Inside, Outside, Upside Down: Choosing a Holster for Concealed Carry

 

Purchasing a defensive firearm is not a (pardon the pun) one-shot deal. You’re making the most adult decision you’ve ever made in your life, namely, taking personal responsibility for the safety of your loved ones. As Marty McFly might say, “that’s heavy.”

A firearm is not a talisman of self-protection: You don’t buy one and then leave it in a place of veneration in your home so it will somehow provide an umbrella of protection to all who dwell within. A pistol has to be readily accessible in order to be effective, and that means having it near you both when you’re inside and outside your home.

You’ll need to figure out how you are going to carry your gun. For beginners, I recommend carrying a defensive pistol on the waistline, either in an Inside the Waistband (IWB) or Outside the Waistband (OWB) holster. Why these two styles at first, and not something like pocket carry or off-body carry in a purse?

  1. They keep your gun near you at all times: I’m not that big of a fan of carrying a gun in a purse and day planner because doing so makes it easier for a crook to separate you from your firearm, especially when you might need it the most.
  2. They work for almost all sizes and types of pistols and revolvers: There are IWB and OWB holsters out there for almost every gun under the sun, so you start carrying your gun right away and not wait for a custom-tailored holster. Pocket holsters work well, and I use one when I’m carrying a smaller gun, but there’s really no way to hide a service pistol like a Glock 17 in a pocket.
  3. They’re easy to use: It’s a simple thing indeed to swipe away your cover garment, reach down, grab your pistol (with your finger off the trigger, of course), and extend it towards your target. Reaching around for a purse and fumbling with zippers, then drawing out your gun? Not so easy.

So what are the advantages of an outside the waistband holster versus an inside the waistband holster?

Reasons to buy an IWB holster

  • It’s going to conceal more of the gun. This is a no-brainer: The gun is mostly tucked into your pants, so less of it shows on the outside. Also, as it’s inside the shape of your pants, your body’s natural curves will help disguise the fact you’re packing heat.
  • It’s going to be more stable. This one is not-so-obvious. An IWB holster has three points of contact with your body: Two on the belt itself, and one where the holster presses up against your body

Reasons not to buy an IWB Holster

  • It’s harder to grip the gun. Your gun is a lot closer to your body in an IWB holster, which means it’s going to take a little more effort to wrap your thumb around the grip of your pistol when you’re drawing your gun.
  • You need new pants. A pistol is about an inch or so thick, revolvers much more so, and I don’t need to tell you what adding an inch to waistline means to your wardrobe.

Reasons to buy an OWB holster

  • Less change in your lifestyle. Aside from your gun belt (and no matter which option you chose, you need a good gun belt), you’re ready to roll.
  • It’s easier to grip your gun. Your pistol is further out from your body when it’s outside rather than inside your trousers, and therefore it’s easier for you to get a good, firm grip on your gun before you draw. This might not seem like much, but a good grip is essential to both accuracy and a fast draw.

Reasons not to buy an OWB holster

  • There’s two points of contact on your body versus three. This means that your gun can move around on your waistband if you don’t get a good gun belt to help hold it in place.
  • It’s further from your body, and therefore, harder to conceal. This can be overcome with a holster like a pancake OWB model that hugs the body that hugs the body a little more than other OWB models, so do research to find what works for you.

Which is best, an outside the waistband holster or an inside the waistband holster? I wish I could tell you, but finding the right make and model of holster is a very personal thing. What works for me probably won’t work for you, so look at selecting a concealed carry holster as a journey, not a destination. If you need a starting place, here’s an example of both holster styles I use on a regular basis.

IWB vs OWB Holster

On the left is a leather pancake “Combat Elite” OWB holster from International Handgun Leather for my CZ75. It’s a good holster, but after wearing it for a while, I’ve found it doesn’t extend far enough up about the beltline for my liking, so now I’m shopping for something around for yet another holster.

On the right is a hybrid Kydex/leather Minituck IWB holster from Crossbreed holsters for my Smith & Wesson M&P Shield. I’m a big, big fan of their holsters and own three of them. I prefer a hybrid holster for an IWB carry because it keeps the holster open when the gun’s not in, making it easier to re-holster when needed.

As you can tell, the process of a finding a holster you’ll carry everyday is indeed a journey, but it’s a journey with a destination, which is the security you have with the means to defend yourself and your loved ones from deadly force. The journey begins when you chose a defensive firearm, then choose to carry with you every day.

Published in Guns
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  1. Michael Lukehart Thatcher
    Michael Lukehart
    @MichaelLukehart

    P.S.  The compression t-shirts that attach holsters are really neat, but can get a little hot.

    • #31
  2. Vicryl Contessa Thatcher
    Vicryl Contessa
    @VicrylContessa

    .45 might be an option for men, but not for women. Just sayin’. Unless her name is Tanya and she works as a lighting designer or stage hand at the local performing arts center and owns an impressive collection of flannel… Women’s body shape, size, and clothes can’t accommodate a gun that big. But oh how I wish I could carry a 1911.

    • #32
  3. Kevin Creighton Contributor
    Kevin Creighton
    @KevinCreighton

    Vicryl Contessa:.45 might be an option for men, but not for women. Just sayin’. Unless her name is Tanya and she works as a lighting designer or stage hand at the local performing arts center and owns an impressive collection of flannel… Women’s body shape, size, and clothes can’t accommodate a gun that big. But oh how I wish I could carry a 1911.

    A female friend of mine carries an FNX-45 and two spare mags with her. Never say never…

    • #33
  4. Vicryl Contessa Thatcher
    Vicryl Contessa
    @VicrylContessa

    How does she do it?

    • #34
  5. Michael Lukehart Thatcher
    Michael Lukehart
    @MichaelLukehart

    Kimber 1911 Ultra Carry.

    • #35
  6. Kevin Creighton Contributor
    Kevin Creighton
    @KevinCreighton

    Vicryl Contessa: How does she do it?

    Her hubby is a holster maker. :D

    • #36
  7. Vicryl Contessa Thatcher
    Vicryl Contessa
    @VicrylContessa

    Kevin- I think you meant to say her husband is a magician. I wear skinny jeans, tank tops, and light cardigans during the summer so I can conceal. My 9 mm prints too much in those clothes, so I can’t imagine a .45 being concealable.

    • #37
  8. jmelvin Member
    jmelvin
    @jmelvin

    Vicryl Contessa:Kevin- I think you meant to say her husband is a magician. I wear skinny jeans, tank tops, and light cardigans during the summer so I can conceal. My 9 mm prints too much in those clothes, so I can’t imagine a .45 being concealable.

    Maybe you could consider a Kahr PM45?

    https://www.kahr.com/Pistols/Kahr-PM45.asp

    • #38
  9. Vicryl Contessa Thatcher
    Vicryl Contessa
    @VicrylContessa

    jmelvin:

    Vicryl Contessa:Kevin- I think you meant to say her husband is a magician. I wear skinny jeans, tank tops, and light cardigans during the summer so I can conceal. My 9 mm prints too much in those clothes, so I can’t imagine a .45 being concealable.

    Maybe you could consider a Kahr PM45?

    https://www.kahr.com/Pistols/Kahr-PM45.asp

    I’ll have to check that out the next time I’m at the range. Thanks for the tip!

    • #39
  10. jmelvin Member
    jmelvin
    @jmelvin

    You’re welcome.  I’ve been carrying a Kahr CW9 since 2006 and my dear wifester has one that she occasionally carries as well.  Although my wife also uses one of the Flashbang products, she usually uses a side-bra holster for her Ruger LCP.  The PM9 (and likely the PM45) is not much bigger than an LCP, so if you’re already familiar with something the size of the LCP the PM series Kahrs should fit right into your repertoire.

    Other folks at my church carry Kahrs as well and we all seem to like them.

    • #40
  11. EHerring Coolidge
    EHerring
    @EHerring

    Maybe she carries her .45 in a bra holster….

    • #41
  12. Vicryl Contessa Thatcher
    Vicryl Contessa
    @VicrylContessa

    EHerring:Maybe she carries her .45 in a bra holster….

    I hate bra holsters. I have one, and I used it for maybe two weeks. I should try to sell it…

    • #42
  13. Quietpi Member
    Quietpi
    @Quietpi

    Kimber 3″ .45 and SIG P239 in 9mm, both in TT Gunleather “Mike’s Special” IWB, with tuckable clips from Milt Sparks.  The clips are intended for Milt Sparks’ VM II.  I know people who have the VM II, and I understand it’s very similar to the Mike’s Special.  They are fantastic holsters.  My most common daily wear is business casual, with tucked-in dress shirt.

    All my holsters are from Tim at TT.  One problem – he just lost his house and shop – everything – in California’s Valley fire.  He normally has a three month or so waiting list.  So it will be a little longer right now.  That’s OK.  They’re worth it.

    http://www.ttgunleather.com/

    Re: belts – absolutely true.  I recently got a belt from Aker.  Fantastic.  http://akerleather.com/

    And a surprise – the “last chance” belt from Bison Belts.  I have the “light duty.”  Nylon web.  It also works great.  And if you ever need to rappel off a hotel balcony, just add a ‘biner and some 550 cord… (no kidding) https://bisondesigns.com/

    • #43
  14. Kevin Creighton Contributor
    Kevin Creighton
    @KevinCreighton

    Vicryl Contessa: I’ve tried to explain the difficulties women face with on body carry to the guys at the gun store. Some of them get it, some of them still don’t understand why I have to carry a “wimpy” gun in the summer.

    Some resources for you might be:

    The Well-Armed Woman: Carrie’s organization is growing by leaps and bounds, and they’d be a good resource to draw on for information and tips

    Faliaphotography: Video reviews of gun gear and stuff you women-type peoples.

    My article on women choosing their own guns (humblebrag: It’s the #1 article in the history of Shooting Illustrated.com) might give you some ideas about other guns to chose from.

    FWIW, I really like the Sig P238 as an option for more-discreet carry, especially if you like 1911’s. It’s accurate, easy to shoot and with the right ammo (Hornady XTP’s work well for me and do well in gel tests), it will deliver results.

    • #44
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