How to Choose a Concealed Carry Holster: A Comprehensive Guide

assorted concealed carry holsters

When it comes to concealed carry, selecting the right holster for your firearm is crucial.

A proper holster will not only ensure comfort and security but also aid in quick and efficient access to your weapon when needed.

We understand the importance of making an informed decision when it comes to choosing the ideal holster for your personal protection.

With a plethora of options available on the market, finding the perfect concealed carry holster can be an overwhelming task.

Factors such as the type of firearm, your body shape, clothing preferences, and intended use play a significant role in determining the best fit.

In this article, we aim to simplify the process and provide valuable insights to help you make the right choice for your concealed carry needs.

As we delve into the various aspects of concealed carry holsters, we will explore the different types of holsters, materials used, and essential features to consider for optimal comfort and functionality.

By the end of this guide, we hope to equip you with the knowledge necessary to confidently select the perfect holster for your specific firearm and personal preferences.

Types of Holsters

As you navigate the world of concealed carry holsters, it’s important to know the various types available.

In this section, we will discuss the following types of holsters: Inside the Waistband (IWB), Outside the Waistband (OWB), Pocket Holsters, Ankle Holsters, and Shoulder Holsters.

Each has its own advantages and disadvantages, and your choice will depend on your personal preferences and carrying needs.

Inside the Waistband (IWB)

iwb holster

IWB holsters are designed to be worn inside the waistband of your pants, making them a popular choice for concealed carry.

They provide a high degree of concealment, as the majority of the firearm is hidden inside your clothing. With the right clothing and positioning, an IWB holster can be very effective in keeping your firearm hidden.

However, some people may find them uncomfortable, especially when sitting for long periods of time.

I find this is typically due to poor holster selection.

Remember, comfort is essential for effective concealed carry.

Outside the Waistband (OWB)

OWB holsters are worn outside of the waistband, making them easier to access (sometimes) and generally more comfortable than IWB holsters.

However, they are less concealed and may require additional clothing, such as a jacket or untucked shirt, to adequately hide the firearm.

This will add complication and time to your draw.

Pocket Holsters

Pocket holsters are designed for smaller firearms and fit inside the pocket of your pants or coat.

These holsters are convenient for quick access and allow for easy concealment.

However, they may not be suitable for larger firearms, and drawing from a pocket holster may be more challenging than other options.

It’s essential to practice drawing and re-holstering with pocket holsters to ensure you can do so safely and efficiently.

Ankle Holsters

ankle holster

Ankle holsters are worn around the ankle and can be a good option for carrying a backup firearm or when your clothing does not allow for waistband carry (buy a PHLster Engima and don’t worry about it).

They are relatively easy to conceal, especially with long pants.

However, drawing from an ankle holster can be slow and awkward, and they may not provide the best retention for larger or heavier firearms.

Shoulder Holsters

Shoulder holsters are worn across the chest, with the firearm positioned under the arm.

This type of holster can be comfortable and offer excellent concealment under a jacket or suit.

They are appropriate for those who cannot wear a belt-mounted holster or for those who prefer the weight distribution of a shoulder rig.

However, drawing from a shoulder holster may require additional practice to become proficient.

Drawing and reholstering can provide safety issues when it comes to muzzling those around you.

Material Options

Choosing the right material for your concealed carry holster is crucial as it affects comfort, durability, and functionality.

In this section, we will discuss some popular materials used in holster construction, helping you make an informed decision based on your preferences and needs.


Leather has long been a popular material for holsters due to its durability and classic appearance.

Over time, leather holsters adapt to the shape of your firearm, resulting in a snug and comfortable fit.

However, they may require a break-in period and can eventually loosen up with extended use.

Leather is suitable for those who prefer a traditional and stylish look but keep in mind the maintenance involved in preserving its quality.

However, my personal opinion is that leather, nylon, and hybrid choices are inferior to a rigid design for a number of reasons including the primary reason of being near impossible to safely reholster one-handed.


Kydex is a rigid, durable, and lightweight thermoplastic material that offers excellent retention and minimal maintenance.

It is weather-resistant and provides a consistent draw. Kydex holsters do not require a break-in period and maintain their shape even with long-term use.

They are well-suited for those seeking a sturdy, low-profile option with quick access to the firearm.


Nylon is a very affordable option for concealed carry holsters.

It is lightweight, durable, and weather-resistant.

However, nylon holsters may lack the rigidity and retention provided by Kydex or leather options.

Nylon could be a suitable choice for those on a budget or seeking a flexible and comfortable option for everyday carry.

Again, not my choice.


Hybrid holsters combine different materials trying to capitalize on the strengths of each.

A common example is the combination of leather (or another soft material) for comfort and Kydex for retention and durability.

Hybrid holsters provide a balance between comfort and functionality, making them an alternative choice for those who want the best of both worlds.

While these my be better than their leather or nylon counterparts, they still suffer in the retention compartment.

Retention and Security

As a responsible concealed carry permit holder, it’s essential to have a holster that provides adequate retention and security for your firearm.

Let’s explore the different levels of retention and their implications for choosing the right holster.

Level 1 Retention

Level 1 retention holsters are the most basic type, relying on either friction or passive retention devices to keep your firearm in place.

Friction-fit holsters hug the outline of the gun, ensuring it doesn’t slip out.

Passive retention devices include thumb breaks or strap-like systems that hold the firearm securely.

Although Level 1 holsters can be easy to use, their simplicity also means they may not provide the highest level of protection against unintentional drawing or disarmament.

Level 2 Retention

Level 2 retention holsters incorporate an additional retention device to prevent unintended drawing or disarmament.

For example, the SLS (Self-Locking System) consists of a rotating hood that must be disengaged by the thumb before drawing the firearm.

This added level of retention makes it more secure and less prone to accidental release compared to Level 1 holsters.

Level 2 options are popular among law enforcement professionals and those in high-risk environments.

Level 3 Retention

Level 3 retention holsters are designed for maximum security, featuring two or more passive retention devices in addition to the friction fit.

These holsters may require more practice and effort to master, but they deliver unparalleled security and peace of mind.

When choosing a concealed carry holster, consider your personal needs, preferences, and the level of retention and security you require.

The appropriate level of retention will help ensure that your firearm remains safely in its holster while still being readily accessible when needed.

Comfort and Adjustability

When selecting a concealed carry holster, it’s crucial to prioritize both comfort and adjustability.

A comfortable holster ensures that you will be able to wear your firearm throughout the day without feeling any discomfort or irritation, which is especially important when you need to strap the holster to your body continuously.

Consider factors such as the material of the holster and how well it fits against your body.

Adjustability is another essential aspect when choosing a holster.

It’s important to find a holster that allows you to adjust the cant, ride height, and retention to your preference.

This ensures a more customized fit and a smoother draw when you need to access your firearm.

For instance, some popular styles of holsters, such as the IWB (inside-the-waistband) and OWB (outside-the-waistband) holsters, typically offer a good amount of adjustability.

To test the comfort and adjustability of your potential concealed carry holster, try these simple steps:

  • Wear the holster with your firearm and go for a drive.
  • Practice drawing your firearm from the holster to ensure a smooth, safe, and fast draw.
  • Adjust the cant and ride height to find the most comfortable and concealable position for you.
  • Test the retention and make sure it keeps your firearm securely in place without hindering your draw speed.

Remember that the best concealed carry holster is the one that provides both comfort and adjustability, allowing you to carry your firearm confidently and securely throughout your daily activities.

Weapon Compatibility

Smith and Wesson J Frame

When choosing the right concealed carry holster, one of the most important factors to consider is the compatibility with your firearm.

Not all holsters are designed to fit all guns, so ensuring a secure and snug fit is essential for effective and safe concealed carry.

Start by selecting the type of handgun you have, either pistol or revolver.

Most holster manufacturers have specific models tailored for certain gun makes, models, and barrel lengths.

Here are some essential factors to consider for weapon compatibility:

  • Grip Rotation: A good holster must provide enough grip rotation, allowing the butt of the gun to rotate into your body. This helps conceal the most difficult part of the gun to hide, making it easier for you to carry discreetly.
  • Retention: Ensure that the holster comes with an adequate retention system to secure your firearm. Whether it’s a friction fit, thumb break, or active retention device, it should keep your gun in place while allowing quick and easy access when necessary.
  • Adjustability: If possible, opt for a holster that offers an adjustable cant and ride height. This allows you to fine-tune the position and angle of your firearm for a more comfortable and accessible carry.

Remember, proper firearm fit and compatibility with your chosen holster are crucial for successful concealed carry.

The right holster will secure your weapon, remain discreet, and provide quick accessibility when needed.

Concealment and Clothing

Choosing the right concealed carry holster is highly dependent on the type and style of clothing we wear.

To ensure effective concealment, we must consider how our belts and clothing apply pressure to the holster, which in turn presses the gun against our body, keeping it concealed.

When selecting a holster, consider the clothing we usually wear on a daily basis.

Tailoring our choice to our wardrobe will help prevent the firearm from printing or showing through our clothes.

The low profile design and minimal hardware found in holsters designed for concealed carry typically provide better concealment.

Furthermore, it’s essential to account for the flexibility and comfort offered by the holster. Here are a few types of holsters and their recommended clothing styles:

  • IWB (Inside the Waistband) Holsters: These are best suited for jeans, trousers, or shorts with a sturdy belt. IWB holsters can be easily concealed with a slightly oversized shirt or jacket.
  • OWB (Outside the Waistband) Holsters: These require a more extended covering garment such as a jacket, coat, or loose-fitting shirt to maintain proper concealment.
  • Pocket Holsters: Ideal for pants or jackets with larger pockets. Ensure that the pocket size and depth can accommodate the firearm without printing.
  • Shoulder Holsters: These work well with clothing that involves a jacket or a loose-fitting outer layer, as they distribute the weight of the firearm across our shoulders.

Remember, it is crucial to factor in our specific clothing preferences and daily wardrobe while selecting the appropriate concealed carry holster, ensuring both efficient concealment and comfort in various settings.

Legal Considerations

When choosing a concealed carry holster for our firearm, we must consider the legal aspects of concealed carry.

Laws regarding concealed carry and the use of holsters vary depending on the jurisdiction we are in.

It is crucial for us to familiarize ourselves with the specific laws and regulations in our area to ensure that we are in compliance.

Some states may have specific requirements regarding features of a concealed carry holster.

For example, certain states may require a holster to fully cover the trigger or have a minimum level of retention.

To prevent any legal issues, we should research our local laws and confirm that the holster we choose meets all necessary requirements.

It is also crucial to understand that some locations, even within jurisdictions that allow concealed carry, may prohibit firearms altogether.

These areas may include government buildings, schools, bars, or specific establishments that have chosen to prohibit firearms within their premises.

Always be aware of any signage or announcements regarding firearms restrictions when entering a new location with our concealed carry weapon.

Finally, it is our responsibility to fully comprehend the legal aspects of carrying a concealed weapon, especially the rules surrounding use of force in self-defense situations.

Different states have different laws regarding the use of deadly force, and we must know and understand the limits of our rights to protect ourselves legally.

Common Concerns and FAQs

We understand that choosing the right concealed carry holster can be a complex process.

In this section, we address some common concerns and frequently asked questions to help you make an informed decision.

One of the major concerns is safety and security.

A concealed carry holster should be secure enough to keep the firearm in place during regular activity and deter unauthorized access.

Some holsters have multiple retention levels, such as friction and additional retention methods, to offer increased safety.

Level 1 holsters, which are common for concealed carry, rely primarily on friction to hold the gun in place.

Another frequently asked question is about the comfort of the holster.

A comfortable concealed carry holster should feel natural when worn for extended periods of time, regardless of the activities you engage in.

Test the holster during various tasks like sitting, driving, and lifting objects to ensure it remains comfortable throughout your day.

Material and build quality are often brought up in discussions about concealed carry holsters.

Quality materials, such as leather or Kydex, provide a balance between comfort and durability.

Choosing a reputable brand and ensuring proper fitting for your specific firearm will increase your overall satisfaction with the holster.

In addition to these concerns, firearm owners often ask about the best carry position.

This is largely a personal preference and depends on factors such as body shape, clothing style, and lifestyle.

Experiment with different positions to find the one that best suits your needs.


Choosing the right concealed carry holster for your firearm plays an essential role in ensuring you can efficiently access and deploy your weapon when needed.

By considering various factors like materials, sizing, accessibility, and carry location, we can make an informed decision and find the perfect fit for our needs.

Materials such as leather, Kydex, and woven nylon each have their benefits and drawbacks, so it’s crucial to determine which one will work best for our circumstances.

Sizing is also vital, as the holster must securely hold the firearm and allow for adequate grip rotation. This is important for both concealment and ease of access.

Another consideration is the carry location, which can impact accessibility and comfort.

Experiment with various positions to see what works best with our body type and daily activities. For example, try a full workday with the holster to ensure that it remains discreet and comfortable throughout the day.

Ultimately, finding the ideal concealed carry holster is a highly personal decision, as it must meet our specific needs and preferences.

By thoroughly researching and testing different options, we can find the best concealed carry solution for our unique requirements.

Cody Martin

With over 18 years of federal law enforcement, training, and physical security experience, Cody focuses his time nowadays on both consulting and training. He regularly advises individuals, groups, multinational corporations, schools, houses of worship, and NGOs on security threats while conducting customized training as needed.

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