Saturday, December 22, 2012

Handgun Holster Selection

It has become apparent to me that many people don't put very much thought into their holster selection for their handguns.  They'll just grab whatever their local store has that will come close to fitting their gun.  So I will try to shed some light on how important I believe holster selection is and what's important to me, then you can decide for yourself what you want in a holster.

First, some overall things to look at when making the decision on a holster.  Are you carrying open or concealed?  Most of what I get asked about is how to carry concealed, so I'll spend most of my time on that subject.  Do you want a holster that is inside the waistband (IWB), or outside the waistband (OWB)?  You can still carry concealed either way.  Are you going to be carrying for an extended period of time?  Will you be tucking your shirt in?  Yes, there are holster set ups that are designed for you to be capable of tucking your shirt in.  Are you going to be sitting in a vehicle for long hours with it on, and is it important for you to be able to draw the pistol from a seated position?  Do you want to get a holster that fits any situation?  That's probably the best bet so that you develop a good muscle memory with the holster you use.  So answer these questions on your own, and I'll share with you some thoughts on some different kinds of holsters and why they are good or bad.

Kydex -vs- Leather

When selecting what kind of material, I prefer Kydex or plastic composite type materials.  They are rigid, but if designed right can be comfortable.  One big factor when selecting the material for me is the ability to reholster the weapon.  Reholstering the weapon is as important as being able to draw it.  If you're ever involved in an engagement and have to draw your weapon, it should be easy to put away.  In my opinion, you don't want to keep your weapon out once the situation is secure due to another armed citizen or member of law enforcement seeing you with a gun out and believing you may be the "bad guy".  Worst case, you get shot.  It's too easy to lay down flat or put your hands up and declare that you have a firearm on you as opposed to holding it in your hand and being perceived as a threat.  The reason I harp on this is because some leather holsters can be come worn down and flimsy making it tougher to reholster the firearm.  Kydex holsters also tend to be better fitted to the gun with various configurations that allow for laser and light attachments, and they retain the pistol nicely.  Before someone bashes me, there are leather holsters out there that are made very rigid and will hold their rigidity for quite awhile.

IWB -vs- OWB

Inside versus outside the waistband is mainly personal preference.  Many holsters out there today are made to hold the gun tight into the body.  One major factor can be the size of the firearm.  If it has a longer slide or barrel, it may protrude below clothing if it's outside the waistband.  There's also the chance of the holster/firearm showing if you are shopping and reach for something or make any movement causing your shirt to move up.  OWB is going to be more comfortable for most folks, but if you buy a good IWB holster and learn how to properly wear it they can be just as comfortable.

I'll quickly speak about leg holsters.  They look cool, they fit certain tactical situations.  That's about it.  If you're on a SWAT team or doing some short term mission where you won't be walking a lot, they're fine.  If you're going to be walking for any extended period of time they will rub your leg raw and are uncomfortable.  Unless you're getting one to serve a certain tactical or competition purpose, they're not a great buy.

Handgun Retention

Some of you may have special requirements for this based on your profession, so that may affect your decision.  Personally, I'm fine with a tight fitting kydex holster, but some prefer a mechanical retention device.  If I have to use retention, I prefer the Blackhawk Serpa type retention systems first, and second I would go for the thumb down strap on Safariland holsters.  If you're carrying IWB, you won't be able to have either of these.  You can carry concealed with a Serpa type holster, and that works fine.  Just make sure you train with it so that you have a smooth motion down to get the handgun out and keep your finger out of the trigger well.

Here are some examples of holsters I have and have used with descriptions and thoughts.

1. Serpa type retention holster with paddle attachment.  I'm not a big fan of the paddle, but it is easy to put on.  It doesn't hold the gun tight to your belt, which makes for an inconsistent draw.  The Serpa type retention is good though.  2. This is a Safariland leg-drop holster.  I have it set up with only one leg strap so I can wear it high, but rarely use it.  Only on certain ranges where I'm training people and need a M9 holster.  3. This is my holster of choice.  It's an IWB Raven Concealment Phantom holster with button straps for retention to the belt.  It's hard plastic/kydex, but I have no comfort issues with it.  You can also adjust the cant on it to fit your application.  Raven Concealment makes a great customized holster for most applications.  4. This is also from Raven Concealment.  It's a IWB set up mainly for appendix carry.  It retains the holster by sliding over and gripping the trigger well.  5. This is your typical leather forward canted holster.  It looks nice and hugs tight to the body, but it's OWB and isn't very rigid.  6. This is a Crossbreed holster and is very comfortable.  This one also allows you to tuck in your shirt.  These are a great leather/kydex mix, but the only issue with this one is that it doesn't extend down the barrel.  If you have to fire several rounds from your pistol and then reholster it, you're going to feel some heat on your leg.  Fire a whole mag or more and you're liable to get a burn.  

Final Thoughts

Selecting a proper holster for what you want is almost as important as choosing the proper handgun.  It may take some trial and error and you may spend money on some holsters you decide you don't necessarily care for.  How do you think I got some of those in the picture?  Just take your time and make the best informed decision.  Notice there are no shoulder holsters mentioned here.  Don't buy one.  Those are for military people who are deployed and only carry their pistol to the chow hall or PX because they have to.  When in doubt, contact me and we'll talk about it.  I'm sure there are some thoughts I missed here and will add them later, but this should get you started.  Thanks for reading.