The basic purpose of a holster is to secure your firearm, while ensuring that it remains easy to access with minimal risk of a discharge. It’s fair to say that most modern holsters are fairly good at meeting these needs. However, there are a number of other factors to consider when choosing one, such as the type of clothing you wear, the size of the firearm, and the carry laws in your state. Here are 5 types of holsters you’re likely to encounter.
1.) Outside the Waistband (OWB)
Attached to the user’s belt, an OWB holster is the type most commonly associated with cowboys and uniformed police officers. While it’s usually positioned on the strong side, those who prefer to cross-draw would wear it on the opposite side. They’re typically made with either loops for a belt or a “paddle” that clips over clothing.
In terms of accessibility, OWB holsters can’t be beat. That’s how those old gunfighters were able to draw their six-shooters at lightning speed. If open-carry is legal where you live and you’re inclined to do so, an OWB holster is as good as it gets.
However, open-carry is not legal everywhere. Even where it is legal, not everyone wants their firearm on display. If you choose to wear an OWB holster under these conditions, you’ll need a jacket or long shirt for concealment. This means you’ll have to move that clothing out of the way before you can draw your gun.
2.) Inside the Waistband (IWB)
While positioned similarly to the OWB holster, the IWB holster sits on the inside of the waistband. This helps conceal most of the weapon, with the exception of the grip. Depending on what you’re wearing, this should be easier to cover up.
One additional advantage is that the weapon is even more secure, due to the pressure created by the clothes holding it against the body. You can also slide it into to whichever position offers the best comfort, accessibility, and concealability.
The most obvious disadvantage is that you’ll need some bigger pants. Depending on the thickness of your holstered firearm, you might need pants up to two inches larger than your normal size. The only way around this is to suck your stomach in and learn to live with the discomfort.
3.) Shoulder Holster
Shoulder holsters are often depicted as being popular with television detectives. The most popular employs a double harness that comes together above the spine, with straps that loop around the shoulders. The firearm is positioned under one arm, with a spare magazine carrier under the other arm to help offset the weight.
The primary advantage of a shoulder holster is that it’s more comfortable than an IWB holster. This is particularly noticeable while sitting, which is when an IWB holster is likely to bother you the most. The weapon is also easier to reach from a sitting position.
In terms of drawbacks, you’ll have to wear a jacket all day to cover a shoulder holster. They’re too bulky to wear under most shirts, which would also hinder access to your firearm. Furthermore, if you’re wearing a horizontal shoulder rig, your firearm will always be pointed at whatever (or whoever) happens to be behind you. Remember that while you can get a vertical rig, you might find it harder to grab your gun in a hurry.
4.) Ankle Holster
Ankle holsters are designed for smaller firearms. The holster itself is attached to a padded elastic or neoprene strap, which is fastened around the ankle. The gun is best positioned on the inside of the leg to prevent bumping it against things like table and chair legs.
Since people don’t usually notice one another’s ankles, concealing an ankle holster is fairly easy. They’re also more comfortable than IWB or shoulder holsters, provided the firearm is light and small. Most people consider them ideal for carrying a backup gun.
The biggest drawback to an ankle holster is its location and distance from the hand. If you ever need to reach for it, you’ll have to bend down and pull up your pant leg. This might not be possible if you’re suddenly jumped by an attacker.
5.) Pocket Holster
Pocket holsters have become far more common today, due to the popularity of ultra-compact firearms. While some guns are small enough to carry loosely, this isn’t a safe practice. If your gun is facing the wrong way when you reach for it, it could get caught on the way out. It might also discharge while you’re fumbling with it.
Pocket holsters are supposed to help disguise the outline of the firearm, making it look like a phone or wallet. Obviously, a cylinder imprint in a tight pocket might cause alarm. Pocket holsters are best kept in front pockets to minimize the chances of removal by an attacker.
It’s important to make sure the pocket in question is large and loose enough for a holster. If it’s too tight, it can hinder your ability to establish a proper grip and draw quickly. You might also find that pocket holsters are difficult to access from a seated position.
While there are other ways to carry a handgun, these are the most common types of holsters on the market. Fanny packs and belly band holsters do have their place, but they’re primarily designed for situations in which traditional holsters would not suffice. In most cases, there’s a conventional holster in these varieties for just about everyone.