More people are becoming concealed carriers today than ever before. The reasons for this are several and varied, but this article won’t address those. This article is written to help all of the newer carriers find the best carry method that works best for them.
Seasoned carriers also seem to be constantly searching for a new and better way to carry. Why is this? It’s simply because the method they are currently using is causing some issue for them. Whether it’s comfort, accessibility, etc. they believe there has got to be a better way.
After many years of carrying, I can honestly say, there is no way to carry that is perfectly designed to meet complete comfort and accessibility. That is the price we must pay for living in a society where self protection is necessary.
With that said, some carry methods are better than others for a specific individual. You must be the judge of what works best for you.
Many carriers have settled on the OWB (outside the waistband) method for many reasons.
#1 pick for an OWB holster is the CompTac International. It is the most preferred holster of IDPA competition shooters and has many features that make it a favorite of carriers as well.
Benefits of an OWB holster
Accommodates most body shapes. A person’s body shape may prevent IWB carry but most anyone can accommodate an OWB holster at ninety degrees. Beer bellys, lover’s handles, etc can all eliminate many types of carry as an option but if you can wear a belt, you can successfully carry with an OWB holster.
Allows carrying a larger / thicker pistol. Today’s market has moved toward the smaller, more concealable pistols for carry. There is nothing wrong with them, I own several, but for some, due to hand size and shape, shooting a pistol with a small frame is hard to do. Larger hands make these pistols harder to grip. If you can’t get a good grip, you won’t be accurate.
Faster draw and holstering. Many believe that carrying OWB yields a faster draw and holstering. I am not sure I agree with this. I have timed myself both with an IWB holster in the appendix position, and the OWB at the 3 o’clock position. There was no real difference. In fact if anything the IWB kidney position was slightly faster but for some this is not the case.
More adjustable. A OWB holsters are adjustable for cant (tilt) and ride height (how far the pistol grip is carried above the belt line). Everybody’s arms are different lengths, hands are different shapes, have different amounts of strengths, etc. For any holster, the more it can be adjusted to the individual, the better.
Can be a better option for those with restrictive movement issues. Using the OWB method, the holster can be carried higher allowing easier access to the grip of the pistol. There is also no belt or pants to interfere with the draw. For those carriers with arthritis or other movement issues, this can be the only alternative.
Disadvantages of an OWB
Concealment. Total concealment of an OWB holster and firearm is the primary con of this method. It can only be accomplished by wearing a cover garment which is not ideal when the weather is warm, especially in the South.
In some rural locales open carry with an OWB holster is not alarming to people at all. Many people do it and everyone sees it all the time, but in some locales, just the tip end of your holster or barrel sticking out under your jacket, or printing, can cause great alarm.
For that reason some carriers only carry when the weather is cool enough to justify a jacket, then in warm weather they switch back to IWB or even pocket carry with a smaller pistol.
Even then, you should be careful not to print. Printing is when the shape of the firearm can be seen through the cover garment notifying even the most unaware person that your are carrying.
What makes a good OWB concealed carry holster?
Your CCW holster needs to be comfortable all day. An uncomfortable holster will result in your not wearing it every day which could be the difference in your surviving a bad situation or not. It must be virtually unnoticeable to you until you need it.
An OWB holster never contacts your skin regardless if it is a paddle type or belt loop type. No chafing, sweating, or itching. There is no need for two sizes of pants or belts. There is no big lump inside your pants on your waistline. You can buy pants that fit your waist and use an OWB quite efficiently.
Any concealed carry holster worth it’s salt must provide quick and dependable access to your weapon. When you need it, fumbling around with your weapon getting stuck on a garment or not being able to aquire a good strong shooting grip could be the difference between life and death.
Access and drawing of the pistol must be a clean single action and it must occur every time you attempt it with no errors. In a stressful situation you will not be focused on anything except the immediate threat so the draw has to be automatic and easy.
As with any holster, practice is required to become familiar and competent with drawing but, no amount of practice will overcome a poor holster design. The right OWB will speed up your draw time considerably which is why they are primarily the only type used in IDPA and ISPC competitions.
Most self defense statistics show that only a couple of seconds exist between the carrier realizing a threat is present and having to fire to save his or her life. This necessitates that CCW pistols are carried with a round in the chamber.
This means that any holster used for carry should guard the trigger to prevent any movement at all while in the holster. A well guarded trigger also starts the draw correctly by forcing the trigger finger to be out of the trigger guard and parallel to the barrel until pointed down range,
Although I firmly believe that citizens should be able to open carry if they so desire, I don’t prefer it over concealed carry myself. I like to always have the element of surprise working in my favor. I want no one to know if I am armed or not.
You might think an OWB holster would be much more obvious than an IWB and you would be right unless you are able to cover it with a non tuck shirt, jacket or coat.
In hot summer months, this may not be possible. Nothing is perfect, but when weather allows me to modify my dress to accommodate and owb, I take advantage of it.
Nobody wants to waste money on a holster that won’t last. There are many cheapo’s out there that will be broken or completely unusable because they have stretched and the pistol fit is now very loose. A holster that has a loose fit is worthless to me.
It effects your ability to get a good grip on the pistol when you draw. This is the heart of being able to make a clean fast draw during a real life situation.
The holster must hold the pistol in a consistent position to allow you to establish muscle memory which allows a good strong grip from the beginning of the draw.
Holster retention is an arguable feature. My view is if you plan to open carry, you definitely need a holster that will prevent someone walking up behind you and taking your pistol. Most police are required to have this feature on their holsters and for good reason.
If your pistol is concealed and no one knows you have it, a retention or release button might hinder access to your pistol when you need it most.
If you are a senior with arthritis in your hands or weakened hand strength, a holster retention button could make quick access to your pistol impossible.
For concealed carry, even OWB holsters, I like holsters with no retention device. That’s not to say that your holster shouldn’t have a good tight fit, but no button that has to be pushed to release the pistol. You should be able to hold your holster, with the pistol in it, upside down, shake it, and the pistol should remain with a secure fit inside the holster.
Below is a comparison of the holsters I consider to be in the Top 10 now. In order to make the table or comparison, all of the requirements above had to be present. These requirements are just givens for a great holster.
Comparison of top 10 popular holsters
Results of the comparison
- #1 pick for OWB kydex holster – Comptac International
- #1 pick for OWB leather holster – 1791 Gunleather Thumb Break
- #1 pick for OWB hybrid holster – Hidden Hybrid Concealed Carry
- #1 pick for OWB best overall – Comptac International
*See details of all holsters examined below. Comparison was a hands on evaluation.
Kydex holsters detail
#1 Pick – Comptac International
The International combines a belt holster, belt drop offset holster, paddle holster and paddle drop offset holster into one. The modular mounting system combines the versatility of different mounting options with the superior Kydex holster that Comp-Tac is known for.
The International is available with three different cant options, the speed draw (straight drop), the FBI cant (grip angle forward), and the reverse/cross draw (grip angle rearward). The mounting system will accommodate 1-1/2” up to 2″ belts.
TOP HOLSTER USED IN IDPA FOR LAST 7 YEARS IN A ROW. The competitors shoot in really creative stages designed to replicate true self defense scenarios. The world champion is Bob Vogel who also uses this holster. Check out an IDPA match, and use of this holster in the video below.
Comptac produces holsters for the most popular make and model pistols, S&W, Glock, Springfield, H&K, Sig Sauer and many more.
This holster is cut down in the front to fit most pistol red dots and has a .5″ tall sight rail to fit most suppressor/optic co-witnessing sights. Designed to be worn at 3:00 this holster is perfect for competition shooting, concealed carry or general use.
The Paddle Mount is the answer to anyone who wears many different styles of pants. You no longer will have trouble feeding the holster around your belt loops. The paddle slips over the belt and inside the waistband for a comfortable, secure fit that is quick and easy to put on or take off.
With vents in the paddle portion this is a cool and comfortable option. The Drop-Offset piece is specifically designed to help set the device away from the body and drop it to a lower position for a more comfortable draw.
Designed with a cross brace to keep stable during the draw, the Drop-Offset is ideal for ladies whose waist and hip measurements may make proper holster fit a challenge.
Notice that all attachments are held by three screws with metal inserts. The rubber grommets used to adjust pistol retention seem to be strong enough to last forever. This thing is a rock and meets all of the requirements discussed above for a great concealed carry holster.
Nothing interferes with your thumb or grip fingers which is a problem with some of my holsters. This allows for a good grip to be established at the beginning of the draw and results in faster speed and more accurate shooting.
The outside of the holster has a standard polymer finish. The inside is a polished polymer finish that is very slippery which I believe allows a faster / easier draw due to less friction on the pistol. When inserting the pistol there is a very positive click as the pistol locks in place.
Both attachments are designed with a tab on the paddle that locks the holster in place underneath your belt. All components are iron strong. This is the most comfortable OWB I have ever used.
#2 Pick – Bravo Concealment OWB BCA Light Bearing Holster
Holster comes with threaded barrel, red dot sight (RMR) cut out, tall sights and 1.50″ belt loops. (S&W M&P options and Glock X300 options) will NOT accommodate threaded barrel and red dot sight (RMR)cut out. Performance of holster is compromised if you do not have these features or upgrades on your gun.
The Bravo Concealment Adaptive Light Bearing kydex gun holster is designed to be the best outside the waist band (OWB) holster option for everyday concealed carry without any of the added hassle of buttons, levers, thumb breaks, or thumb releases.
The BCA Light Bearing sits snugly against your body to give you a level of comfort you thought was impossible. 30 Money Back Guarantee. Ten degree cant enhances concealment under loose garments. Belt loops can be replaced with belt clips for inside the waistband carry. All edges on holster are rounded for comfort. All holsters are curved to fit the contours of your body.
This holster would have been my #1 pick simply because of it’s versatility to accommodate a light, high suppressor sights, a red dot and the ability to convert it to an IWB if desired, but the Comptac International above is just so good at what it does.
You can’t go wrong with the Bravo Concealment holster.
#3 Pick – Blade-Tech Total Eclipse Holster
This holster has an ambidextrous design making it very flexible for anyone. Cant can be easily adjusted and it can be easily converted to IWB and back again with very little effort. Rounded edges eliminate pressure points for the lowest profile possible while providing comfortable all day carry.
The IWB conversion kit for this holster features easy on/easy off belt clips. It is made of a highly durable polymer material that will last a lifetime even with rugged handling.
It features the quick draw cut which should allow carry of most standard pistol red dots. All of this makes this choice a highly flexible choice
#4 Pick – Safariland 576 Pro Fit GLS
The company touts the patented Grip Lock system which without a doubt adds a safety factor to everyday carry. I personally don’t like it.
Maybe it’s just me but I found it awkward to properly activate the release with my middle finger and still maintain quick draw times in competition. I can only imagine what would happen in a real life self defense situation.
The holster is well made but is designed to universally fit all pistols with a few adjustments. This in combination with the manual lock is a deal killer for me.
1791 Gunleather Thumb Break Holster
This is my #1 pick for those preferring a leather holster. It is made of super durable steerhide and heavily double stitched. It can withstand rugged use an is a lifetime investment. This is one you can leave to your kids.
Three different belt slots give you a choice of cant or straight up. When using the cant forward slot I can see how some might consider it to be excessive at 3 o’clock but when carried in the kidney position it would be just right.
Although the thumb break strap is easily unsnapped I prefer without a top security strap, but it does secure your pistol quite well. This is a matter of personal preference.
This holster is used by many professionals who carry for a living and do it all day long. Because of this, this is one that can’t be overlooked.
This holster fits the following firearms: Glock 17, 19, 23, 25, 27, 28, 29, 30, 32, 33; Ruger SR9, SR40, SR22; S&W MP9, MP40, MP40c, Shield, 5903; Sig Sauer P225; Springfield XD9, XD40, XDS, XDE; Walther P99, P22, PPS, CCP; Taurus PT111, G2, G2c 709 Slim
Relentless Tactical Ultimate Leather
This holster is designed to match their Ultimate Concealed carry belt. The traditional pancake leather holster has 3 slots for nearly every carry situation. You can wear it strong side with a straight drop or you can wear it butt-forward for a quick cross-draw. It will even work for behind-the-hip carriers.
The open muzzle design allows for a variety of slide lengths and / or threaded barrels. The leather allows you to maintain maximum comfort while still offering a very quick draw and presentation if you ever need it and isn’t that the most important thing? This holster is built to be very durable an comes with a lifetime warranty.
Garrison Grip Premium
This holster is made from Italian Leather. It has 3 belt slots to allow two cant positions. It is practical for 3 o’clock, back carry, or anywhere in between . The pictured model is designed for 1911 pistols but can be purchased for most popular pistols.
The leather is supple and designed to conform to your exact pistol over time making the fit tighter but allowing a smooth draw.
It comes with a full 100% money back guaranteed if you are not fully satisfied within 60 days. Are Not Fully Satisfied.100% money back guarantee if you are fully satisfied.
Garrison makes this type holster for the following pistol models.
- Smith & Wesson
- Sig Sauer
- Springfield Armory
Developed with the help of a major police department and tested by agencies around the world, The night guard XL takes the comfort and conceivability of the original night guard into a pancake style holster.
Slides onto belts up to 1-3/4″ And creates a low profile by spreading the holster pocket along the curve of your hip. The holster mouth is reinforced with polymer and the strap is extra wide to prevent interfering with the trigger guard.
Constructed from premium cowhide, The night guard XL rides high and close to the body, providing maximum comfort and concealment. Available for select weapon and light combinations.
Hidden Hybrid Holsters Concealed Carry
Hidden Hybrid Holsters is an industry leader in concealed carry style and comfort. Each holster contains 9-10 oz. leather backing with suede material, so your holster stays in place.
Adjustable retention screws along with the new and improved black powder coated 1 3/4 inch belt clips are adjustable to fit the height and cant of your liking. Outside the waistband belt holes fits up to a 1 3/4 inch belt.
Clips are mounted in a way that makes it possible to tuck a shirt in while wearing the holster. Each holster is made with .093 thick molded Kydex and is carefully hand crafted to fit the gun specifications perfectly.
Crossbreed Holsters SnapSlide OWB
The SnapSlide is an outside of the waistband holster designed to keep your firearm close to your body. This belt slide-style holster has belt slots that measure 1.75 inches; this works best with a 1.5 or 1.25 inch belt.
The design is to have your firearm high and tight, just behind the hip on your strong side, and lay flat for concealment under a loose shirt.