Getting A Good Concealed Carry Holster Without Going Broke
A lot of people are looking to get a quality concealed carry holster but don't necessarily want to spend too much money. The good news is that you definitely CAN get a great holster without having to spend too much.
However, you have to know what to look for! Some cheap holsters are really just that: cheap. Some holsters are good, but just happen to not cost so much.
Any holster should do certain things without compromise. The pistol must fit snug inside the holster. It should cover the trigger guard of the pistol. It should retain the pistol securely, and attach to the belt or otherwise to the user securely. The pistol should draw clear of the holster without issue. These attributes are non-negotiable.
So what are some ways to get a concealed carry holster to meet almost any budget, and get the most bang for the buck?
A Quality University Holster
One way to get a good holster for not too much money is to get a universal holster. A universal holster is a style of holster made so that multiple different makes and models of gun can fit in the holster, often out of thick cloth or leather rather than a hard polymer.
The problem, of course, is that something that fits everything doesn't really fit anything. However, if you select a universal holster of the right design, you can still get one that's secure enough to be carried with.
To start with, find a universal holster that's made for a specific SIZE of gun, whether that's compact or subcompact. The closer you get to a custom fit, the better. While the fit won't be as precise as a holster made for your specific make and model gun, you'll at least be in the ballpark.
The idea is that you want a holster that has enough retention to be usable. If you have to rely on an active retention device to keep the pistol holstered at all - many low-cost holsters use a thumb snap - the holster isn't good enough to use. It might even be dangerous.
The holster material should be rigid enough to protect the trigger guard. Some universal holsters have some sort of rigid lining for protection; those are the ones to acquire.
Another good feature to look for is a belt clip of some kind. That allows you to put the holster securely inside the waistband to carry with.
Bear in mind that universal holsters...do come with some compromises. If carried inside the waistband, the holster will collapse a bit if you draw the pistol, so reholstering the gun during training will be problematic. Even the best ones.
However, a quality example will be good enough to work, and that's the idea here: how little can you spend and still get a holster that works well enough to use. A quality universal holster will.
Leather Hybrid IWB Holster: Classic Design, Solid Value
Another way to find a decent holster to meet a budget is to find a leather hybrid IWB holster. This is a classic modern holster style that blends older holster-making materials with modern ones, which gives you the best of both worlds...to an extent.
A hybrid holster pairs a precision-molded polymer shell, made for the make and model gun you're going to carry, with a pliable holster base. The classic format is a leather holster base, typically a single piece of leather.
Leather hybrid holsters will usually have two belt clips on either "wing" of the holster base. The holster tucks into the waistband, and the clips slide over the waistband and your belt.
When it comes to the holster base, the leather is firm enough to create a stable platform for the gun to ride on. This makes the holster rigid enough to draw from and reholster to easily.
The molded polymer shell makes the pistol fit in the holster perfectly. Drawing the pistol is easy and reliable, since there's no cloth or anything that will snag the front sight or other parts of the gun. Reholstering is more reliable since plastic doesn't have the elasticity of thick cloth; the mouth of a leather holster or holster of other durable cloth can collapse after drawing the gun. The hybrid holster style won't.
In years past, a leather hybrid holster would cost about as much as a well-made classic leather holster...or more, depending on who made it. Today, many are available for much more reasonable prices.
However, there are a few trade-offs you'll make. With time and use, the leather can eventually start to wilt. What you'll notice is that the sweat guard will start to curl over. If that happens, you need to replace the holster base.
Therefore, if you're going to get a holster of this kind, make sure to buy one that has a lifetime warranty for the replacement of holster bases, if it becomes necessary.
Many producers of such holsters also rivet the shell to the base. While structurally solid, the rivets don't allow the shell to be tightened or loosened to adjust the fit. Be sure to get a model that has an adjustable shell, so you can get the fit dialed in correctly. Adjustable belt clips are also a plus.
Get More Function With A Modular Holster
A modular holster will usually set you back a little more in purchase price, but for a bit more investment you get a bit more functionality.
However, take care to buy a quality example. Many supposed "modular holsters" are not very modular - it's just a hybrid holster that the manufacturer says is "modular" - and some have absolutely substandard retention.
Therefore, take the time to find a modular holster with a quality shell system that's designed to change holster bases quickly without sacrificing the security and function of a precision-molded holster shell.
The reason why a modular holster is great in a bang-for-the-bucks sense is that you can swap the base and other components to get you multiple holster types without having to buy multiple holsters.
Take, for instance, our ShapeShift Modular Holster System.
Most people really only need an IWB holster for concealed carry and an OWB holster for open carry and/or range use. With the ShapeShift system, you can buy one IWB holster - say the 4.0 IWB or ShapeShift Appendix Carry Holster - and pair it with one of the ShapeShift OWB expansion packs, since you only need the holster base to switch holster styles.
While it does cost a little more than just buying one holster, it isn't as expensive as buying two holsters. Not only that, but you can get even MORE functionality by adding additional expansion packs in the future, if you desire.
You can add on a drop leg holster expansion if you want, or perhaps a pocket carry holster, or whatever you might want.
You have to spend a little more, but you get more value for money with a quality modular holster.
One Holster To Do It All? An OWB Belt Holster Can
Another option is to get an OWB belt holster that can do both open and concealed carry equally well. You have to choose the right holster and the right gun, of course, and for best results for concealment, you also need to dress around the gun a bit. But that isn't difficult, and you also get a lot of value for money that way.
A "belt holster" is a term used to describe an OWB holster that rides high on the belt and tight to the body. There are a lot of different designs on the market, including the old-school leather holsters that are still being made, kydex OWB holsters and of course hybrid holsters with more comfort-oriented base designs.
The gun is carried in a position where it's easily accessible, but also stays close to the wearer so it can be easily concealed.
You can conceal a subcompact, compact, or even many full-size pistols in a holster like this fairly easily, though compact or subcompact pistols will be easiest. Selecting a pistol with a thinner slide and frame will get you better results, but - again - you'd be surprised how much gun can be easily concealed this way.
Dressing around the gun a bit is required for concealment. A light jacket or outer layer is a good idea, such as a roomy button-up shirt worn untucked and unbuttoned, such as a flannel or denim shirt, or perhaps a light jacket like a hoodie.
That said, some people find an untucked shirt covers the gun just fine in the right position and if wearing a shirt with a longer hem, so your mileage can vary.
A quality example of a belt holster doesn't have to be terrifically expensive; some can be had for $50 or less. While yes, you're still spending a bit of money, the idea here is that those dollars are going further by getting a holster that can do concealed carry and open carry without issue.
You Can Get A Holster To Fit A Budget...But Don't Skimp On Training
If you're new to concealed carry and gun ownership, there are ways to get into a holster or other gear and fit almost any budget. Not only that, there are plenty of very affordable firearms on the market that are reliable, accurate and can be wholly depended on to save your bacon if the time came.
The truth is guns and gear are only part of the equation. How well and how safely you can use guns and gear are far more important.
The first-time gun owner needs to invest money and time in training and practice too, and as much as they can in both.
If you know nothing about guns and shooting, you need to learn how to competently - and safely - handle, operate and otherwise keep guns in your home and on your person.
We can equip you with a holster that will meet almost any budget. We can't make you carry securely and competently. We can give you training tips and tricks to help you shoot better and to otherwise be a better carrier. We can't make you get into a training course, and we can't give you the in-person instruction that a beginner needs.
So whatever gun and holster it is that you get, make sure you get some training to go with it.