Choosing An IWB Holster
The gold standard for concealed carry is the IWB holster. It is the most commonly used type of holster for this application.
IWB, or inside the waistband holsters, are placed inside the waistband of the pants. They are preferred for the application as they can be easily concealed by clothing.
With proper design and materials, they are comfortable, secure, easily concealable as well as functional. A holster must, of course, function as intended so one can engage in concealed carry training to keep shooting skills in good working order in case they are needed.
What should you look for in an IWB holster?
An IWB Holster Must Be Comfortable Enough To Carry Every Day
One of the first attributes, and certainly one that will matter a great deal, is comfort when it comes to finding an IWB holster. While other things matter a great deal - which we will cover - comfort is very important.
A truth about concealed carry and holsters is that if you can't stand to wear your pistol and holster, you won't. You'll leave it at home. You'll find excuses like "I'm just going to the office, I'm only going to the store, I don't really need it." And you'll carry less and less until you don't anymore.
That defeats the purpose of getting a concealed carry gun, getting your permit, the requisite training, and everything else that goes with it.
Your IWB Holster Must Have Adequate Retention And Must Function Correctly
Another must-have attribute of an IWB holster is adequate retention. The gun must be securely held in the holster, with the trigger guard being fully covered.
What good is a holster that can barely keep the pistol in it? None, is the answer. In fact, it's what led to the creation of Alien Gear Holster. Our founder had a pistol drop from the holster and go skidding across the floor (the story is it happened in a Chuck E. Cheese) which led to a desire to make a holster that was better.
A good concealed carry holster is made for the pistol it carries. This ensures the most secure fit of the slide, the frame and the trigger guard, which is where the retention force comes from.
The fit will also guarantee proper function of the holster at the range or on the street. You should be able to draw the pistol from the holster and reinsert it without issue during training. While not strictly necessary for the street, it is definitely necessary for a holster you train with.
Hybrid Holsters And Other Holster Types
IWB holsters can broadly be classified as being either hybrid holsters or not.
Hybrid holsters use a two-piece design, with a hard polymer shell - custom-molded for the exact make and model firearm - paired with a holster base of a softer material and clips to attach the holster to the belt and waistband of the wearer. The classic design is a hard polymer shell with a leather holster base, though other companies have embraced different materials including neoprene for holster base construction.
Classically, all holsters were leather. Today, there are still many companies turning out leather holsters, from budget-friendly working examples all the way to hand-made leather holsters of incredible finery. However, the holster industry has also embraced other materials, including thick nylon cloth and also hard polymers such as Kydex or Boltaron.
Leather also requires some care, as it must be cleaned and conditioned periodically to maintain it, though a well cared-for leather holster can stay functional for many years.
Hybrid holsters tend to occupy more space inside the waistband, which some people don't like. However, some people find leather and hard polymer pancake holsters (so-called due to being made of only two layers of material forming a pouch or pancake of sorts) to be far less comfortable, requiring the use of an undershirt at all times.
Hybrid holster tend to utilize what some called the "winged" design, which utilizes a holster base broader than the holster shell attached to it. Some people find they prefer this design, as it spreads the weight of the pistol across a larger area. Some do not, especially people who appendix carry.
Some users also find the winged design provides the most stable draw. With only a single point of attachment to the belt, the holster tends to pull up with the pistol on the draw, whereas the winged hybrid design tends to have the cleaner draw from the holster.
Choosing An IWB Holster
Once you've decided to purchase an IWB holster for your daily carry, it then falls to you to decide how you're going to carry and what you value in a concealed carry holster.
As a general rule, the larger winged hybrid holsters and winged leather holsters are best-suited for use at or behind the hip of the strong side, meaning the side of your dominant hand. Not everyone prefers to carry a gun in this position, but many people do.
In fact, most people do.
If you're going to carry in the appendix position, then you're going to have the better experience using an IWB holster with a smaller overall footprint.
Adjusting An IWB Holster
Once you purchase an IWB holster, you're likely going to have to make some adjustments.
Granted, some come from the factory with no adjustability whatsoever. It is what and how it is, and either you like it or you have to start over with a new one. Others are able to be adjusted to a far greater degree.
Unless you know to a certainty that the holster will work for you, it's a good idea to order one that is adjustable.
What are some common adjustments to IWB holsters?
Cant angle, the angle at which the gun sits in the waistband. You'll want it a little forward if carrying strong side; you'll want more like a straight drop at the appendix position.
Retention is a common adjustment as well. Some people prefer the tightest hold possible, some people want the slickest draw they can get, and some people like to find the balance between the two.
Ride height, the depth inside the waistband your IWB holster rides, is another common adjustment. Some folks need the pistol to sit a little deeper, some a little higher.
Find An IWB Holster Backed By A Good Warranty...Unless You Buy Super-Cheap
Unless you're spending a miniscule amount of money, take care to get an IWB holster from a manufacturer that backs its products with a solid product guarantee.
A good return period, say 30 days, is a must. If you find the holster just isn't for you, it can be returned. This way, you're not stuck with a holster that you won't use.
A solid warranty is also a plus. You should find a holster maker that will do what they can to ensure you have a holster you can continue to use, supplying replacement parts or even total replacement in case of loss or disaster.
If you have all the right elements lined up, then you've found an IWB holster that you'll be able to depend on.
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.