How To Choose The Right 1911 IWB Holster For Concealed Carry
It isn't really so simple as to just pick any old 1911 IWB holster and start using it. You'll get a rude awakening in short order.
Given that the 1911 pistol is large and heavy, and as a hammer-fired single-action semi-auto, has to be carried cocked and locked for best results, you're going to need a holster with more substance.
Specifically, you need a 1911 IWB holster with design attributes that are beneficial for carrying the 1911 pistol.
While it isn't the gun for everyone - and it is definitely not for filthy casuals - many find it rewarding. The ergonomics, ease of recoil control and unique trigger system help with accurate shooting, which is why so many people swear by them.
However, the 1911 - and other pistols that have to be carried the same way, like the CZ 75 and Browning Hi Power - are deceptively hard to find a good holster for. Here's a few things you need to have in a 1911 IWB holster.
A 1911 IWB Holster Must Have A Generous Sweat Guard
If there was one in which most 1911 IWB holster designs fail miserably, it's the sweat guard.
The fact that so many get this part wrong, when it's one of the easiest things to do, is halfway between hilarious and downright tragic.
For those unaware, the sweat guard is a piece of material on the inside edge of the holster, sitting between the pistol and your body. Having a sweat guard or sweat shield on any holster is a benefit, but it's downright necessary when carrying a 1911, CZ-75 or Hi Power.
And why is that?
It's because of the controls.
The 1911 pistol has a grip safety that extends beyond the frame. The thumb safety is positioned above the grip panels, at the rear of the frame, and then there's the hammer. When carried cocked and locked, the hammer is all the way to the rear.
If there's no material between the controls and your body, you're gonna get poked!
Rotten thing about carrying a 1911 pistol is that the hammer, the grip safety and the thumb safety put holes in your clothes, in your chairs, car seats, and anything else they happen to poke.
Without enough material to cover them or a solid undershirt, it's going to make your life more interesting than you were hoping for! As a result, make sure you invest in a holster that has an adequate sweat shield, or else you're going to hate toting the thing.
A 1911 IWB Holster Needs A Solid Connection To The Belt
Another critical aspect of a 1911 IWB holster is a solid connection to the belt.
This could mean an IWB holster of the winged design, wherein the belt loops are on the outside of the part of the holster that the pistol actually sits in. This holster design spreads the weight of the gun out a little bit more.
However, what's actually most pertinent is the belt attachment device itself.
With any heavy pistol, meaning over 30 oz unloaded, a strong attachment is imperative. One reason is so the holster doesn't start to draw out of the waistband with the pistol.
To flesh that out a little bit, a certain amount of force has to be exerted (pulling) to draw the gun out of the holster. The holster has to be held in place with enough force to keep the holster as stationary as possible while that's happening.
A hallmark of poor or at least poorer-quality holsters is that they move with the draw. A little bit of travel is to be expected, but if you feel the holster moving with the gun on the draw...the holster doesn't have a strong connection to the belt.
That's partially why the classic 1911 IWB holster is the Bruce Nelson Summer Special. The Summer Special, a roughout leather IWB holster design, uses two snap loops that firmly seat the holster to the belt and allow for a clean draw.
Obviously, holster design has moved on a bit since then.
However, what hasn't changed is the need for a strong connection to the belt. Look for a holster with rigid polymer clips or heavy-duty leather snap loops. Two is better than one.
Single-clip holsters...must be approached cautiously. A lot of the budget special polymer holsters you'll find on Amazon or elsewhere don't seat on the belt well enough for anything larger than a compact.
And speaking of belts, invest in a good one because you will need it.
A 1911 IWB Holster Has To Be Comfortable To Carry
A 1911 IWB holster has to be comfortable enough to carry with.
Again, not the handgun for casuals. Carrying a 1911 everyday requires you to commit, otherwise you're going to try to find a way out of it.
You're going to feel the holster pressed into your side all day. Therefore, it had better be a feeling that you can put up with for an extended period of time. If you can't, you're going to find a reason not to carry or switch to a different gun and start all over.
As mentioned, the sweat shield is a component here as well. Having that extra bit of material, whether it's a multi-layer holster base or what have you, makes a huge difference when carrying a cocked and locked hammer-fired pistol.
Unless you like being constantly poked by the hammer, that is.
With the bigger steel or alloy frame service pistols - which would also include guns like the Beretta 92, Sig P220/P226, CZ 75 or Browning Hi Power - a "winged" holster design is advantageous.
Having wings to the holster spreads the weight out a little more, which does make a difference in terms of comfort. It's not as if "you don't know it's there" or anything; you still have 2+ lbs of metal on your waist. However, it will make the gun feel a little more manageable.
A wider holster base also makes the holster feel a little more planted, as if creating a stable platform on the waist, rather than being a goiter that you're pressing against your side with a belt.
Granted, some people find they prefer their holster to occupy as little real estate as possible, and others prefer the comfort of a wider holster base; that's entirely up to you.
Make Sure Your 1911 IWB Holster Will Fit: Not All 1911s Are The Same
Something not everyone knows: not every 1911 is actually the exact same, so not every 1911 IWB holster is necessarily going to fit. Specifically, there are three relatively common variants that have fitment issues.
First, we have the Sig 1911 pistols. While there isn't that much difference between them and any other 1911 pistol, some Sig Sauer 1911 guns have a more squared slide. This is done for cosmetic purposes, to give the gun an appearance similar to that of the P220/226 family.
The Sig 1911 pistols will not fit a standard 1911 IWB holster, so you'll have to find one made specifically for Sig 1911 pistols.
Another is the Colt Gold Cup.
The Colt Gold Cup family of pistols has a smaller radius to the top of the slide, so they won't fit all standard 1911 holsters.
Then we have the railed 1911 pistols.
The hitch with the rails is that not everyone uses the same rail design. Some are full-length, others only extend to the same length as the typical dust cover, and very few are the exact same dimensions. So be aware of that.
If you're carrying a railed 1911, make sure the holster you're looking at is compatible with YOUR railed 1911 first.
Did We Mention That A 1911 IWB Holster Requires A Solid Belt?
If we haven't said it enough, you need a solid gun belt to go with a 1911 IWB holster.
Granted, concealed carry with ANY gun requires a good belt, but with a large, heavy steel-frame pistol like Old Slabsides? Doubly so, and certainly also for any similarly large, heavy gun like a Beretta 92, Sig P226, Ruger GP100 or Smith K-frame if wheelguns are your thing.
If you haven't ever bought one before, look for an actual gun belt. The ones in the gun store probably aren't good enough; the belts in typical department stores DEFINITELY aren't.
For concealed carry, we recommend a dual-layer reinforced gun belt, meaning two layers of leather or nylon web with a reinforcing layer for additional stiffness. Ideally, a belt with a spring steel core for the utmost of support.
A 1911 IWB holster is going to be putting a big, heavy gun on you. It needs to be kept stable and in place, both for carrying as well as training and practice. The bigger the gun, the stronger the belt you'll need.
Training And Carrying With A 1911 IWB Holster
There are the on-paper attributes of a 1911 IWB holster that we can talk about, but there are also a few things to watch for when you actually start using it. Unfortunately, there's no way to know about these things in advance; the rubber has to meet the road eventually.
Remember how we said the sweat shield was important? Well, we're going to bring it up again.
Alright, so here's the other important aspect of the sweat shield.
As has been discussed to death, 1911 pistols are designed to be carried with the hammer back and the safety on.
While the sweat guard has to place a barrier between the gun and you for your comfort, what's absolutely critical is that the thumb safety not get switched off while you're carrying.
The best prevention is a holster that holds the pistol firmly in place. When inserted into the holster, the gun should have no wiggle room. You may need to adjust the holster to get the proper fit.
If the gun can move at all, that means the safety lever could potentially be moved as well.
Point being, once the pistol is in the holster, it's held firmly in place. The safety lever stays protected and doesn't get moved at all, keeping it engaged at all times.
Another critical feature to be aware of is the grip that you're able to get with the holster. We can talk about combat cuts all day, but what really matters is how the gun sits against you, which you aren't going to know until you wear it.
Getting a good shooting grip is important with any gun, but it's doubly important with the 1911 pistol given the grip safety. If the holster makes that harder for you when it sits on your body...you're in trouble.
Granted, it's not exactly rocket science; we're talking about grasping an object. However, it has to be done correctly and consistently. If the holster makes that more difficult, it's not a good holster for a 1911 or at least isn't a good one for you to carry one with.
Another feature to watch for is how well the holster allows for reholstering the pistol. Again, it's one thing to have the holster out of the waistband, but you need to check for this function when the holster is attached to your body.
These are things you're going to have to evaluate for yourself when carrying and when training with your 1911 pistol. Again, it's just not the gun for filthy casuals; you have to put in some real practice time to perfect its use.
And your 1911 IWB holster shouldn't make that harder. Your gear should adapt to you, not the other way around.
This is why it's important to look for holster companies that offer a generous product guarantee. If you get your holster and discover it's not going to work, it helps to be able to return it if you need to.