unwise.
A good weapon holster is an integral, vital element of your equipment and essential to effective use of firearms. Even something as simple as discomfort from your holster can limit your movement and overall survivability in tense situations. There’s also the risk of enemies spotting and snagging your weapon if your holster isn’t on point.
This article will help you pick out the perfect holster for your needs.
Basic Knowledge about Holsters
A good weapon holster does more than hold a weapon. It keeps it protected while also allowing easy access when you need it. These two factors can be hard to balance, since they are opposites in a sense. This is why considering your specific needs and preferences is crucial to making the right choice. You don’t want to struggle to draw your weapon when you need it. And you don’t want to go so far in the opposite direction that you risk damaging or losing your weapon.
Typical typical good weapon holster will attach to your belt or clip to a tactical vest. Another common type features a band that wraps around a part of your body, for example, the torso or the ankle. Others are designed to fit inside pockets or handbags, keeping the gun more secure and hidden without sacrificing accessibility.
There are also types that go inside your clothing to conceal the weapon further. For example, they may sit inside your waistband or shirt.
Most people carry their gun on the same side of the body as their dominant hand. This means the weapon is always close to the hand for quick drawing. However, some people like to draw from the other side of the body. While this means your hand has to travel further to reach the gun in most cases, the drawing motion can be a lot more natural. Especially when seated. This is why people used to carry their swords in this manner.
Cross draw products are a good weapon holster type designed for this purpose. They sit on the hip opposite from your dominant hand for easy drawing in this manner. The biggest advantage of this type of holster is perhaps that it’s great for carrying a backup gun. With one holster on each side, you can draw fast regardless of posture or activity.
What to Look For in a Good Weapon Holster
Since there are many types of holsters, and many different purposes, it’s important to know exactly what you need.
The following pointers will help you find a really good weapon holster.
Know Your Carrying Type
If you’re looking for a good weapon holster for use while on duty as a law enforcement officer, your needs will be different from those of a civilian. And if you’re a civilian, your options depend on whether you live in an open carry state or a concealed carry state. If you’re only getting the holster for a potential crisis scenario, there are fewer factors to consider.
If you’re looking for a holster for concealed carrying purposes, the most important factor is how well your holster conceals the weapon. In a situation where you don’t need to conceal it, focus on ease of use.
If you’ll be carrying your gun on display, the next thing to consider is retention. This determines how well the holster holds on to the weapon. This is a big concern, not only because people may try to take your weapon from you, but also because bad retention means your weapon can fall out. On the other hand, you don’t want to overdo it to the point where you can’t draw the gun with ease.
Concealed carry holsters also need good retention, although not to the same degree. When dealing with firearms, extra safety is always a positive thing. Better safe than sorry.
There are two common materials used for good weapon holsters, leather and plastic.
Leather is tough and durable, holsters made from leather tend to last for a very long time. However, it can take some time to break in. It tends to be too tight a fit at first, but it adapts to the perfect shape over time. A leather holster won’t warp and it’s unlikely to degrade much over time. If it becomes loose or takes light damage, it’s easy to fix.
Submerge it in warm water for a minute and let it dry overnight. The leather will soften and swell a bit, giving a tighter fit and closing up any little cuts and dents. Another benefit of the adaptable nature of leather is that the holster will adapt to your body and become more comfortable over time.
Plastic and thermoplastic holsters have different advantages and drawbacks. The material is often treated for better firmness and durability. It has a specific fit and requires no breaking in or tightening. The overall grip on the gun is better in general, and the gun will click into place with little to no friction.
There’s never any doubt that your gun is secured. The main downside to this material is that it can warp if it’s exposed to high temperatures. It can also be a lot more uncomfortable, as plastic rubbing against and bumping into your flesh is a lot harsher than leather doing the same thing.
It’s also easier to tell when leather needs maintenance or replacement, while it can be very difficult with thermoplastic holsters.
Knowing these key differences between the two materials will help ensure that you get the right holster. Neither option is better than the other, your needs and preferences determine which material is better for you.
It’s important that you choose a good weapon holster that has a design which makes it easy for you to access your weapon in minimal time. The most important factor for this is the location of the holster. Popular options for easy access are at the hip and behind the back.
You should also consider what type of clothing you’ll be wearing with your holster. This ensures that your holster can always attach in a proper way to your clothing. It’s best if you can try on a few different types of holsters.
Also, consider how easy it will be to holster the weapon. Depending on the design, you may not be able to put your gun back in its holster with one hand without struggle. In a tactical scenario, this is unacceptable. You never know when you’ll need to put your gun away and have both arms ready for fighting or another task in an instant.
Carrying your gun in a safe manner demands that your holster can hold still in its place without causing discomfort. There are many different types of holster attachments that achieve this in different ways and to different degrees. You must understand these types and figure out which one is best suited to your needs. Even holsters that attach to the same part of your body or clothing can do so in different ways. Here are the common types attachment methods:
- Belt loops – this type has multiple loops, typically made of metal, through which you thread your belt. This increases stability and comfort by preventing sideways rocking. The multiple loops can also allow you to wear the holster at different angles.
- Belt tunnel – these designs only feature one wide belt loop. They’re easier to attach and remove, but they tend to be less stable.
- Lowered belt loop – these have the advantage of letting you adjust the height and angle at which you carry your holster.
- Belt clip – the holster clips to your waistband with metal or plastic clips without having to remove your belt. This allows for quick attachment and removal without sacrificing stability. With cheaper designs, there may be a risk of insufficient retention.
- Paddle – this type is really easy to attach and provides a lot of comfort. The main benefit is that it doesn’t require a belt. The downside is less stability and safety.
- Band or sling – a design that features its own belt that wraps around your body.
Most types are only applicable for open carry. While the waistband is the intended position and ideal for most of these designs, many designs also work well with a tactical vest.
You can never be too safe when dealing with firearms. When drawing or holstering your gun, there are three potential hazards you need to prevent:
- The safety mechanism may disengage
- The trigger may move
- The hammer may move
The design of your holster will greatly affect these risks. With a good weapon holster, there is practically no risk. In order to ensure proper safety, it’s best to get a holster that’s designed for the specific gun or type of gun you’ll be using.
Your holster must be comfortable to wear. Discomfort leads to distraction, which can prevent you from taking the actions that save your life in a dangerous situation. It will also limit how far you can travel on foot, how long you can sit, and how long you can carry your weapon in general. If your holster causes discomfort, it may lead to rashes and bruising over time. This will affect your survivability, and it might lead to a nasty infection.
Holsters come in a wide range of prices. Sometimes it’s hard to decide whether it’s best to spend more on that fancy option, or get a cheaper one to conserve money for other important things. You may even want to buy multiple holsters, and in that case is wise to ensure that they’re all decent quality rather than getting one top-grade holster and one or more useless budget holsters.
Choosing the Right Holster Type
There are two main holster design types, known as “paddle” and “pancake.”
Paddle holsters consist of a shell that’s attached to a backing material. The typical paddle holster shell material is a stiff, smooth plastic. You’ll find different structures and methods of mounting the shell to the backing material, this can vary quite a bit. Most of these holsters have a paddle-shaped backing, hence the name.
A pancake holster consists of two components that fuse together into a shell that’s hollow in the middle in order to hold the gun. These are often made from leather and may come in a variety of luxurious designs using different exotic materials. The most basic pancake holsters are somewhat shapeless and have an oval slit where the gun inserts, in order to hold many different guns. More elaborate designs specialize in holding a specific gun or type of handgun.
Pancake holsters are easier to conceal than paddle holsters, because the former can sit tight against your body.
These are the two basic holster styles, there are many different types of holsters using these designs. Now it’s time to learn more about each type.
The most popular place for a gun holster is at the hip. Also known as carrying the weapon OWB (short for “outside the waistband”.) It’s a comfortable and convenient spot for your weapon, but it will be hard to keep your weapon concealed this way. However, it’s not impossible.
If you wear a coat, large shirt, or other outerwear that covers your upper thigh, you can conceal the weapon. This is easiest with a pancake holster, because they tend to sit higher on your hip and closer to your body. Many paddle holsters ride too low for secure, effective concealment. Keep in mind that you must still be able to draw your weapon in an instant, so practice uncovering and drawing with whatever garment you plan to use for covering your OWB holster.
Belt holsters also let you keep your weapon by the small of your back, which can make it easier to conceal your weapon. The downside to this is that it’s harder to draw while you’re sitting.
Many classic designs feature a thumb break. This simple mechanism helps keep the gun stable and secure in the holster when you snap it closed. It can slow down your drawing time a little bit, but if you practice opening it as you draw this won’t be a problem. The added safety and retention is a great benefit.
IWB (Inside the Waistband) Holster
IWB holsters are easier to conceal, without sacrificing accessibility. You put this holster inside your pants, attaching it with a clip to the belt or waistband of the pants. This helps keep it in place and can reduce the risk of someone snagging your weapon. It’s easier to keep it hidden without excessive clothing, you may even be able to conceal it with just a big T-shirt.
Where to place it on your hip is a matter of preference. It can go in the back, on the side of the hip, or in the front closer to the groin. It will be comfortable enough and easy to reach for a quick draw in all these spots. It’s important, however, that you pick one place to carry your gun and stick with it. Practice drawing from this location and build the muscle memory for quick drawing. If you carry it in different spots, you will not be able to draw as fast as you should, because you’ll have to remember where your gun is first.
The main downside of IWB holsters is the bulk needed for bigger pistols. This can make the holster uncomfortable and limit your movement. People can recognize the awkward movement of walking with a bulky holster in your pants. And if you have to reach down and adjust it, there won’t be any doubt. Drawing unwanted attention like this is unacceptable in a tactical scenario.
Depending on your clothing, you may have a harder time drawing fast than you would with an OWB holster.
For even better concealment and security, you can choose a BWB (below the waistband) design, which sits even deeper inside your clothing. It can be more comfortable as well, but it will slow down your drawing time.
Appendix rigs are special IWB holsters with more features. The typical design has a magazine carrier attached to the holster, and certain models have additional pockets or other features. Some have a modular design, that lets you combine the components you like the best.
These more elaborate IWB holsters are often reversible and let you adjust the height and angle at which you carry the gun. Many users find them more comfortable than ordinary IWB holsters. However, the downsides are more or less the same. It can make it harder to draw and holster your gun as fast as possible, and the friction between the holster and your skin can cause discomfort and wear on the holster over time. Some models have padding to abate this issue.
This is another common type of holster. Most will hold the weapon in a horizontal position by the shoulder, although holsters for longer guns (for example, large caliber revolvers) sit vertically. Shoulder holsters make it very easy to draw your gun, but holstering it can be a little tricky. You’ll need a coat or jack to conceal this type of holster.
Another variation is the sling holster. This design secures the holster with a simple shoulder harness that features a strap across the chest. The grip is at the sternum, making it easy to draw and holster the weapon. The downside is that there’s not really a good way to conceal it. This holster is most popular among soldiers and special police forces.
Most modern options feature two straps for more stability. The biggest advantage of both sling and shoulder holsters is that they make it easy to draw your weapon while you’re seated. In other words, it’s an ideal option if you spend a lot of time behind the wheel.
If you seek a simple, elegant solution for concealed carrying, hiding your holster in your pocket is a brilliant idea. It’ll stay put, hidden from the eyes and hands of other people, and it’s easy to reach. It tends to be more comfortable than IWB carrying as well.
There are drawbacks, however. First of all, it limits the size of gun you can use. While there are pocket holsters for some bigger pistols, these won’t conceal the weapon and they can be uncomfortable and restrict your movement. Make sure to get the concealment type if you opt for a pocket holster.
It’s worth pointing out that you should designate a specific pocket for your holster so that you can draw from muscle memory, and that you should never put other things in the pocket with your holster. Things kept in the pocket could damage, interfere with, or attach to your weapon or holster. They could even jam or pull the trigger on accident.
Also note that using one of these with a tight pair of pants is a bad idea. Ensure you have enough room for a medium-small gun in at least one pocket. The side pocket is most popular, the back pocket is too inconvenient due to the need to sit. If you have a tactical vest, you have more options for your pocket holster.
This type of holster hangs on a strap that wraps around your thigh, right where your hand naturally hangs when you stand or walk. This makes it the best option for fast drawing. It’s not so good for concealed carry though, because the only way to hide it is with a closed long coat, which makes it very hard to draw. It’s better suited for tactical situations, which is why it’s also known under the name “tactical holster.”
Thigh holsters have been around since the early 1900s and they’re still a popular solution for soldiers who often carry their sidearm in a thigh holster. For extra stability, it’s often attached to a drop leg harness, typically with buckles that enable quick release. For law enforcement or military personnel with full belts or bulky vests, leg holsters are an indispensable piece of gear. If you’re preparing for post-apocalyptic survival, one of these holsters is a great investment because it allows you to carry more stuff. So it’s a really good weapon holster type for crisis situations.
You can strap them to the inside or outside of your thigh. It’s important to consider the orientation, as mounting one on the opposite inner thigh requires a mirrored holster.
A thigh holster prioritizes ease of use at the expense of concealment. An ankle holster does the opposite. It’s a little further from your hand, but it’s still in a convenient spot and it’s easy enough to hide if you need to.
There are two main downsides to ankle holsters. The first is that you may find it harder to run with one of these on your ankle. The other disadvantage is that it can be difficult to draw quickly, especially if you’re wearing tight pants to cover the holster. Pulling back the pant leg before drawing can slow you down a lot when you need the gun the most. If you’re wearing looser-fitting pants or a robe or skirt, this won’t be much of a problem.
Of course, you can wear it on the outside as well, if you don’t need to conceal the gun. Either way, this type of holster is best for secondary weapons and not ideal for your main gun. Especially since these holsters are mostly for smaller handguns.
It’s a great option when you really need to keep your weapon a secret, because almost nobody looks at your ankles to see if you’re carrying.
Another convenient solution for concealed carry is to carry the weapon on your torso, inside your shirt. These holsters sit on a strap above the waistline, usually toward the side or under the arm. A strut runs along the body and nests behind the trouser belt, the other end attaching to the holster. This transfers the weapon’s weight to the belt and keeps the holster stable. An additional flexible band above the waist helps hold the holster tight against your body. It’s easy to draw and holster, and best of all, to keep it concealed.
Belly band holsters are a simpler version of the same concept. The main difference is that it’s easier to wear it at different heights, although it doesn’t distribute the weight like the strut design does. The main downside of carrying your holster around your torso like this is that the straps must be very tight around your belly or ribcage. This can feel very uncomfortable and unnatural.
Another option that removes these issues is to get a clothing holster. For example, a shirt with one or more weapon concealment compartments integrated into the design. This is more comfortable. The downside is that it may be harder to access your weapon, and that you’re unlikely to wear the same shirt all the time. This means you’ll need more than one if you intend to carry your weapon most of the time.
You can find various types of garments with hidden holsters built into them. Undershirts, vests, and jackets are popular. Although you can also find clothing holsters for your legs, such as shorts and chinos.
Gun Purse or Fanny Pack
All the weapon holster types listed above rely on certain kinds of clothing. They won’t work for every occasion. Sometimes you need a concealed carry option that works with other outfits.
Purses and fanny packs with holsters built into them are a great solution to this problem. Not only do they give you a comfortable way to conceal your weapon, they also make it easy to draw fast. It’s extra important that you store the weapon the proper way when you use these holsters, to prevent other items from damaging or setting off the weapon.
Good Weapon Holster Maintenance
You may be thinking that something as simple as a holster doesn’t need any maintenance. This isn’t the case. Although there are no moving parts or anything like that, regular wear and tear can lead to accidents and safety hazards that are easily preventable with proper maintenance.
The type of maintenance required depends on the holster material. Leather needs more maintenance, but it’s also easier to care in certain ways. Since you probably have other things made out of leather, you’re likely to already have all the products and know-how that you need for leather holster maintenance.
Leather Holster Maintenance
The most important thing to do often is to wipe the leather off. Dust and dirt can really do a number on leather over time as it seeps into the pores and dries the material out to the point where it cracks. Wiping your holster off on a regular basis can extend its life a lot. Use a dry cloth, ideally cotton. It’s easier and more efficient to prevent the loss of elasticity than it is to restore it with conditioners and such. And you won’t have to deal with the sticky mess and stained clothes that often result from carrying in holsters with a leather product coating.
You should also be careful about leaving your weapon in your holster for long periods of time. Take it out when it’s not in use. This is mostly for the sake of protecting your weapon, but it can also harm the holster over time. Moisture and other factors present in a leather holster can cause many guns to rust. Sometimes even in a matter of mere days. Removing a badly damaged weapon from your holster can damage the leather.
Saving a Wet Leather Holster
Just like drying out is a serious problem for leather, so is excessive moisture. It’s an organic material made from a living being, so it will decompose if it gets too wet. It can also get misshapen, as soaking is how manufacturers make hard leather pliable in order to shape it. The tanning, coating, and other finishing procedures make gun leather able to withstand a good amount of moisture and harmful microbes. Keeping your leather holster safe from water is an easy first line of defense in most cases. But you can’t always eliminate the risk. If your holster gets soaked, you need to dry it as soon as possible.
A common mistake is to try and speed up the drying process with an oven or heat gun. This is a really bad idea and will harm the holster. It needs to dry at a natural pace, but try to keep it in a dry space or surrounded by dry padding. In order to prevent warping of the holster, you need to support its shape and structure. Since prolonged exposure to moisture can do as much harm to your gun as it does to your holster, if not more, you shouldn’t use your gun to maintain the holster shape.
Using a blue gun, airsoft gun, or even a toy gun is a great solution to this problem. If you have nothing of the sort laying around, you can pack the holster full of newspaper wads or something similar. Make sure to pack it as hard as you can It can take a long time to dry, but it’s worth it for the optimal recovery. Drying the right way prevents damage and keeps the leather good for ages.
Cleaning Gun Leather
While a good weapon holster doesn’t need much cleaning beyond a simple wipe-down, there are times when you’ll want to wash it. Especially if you have a really beautiful holster. There are many ways to do this, but it’s important that you avoid harmful cleaning agents. Even a lot of leather cleaners, such as saddle soap, is too alkaline or otherwise harmful to gun leather. It’s better to use glycerin soap. Avoid using a lot of water, and only use soft bristle brushes.
If you need more detailed instructions, this guide will help you.
Using Silicone on Leather Weapon Holsters
One way to reduce the impact of moisture and friction on your holster and weapon is to apply a fine layer of silicone to the leather. The slickness resulting from this treatment can also help you draw your weapon faster. One important thing to note, however, is that the water-displacing effect introduces a certain risk. When water touches silicone, it spreads into a thin, even film across the entire surface.
If you use too much and it spreads to your gun, the moisture may spread and seep into the cartridge priming. So it’s important that you don’t overdo it with the silicone, or your primer may be ruined. The best method is to use a silicone spray. You can also apply it manually with a piece of cloth, but it’s very important that you only use a very small amount.
Plastic Weapon Holster Maintenance
While a good weapon holster made of plastic won’t need much maintenance, they do need a little bit. Thermoplastic acrylic polyvinyl chloride, better known as Kydex, is a very sturdy material. But a surprising amount of holsters sold as “Kydex holsters” are made from a different material.
Regardless of the exact plastic holster material, it’s important to keep it clean. While dust and dirt itself won’t hurt a plastic holster, the way it interacts with the friction of drawing, re-holstering and general carrying will increase wear and tear on both your weapon and your holster. Over time, this can cause significant damage to the holster. And the wear and tear aren’t always as easy to notice as it would be on a leather holster.
Wipe off any accumulated dust and dirt on a regular basis with a wet cloth. Wash it with ordinary soap when it seems necessary. Always make sure to dry it well before inserting your gun to avoid corrosion. This is particularly important for nylon holsters, which may keep a lot of hidden moisture that doesn’t harm the holster itself but could ruin your gun.
Final Thoughts on Choosing a Good Weapon Holster
Regardless of the specific tactical weapon holster you choose, it’s crucial that you practice drawing and re-holstering a lot to ensure that you can make the most of your weapon and holster. Mastering this will prove very useful in a tactical scenario, where it can make the difference between life and death.
When it comes to finding a really good weapon holster for your specific needs, the best way is to try a few different ones before making a final decision. You’ll be happy that you made sure to get a holster that fits, feels, and works really great.