All About OWB Holsters For Concealed Carry
The original holster design – and according to some people, the best – is the outside-the-waistband or OWB holster. These holsters are secured to the waist via a belt, and are widely considered to be the most comfortable to wear.
However, OWB holsters aren't the most conducive to concealed carry in all cases though they can be in the right circumstances. The right gun and the right OWB holster can be easily concealed under light outerwear or even a t-shirt in some cases.
What Is an OWB Holster
When thinking about outside the waistband (OWB) holsters, the first thing that comes to mind might be the cowboys from TV westerns or the movies. Can’t you just envision John Wayne strapping the leather on his hip just before a gunfight?
Generally speaking, when concealed carrying OWB, the gun and holster combination are worn outside the pants, usually on the hip of your dominant side. There are some folks though, that prefer to carry OWB on their non-dominant side, so they draw across the body, usually referred to as cross-draw. It's a personal preference as to what makes for a faster, more comfortable draw.
Believe it or not, you can easily concealed carry an outside the waistband holster quite effectively for defensive purposes. Clint Eastwood pulled it off pretty well in his spaghetti westerns. Remember the old poncho-flip-over-the-shoulder revealing his trusty sidearm move? That's a perfect example of the concept.
It's true that an OWB holster is harder to conceal than an IWB holster, but most proponents of OWB concealed carry will tell you that the faster, smoother draw you get with OWB, outweighs the benefits of IWB concealment.
Concealed Carry With An OWB Holster
With OWB holster concealed carry, cover garments matter, and they matter a lot. However, the holster and pistol you're trying to conceal do too.
The bulkier the gun and holster, the more difficult it will be to conceal. A big Beretta 92 or Sig P226 will print a bit more than, say, a 1911 or a Smith and Wesson Shield.
Wearing an untucked long-tail, loose-fitting shirt should suffice for concealing a higher sitting holster. Of course, a jacket or coat will adequately cover a holster and gun worn on pretty much in any position around the waist. Plainclothes law enforcement and private citizens wearing suits and sport coats often concealed carry OWB in this fashion, though care must be taken to select a fuller cut so as to avoid printing.
The time of year or season can make concealed carrying OWB a bit tricky. Winter or colder climates usually present less of a challenge. The summer season or warmer year-long climates, require some thought and preparation to effectively conceal OWB.
During the summer months, button-up shirts will work for concealed carry OWB. Most Hawaiian-style or similar button-ups will adequately conceal, provided they are loose-fitting around the waistline and, of course are untucked. You may want to carry the holster a little closer to the center of your back too. Another good idea is to wear a T-shirt under your button-up to help prevent from chafing.
Just one more thing about concealed carry OWB in summer months. Whether you are wearing pants or shorts, you should have a sturdy gun belt. Sorry, board shorts probably won't cut it.
Types of OWB Holsters
OWB holster designs have come a long way from the western style holsters of the last century. Today's OWB holsters are available in leather, nylon, or low friction plastics such as Kydex.
Pancake holsters have been around for over 60 years. They get the name "pancake", because they are basically two pieces of material pancaked or joined together with a pouch in the middle where the gun sits. They usually come two or three belt slots and conceal fairly well.
Hybrid holsters are OWB holsters constructed from a combination of plastic and leather fabric materials. Almost always, hybrid holsters come with a plastic retention shell that can be custom-molded to fit a specific make and model handgun. They also have a cloth or cloth-like backer and provide a secure fit.
OWB holsters tend to come with one of two dominant belt attachment methods: belt slide or paddle. Belt slide holsters employ some sort of enclosed slot that the belt is threaded through. Some employ a leather or hard plastic loop, though many kydex and leather pancake/scabbard holsters have two or three slots cut into the leather. Leather holsters with belt slots usually have reinforcing stitches sewn into the leather to ensure longevity of wear.
Some models are adjustable for ride height, grip cant and retention. Three-slot pancake/scabbard holsters, for instance, will carry higher with a straight drop in the lowest slot, and with a forward cant (but lower ride height) in the upper slot on the side with two slots.
Paddle holsters are secured to the wearer by a flat leather or plastic flap or "paddle". The paddle is worn inside the waistband or gun belt, and is designed to prevent the entire holster from being pulled away from the wearer when the gun is drawn. One of the primary benefits of carrying a paddle holster is that it can be worn at any position around the waistline, and is easier to remove when the situation warrants.
Final Word About Paddle Holsters
Paddle holsters offer the user more options and features than most other OWB concealed carry holsters. The plastic paddle attachments are normally contoured in shape to comfortably and securely match the wearers waistline. Many leather paddle holsters don't offer this feature.
Most models of plastic paddle holsters come with the standard FBI cant, but have features that allow you to adjust the wear angle to your preference. One model in particular, the Alien Gear Cloak Mod has swappable attachments that allow you to wear the holster in a closed belt slide configuration or a paddle holster configuration, along with cant and ride height adjustability.
No matter which style or model of OWB concealed carry is chosen, it is essential that you use a strong, sturdy gun belt. You'll be glad you did.
About The Author
Born in southeastern Washington State, Sam Hoober graduated in 2011 from Eastern Washington University. He resides in the great Inland Northwest, with his wife and child. His varied interests and hobbies include camping, fishing, hunting, and spending time at the gun range as often as possible.