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Holster Selection

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Holster Selection     Permit ID and Badges


Selecting a holster should be of equal importance as selecting your handgun.  Just as no one single handgun can satisfy the requirements of wilderness defense, urban self-protection, or inconspicuous back-up, so also no single holster can meet these diverse needs.  There are so many styles and types of holsters that practically any weapon may be carried comfortably in a variety of locations about the body.  Different body shapes, especially the differences between men and women, affect suitable choices of holsters.

Click Here for Holsters for Women

Men and women are different designs.

For women, Mitch Rosen makes the Nancy Special, and Blade-Tech makes the Dropped Offset Holster.  It may take some trial and error before the best compromise between comfort and accessibility is found.  Purchase several styles of inexpensive holsters until the optimum carry positions are found, then buy the highest quality holster to deal with each situation that you may face.  Some holster-gun combinations act differently when they are located on different parts of the body or tensioned by different belts.  A good belt is an absolute necessity, and it should be  part of the holster purchase.  Just as one shoots any new handgun until it functions flawlessly, practice drawing with an unloaded gun until any new holster has been broken in.  Newer students will practice until they get it right.  Professionals practice until they can't get it wrong.

Holsters for handgun hunting will need to accommodate larger revolvers with longer barrel lengths and possibly scopes.  Holsters for wilderness defense need to be comfortable and clear for activities in the woods.  A bandana holster is a good choice for the largest, scoped handguns.  An unbalanced vertical shoulder holster, Like the Bianchi X-15,  with a gun retainer strap and a wide band over the shoulder will comfortably protect most of the larger revolvers.  Wear the shoulder holster over the primary coat, then a partially open overcoat or weather shell will keep the elements away from the handgun.  The bottom of the holster may need to be secured against the pull of the draw.  An outside the waistband, OWB, belt holster with thumb break retention is suitable for the shorter barrels, especially when the weight of the handgun can be kept to a minimum.  Any excess weight outside the belt will be noticeable with strenuous activity, and if the holster can slide around on the belt, it will try to find the least convenient location.  The belt should be wide and stiff enough to distribute the weight while holding the holster against the pull of the draw.  In the woods, speed of access is not as important as snag-free reliability and accuracy of shot placement.

Holsters for self-defense in the city differ from those carried in the woods,  in that concealment and fast access are most important.  Concealment will depend upon the clothing worn.  Fast access will depend upon holster location and body position.  The defense holster should offer an immediate, full firing grip for speed.  It should completely cover the trigger guard for safety.  The holster should hold itself open for one handed re-holstering.  If any retention devices are used, more practice is required to reliably manipulate them, and any retention straps should be wide enough to prevent them, for example during a re-holster,  from entering the trigger guard.  Most women have found a comfortable location just in front of the strong side hip with negative cant, the gun muzzle pointed slightly forward.  Some call this "appendix carry," it's very fast, it's a bit harder to conceal, but it works well for both women and men who can wear a short, pull-up cover garment like a sweater or short, closed front shirt or coat.  Because the appendix carry is forward of the hip, an open front cover garment is more likely to expose the rig.

For many, an inside the waistband, IWB,  open top holster located just behind the strong side hip with the grip raked forward allows fast access and is comfortable when standing. An inch or so extra waist size is recommended, and a  short open coat, vest,  or shirt will conceal the butt of the gun with minimal impediment to a one handed draw.  Weights sewn into the front hem are an aid to throwing open the shirt or coat.  A loose, closed front garment, like a polo or t-shirt, can be comfortable in hot weather.  Use the strong hand to pull up the covering hem, then use the weak hand to hold the hem up out of the way while the strong hand can dive for the grip.   Keep the weak hand close to the chest as the gun is presented by the strong hand, until the weak hand can come from beneath to act as a support, if there is time.  If a tucking IWB holster is used for the ultimate in stealth, with the shirt tucked in around the gun, use both hands to rip the material up and away from the grip.  An alternative would be to blouse the shirt over the grip and tuck a small bit of the shirt around the gun.  South of the border, this behind the hip position has been used without a holster for more than a century, but if  you try the "Mexican Carry", sooner or later you'll have to catch the gun as it flies out of your belt, or you'll feel the gun slide down your leg inside your pants just before it clatters to the ground at your feet.  Pretend you have to tie your shoe laces, unless you wear tassellated penny loafers.  Most bad guys don't use any holster for the unbalanced chunk of iron, and they can be seen constantly adjusting, patting, or guarding something under their clothes.  When seated, a weapon tucked under the belt just back of the strong side hip, may be raked forward until the butt of the gun no longer causes discomfort and is still accessible.  If a holster were made to do this, it would be fast and comfortable sitting in the bolstered seat of your Corvette.  However, too much cant, or forward rake, makes holster retention difficult, because the exposed  grip and frame become top heavy and can cause the gun to twist out sideways.  An advantage to the strong side carry is that the strong arm and elbow can protect the gun while the weak side forearm, whose outer surface consists of skin and bone without major arteries and tendons, can be used, as if holding an imaginary shield, to fend off blows from an attacker.  Never expose the inside of the forearm or the armpit to an attacker.

Nancy Special Belt Holster           Seated Anti Carjacking Belt Rig             Slim Inside Waistband  ARG




UCH                                     Crossbreed Super Tuck Deluxe                         VM2


Left:  The Blade-Tech UCH is a quality IWB that lets you tuck in the shirt over it. 

Center:   The Crossbreed combines the comfort of leather with the lightweight strength of kydex for retention, speed, and one handed re-holstering.  Inside, the leather is flat and conforms to your body.  Your shirt can be tucked in, and the cant and height are adjustable.   With 2-4 weeks turnaround Ask for the tactical grip cut and extra Velcro clips for true stealth.

Right:  Milt Spark's Versa Max 2 gets some of the highest marks from the pros for a very comfortable, tuckable  IWB horsehide holster with tucking clips and 5-6 months turnaround.




Inside Waistband ARG                             Blade-Tech Dropped Offset               Fobus Compact Paddle

         It's a favorite with some women



Comp-Tac's CTAC                                                        Comp-Tac's Minotaur Spartan       

The C-T.A.C. (Concealed-Tactical Adjustable Cant) holsters work. Ask for extra V (Velcro) clips for the ultimate in stealth.  2-4 week turnaround.  Like the Crossbreed, the CTAC keeps the mounting hardware low so a shirt may be tucked, and less bulk is added to the belt line where space is at a premium.

The Minotaur Spartan can come with Velcro clips that attach to the inside of the belt where they are hidden.  Both height and cant are adjustable, and your shirt can be tucked over it.  Other Spartan gun bodies are available for flexibility.  This is the most comfortable and concealable holster for the money.  A newly designed  neutral cant Minotaur holster is designed to be worn at the 2:00 o'clock position, known as appendix carry, and has been especially designed for women.

Belt, paddle, slide,  and pancake holsters place the weight of the gun outside the hip where it's less concealable and also more noticeable to the wearer, unless a wide belt is worn tightly.  When sitting, the best belt-level location will be offset to the weak side of the front buckle with the gun pointing slightly down, requiring a slight cross draw.  Mitch Rosen's counter carjacking rig is a good example for seated sky marshals.  A sweater or pull-over garment will conceal the rig.  The weak hand can lift the sweater for faster access.  Anytime a cross-draw is used, it is very likely that Rule #1 will be violated.  The muzzle of the gun will flash or point to inadvertent items or persons, thus unsafe directions.  To avoid this danger, the body must be rotated at the start of the draw, and then rotated back as the draw is completed.  The finger must be kept out of the trigger guard the whole time.  This is just about impossible to do when sitting, and unless this is used as a stealth move while standing, the maneuver adds precious tenths of a second to the already slower cross draw.  Many professionals store a cross draw anti carjacking holster for the belt in the glove box of their cars, unless they use a shoulder holster all the time.

           Galco Miami                                                    Del Fatti                                              Deep Concealment Shoulder Holster              

Shoulder holsters are made to hold the gun vertically, horizontally, or, better,  in-between, and they  work for both standing and sitting positions.  They all allow somewhat fast access from under the coat or jacket, but  use a sweeping cross draw after the weak hand has cleared open the coat.  The momentum and torque of the sweeping gun in hand must be stopped in order to align with the target.  More precious tenths of a second can be lost.  The shoulder holsters are difficult to re-holster with one hand, and the horizontal types require a snap retention system to prevent the gun from falling down and out.  They aren't permitted in the advanced Gunthorp courses as well as most of the premier self-defense training schools.  They don't conceal as well, and because they must be worn next to the ribs, where not much soft tissue can pad the bone, they are chosen only by professionals with active lifestyles who delight in testing their own pain thresholds.  A high quality shoulder system can be adjusted for more comfort, and Massad Ayoob debunks some of their myths here.  Sooner or later everyone wants to be the star of Miami Vice. So, with or without belt tie downs, order the Galco Miami Classic II, because the straps at the shoulders are a bit wider, and the magazines are held horizontally for easier access.  Probably the best shoulder rig going is by Del Fatti.  The Deep Concealment Holster is comfortable in an office environment where long periods of sitting require business casual attire.  A few top buttons of the dress shirt can be sewn on the front and Velcro spots sewn on the inside to facilitate quick access.



Barami Hip Grips             Smart Carry Holster                    Uncle Mike's Ankle                Uncle Mike's Pocket 


Galco Belly Band                                                         Galco Thigh Band                                                             Galco Avenger  

The Galco Belly Band, Thigh Band, and Avenger work well for women.


The Holster Vest by Concealed Carry Outfitters is comfortable, and although slower to draw, it would be a great motorcycle carry.

There are bands that go inside the pants like the Smart Carry with gun, magazine, and ID or money pockets.  They can hold a large primary weapon completely concealed inside cut-off jeans without needing a shirt for cover, but they are a bit slower in the draw than a belt or IWB holster. Practice the draw using the thumb and one or two fingers of the strong hand while holding the waist band out with the off hand thumb.  As soon as the gun is clear of the pants, but still pointing generally down in a safe direction, release it into the air to catch it forward and down with the same hand in a firing grip.   The Smart Carry is second in popularity with the professionals, when their favorite IWB doesn't give enough concealment to the primary weapon.  The Smart Carry has received favorable marks from women, too, because it can be moved around the hip line, and it's quite comfortable in front.  The competition for space in the fly area of men's pants makes for some trial and error.  There is no need to speculate on the meaning of error in this case.

A small of the back (SOB) holster holds the gun right on the base of the spine.  If the hand must invert to grasp, inevitably this will cause the gun's muzzle to flash one's own body parts during the draw.  After falling to the pavement or being slammed into a wall, the gun in the small of the back will be a topic of conversation with your chiropractor and back surgeon.

Actually, more pain can be induced by an ankle holster that lacks the support loop, or garter, above the calf and allows a heavy weapon to bounce on the ankle bone at each step. Some fumbling may result from attempts at speed drawing from an ankle holster, but the garter can be cinched tightly to double as a tourniquet when a round goes through the foot.  Bell-bottoms allow faster access and stand-out recognition in any crowd.

Purses, packs, bags, and briefcases aren't recommended, because they're always violating Rule #1. It's not a comforting thought to be in the checkout line wondering how many purses are pointing at you.  Off-body purses and bags aren't as fast or easy to draw, and they are often snatched, mislaid, or unattended, even momentarily, violating Rule #5.   Some fanny packs and vests scream "gun" and could make the wearer a target to the bad guy acting as the lookout in a holdup gang.  Wear the purse or bag strap, reinforced with chain or knife resistant cable, across the shoulders, so when the bad guy runs by to snatch it, you'll go on a wild ride, too.  Even in an off-body purse or bag, the gun ought to be in a holster that covers the trigger guard, presents the grip cleanly, and keeps dirt or small articles from jamming or firing the action.  A specially dedicated gun pocket in a purse is best, if it allows easy access.  The transmitter of a straying child alert system should be in the bag with the gun, and the receiver should be worn on the body.  If the bag is ever more than a few feet from the owner, the alert will sound as a reminder we have given far too much credit to our mental acuity, or worse, there is an armed purse snatcher running at large.

Access to a back-up handgun is compromised by the nature of deep concealment.  A pocket holster may keep the butt of the gun up where it can be fingered.  A full grip isn't easily procured unless your hand is in the pocket while you conduct business. Practice the draw with the thumb and one finger.  As soon as the gun is clear of the pocket, but still pointing generally down in a safe direction, release it into the air to catch it forward and down with the same hand in a firing grip.  If a pocket revolver has a hammer spur, use the thumb over the spur when drawing.  Mika Pocket Holsters are some of the best.  Front and back pants pockets preclude a sitting draw without considerable squirming, but men have lots of shirt, vest, and coat pockets from which to choose.

Mika's round cut pocket holster

Normally, a backup gun, BUG, will be secluded on the weak side when a primary weapon is carried.  In case the strong hand suffers injury or the strong side is blocked, the weak hand ought to be able to access the back-up weapon from various body postures, including falling down.  It is an interesting exercise for the weak hand to access and fire the primary weapon, as well.  Otherwise a backup gun can ride where it's most convenient, as long as you remember where you put it last.  It'll still trump a knife if the gun is presented early enough to maintain safe distance from the threat.

Here's a website that rates holsters, if you want to get more perspectives

Keep in mind that when you spend a lot on something, you tend to justify it by giving it rave reviews.  Always ask what the owner does not like about his rig.


Writing in the thirties and forties, Major Fairbairn encouraged his disciples to manufacture their own holsters.  With the ingenuity of today's craftsmen-artists, this is not necessary.  Nevertheless, while they closely fit their models to individual handguns, few of today's holster makers fit them to the gun while it is being held by the hand in a full firing grip.  Therefore, the student is advised to use his ingenuity to adapt or modify his holster if the result will be more comfort, accessibility, and speed of draw.

There are important points on the holster that may need scrutiny.  Check for contact with the magazine release.  The bottom of the trigger guard where it meets the frame should be unobstructed for the top finger of the grip.  The thumb should have clear access to its normal grip position.  In hot climates, a pad can be fashioned to protect bare skin from sharp checkering on the grip, as long as it extends high enough to prevent snagging by the thumb.  Any rough or sharp edges should be softened, and if a hard corner on the holster bottom aggravates a nerve behind the thigh, it should be padded.  Sometime a belt worn too loosely allows that to happen.

A "Grey Man", or one who is inconspicuous in public, will choose holster clips that are hidden by the belt.  None of  his defensive tools, like guns, knives, flashlights, ammunition, and accessories, will "print", or show.  Even discerning  operators, as well as criminals,  will give him a pass during their situational awareness scans.

After many hours of wear, a good belt-holster combination will allow some up-down, forward-back, and cant adjustment so that one can find the optimum position for sitting, standing, or running.  A proper position also will allow the thumb to slide between the grip and wearer's body without being obstructed by hip or thigh bones.  After many iterations of grasping and drawing, any design deficiencies or chafing obstructions in the holster may be judiciously altered without exposing the trigger guard or loosening retention.  A new baseball glove requires some softening or working to customize it before it becomes a natural extension of the hand.


Make your own holster with these kits starting from $20


Some ideas for concealing can be seen here.

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 Holster Selection     Permit ID and Badges


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