What Do You Need to Know About Holsters?


In this post, we'll discuss the various types and characteristics of holsters, their advantages, and disadvantages and look at some of the best holsters available. Having purchased and used more holsters than most people would ever want to admit to owning, I can honestly recommend these as some of the best.

If you're ready, let's look at the options and review the basics.

Holsters break down to just a few primary characteristics:

  • Requirements – able to completely cover the trigger guard, able to securely retain the handgun, and able to be accessible by the owner.
  • Carry Position – inside and outside the waistband, as well as small of the back,  shoulder, ankle, pocket carry, and specialty is the typical carry positions of holsters.
  • Materials – Leather and Kydex are the main materials used in holsters.
  • Specifics – holsters are matched to the make and model of the handgun, as well as left or right-hand carry, and finally to whether or not there is an attached light and/or red dot on the handgun.


There are three basic requirements for any holster.

  1. Initially, all holsters must completely cover the trigger guard. You never want your finger or any other object accidentally firing the handgun. This means complete coverage which disallows anything from slipping in and engaging the trigger.
  2. The handgun must be securely affixed to the holster. You cannot turn the holster upside down and have the handgun slip out. It must be secure.
  3. Finally, the handgun must be easily and quickly accessible by the handgun owner.  Much like a good safe – inaccessible to others yet accessible to the owner.

This disqualifies all soft pocket holsters because they usually will usually violate all three requirements.

Carry Position

Holsters can be attached inside or outside the waistband (IWB or OWB) and positioned anywhere around the waist. OWB will require that you wear a shirt or jacket to concealment, while most IWC would allow even tucked shirts.

To explain further, appendix carry is essentially a 12 o'clock position, while left-handed individuals will typically position their holster at the 9 or 8 o'clock position, and right-handed individuals will opt for a 3 or 4 o'clock position. There is also a 6 o'clock position, the small of the back, available to either right or left-handed gun owners.

Some, particularly those who feel the need for a backup, may utilize an ankle gun holster, while a typical FBI configuration could be a shoulder holster arrangement.


Holsters come in a variety of materials. 

Few really believe that Kydex is particularly good-looking.  It is, however, extremely lightweight and robust for storing and securing your handgun and can accommodate a number of clipping systems to attach to your belt. The construction of Kydex allows for tension adjustments that can secure your handgun and offer infinite adjustments as well as cant (or angle) adjustments which simply allows you to position the angle of the holster forward, backward, or straight up and down as you wish.

Leather, on the other hand, is much more romantic looking but doesn't accommodate the various clipping systems and tends to loosen over time, and doesn't provide tension adjustments. However, if you want to go leather, one of the best build holsters around is the premium leather holsters from Wright Leather Works.  You just can't beat their looks and quality.

You can see the differences in the following two options.

Holster Specifics

Most holsters are specific to the make and model of the handgun and will include options for lights and red dots if utilized. Of course, left and right-handed models will also be specified. Very few holsters are universal fit.

There are some specialty holsters such as the “Sneaky Pete” and pocket carry. These options have their place but most would still recommend a more conventional IWC or OWC holster as the primary holster.

Another specialty holster, which Mountain Rescuers use is the “Safepacker Holster.” This is only available from Wilderness Tactical in Arizona but comes in a few sizes which will fit multiple different firearms. This is really a special holster and maybe an adjunct to your other holster arsenal. The beauty of this holster is that no one would suspect that it's a holster and for that reason alone it offers significant versatility.

Finally, the only pocket carry holster I recommend is the Boraii Pocket holster, which is available for the S&W M&P here and is available for virtually every conceivable handgun. The Boraii meets the three requirements and is eminently inexpensive.  Be sure and check it out.

Gun Belts

Gun belts are absolutely necessary for both IWB and OWB as well as pocket carry. What's important with gun belts is that they are stiff and supportive but still comfortable and have a variable adjustment mechanism. Some of the best belts that I have found are the Original Instructor nylon belts available at The Wilderness store in Arizona. You can check out their other belts but the Original Instructor really ticks off all the boxes.

Another belt you may want to consider if you're into leather is the Mitch Rosen belts, especially the cordovan belt. No doubt this would last for generations but you need to be willing to effectively pay it forward to afford it.


All of the holsters discussed above are holsters that I've owned and used. You can find hundreds on the web but the basics remain the same and the suggestions above can easily fit your needs.

Finally, ensure that you have a holster for each handgun you own and use. Start with one and ensure that it works for you and then branch out to matching holster for all your handguns. In the long run, you'll be much happier with this consistent approach versus multiple variant holsters that only address some but not all of your handguns.