Many who choose to discreetly carry a defensive firearm utilize inside-the-waistband (IWB) holsters to maximize concealment while still properly securing the gun. Such products, however, are available in myriad designs and construction materials to suit the wearer’s individual preferences. What follows is a brief survey of some IWB offerings to illustrate the market’s diversity.
Hilux Tactical is a relatively new holster maker, however it’s taken the tried-and-true “winged” IWB holster—made popular by Crossbreed Holsters as a leather and Kydex hybrid—and evolved the design with modern materials often found in athletic apparel and equipment. The Hilux IWB holster uses a molded Kydex shell to secure the gun against a padded, foam-and-mesh backer that is ventilated to breath and wick away moisture. The platform uses two polymer belt clips for retention, and the clips also enable adjustment for ride-height and cant. The Hilux is different from some competitors in that there are no exposed rivets, meaning no metal-to-skin contact. The Hilux IWB is designed to be worn around the 3- to 5-o’clock, strongside position. (hiluxtactical.com; $79)
The Banshee from Wright Leatherworks is an example of quality, old-world craftsmanship and premium, all-leather construction. Two height-adjustable leather belt loops with Pull The Dot snaps secure the holster to the carrier, and the Banshee’s relatively aggressive forward cant makes this holster very suitable for those who prefer to carry behind the hip, closer to the 4- or 5-o’clock position. As with any leather holster, the Banshee may take a couple weeks of wear to really break in, but once it does, the user can enjoy a holster that fits the gun like a glove, and is molded to the contours of the body for extremely comfortable carry. (wrightleatherworks.com; $108)
On the other side of the spectrum is the all-Kydex Triton from Galco Gunleather. The advantages of Kydex include its durability and, when heat is appropriately applied, its malleability. In practice, thin sheets of Kydex are easily molded for precise, secure gun fits and, once formed, the products are very resistant to wear and corrosion—such as from sweat. Recognizing and exploiting Kydex’s strengths, Galco’s Triton is an efficient and effective, if somewhat minimalist, offering. It features a single, oversize belt clip for retention, which allows it to be worn anywhere along the waistband, and interchangeable belt loops—sold separately—further facilitate carry in the appendix or crossdraw positions. (galcogunleather.com; $65)
Rounding out the survey is a holster specifically designed for appendix-IWB (AIWB) carry, the Ronin 2.0 from LAS Concealment. A good example of the increasingly popular AIWB holster/magazine pouch combination, the Ronin 2.0 offers the security of front-side carry, and the ability store a reload, all in a very discreet platform. Again, the primary construction material is Kydex, and the holster uses two polymer belt clips that frame the wearer’s belt buckle. The Ronin 2.0 also uses a concealment claw—a polymer tab that protrudes from the holster and presses against the inside of the waistband—to ensure the holster and pistol grip are snug against the body, reducing the firearm’s print. (lasconcealment.com; $89)
All the holsters shown here are for the Smith & Wesson Shield, just for consistency, and it’s important to reiterate that this list is by no means a comprehensive catalog, but rather a cross-section to illustrate the range of designs and materials one can expect to encounter in today’s IWB holster market. It’s my hope that if one of these holsters piques your interest, you will research the maker and shop around to find a carry solution that works best for you and your lifestyle.