Unblinking Eye
                Observations on Concealed Carry Holsters


Some Observations on Holsters for Concealed Carry

by Ed Buffaloe

If you are searching for a holster for concealed carry, but don’t know enough to make an informed choice, perhaps the following observations will help.  Choice of holster goes hand in hand with choice of gun.  If you don’t choose the right gun for concealed carry, your choice of holster is pretty much irrelevant because you are not likely to carry a gun that is too large or too heavy, or to successfully defend yourself with a weapon you do not understand or that does not fit your hand properly.  For help with gun choice, read Karl Rehn’s essay on Choosing a Handgun That’s Right for You.  In regard to holsters, I certainly don’t claim to have all the answers, but maybe I can help educate you about some of the important questions.  Advice is cheap, experience is priceless--most of us learn best through trial and error.

Please be a responsible gun owner.
Know your rights and responsibilities.
Handle and store your guns safely.



1.  Belts.  Before you even consider buying a holster for concealed carry, you should consider whether you have a belt fit to support a gun.  Generally speaking, guns are heavy.  The larger the caliber and the more suitable a gun is for self defense, the heavier and more difficult it is to carry.  Therefore, the widest, stiffest belt you can find is recommended to properly support the gun.  The wrong belt will make the right gun or the right holster worthless for concealed carry.  You can use Google or any other search engine to search for “concealed carry belt” and review the various products available.  Concealed Carry Clothiers sell good belts--not cheap, but not the most expensive available either.  I personally recommend a belt that is at least 1-1/2 inches wide and as stiff as possible.  All of my standard holster designs are for 1-1/2 inch belts, though I can usually make a holster to fit any size of belt.

2.  Size and Weight.  Smaller people generally prefer to carry smaller, lighter guns.  Larger caliber guns are usually to be preferred for self defense, but you have to be realistic about what you are willing and able to carry day in and day out.  A large gun is hard to conceal on a small frame.  A small, light .22 that you can hit accurately with and can carry easily may be preferable to a heavy 9mm or .45 that causes you to list to one side and makes you flinch every time you fire it.  You cannot defend yourself with the gun you are not carrying.  So you should choose your carry weapon carefully, with the understanding that you must have it on your person at all times if you expect to be able to defend yourself.  I have heard that only about 5% of the people who have concealed carry licenses actually carry all the time--sometimes this is due to the exigencies of work or other circumstances, but I suspect it is often due to the person owning a gun they are uncomfortable carrying.

3.  Grip.  The gun you choose needs to fit your hand.  I’ve seen plenty of guys with large hands who cannot shoot a small gun accurately, because they can’t get a firm hold on it.  Likewise, I’ve seen a lot of men and women with small hands who can’t shoot certain guns because the guns are too big or too heavy.  I also once taught a guy who has small hands but who seems to be most accurate with guns with large grips--go figure.  There are quite a few guns that simply come with poorly designed non-ergonomic grips--this can usually be remedied by modifying or replacing the grips.  A gun should point naturally.  If you hold the gun and extend your index finger along the side, your finger should parallel the barrel in both the horizontal and vertical planes--if it doesn’t, you should consider different grips or a different gun.  If you are not familiar with guns, I advise you to find someone who has a lot of them and will allow you to shoot them until you learn what works for you.


4.  Complexity.  My firm belief is that you should not carry a weapon you do not understand.  If you don’t understand a weapon, you will be dangerous to yourself and to others if you carry that weapon.  If you simply can’t comprehend how a self-loading (automatic) pistol works, you should carry a revolver.  Most automatics are not so complex that they can’t be understood--but it takes time and effort.  If you are not willing to take the time and make the effort to understand an automatic, you should carry a revolver.  Familiarity and practice will make anything seem less complex.  If you want to carry an automatic pistol, you should learn to take it apart and put it back together without searching for the instructions.  Field stripping and cleaning your weapon should become second nature.  Clearing misfeeds and jams should become second nature.  Get with a certified instructor and sign up for a class--you won’t regret it.

5.  Auto or Revolver.  I don’t want to get caught in a debate about which is better--both have advantages and disadvantages.  There is no doubt that an auto is easier and more comfortable to carry inside the waistband, usually holds more cartridges than a revolver, and is faster to reload.  There is no doubt that revolvers are simpler, more reliable, and require less maintenance.  With practice, you can reload a revolver almost as fast as an auto.  You have to decide what is best for you.


6.  Concealability and Accessability.  There are a lot of ways to conceal guns, but generally speaking a belt holster provides excellent accessability, if not always the greatest concealability.  There are a number of belt pouches, butt packs, purses, shoulder holsters, belly bands, ankle holsters, etc. that will allow you to conceal a gun, but few allow the quick accessability of a strong side belt holster.  Inside the waistband (IWB) holsters almost always provide better concealability, because only the grip of the gun sits above the waistband, and they allow you to conceal a gun with a longer barrel.  My personal preference is always for an IWB holster, though they do take some getting used to.  You generally have to have pants one size larger than normal for IWB carry.  For larger guns I have to use a shoulder holster.  Appendix carry had gained popularity in recent years--this carries the gun on the strong side inside the waistband, but in front, over the appendix of a right-handed person.  This kind of carry offers a very fast draw and good concealment for those who prefer it.  A crossdraw holster (usually outside the waistband) offers good access to the gun, but with a slight loss in speed over strong-side carry.

7.  Holster Materials.  The two most common leathers used for holsters are cowhide and horsehide.  Cowhide is much cheaper than horsehide, can be tooled and stained beautifully, and will last for a long time if properly cared for.  That being said, few people care for their holsters as well as they should, and horsehide is generally preferred by professionals whose lives depend on their guns.  Horsehide is tighter grained than cowhide, feels better against the skin, and is more resistant to sweat and salt water.  Horsehide sometimes has more surface imperfections than cowhide and usually shows a grain when dyed.

8.  Women.  Women have special needs when it comes to holsters.  A man can wear almost any holster, but a woman usually needs a specially made holster to accommodate the curve of her hips and her short waist.  I don’t recommend my standard holsters for most women but I’m happy, within my time constraints, to work with anyone to try to make a holster that fits properly and is comfortable.



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