drop leg holster carry

Everything You Need To Know About Drop Leg And Thigh Carry Holsters

One of the best methods for open carry is using drop leg holsters. Also called "thigh carry," it's gained a bit more traction in recent years as both a comfortable carry method if one isn't concerned about concealment as well as a tactical method of carrying a handgun.

Unlike carrying on the hip, it doesn't require a hip holster, which can be bulky and cumbersome and difficult to access when seated. Leg carry allows you to access the pistol from virtually any position. It also puts the weight of the gun in more natural-feeling location.

Drop Leg Holsters Have Been Around For A While

Though some people might think that the drop leg holster is a relatively new phenomenon, specifically a modern innovation in "tactical gear," the reality is that thigh carry is, in fact, a much older practice when it comes to carrying a pistol.

Much like appendix carry, carrying a pistol on the leg was done in the 19th century. Again, much like "appendix carry," the terms "drop thigh" and "drop leg" and so on are merely modern terms for an older practice.

In those eras, some holsters had a long drop between the holster mouth and the belt loop. The effect was that the butt of the pistol grip wasn't located at belt level, but rather at pocket level. Such holsters were also fitted with a piece of twine or rawhide strip that would be tied around the thigh.

While that type of design differs from the modern leg holster, the effect was more or less the same: the gun rode on or about the thigh. Granted, it bears mentioning that the intent of wearing such a holster was somewhat different as the goal was to make the pistol more easily accessed whilst riding a horse.

Old western style drop leg holster

Like other Western holsters, leather was the construction method of the day and many such holsters featured a thumb break as a retention device.

Today's leg holster, of course, is a bit different.

The Modern Tactical Leg Holster

Today's thigh carry is oriented toward tactical use, as a tactical leg holster is inherently useful to units in police forces and militaries. A handgun, should it be needed, can be easily accessed in nearly any position - standing, kneeling, prone on the back or stomach, and certainly in a vehicle. Naturally, it has a great appeal to police officers and military personnel that would carry a sidearm.

The practicality of a tactical holster is unmatched, as they can carry the gun in a more convenient location.

combat-ready drop leg carry

Some people also find that carrying in this manner feels a bit more natural than having a service pistol on the hip. Obviously, concealment is impossible but that is hardly a consideration when a person gets a tactical holster.

Civilian Use Of A Tactical Holster

Naturally, some people wonder if it's worth it for a civilian to own or use a tactical holster. After all, the "tacticool" market has completely exploded and all sorts of tactical and military gear is bought and by the truckload by people that have a limited basis for using it.

However, a tactical leg holster has uses beyond merely being for a police officer, on a SWAT team or not, or a Special Forces operator and so on. Many civilians, of course, open carry and do so in a variety of settings.

Wearing Drop Leg Holster with larger firearm

For general open carry, whether open carrying regularly or just around the home, a leg holster is obviously quite practical. It keeps the waistline free of a holster and gun, which can get quite cumbersome if you carry a larger pistol such as one of the Wonder Nines, a 1911 Commander model or any service-type pistol.

At the range, whether just being worn for regular shooting or if participating in 3 Gun or other handgun shooting sport (if allowed; some specify what type of holster you can use) the leg holster allows for very quick access and easy carry.

If carrying a handgun as a backup in the woods, a thigh holster is much more desirable than a hip holster. Extra gear around the waist can easily snag on branches and brush, whereas a leg holster is less liable to do so. The holster and pistol are also completely out of the way of the arms. If carrying a potent semi-auto for use as a backup gun in bear country - as .357 Sig and 10mm pistols are capable woods carry guns - then the thigh holster is certainly a good implement for carrying in this manner.

Modular drop leg holster platform

In short, whenever and wherever open carry is allowed or called for, a tactical holster is actually a fantastic solution.

How To Wear A Leg Holster

Wearing a leg holster is fairly straightforward, but does require some attention to detail when putting it on.

Instead of being merely supported by the gun belt, such as in the case of OWB or IWB holsters, a drop leg holster is supported laterally by the side straps and vertically by the belt loop or belt loops if the holster features two belt loops. Some do, some don't.

Are two belt loops better than one in a leg holster?

In truth, not that much. The only way two belt loops would be better than one in a drop leg holster would be if said holster wasn't secured very well against the thigh; in this case, the belt straps would keep the holster centered in the position the wearer secures it in.

Putting on the shapeshift tactical drop thigh holster

However, if the thigh straps are of sufficient quality...it actually doesn't matter. The belt loop should only keep the holster in place vertically.

Strapping on the tactical drop thigh holster

To put on a leg holster, the holster is first secured to the leg and the thigh straps drawn tight. Ideally, the straps will be tight enough to keep the holster anchored but no so tight that the wearer is discomfited by wearing it.

The belt loop is then fastened, by pulling the top of the loop behind and then over the belt.

Once the drop leg holster is secured, the pistol may then be inserted into the holster. The wearer may then go about their business.

The holster should be located far enough up the thigh to be readily accessible without any hinging at the waist. The hand should grasp the grip of the pistol without having to extend the arm. There should still be a little bend in the elbow when the pistol is grasped.

A good rule of thumb is that the grip should be located just about at the same level as the pants pocket.

As to where on the thigh the holster should be situated, this is the wearer's choice, though directly on the side (about the 3 o'clock position) is a good default choice. Rotating a little further in is perfectly fine as well, though having the gun turned perpendicular to the body is not a very good idea. Somewhere between the 1 o'clock and 3 o'clock position is just about perfect for most people.

combat ready tactical drop leg holster at 3 o'clock position

How To Choose A Drop Leg Holster

Though there are many on the market, not every drop leg holster is created equal. Though features vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, you will find two common designs available.

First you'll find universal leg holsters. These are relatively cheap to acquire, though you will generally get what you pay for.

These holsters are usually made with nylon cloth. They're thick enough to be somewhat durable, and they will fit almost any pistol....mostly because they don't really fit ANY pistol. Strapping will be nylon straps with buckles. The vertical strap will always work, but the horizontal straps may not. Retention is only achieved via a thumb break. You'll feel the gun against your leg for sure, and you may have to tighten the straps to almost the point of being uncomfortable.

Why do people buy universal leg holsters? Mostly because they'll only get used a few times per year and they're cheap.

What if you want something a bit sturdier?

Docking platform of the tactical drop thigh holster

The second variety uses a thigh platform that docks with a holster, usually molded out of some sort of polymer. These are far more secure and often much more comfortable to wear as the gun itself isn't fastened to the leg...provided the platform is designed well.

With this model of thigh rig, the holster is often a universal holster design, also requiring an active retention device.

These are often the generic holsters marketed to law enforcement but also sold to the civilian market.

For the platform-plus-holster variety, many of the same criteria hold true.

The ShapeShift Drop Leg holster, on the other hand, is tailor-made for each firearm it is offered for, the same with the Cloak Mod Drop Thigh Conversion Kit.

First, it should be comfortable to wear. A little adjustment of thigh rig position may be necessary, but you shouldn't have any issue wearing it.

Cloak Mod Tactical Drop Leg Conversion
nylon straps on the drop leg holster

Straps should hold the platform and holster securely, but should also be comfortable to wear. Elastic bands are a good solution there, but must be of sufficient construction to hold the platform securely. There should be minimal vertical travel and minimal horizontal travel when wearing it. As to the holster itself, it should offer good retention and in truth, good retention without an active retention device.

Granted, retention devices are a subject of some debate.

Some believe they are necessary for open carry, others do not. A desirable feature would be adequate passive retention, or better still the ability to add an active retention device if desired or possibly remove it.

Removable and fully adjustable passive retention
The ShapeShift Drop Leg Holster

Another feature that's desirable is the ability to carry extra magazines. Some thigh holsters, especially those of the platform/holster design, can sometimes double as a magazine thigh carrier and leg holster. For the person that wishes to carry as much spare ammunition as possible, this is a very beneficial feature.

So, to sum up, what should you look for in a leg holster?

It should be comfortable to wear. It should carry securely, with no fear of it coming loose or slipping. The holster should adequately hold the pistol and offer the user the retention level they desire, with customizable retention being better than non-customizable retention.

Being able to carry spare magazines is a serious bonus.

The Alien Gear Drop Leg Holster does have a Magazine Carrier variant, as well as two slots for spare magazines on the holster platform itself.

A drop leg holster should also come with a product guarantee that inspires confidence in the purchase.

Mag Carrier variant of the Tactical Drop Thigh holster

Getting saddled with some piece of junk you won't want to wear isn't pleasant, so you should be able to either get it returned or repaired if need be.

In other words, everything the ShapeShift Drop Leg Holster is.



Take advantage of our 30-day Test Drive

Already have the Cloak Mod? Order the Alien Gear ShapeShift Drop Leg Carry Expansion Pack, compatible with both the Cloak Mod and ShapeShift platforms.

Sam Hoober

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.