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How To Choose A Concealed Carry Holster

best first ccw holster

When it comes to choosing from the best concealed carry holsters, it's said that there are three primary attributes: fast, cheap and good. You get to pick two.

That isn't the case. The truth is that if you can actually have all three. It's totally possible to find a holster that is affordable, good and can be obtained without excessive lead times....if you pick the right holster, and from the right holster company.

Ultimately, there are four attributes you need to look for when selecting a holster: comfort, affordability, security, and concealability. Unfortunately, a lot of gun holsters out on the market only have three of those four...but all four are needed for a concealed carry holster you can rely on.

Here are some things to test out when you're shopping for your first gun holster.

Wear A Comfortable Holster

best pistol holster

If the gun holster is not comfortable, you're not going to wear it. In order to pass this test, it has to make it through a full day's worth of activity. If you feel your firearm jabbing into your hip or back, that's a disqualifier.

Test 1: Put on your concealed holster and firearm of choice. Go jump in the car and go for a thirty minute drive.

Test 2: Try wearing your concealed carry holster throughout a work day. If that involves moving around and lifting things – great. If it involves sitting at a desk – just as good.

Your holster should accommodate your lifestyle – not the other way around.

Holster Affordability

When looking at holster affordability, there are a few different things to consider. First, is this your everyday carry holster, or is this for the woods or the range only? Additionally, are you planning on carrying just one firearm, or are you looking for a holster that can carry almost any pistol should the occasion call for it?>

For occasional use holsters, clearly you don't need to spend much. If anything, you'd be better off getting one holster that can carry well no matter what the activities of the day are. Better to be one and done than having to keep adding to a holster drawer. In that regard, buying one that works all the time is actually more affordable than buying several that only work some of the time.

If you need one holster to use for multiple guns, the temptation is going to be to buy a universal holster - which is almost always a poor-fitting pouch with a cheap thumb strap. Avoid these holsters; retention is inadequate and you'll just replace it within a year or so. Instead, look at holsters with swappable retention shells. These allow the user to switch the retention shell and carry the gun they desire. Some people, after all, want to carry their Baby Glock one day and their 1911 on another.

Test: Price compare purchasing a holster system that can accommodate all your guns or individual holsters that only work with a few.

A Holster Needs To Be Secure

most comfortable gun holster

Are you flagging the guy behind you in the grocery line? Do you find your holster jostles about or dangerously grips the wrong parts of the firearm? If you do, you need to find a secure holster that keeps your concealed carry firearm secure.

You want to know when you reach down to your inside the waistband holster, the pistol grip will be located exactly where you put it when you loaded it in. No movement left or right, no up or down – right where you want it.

Test 1: Put on the inside the waistband holster and look in a full length mirror. Is the weapon facing a dangerous direction?

Test 2: Unload your firearm and put it in the holster. Jump up and down while wearing your concealed carry holster. Do a couple jumping jacks or star jumps. Your weapon shouldn't go anywhere.

Lastly, Your Holster Needs To Be Concealable

concealed holster

It's a concealed carry holster. That means it ought stay as far out of sight as possible. If it is big and bulky, unwieldy or awkwardly positioned, then it isn't hidden. If it makes you uncomfortable, thereby causing you to fidget or adjust, it's inevitably drawing attention to you.

Test: Put your concealed carry firearm in its most ideal position, i.e. where you practice your draw from. Now put on a polo shirt or covering layer. If you aren't printing, your holster is doing something right.

Basic Categories of Holsters

Traditionally, there's four basic parts of the human body where a holster is commonly attached: ankle, torso, waistline, and thigh. Each one has its particular advantages and disadvantages and we'll briefly go over each.

Ankle Holsters

ankle holsters

Ankle holsters first saw common service with off-duty police officers looking to keep a low-profile and keep a small revolver or pistol on them at all times. It has since been adopted by a lot of concealed carriers who have trouble putting a holster in either their waistline or cannot conceal it in a shoulder rig.

Advantages: Very concealable.


Shoulder Holsters

shoulder holster being worn

Shoulder holsters come in far more variety than the ones traditionally seen in the movies. The gun typically rests on or about the ribcage of the off-dominant hand-side. Typically, these holsters are more ideal for those who are in the car for long periods of time because traditionally, other methods have been far less comfortable.

Advantages: Very accessible for drivers.


  • Unintentional flagging and safety issues with some designs.
  • Concealed accessibility can be difficult.
  • Complications with drawing and reholstering.
  • Requires jacket to conceal; not a good all-season holster option

Thigh Holsters

Thigh holsters can also be known as “drop leg” holsters because they are connected to the belt and rest on the thigh of the gun carrier. These holsters come in many variations – from law enforcement tactical to traditional “Old West” style. They can be extremely effective and comfortable for both vehicle and land. Because they usually feature a retention strap over the top, the gun carrier can run and maneuver easily. However, because of the position, there's almost no way to effectively conceal it without wearing a long coat.


  • Easy maneuverability
  • Good retention
  • No issues drawing or reholstering safely.


  • Little chance of effective concealment of the firearm.

Appendix Carry Holsters

appendix carry holsters for concealed carry

Appendix carry holsters are designed to be worn inside the waistband, but are more compact so that they may be worn in the appendix position. It is so named because the gun is typically inserted in the front of the waistband on the strong side, often near the strong side pants pocket near the appendix.

The pistol is easy to access in the appendix position, should it be necessary. However, it has to fit and ride in the right spot, otherwise sitting can be uncomfortable and access can be impeded. Appendix carry tends to favor certain people more than others; it tends to either fit well for you or it doesn't.

Granted, some of these holsters can be worn at any location inside the waistband. Plenty of people carry elsewhere with an appendix carry holster; they just prefer the smaller design.


  • Easy to conceal
  • Easy to access
  • Holster is less invasive


  • Less comfortable when sitting for many people
  • Gun barrel points at sensitive areas
  • Doesn't fit all body types well

Focus: Waistline Holsters

In the above video, Shawn from CCTV spent a lot of time discussing waistline-based holsters. And there's a pretty good reason – it's arguably one of the best methods of carrying. The biggest complaints for both inside the waistband and outside the waistband concealed carry holsters usually revolve around two basic factors: comfort and safety.

The third is longevity.

Waistline holsters tend to take more of a beating because the waistline isn't a straight line. It's constantly moving, has curvature, and adjusts. That means the right inside the waistband concealed carry holster has to be able to move with you.

Two major factors for addressing this is finding the right gun belt that keeps your waistline and lower back supported and the second is finding one with a comfortable neoprene liner and backpad that distributes the weight of the gun. This makes inside the waistband concealed carry a lot more viable for most concealed carriers.

Advantages: With the right inside the waistband concealed carry holster, you get:

  • All day comfort – whether driving, sitting, standing, or running.
  • Adjustable retention
  • Absolute concealability
  • Lifetime guarantee. With the right manufacturer, you can find an IWB holster that promises to last as long as you do.
  • Shell trading – a high retention concealed carry holster will likely have a plastic shell that keeps pressure on the gun. If you switch guns or somehow manage to break the shell (good luck), there are companies that will offer a free exchange program.

Every concealed carrier has to determine which style is ultimately best for him or her.

It's always best to keep your gun within the domain of your physical control -- not in a purse or bag. Even if you have a tight budget, you can generally pick up a great inside the waistband holster for a great price. Comfort, reliability, and a lifetime warrantee are all excellent reasons to consider an inside the waistline concealed carry holster.

Are you a first time buyer of a concealed carry holster?
What are some definite things you're looking for in a holster system?
Tell us in the comments section below.

James England

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.