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Selecting a Defensive Holster

You chose your defensive handgun wisely. How you choose to carry it is just as an important decision.


Too often people spend a lot of time and thought on selecting the proper defensive handgun and then choose the holster to carry it in as an afterthought. In reality, selecting the proper defensive holster is almost as important as the gun itself. Fortunately there are a broad array of holsters, of all makes and materials, from which to choose. With a little thought, time and experimentation, it is really quite easy to find the rig that suits you best.

The defensive holster should always be made from the best material possible. Cowhide, horsehide and synthetics are all used in today's holster manufacturing. It is important to select a rig made of the very best material for both fit and longevity. For example, the best cowhide holsters come from the very center of the hide where the leather is the thickest. A holster made from the edges of the hide, will get softer and loosen up more quickly. Holsters made from quality materials cost more, but tend to fit better and last longer.

A defensive holster should be made for a specific model of handgun. Those one-size-fits-all rigs generally don't fit any handgun well enough to trust them for defensive carry. This causes undue wear on the pistol's finish, and a poorly fitting holster probably won't hold a handgun securely. It is not a good thing to have to run to try to get away from a criminal attack only to find that the exertion caused your pistol to fall out on the ground.

If your defensive holster is a belt rig, the selection of your belt is also critical to the equation. The belt should be wide enough to just fit the slots on the holster. The belt should also be thick enough to support the holster and prevent sag under the weight of the handgun. Several holster companies also produce belts that are suitable for both formal and casual wear, while supporting the gun and holster securely.

A defensive holster should allow re-holstering with one hand. Many models feature an extra layer of material at the holster mouth to keep it open during the re-holstering process. Safety straps and thumb snaps, if you use them, should be designed so that they don't interfere with this important task. The armed citizen needs to keep his or her eyes on the surroundings during the re-holstering move. In addition, the support hand might be occupied holding off an unarmed assailant or holding onto some support.

The defensive holster should be designed so that the armed citizen can draw a handgun with either hand. Savvy criminals may grab the shooting arm to prevent drawing a handgun. Imagine their surprise when the support hand accesses the pistol.

For this reason, I am not a big fan of thumb snaps and safety straps on a defensive holster. Such retaining devices may make it virtually impossible to draw the handgun with the support hand. When deciding on how you are going to carry your defensive handgun, it is always a good idea to consider how easily you can access it with your support hand.

Another aspect of defensive holsters that one has to consider is the fact that what works for one person simply won't do for the next. This is generally due to gender, body size and clothing choice. For example, I prefer to wear jeans and find that the popular in-the-pants rigs are just not for me. In that case, one must either change clothing or change holsters. I chose to stick with the jeans and find another carry technique.

Every shooter has to experiment with various carry techniques and holsters to find what works. Discussions with experienced defensive shooters may help to thin the field just a bit. But the reality is that a person just has to try a few methods to determine the best for his or her uses. The key is to stick with quality craftsmanship in selecting the holsters for consideration. Ask any experienced gunman and he will, if he's honest, admit to having a big box of holsters that he has collected over the years while seeking what works for him. So, get your big box, keep an eye on quality and start your search. The search is worth it when your personal safety is at stake.

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26 Responses to Selecting a Defensive Holster

John Wallace wrote:
March 18, 2013

Hey guys, I'm still looking for a outside the belt carry holster for my Springfield 1911 A-1 .45. It has the hi-capacity stack Mag so it is thicker than the standard 1911 and built a little differantly. I would appreciate and help on finding a mfg.co. that makes one.

Gene10 wrote:
February 26, 2013

My Remora behind the back works well for my Diamondback DB9.

Mike Hardesty wrote:
February 26, 2013

Boy...try being left-handed and find a holster for a Taurus 24/7 G2 .45...I ended up with a Fobus made for a Springfield XD. Not a perfect fit, but the only one that came close. At least with Kydex, there's always the oven to 'melt' the thing enough to mold aroud the trigger guard. The good sheriff knows of which he speaks...common sense SHOULD rule in holster selection!

Kyle Lamb wrote:
February 18, 2013

I think it is a family of holsters. I use Blade-Tech. Everyday is a Appendix holster for a S&W Shield, or a Eclipse. Duty holster would be the Light Mounted Holster called the WRS.

Keith wrote:
February 17, 2013

Have aMilt Sparks summer special for 1911 commander & officers and LOVE IT. Like safariland paddle to those and unckle mike's duty rigs. Used em all.

shane wrote:
February 17, 2013

I've had a few to, I carry a kimber II and have found that Alessi makes the most comfortable and best fitting holster I have used.

Dale wrote:
February 15, 2013

You need different holsters for different needs. I always buy several holster for each handgun and try them out to see what fits me. I have several boxes of holsters.

m-14 sniper wrote:
February 15, 2013

Sheriff jim might relate to this.many years ago I saw an ad for Roy Baker's "pancake holster". being an enterprising youth with a talent for leather work I started making these building my own paterns from the picture I had. Took a few tries and long nights after school, but I got it perfected. I still make them and still use it for the full size 1911 series 70 I still carry every day. It spreads the weight out on your belt more than any other holster for an all steel 1911.

Larry Womack wrote:
February 15, 2013

El Paso Saddlery has the best hoilster I've ever bought. They are comfortable and you will buy a different one for each guy you own. Perfect!

Ron wrote:
February 14, 2013

Great article. Thankfully however, I found my perfect IWB holster for CCW in the Crossbreed Supertuck Deluxe. For OWB I like the Blackhawk Serpa II. Though it is a little rough on finishes. Didn't take long for it to leave holster marks on my SW1911PD. And by not long I mean within a couple weeks. And I personally think it's a good idea to also find and have a good shoulder rig as well as a pocket and ankle holster for those who carry pocket and ankle guns. I say this because I prefer to not tie myself down to carrying one way all the time every time.

Darrell McMillan wrote:
February 14, 2013

I own several SuperTuck holsters and I find them very comfortable to wear all day. They also hold my pistols tight enough to never have to worry about them falling out. I also enjoy wearing a Galco Royal Guard when carrying my Sig Sauer P229.

Dennis l l wrote:
February 14, 2013

I use a Galco concealable holster with a Galco belt with my Glock 26 and my Glock 19. Before this it held a Glock 27 and Glock 23. This holster is my all time favorite. It is very comfortable, holds pistol securely and draws well. It's FBI cant conceals it well. I highly recommend this holster belt combination. Check it out at www.galco.com

GWAM wrote:
February 14, 2013

too have a fair number of holsters. Ones I like and use often are (outside the belt - Blackhawk Serpa concealment for M1911, and two excellent concealment pocket holsters custom made for a SP-101 (2-1/4" snubby), and a Kimber Ultra Carry II (very reasonably priced) from Robert Mika (Mika's Pocket Holsters).

Matt wrote:
February 14, 2013

Is that it? You call that an article? That's a bit thin. No mention of pros or cons of leather, plastic, nylon cloth, or a combination of all. Retention straps versus spring tensioners versus mechanical releases? The basic thrust of this article seems to be go out and look for yourself, because this article doesn't offer anything much.

Wayne R wrote:
February 14, 2013

Old Faithfull makes a great holster. Simular to a crossbreed but better and thicker material. They give the option of molding your own kit, an assemble your own kit and a completely put together holster. I used the mold your own kit because they didn't have my particular model firearm available. It came out great. If your looking for a holster you won't go wrong by giving them a look. Less expensive than Crossbreed also. This is the holster that made all of my other holsters live in a drawer.

Moe wrote:
February 14, 2013

Milt Sparks is the one! The inside the belt rig holds my Kimber Ultra Compact just right. Have a Bianchi upside down spring clip shoulder holster (from '80's)that holds my Colt Cobra tight and hidden. It is no longer made,and that is unfortunate. Carried with that rig on my day job for 15 yrs and ALMOST never even knew I had it on...

Peter Mendez wrote:
February 14, 2013

simply rugged I have 1 for just about every firearm I own

Red wrote:
February 14, 2013

Lobo Gun Leather makes some very good holsters. I own two and have been pleased with their quality and comfort. Crossbreed also makes a great IWB holster for concealing.

gman904 wrote:
February 14, 2013

I have an array of holsters and use all of them. Depending on what I'm wearing I will select the best concealement option. When I'm wearing my business suits I usually wear my Galco Miami Classic shoulder rig. When wearing jeans and a shirt untucked I'll either choose my Blackhawk Carbon Serpas or my in the pants holsters which are abidextrious and have a clip for over the belt or pant line and also have thumb breaks.

Bill Johnson wrote:
February 14, 2013

I discovered the only way to have a IWB holster that fit my Ruger P345 was to make it myself. It took several tries but eventually came up w/one that fits and stays in place. It's not fancy but since it's designed not be seen who cares? As long as it does the job.

Dr. Zin wrote:
February 11, 2013

I have had a Crossbreed Sipertuck Deluxe holster for my Sig P229 for over a year now and am very happy with it. I have carried this under alot of strenuous conditions and have never had it come loose let alon fall out. These are the best.

Pete wrote:
February 07, 2013

I AM a big fan of thumb snaps and safety straps. If your holster doesn't have one, you will eventually be picking your handgun up off the ground in a store, on the street, or in the doctor's office -- and don't be surprised if a bystander calls the police when they see it fall out.

MaximusRex wrote:
February 05, 2013

I've been carrying my Milt Sparks VMII everyday for 6 years. Fits every Commander I have. I love it!

Zulu wrote:
February 05, 2013

I have a few holsters littering my safe as well. I just ordered a Milt Sparks Versa Max II holster for my Kimber 3' 1911 Ultra Carry II. Gonna take a few months but from what I've read and heard it seems like it will be perfect. So nice to speak to actually someone on the phone who is part of the actual operation, have them answer your questions, work with you, then custom make a holster for your particular carry weapon... all for about the same price as some off the shelf holsters I've purchased in the past. Made in USA too, always a bonus.

Bill wrote:
February 05, 2013

He made me laugh. The 'box' of holsters hit home. I'd like to have my money back for all those holsters. I could buy another firearm.

Cavedog wrote:
February 05, 2013

Spot on! I'm STILL looking for that perfect holster!