When choosing a concealed carry holster for your pistol, selecting the best holster you can find will add to your overall total self-defense abilities. A holster/pistol combination is part of your concealed carry defensive system. While looking at a quality holster the one factor you should consider last is the cost. Experience has taught me you get what you pay for. There should be no delays to your reactions caused by inappropriate or inadequately fitting equipment. With your life depending on it, you may never get the chance to tell others you should have picked the higher quality model.
Criteria for Selecting Concealed Carry Holsters:
Concealment allows you to have the element of surprise when responding to an attacker who is threatening you with deadly force. Concealment also helps you avoid unfortunate or uncomfortable circumstances where your handgun may be accidentally exposed to the view of people who may immediately call for law enforcement officers because they see a person with a gun.
You should be able to quickly draw your handgun with ease from your concealed holster. The holster should lend itself to allowing you to gain a complete grip on your handgun while still allowing you to release any retention devices. The draw stroke should be a fairly straight-line draw, pointing towards the target, and line up your sights. Please note this may vary for some holsters that are carried in cross-draw, appendix, small of the back, or ankle positions.
A holster/pistol combination you are comfortable with is one more likely to carried and less likely to leave at home.
When preparing for the possibility of an assailant attacking you with deadly force, it is important to remember most attacks will be sudden, up close, physical confrontations. For this reason, retention must be addressed when selecting a holster. Retention devices will vary from internal devices in the holster to simple thumb breaks that will help you retain your weapon if you are engaged in a hand-to-hand confrontation (that has not yet escalated to the need or allowed for the use of your handgun). Holsters that lack a proper fit and no retention device may not retain the weapon properly under strenuous activity such as hand to hand defensive tactics. A poorly fitting holster will cause problems with everyday usage as well, which could dislodge the pistol from the holster. Below is a list of retention levels for holsters broken out by levels. Level One consists of a single retention device, such as a strap and thumb break.
Level Two consists of two retention devices, such as a strap and internal retention device.
Level Three is available but generally, they are not suitable for concealed carry uses.
Exact Fit and Maintains its Form
A good holster is formed to a specific handgun and maintains this characteristic in the long term. This will have positive effects on retention and access.
Quality of Workmanship and Materials
This is where the buyer will see the most variety of differences between manufacturers.
The mouth of the holster should remain open and rigid when the gun is removed. This is important when re-holstering the weapon with one hand. This will allow you to have your support hand free to do other activities such as: use defensive tactics, escape, administer first aid to your self or others, or pull someone to safety. All concealed carry holsters should allow rapid one-handed drawing and unassisted re-holstering.
Covered trigger guard & Safety
When looking at a perspective holster, it should cover the trigger guard. Make sure none of the holster material protrudes into the trigger guard, which could depress the trigger. The material should be rigid enough to ensure any object the holster may come into contact with can’t depress the trigger. Another area of consideration on the holster is does the holster design disengage the safeties on the pistol? If the design you are considering does this, it is my opinion you should consider another holster design. The reason being, if you were ever involved in a strenuous activity, such as defending yourself from an assailant a sharp blow or fall could cause the weapon to fire while in the holster. The final area of consideration will depend on the individual who carries the pistol, and where they position the holster. When drawing the pistol does the position of the holster endanger the owner during the draw stroke. Here we need to remember anything the pistol is pointed at while it is loaded could be destroyed.
When looking at the holster selected, does it attach and detach from your daily wardrobe easily? If you feel the holster is not easily attached or detached, you may eventually decide to leave it behind.
There are numerous manufacturers that direct their product lines at concealed carry holders. The products range from tactical looking clothing for law enforcement and military to a business/professional look. One point to consider when looking at these items is what is preferred versus what is needed to maintain concealment and access. Understanding these choices will vary from person to person. Remember your local weather will have effects on what clothing will be worn during your daily routine. It is important to note if you are using an inside the pants carry or outside the pants belt carry that you pick a belt suited for this purpose. In my years of experience, I have seen people purchase a good pistol and quality holster to attach it to a belt that was not suited for this purpose. The belt should offer good support when drawing, re-holstering, and carrying your pistol, and yet be comfortable to wear every day. In some cases, people may choose to change gun size base on the season and the change in wardrobe. This is acceptable as long as you take care in using handgun systems that are similar or train extensively when switching systems.
Women are confronted with anatomical considerations that differ from men when dealing with concealed carry of handguns. It is a fact that most handguns and accessory designs are based on the needs and anatomical priorities of men. For women, several differences must be considered:
A woman’s hand size is generally smaller than a man’s (Grip size and trigger reach affected and handgun design will be a major consideration)
Armpit to Hip Distance
The distance from a woman’s armpit to their hip is generally much shorter than a man’s. Belt holsters may need to ride lower for the female shooter to achieve the proper draw stroke.
Women naturally have wider hips than men. This will affect the rake and cant of the holsters.
Some handgun and holster designs put a less enabled person at a disadvantage. Although training and some techniques can help remedy this there are some designs that are more conducive to the less strong shooters.
Some of the holster manufactures whose holsters I have had good success with are Bianchi, Black Hawk, DeSantis, Galco, and Safariland.
Remember to look for Conceal-Ability, Comfort, Ease, and Speed of Access, Retention, and Quality.