How to Choose a Concealed Carry Holster – 8 Helpful Tips

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The best concealed carry holster for you can vary depending on a variety of factors. This is what makes it so hard for most people to find one they are happy with.

Usually, I find that beginners choose their handgun before choosing a holster. In my experience, it is best to consider the holster you want to use while you are choosing your gun.

How to Choose a Concealed Carry Holster
Jason's concealed carry holsters with a IWB, Appendix, and OWB option
A few options for a holster is great for flexibility

In addition to the type of handgun you plan to carry, you should also consider your daily routine and lifestyle.

Keep reading to learn more and find our tips on how to choose the best holster for you. Also check out our full guide to concealed carry!


How to Choose a Concealed Carry Holster

There are some important features to look for when selecting a concealed carry holster. Also review our our how to choose a concealed carry handgun guide to pick the best gun while you are also choosing a holster.

First and Foremost – Safety

A safe holster will fully guard the trigger. If your holster does not guard the trigger, don’t use it, plain and simple. You don’t want to hear a bang when you don’t want to.

Jason showing a holster that fully guards his Sig P365XL trigger
A fully guarded trigger is a must for safety

Retention

A good holster will fit your handgun and retain it. It should not just fall out of the holster easily. However, you should not have to fight it to get it out, either.

Kydex holsters usually offer the best retention. But some leather holsters do a great job as well.

The best holsters will have adjustable retention that you can adjust with a screw. This allows you to adjust it to your handgun and preferences, but also allows you to adjust it over time as the holster wears. Most kydex and hybrid holsters have adjustable retention, however leather ones usually do not.

Concealability

It is obvious that if you want a concealed carry holster that it needs to be concealable. This is mostly driven by your body shape, the clothes you typically wear, and how you plan to carry your handgun.

The type of handgun also comes into play. While some say that the type of handgun dictates how concealable it is, this is not true.

You can conceal a large handgun with an OWB or Shoulder holster, but you need an outer garment like a jacket or shirt. If you live in a warm climate, this can be an issue. But if you live in a cooler climate, you may need at least a light jacket or shirt most of the year.

So, making blanket statements that a certain carry position is best for concealment is short-sighted. It depends on your situation.

Comfort

I remember when I first started to carry concealed, there was the initial feeling of freedom and excitement. I really didn’t care how comfortable my holster was, it was just cool that I had one.

Once most people get past the “honeymoon” phase of carrying concealed, comfort starts coming into play. An uncomfortable holster will get left at home more and more over time.

Get a comfortable holster so you will consistently wear it. That is the point of getting one in the first place.

Allows a Full Grip

The holster you choose should allow you to not only quickly draw your handgun but it should also allow you to get a full grip on your gun when it is in the holster.

A proper draw is essential to accuracy. I have learned from shooting in competitions that it all starts with driving the web of my hand (area between my thumb and forefinger) into the backstrap of the handgun.

Jason with a Concealed Carry Holster gripping the handgun
A full grip is essential for safety and accuracy

Some holsters will press the grip into my body too much and not allow me to get my thumb around the back side of the pistol. This is also dependent on your body shape.

Drawing your gun and then having to readjust your grip slows you down and is sometimes dangerous. I have seen numerous people drop their guns while trying to draw quickly on the move and not getting a proper grip.

Some holsters may have features around the grip of your handgun that prevent you from getting a good initial grip. Avoid these as well.

Adjustability

Because everyone is different, being able to adjust the way the holster attaches to your belt is a plus. Just because a holster works well for me doesn’t mean it will work well for everyone.

This is more applicable to IWB holsters but can still be helpful for OWB holsters.

The ride height is where the holster rides compared to your belt. Being able to adjust this up and down is helpful so that you can get a full grip on the handgun. If it rides too low, your belt and pants will interfere with the grip.

The cant, or angle of the holster, is also important. This may need to change depending on the carry position. For example, if you are using an IWB holster and move it from the 1 o’clock position to the 4 o’clock position, you may need to adjust the cant of the holster.

Allows Re-holstering

While this may not seem so important in a self-defense situation that you hope never comes, it is important for training purposes.

If you are going to carry concealed, you must train with your gun and your holster. You can do this without going to the range by dry firing at home. From my competition experience, I have learned that dry fire practice is very important and a key part of a defensive handgun training program.

So, if you draw from your holster a lot, getting your handgun back in the holster is important from an efficiency and time-saving aspect. If you must remove your holster every time, it is likely you will get tired of it and not train consistently.

Price

Of course, price and your budget is a factor in any decision. However, the price of a holster is small compared to the price of a concealed carry handgun and the price of self defense ammo.

A good concealed carry holster is not the place to look for the cheapest thing you can find. Most great holsters cost less than a few boxes of ammo, so avoid that universal $15 holster on Amazon. They are often made from inferior materials and are not safe.


Types of Concealed Carry Holsters

There are four basic types of holsters. Inside the waistband (IWB), Outside the waistband (OWB), Shoulder, and Belly Band holsters.

There are also pocket and ankle holsters, but I do not consider these a viable method of concealed carry. They could be used as a holster for a backup gun in some cases but never as a primary carry method.

Each type has its advantages and disadvantages, along with limitations around the clothing that you wear and the activities you can do comfortably.

For help on how to choose the best carry position for you, also see our guide on the best concealed carry positions.

IWB and Appendix Holsters

IWB holsters are worn inside the waistband of your pants. They will have clips that attach to your belt, and the grip of your handgun sits above your belt so that you can grip and draw it quickly.

Jason with an IWB holster at the appendix position and a Sig P365XL
An IWB Holster sits inside the waistband (CYA Ridge and Sig P365XL)

IWB holsters can be worn on the front of your body, on your hip, or behind your body. We often refer to carry positions as numbers on a clock. The 12 o’clock position is where your belly button is. The 3 o’clock position is on your hip, and the 6 o’clock position is in the center of your back.

Appendix holsters are also IWB holsters that are used in the 1 o’clock position. Or, about where your appendix is.

IWB holsters are uncomfortable holsters to use. They are “in your pants” after all. However, they are also the easiest to conceal.

Appendix holsters are the most uncomfortable of all the IWB holsters. If you are standing most of the day, it is not an issue. But if you sit or bend over too much, it becomes an issue. The longer the gun, the more it restricts your ability to bend over.

If you are driving, it is dangerous to carry an appendix holster since your seatbelt crosses directly over it. So, when you get in your car, you must take the holster off and then put it back on when you get out.

However, if you are wearing just an untucked T-shirt, appendix carry is the most concealable. Some holsters include a “claw” that presses against the inside of your waistband near the grip of the gun. This keeps the grip of the gun up against your body to improve concealment.

Jason showing the wing attachment of a concealed carry holster
Claw attachment on the CYA Drift Holster

The most comfortable IWB carry position for me is at the 3 o’clock position on my hip. I have found that a holster with a claw attachment can also help in this position to keep the grip of the gun in line with my body. Carrying a Glock 19 with the CYA Drift, Alien Gear Photon, , Harry’s Holsters Infiltrator , and the Hidden Hybrid Double Clip Holster under just a T-shirt still works well in this position.

Jason showing a concealed carry holster at the 3 o'clock position
The 3 o’clock position is the most comfortable for me. This is the Hidden Hybrid double clip and a Glock 19

In addition, when I drive, I don’t have to take my holster on and off. I can also bend over and pick up heavy objects without any issue.

Carrying an IWB holster in the 4 or 5 o’clock position is comfortable as well, but only when standing. I find that if I am driving or sitting for very long, it becomes uncomfortable as well.

Check out our guide to the Best IWB holsters and our guide on the Best Appendix holsters for more tips and our top picks.

OWB Holsters

OWB holsters are worn outside the waistband of your pants. They will either have clips that attach to your belt, loops for your belt to pass through, or a “paddle” that slips into your pants and clips over your belt.

Carrying an OWB holster is more comfortable than an IWB holster but is harder to conceal. Some think that an OWB holster is not for concealed carry and only for open carry. This is not true at all.

Jason with an OWB Holster and Glock 19 getting into a truck
The right type of OWB holster is comfortable and concealable

Keep in mind that not all OWB holsters are the same. There are various designs, and our team has experience with all of them. We have found a few that work better than others.

Certain types of OWB holsters are very much concealable under an untucked shirt, vest, or jacket. Look for holsters that have flexible attachment points, like the Stealth Gear Flex or the 1791 Gunleather 4-way holster. These better fit your body shape, and keep the gun close to your body.

Rigid OWB holsters that are 100% kydex are not as comfortable and hard to conceal in my experience. Their loops create pressure points in your side when you tighten your belt. They are also typically wider, which makes them “print” or show through your shirt or jacket.

Two of Jason's OWB holsters showing a flexible one and one that is not flexible
Rigid OWB holster on the left and a flexible hybrid on the right

Also keep in mind that some OWB holsters are more for competition and not concealed carry. My competition holsters sit away from my body quite a bit. This makes it easier and quicker to draw my handgun but makes them virtually impossible to conceal.

As I mentioned, OWB is usually the most comfortable way to carry. But, depending on the seats in your vehicle, you may not be able to carry while you are driving. If your seats are bucket-style seats that wrap around your side, the grip of your handgun could push against the seat. This really depends on your gun, holster, body shape, and vehicle.

Jason sitting in a car with an OWB holster
The grip of a Glock 19 against bucket seats with an OWB holster

When you are considering an OWB holster, also think about the belt clips that will work best for you. Some have loops that you must pass your belt through. So, if you want to take it off, you must unhook your belt.

Some have clips that attach around your belt. I really like these since I can take the holster on and off quickly without unhooking my belt. I can also leave my gun in the holster at the same time. This is great on a long drive. I can just remove the holster before I get in and put it right back on when I get out.

Check out our guide to the Best OWB Holsters for Concealed Carry for some great options.

Shoulder Holsters

Shoulder Holsters are typically used by law enforcement investigators that are in and out of vehicles a lot, wear a sports coat, and want to conceal that they are officers. They are also popular with security personnel for the same reasons.

Their biggest advantages are they are comfortable, you can carry a large firearm, they are easily concealed, and you can draw from them while seated in a vehicle.

Jason drawing a Glock 17 from a shoulder holster
Shoulder Holsters allow you to conceal a larger gun than other holsters.

The major disadvantage is you must be wearing a sports coat or some type of jacket to conceal them.

So, unless you are in the security field, wearing a sport coat everyday probably isn’t your thing. Or wearing a jacket in the middle of the August heat probably isn’t your thing, either.

Regardless, shoulder holsters do have their place.

Belly Band Holsters

You probably noticed that both IWB and OWB holsters require a belt. How do you carry concealed if you are wearing clothes that do not have a belt?

A Belly band-type holster is an easy solution.

These are basically what the name suggests. They have an elastic band that wraps around your stomach, just above your waistline. Attached to the band is a holster for your handgun.

Kristin's belly band holster with a Sig P365XL
A belly band holster is a great alternative to a belt holster

Some belly band holsters just have a cheap “pocket” of sorts to hold your handgun. These are not safe options as they may not fully guard the trigger. They also usually have a separate strap to hold the handgun in place, which means it will be harder to draw your handgun when you need it.

Avoid these and use one like the Falco Belly Band in our list that has a Kydex holster attached to the band. These are just as safe as a regular Kydex holster and allow you to draw your handgun quickly.

Some belly bands, like the Falco, also have extra pockets in them for your phone, keys, and money or cards. This is a great way to carry everything you need securely while out for a run or on a bike.


Concealed Carry Holster Materials

There are really only two types of materials you should consider for a holster. Leather and Kydex.

Leather

Three of Jason's leather holsters. Two IWB and one OWB shown
Ahh, the smell of leather

Leather has been used for over 100 years for holsters. Over time it will form to both your handgun and your body very well. Eventually, it will wear out. But unless you draw from your holster repeatedly every day, it will last a long time.

And the smell of a leather holster is one of the best things ever…

The main disadvantage of leather holsters is they require maintenance over time.

When leather gets wet, it begins to shrink and break down. Sweat or water with high salt content can degrade the leather quickly.  If you are often in wet weather or work outside in the heat and sweat a lot, leather may not be the best option for you.

It is usually recommended to keep a layer of clothing between your skin and the holster to keep sweat away from it.

Over time leather will soften, which may lead to your holster not holding its shape. You really need to keep this in mind over time, as it could lead to an unsafe holster that does not retain your handgun properly.

The main advantage of leather is comfort. For an IWB holster, soft leather is certainly more comfortable than a rigid Kydex holster.

Kydex

Three of Jason's Kydex holsters
Kydex is a great material for holsters

Kydex has become a very popular holster material in the past 10 years. It is a plastic polymer material that can be formed to match the contours of your handgun. It is very durable, waterproof, and requires virtually no maintenance.

I like how kydex holsters make a positive “click” when I holster my gun. This lets me know that my handgun is positively in the holster all the way.

Kydex also does not lose its shape over time and will virtually last forever. The only Kydex holsters I have seen worn out are competition holsters that have been used for thousands of repetitions.

The biggest disadvantage with Kydex is comfort, especially with IWB holsters. The stiff kydex does not mold to your body over time. It can cause skin irritation if you are active outside, moving and sweating a lot. As I mentioned earlier, it is best to have a layer of clothing between your Kydex holster and skin.

Hybrid holsters

Three of Jason's Hybrid Holsters
Hybrid Holsters are the best of Leather and Kydex

The best of both worlds is a hybrid holster.

These holsters have a kydex shell attached to a leather or fabric backing that rests against your body. These offer the retention advantages of Kydex along with the comfort of a soft material against your skin.

In my experience, these are the most comfortable holsters, both IWB and OWB.


Concealed Carry Lifestyle and Body Shape

Along with the features of the holster itself, you should also consider your body shape and lifestyle.

What is your daily routine? Do you work outside or drive a lot? Maybe you can’t carry a handgun at work but want to make a few stops on the way home.

What clothes do you typically wear? The climate you live in, along with your occupation, are factors here. Maybe you are a woman who works in an office.

Daily Routine

Sit down and write down what you typically do each day (including weekends), and also include why and when you can carry your handgun concealed.

For some this may be an easy exercise. For others, you may find yourself in a lot of different environments. It may be that in some cases, you can carry your gun, and others may not.

You may find that you need both an IWB holster and an OWB holster that you can remove easily.

Clothing Factors

The clothes you wear are a factor that can dictate the best holster for you.

If you normally wear a belt, then a good gun belt coupled with an IWB or OWB holster will work well.

But what if you normally don’t wear a belt? Or maybe you want to carry while exercising.

Belly Bands are popular for women since regular holsters are just not an option for some pants and dresses. Our team member Kristin has been using the Falco Belly Band when she cannot wear a belt.

If you want to carry while wearing athletic shorts or joggers, also consider Arrowhead Tactical Apparel athletic wear. They have an integrated belt that allows you to carry your regular holster without needing a separate belly band holster. We have been trying out their shorts and joggers for the past few months, and they are a great option. See our guide to the best concealed carry shorts for more on these.

Blake with the Arrowhead tactical shorts and a Sig P365 XMacro
Blake after a workout in the Arrowhead Tactical Shorts

Clothing Tips

If you are considering an IWB holster, it is important to understand that you may need new pants as well.

When you carry an IWB holster, your pants should be the next size up from what you normally wear. In my experience, they should be loose without a belt. Really too loose.

If you try to carry IWB with pants that are not loose without a belt, it will be uncomfortable. You may think it is the holster or just the position of the holster, but it is likely your pants.

A proper gun belt is also important. Your belt should be rigid enough to hold your holster securely. If you are carrying IWB, just like your pants, pay attention to the size of your belt. It should be a size or two larger than you normally wear. See our full guide to the best concealed carry belts for more tips and our favorites.

Jason demonstrating how to wear a concealed carry holster with a gun belt and shirt
A proper gun belt and an undershirt make concealed carry safe and comfortable

To help make a concealed carry holster more comfortable to wear, keep a piece of clothing between your skin and the holster. Often a thin undershirt works well. In warm weather, this may be an issue, so a comfortable holster is even more important.

Body Shape

In general, slender, skinny people will need a different holster than a larger person.

For example: Someone with a small waist will usually find that carrying an appendix holster is comfortable. They will also find that an OWB holster is too wide to fit properly, uncomfortable, and hard to conceal.

Similarly, a person with a larger waist will usually find that carrying an appendix holster is uncomfortable. They will also find that an IWB holster at the 3 o’clock position or an OWB holster fits well, and they can conceal them.


Choose Your Concealed Carry Holster

I have found that having both an IWB and an OWB holster for my concealed carry gun is the best option. I live in a climate that has all four seasons, and it can get very hot in the summer and cold in the winter.

Having both options allows me to have the most comfortable carry options depending on my day and the weather. In hot weather, I will go with an IWB holster, but in cooler weather, my default is an OWB holster.

Keep in mind that it may take you a few tries to get the best holster for you. I started out trying what someone said was the best but kept finding it wasn’t the best for me.

We hope that this guide, our experience, and our holster reviews will help you find the best holster for you quickly. All of the manufacturers we have reviewed have a great return policy. But before you send one back, make sure to get your replacement first. Otherwise, you may regret sending the first one back.

You will also need a spare magazine carrier, see our guide on the best pistol magazine holsters for our top picks.

Now, keep reading our concealed carry holster guides to choose the best holster for you!

Best Concealed Carry Holsters

Best IWB Concealed Carry Holsters

Best OWB Concealed Carry Holsters

Best Appendix Concealed Carry Holsters

Best Glock 19 Concealed Carry Holsters

Best Sig P365 Concealed Carry Holsters

Best Glock 43/43X Concealed Carry Holsters

Go Back: Concealed Carry Guide

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Jason has an engineering and problem solving background. He is an avid outdoorsman, survivalist, and competitive shooter. He enjoys researching the best and most practical solutions for the problem at hand, studying stoicism, and finding innovative ways to be prepared.