I jokingly say that tactical gear is a lot like selecting a romantic partner. People like what they like for both practical and impractical reasons. One guy likes blondes another brunettes, tall, short, etc. But in the end we need to pick who works for us.
Regarding holsters there are literally thousands of options. Think first about what your goals are and what best fits your lifestyle.
Basic holster types:
These are holsters worn on a duty belt commonly worn by police officers. These holsters are characterized by their varying retention levels.
If you need a duty rig, skimp on everything else before you buy a cheap duty holster. They’re going to get banged around a lot. Also, consider that you may find yourself in a situation where someone is trying to strip the weapon from your holster. You’ll want every damn stitch to be made of tungsten steel if that happens.
Blackhawk, and Safariland make some pretty good holsters that are reasonably priced. I have had a lot of good luck with both brands.
Outside the Waistband Holster/OWB
Like their name implies these holsters are located outside the waistband of your pants. These holsters are normally designed for concealed carry and are made typically made from either kydex, leather or both. Personally I prefer a kydex or hybrid holster. They make reholstering your weapon significantly easier and weather abuse better.
An OWB can be concealed by wearing a coat or a loose button up shirt.
Inside the Waistband Holster/IWB
IWBs are a very popular option for concealed carry as they have capability to hide even large framed pistols. A nice characteristic during the warmer months when wearing bulky clothing isn’t an option.
One downside of an IWB is that they require some extra room around your waistline, so you may want to either buy larger pants or lose a few pounds to carry comfortably. I run a Firewall Holster and I really like it. Otherwise Google IWB Holster and pick your poison.
Drop Leg Holster
Drop legs are purpose built tactical holsters. Their purpose is to drop the pistol lower than the rest of your tactical gear such as chest rigs and plate carriers to facilitate a clean unobstructed draw. They also work exceptionally well for guys/gals seated in vehicles.
One downside of these holsters is that they tend to bang around and droop. I recommend your raise them up to their highest setting. It will allow your pistol to clear your ninja force five gear and stay readily accessible. I run a Frankensteined Blackhawk drop leg and I haven’t had any issues.
Shoulder holsters are common in pop culture and but have become less popular in the firearm community. They make a lot of sense for someone who sits in a vehicle and can’t wear a drop leg.
Another niche item is belly band holsters. It’s a strap with slots to retain a pistol and some spare mags. To me it works better for carrying mags than is does the pistol. There’s not much for weapon retention and reholstering your weapon is problematic. I also had issue with my gun constantly wanting to slip out. The mags stayed in just fine, and re-securing them isn’t a problem. That’s what pockets are for.
Ankle holsters have a multitude of benefits as they solve a lot of the comfort and light clothing issues. The main problems are that they only facilitate the carry of smaller compact pistols and that they require a unique counterintuitive draw.
Personal Horror Story
So I came across a really slick holster called the INCOG appendix carry holster from G Code. G Code is an awesome company and the holster was highly reviewed. I bought the holster and strapped it on. The appearance and craftsmanship was second to none and it fit my pistol perfectly.
I practiced and practiced my draw and felt extremely confident with it. After a range session I was convinced that the holster was crafted from no less than a God of War. Everything went fine until the day I wore it to meet a friend for lunch. As I munched on wings it became apparent that there was a problem.
For those that don’t know appendix carry places the pistol precariously near your junk. Standing was fine, but when sitting down the holster was cramming my downstairs business. The car ride was fine on the way there, but the extended muzzle stamping of my testicles slowly became unbearable. I excused myself and secured my pistol in the car. My junk ached for a day afterwards.
Some of my gun toting friends were eager to hear my review. I sheepishly told them that I didn’t care for the INCOG. To that I met a few puzzled looks. I told them what happened and they offered suggestions like wearing bigger pants and moving it to the side. I just shook my head. I had tried all of that to no avail.
The purpose of the story isn’t to talk about my tenders but to illustrate that even with the best product quality and research on my part it just didn’t work for me.
Before you wear the holster out in the world, practice your draw. Don’t take it for granted that you’ll otherwise perform flawlessly. Personally when I buy a new holster I will practice 1000 perfect draws in a row before I’ll wear it outside my home. If I fumble a draw the number resets. This insures that an appropriate amount of muscle memory is established.
When it all shakes out buy the best holster you can afford that fulfills your needs. If something doesn’t work sell it or keep it as a backup.
What holsters are you guys and gals running? What do you like and what do you hate?