Thursday, October 22, 2009

Holster Primer...

My range buddy and bloggershoot attendee Lissa asks for the intarwebz help in choosing a holster:
First off . . . how does one choose a holster? I know, I know, try lots of stuff and see how it works . . . but where’s the starting point? There are lots of things one needs to purchase before actually getting a gun (e.g. holster, bulletproof vest or big bucket of sand, cleaning kit, gun safe, etc.). Where do I begin? Which shops do y’all patronize? How do I go about this business WITHOUT dropping a few hundred bucks on experimental holsters that I’ll never use?

Well, I can't really help there too much - I have the obligatory box 'o' holsters and then some - but I do have some 15 years of experience in totin' a firearm. I figured I'd post a few basic thoughts on holsters as a "Holsters 101" if you will.

First off, a few axioms:
  • As Caleb will no doubt agree, don't bother with any holster made out of nylon as a CCW holster (other than pocket carry). I have yet to come across a high quality, well-crafted nylon holster. Sure, I have a bunch, but they were either purchased when I was young and didn't know any better, or were purchased for guns that I will most likely never carry.
  • In that same vein, any "one size fits most" holster should be steered clear of as a general rule. You want a holster specifically designed for your gun, one that is molded to the contours of the exact firearm rather than a general shape.
  • Don't skimp. You're going to save, what, $50, tops by going with a cheap-assed holster. This is something you are going to rely on to keep your firearm in ready condition the entire time it's by your side. Spend the extra ducats on a quality holster - this is not the place to save a few bucks.
  • Holsters I use: Crossbreed, Bianchi, Galco, Don Hume, DeSantis. I've had good luck with all of these brands and endorse their products wholeheartedly. This is by no means a comprehensive list; I am well aware that there are many other fine manufacturers of holsters out there; these happen to be the ones that I personally use.

With the above said, here's a short primer on what to look for in a carry holster. Since Lissa is in the Volksrepublik of MA, where open carry is about as well-received as a french kiss from the pope, we're really talking about Inside the WaistBand (IWB) holsters. Sure, with the proper cover garment you can conceal a firearm carried OWB, but it's the exception rather than the rule. Besides, Lissa would look plain silly in a muu-muu...

Even in the rather narrow domain of IWB holsters there's a lot of variations. Does the holster attach to the belt with a metal clip, plastic hook, or leather loops? Is the holster itself leather, kydex, some combination of the two, or even some exotic material? Kydex has a slight advantage in that it's not affected by being next to your body all day; however I always wear an undershirt under my CCW piece and prefer leather myself.

Beyond this, it comes down to comfort and compromise. You want a holster that will conceal well, distribute weight evenly, and retain the firearm in all but the most violent of motions. Having adjustable attachment points is a good thing, as you can adjust the cant of the holster (whether it rides straight up and down or leaning forward/backward) or have the holster ride lower or higher on the belt line. Twin attachment points - at the far ends of the holster - will work well to distribute the weight; a holster loop with a split in the middle is meant to go over a belt loop to anchor the holster in position.

There's a lot to learn in the beginning phases of the neophyte gunnie. Given that choosing a holster is an eminently personal choice, what works for one person may very well not work for another. What is comfortable on a 6' tall, 200 pound man might be the worst fit possible for a 5'2" 105 lb. woman. Unfortunately, there is a fair amount of trial and error. One suggestion would be to find, if available, a "blue gun" version of your firearm and frequent gun shops and gun shows looking for holsters. The blue gun allows you to try the fit of the holster with a facsimile of your firearm in it without worrying about clearing your defensive arm.

And as always, if you see something that looks interesting or promising, just ask your friends on the intarwebz!

That is all.


Lissa said...

(Note to self: Try on a muu-muu and send Jay G the photo.)

Thanks Jay!

ParatrooperJJ said...

Try Raven Concealment.

Anonymous said...

Step One, get a cardboard box!


Shootin' Buddy

Michael in CT said...

Figure out what you are going to carry and where you are going to carry it. My preference is for IWB. Make sure you get a GOOD belt, probably from the same place you order the holster. The belts you find clothes stores are crap. I can not recommend Milt Sparks holsters strongly enough, the Versa Max 2 is a very good IWB holster and the quality is superb.
While a top notch holster and belt is a little more at the start, you actually end up saving money in the long run. I don't expect that I will ever have to replace the Milt Sparks Versa Max 2 that I bought.

Anonymous said...

Another consideration that I found the hard way.

Once you think you're happy, go sit in your car.

Are you still comfortable? Can you get at the gun with your seatbelt on?

If you have more than one car, is this true in all of them?

I discovered that comfortable, accessible carry in a 1991 Chevy B-Body or 2002 Honda Civic is neither in a 2008 Chevy Corvette and that some solutions for the Vette don't work well in the Civic.

Pop N Fresh said...

every time some asks about what holster and you don't say milt sparks versa max II God kills a kitten............

Rick R. said...


I don't know how you're shaped, but some women find that their bdoy shape simply doesn't comply with an IWB holster. Depending on how high wasited you are, you may be unable to draw a strongside IWB at all.

If strong side hip rigs seem to bug you, try either crossdraw (many IWB rigs have adjustable cant, so can be worn crossdraw) or shoulder holster (I'd recommend a horizontal carry -- with your Sig, it'd just disappear under an untucked cover shirt).

I'll second the thought on nylon -- with the caveat that a nylon rig that uses a mechanical retention (like a thumb break) MAY be available that works*. Although it will be thicker than leather or Kydex, and damned near as expensive. . .

* I've got an Uncle Mike's horizontal shoulder holster on a Glaco harness that works really well as a "travel gun". But I'm planning on upgrading it to a good leather holster componant shortly, just to reduce bulk and provide extra friction if the retaining strap pops open some time. Unfortunately, a nylon holser is generally slicker than greased seal snot on teflon, and won't do a damned thing to hold a gun by friction.

Extreme Tolerance said...

Nice Post.

Here is my experience. Did a bunch of research, talked to manufacturers, settled on a Comp-tac MTAC. Love it and it works great but I am finding my XD is a little large for all circumstances. Even when you get it right, its not perfect.

Enter the excuse I am telling my wife to buy a 1911...