When you get right down to it, a gun holster has to do three things:
- It must secure your gun, ensuring it stays in your possession.
- It must protect the trigger, minimizing the chance of inadvertent trigger contact from hands or foreign objects.
- It must present your gun in a consistent position and safe orientation so you can draw the gun effectively while under stress.
In my view, those three functions are in the “needs” category. In the “wants” bucket, you might add factors such as speed of access, concealment, re-holstering with one hand, and ability to draw with either hand. There are many holsters on the market that do a fair job of meeting the three “needs” criteria. It’s the “wants” criteria where things get tricky and tradeoffs have to be considered.
For example, if your most important requirement is absolute concealment, and the consequences of the gun “showing” are really bad, you might choose a holster carry method where access is more difficult (read: slower) than with a traditional belt holster. As with most things in life, you have to carefully consider tradeoffs for your specific situation. Theoretically “perfect” concealment will, by definition, be at odds with speed and ease of access. It’s going to be up to you to choose your best combination of these often-conflicting attributes.
Before we get into carry methods, consider this disclaimer: These carry methods are not equal. Some of these holster categories have drawbacks—sometimes significant drawbacks—but may still be the best for you because of their advantages for your specific needs. We’ll get into some of the issues related to non-traditional carry methods later. Here, we’ll take a look at some of the primary holster styles currently on the market. (All prices listed are MSRP.)
BELT HOLSTERS: OUTSIDE THE WAISTBAND
Think cowboys. An outside-the-waistband (OWB) holster attaches to your belt, and the whole assembly of gun and holster rides outside your pants, generally on your strong hand side. Some OWB holsters ride on the opposite side so the user draws across the body.
OWB holsters offer the easiest and fastest draw available – that’s why all those heroes and villains in spaghetti western movies used them. Quick draws look really impressive on the big screen, don’t they? While you absolutely, positively need a proper gun belt with belt holsters, you can wear your normal pants assuming the belt loops are large enough for your gun belt. Chaps are not required.
Since the entire handgun is kept outside of your clothing, you’ll need to wear either a long shirt or jacket to cover it all. Depending on the size of your handgun, the muzzle may hang five or six inches below the top of your pants. You’ll also need to plan on moving that cover garment out of the way when you draw, without getting all tangled up.
Galco Concealable Holster, $116.95
Safariland 6377 ALS Concealment Belt Loop Holster, from $49.50
CrossBreed SnapSlide, from $48.50