Paddle Holster vs. Belt Loop
A paddle holster has a “paddle” or “duck bill” section of the holster that fits inside the waistband and the holster for the gun overlaps the waistband. A belt slide holster slides into the belt loops of a person's belt. There's a big difference that a lot of gun owners surprisingly don't know. A belt slide holster usually has a slightly lower profile while a paddle holster generally covers a majority of high-retention outside the waistband holsters. The reason why paddle holsters are more popular in recent years has to do with the retention and design elements a lot of companies have thrown into them.
Belt slide holsters can be engineered out of a thicker leather to give them more of a hugging form factor to the firearm itself. And, to be honest, they can be quite secure if properly worn. In recent years, and thanks to the advancement of plastics technology, some companies have experimented with creating a high retention belt slide OWB. These can be quite useful for when sticking a paddle inside the waistline isn't feasible.
A well designed paddle holster can take the guess work out of outside the waistband carry. The external holster should have excellent grip retention over the firearm and be stable no matter if you're jogging, running, or driving.
Minimalist Design For Everyday Carry
A lot of old-school concealed carriers got used to wearing belt slide OWB holsters because those were the most commonly available and conformed tight to the body. Even twenty years ago, there weren't a lot of advances done for holsters because outside of law enforcement or military – not much thought was put into them.
Belt slide OWB can be quite useful, though, because it holds on tight to the belt. So long as the belt is looped through the trousers properly, a belt slide holster can serve its purpose. When properly worn, the holster for a pistol or handgun will slightly jut to the outside. This makes fast grip, retention, and draw a lot easier for some gun owners.
There are also paddle holsters which offer “no frills” minimalist design. It depends on the manufacturer and its intended purpose. Not all paddle holsters and belt slide holsters are equally useful depending on your particular situation. It's best to focus on OWBs with high retention, simple and streamlined design.
Tight To the Body And Properly Angled
Paddle holsters allow their users to be a lot more selective with small details like grip angle and cant. Whereas some belt slide OWBs have the option for adjusting cant and grip angle, most paddle holsters come with that feature implicitly designed. Check with your holster manufacturer to ensure they offer an OWB – paddle or otherwise – that can be adjusted for grip angle and cant. This is important for those that practice regularly and want to reliably reach for their sidearms.
Whichever OWB you decide to use, make sure it works well for your particular carry style and keeps excellent retention over the handgun. Open carrying out in town or just around the property can be a lot of fun with the right OWB holster.
Paddle Holster and Belt Slide Holster Combined - Best of Both Worlds
Alien Gear's new Cloak Mod holster combines designs in one modular holster platform, so you get both a belt slide and a paddle holster with one purchase. Our designs are geared around customizability and innovation, so the next frontier for us was to combine multiple designs in one platform. No one else - to our knowledge - has released a holster design that allows for the wearer to change the belt attachment method at their pleasure, nor offered adjustable cant and retention with it.
Few others also offer the diverse array of holster shells that are custom molded for each firearm. The Cloak Mod is one of the most innovative and functional holster designs available. You will notice when you carry with one.
About The Author
James England (@sir_jim_england) is the contributing editor for Alien Gear Holsters. He is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and private defense contracting in Afghanistan.